A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Khan Academy is a free website and educational app that includes thousands of educational videos aimed at self-paced instruction. The library in the app mirrors the content that can be found on the website. For math concepts -- from early learning through college-level -- the site offers an almost unlimited number of practice exercises, organized by topic, with instant feedback and progress data. But parents should know that the site will work best for kids who need procedural help, rather than conceptual understanding, whether they're looking for intervention or enrichment. Users can rate the pace of each video, leave comments, and ask and answer content-related questions. Kids are encouraged to sign up using a Google or Facebook account. But it's also possible to sign up with an email address. Once logged in, kids can monitor their math progress on a personal dashboard. The videos are short and are presented in a casual and unrehearsed yet engaging style. Many of the math videos cover basic skills and are about mastering procedures rather than conceptual understanding. Users can rate the pace of each video, leave comments, and ask and answer content-related questions. Both app and website versions of this title are available; our review references key points relevant to both.
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What's it about?
KHAN ACADEMY creator Salman Khan is best known for his extensive math video library, created in part to tutor his younger cousins. Today, kids can download and view more than 3,000 five- to 20-minute videos on a variety of academic subjects on the website or through an app. A coach (a teacher, parent, or tutor) can sign up and monitor kids' progress; kids can also take a test to determine math lessons to watch. Problems include hints an videos have further learning links. A custom dashboard progress map fills up as kids master skills and earn badges and energy points. Users can watch any video or practice any skill at any time when using the site. In the math section, there's an option to start with a pretest, after which the site will recommend a lesson as an entry point and continue to recommend lessons thereafter. Within each tutorial, every math problem includes hints, and the videos have links to support further learning. Other subjects include science, economics, and humanities subjects such as Art History, World History, and American Civics. Kids can sign up with a coach (a teacher, parent, or tutor) who can monitor their progress and suggest lessons. Kids also can earn badges and energy points, which are meant to engage and motivate. The custom dashboard has a progress map that fills up as kids work their way through the skills.
Is it any good?
The Khan Academy website, app, and corresponding YouTube channel were founded by Salman Khan, who holds degrees in math, engineering, computer science, and business. The content is designed for self-paced learning, and, in general, it's a solid resource to supplement classroom instruction on basic math skills. Sal's uncanny ability to explain the most basic and complex subjects in these brief videos is impressive, engaging, and educational to boot. But Khan Academy isn't a standalone math course. The videos tend to be more procedural than conceptual and may, at times, contain minor inconsistencies that could confuse some learners. But videos on the "why of algebra," and some of the older videos have been updated with more polished instruction. High school-age kids are most likely to find the site useful and appealing.
The site is continually growing -- math lessons for grade-schoolers were added recently, and items about science, computing, history, and other topics are also available. Updates include collaborations with the Stanford Medical School, and even math and science explorations with NBA star LeBron James. The dashboard has improved over previous versions: Lessons are recommended based on progress, and navigation is easier. A companion iPad app allows video downloads for offline viewing to reinforce topics or practice ones that kids maybe struggling with, and there's even a new version of the site in Spanish. There's also a new Coach Resources section, aimed at parents, tutors, and teachers, with helpful tutorials on using the site. Parents and tutors may find some of the case-study videos particularly useful in helping kids get the most out of the site. Based on its popularity, the site is likely to keep growing. As Sal has said, "What you see today at Khan Academy is a very crude approximation of where we'll be in five or 10 years."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the pros and cons of technology-based learning. Ask questions such as, "How is technology changing people's access to education?"
Talk to your kids about different learning styles, and ask them to self-reflect: which teaching styles might suit them best as learners?
How can videos help kids understand concepts? Ask your child what aspects of a video clip seemed to explain things more clearly than words alone.
- Subjects: Math: algebra, calculus, geometry
Science: biology, chemistry, physics
Social Studies: citizenship, history, the economy
Arts: painting, sculpture
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, asking questions, problem solving
Self-Direction: academic development, goal-setting, self-assessment
Tech Skills: using and applying technology
- Genre: Educational
- Pricing structure: Free
For kids who love learning
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.