Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Khan Academy (Not Just for Trekkers)

I have to confess when I first read a review for Khan Academy the only image that came to mind was Captain Kirk screeching the name of his arch nemesis. But the review was in Voya.com, the Voice of Youth Advocates, a library journal justly famous for its professional judgments, so I guessed the site would be something other than Klingons sneezing at tribbles. In other words, I wasn’t expecting fun.

The review was in the Voya column YA-Clicks, created by librarian Rebecca Purdy with contributions by the youth who use the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. One student, Emily Stant, described Khan Academy as a place with a huge number of high quality videos on topics ranging from American civics to finance. She promised that the site is easily navigable and “a wonderful tool to use both for learning and teaching.”

The good people at Khan describe themselves as “…an organization on a mission. We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” The site offers self-testing, videos, and self-paced learning tools on math, computer science, chemistry, biology, and physics.

“Self-paced learning tools.” Not only does this sound like the Vulcan Science Academy, it doesn’t sound like fun. But my interest was piqued by one line in the about tab describing “badges worth bragging about.” You see, Khan Academy believes in "game mechanics."

This is how it works. You log onto the site, choose a subject, say basic math, and then practice. If you find you’re having trouble, view straight-forward videos on the specific problem you’re experiencing. You accrue points for each problem correctly solved. And with enough points, you gain…BADGES! Some of these badges are described as legendary, because they are not cheaply won.

Now admittedly Kahn Academy isn’t Halo or Black Ops 2, but I found myself click, click, clicking away at fraction questions in order to raise my point level. It’s addictive. And you are learning. And it’s fun. Yeah, I said it; it’s actually fun.

David Ryan
Business, Science & Technology
Central Library


Mary Anne said...

Well, that's a relief---just imagine what the other kind of "Kahn Academy" would be like. And I don't even want to think about the detentions . . .

Chris Hare said...

Proper fan terminology for the win!

trekker (noun):

And yes, Wrath of Khan Academy (commonly referred to as WoKA) would probably not be a very welcoming place. Typical sneer from an older student: "I'm laughing at your superior intellect, newbie!"

And detentions? Yeek.
"It's Ceti Alpha V for you, you disruptive student, you!"

Mary Anne said...

As an alternative, there's always the Borg Institute of Technology (BIT):

"Graduation is futile. You will be matriculated."