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If school has been canceled and you are stuck at home with the children, you can still help them learn valuable lessons even if you are not an expert.

USA TODAY

Last spring, with schools closed to pick up the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, educational apps have become a lifeline.

As parents, educators, and students adjusted to the virtual classroom, many rely on apps and technology to help bridge learning gaps.

Among them was the popular Khan Academy, started by Sal Khan in 2005 to provide videos and tools to help students learn math, science and more subjects.

In an interview with USA TODAY, Khan, the company’s chief executive, said he first learned of the school’s pandemic closure in February, after receiving letters from South Korea. teachers using the Khan Academy. In the following months, schools began to close in the United States in favor of virtual learning.

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“When it started to become clear that school closures could happen, we started doing a bit of war room around us,‘ OK we want to provide more support for teachers, for parents, ’” Khan said. “We’ve got to put more structures in place so you can use not only the Khan Academy, but other resources to structure a day that can bring learning closer to home or a quarantine school or anything you might want to call it.”

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Khan said that before COVID-19, the site had an average of 30 million minutes of teaching per school. At the height of spring, Khan Academy had an average of 90 million minutes of teaching.

Last week, The Amgen Foundation awarded Khan Academy a $ 3 million grant to support initiatives that include virtual biology lessons and a collaboration with LabXchange, an online platform for science teaching.

The US TODAY spoke to Khan about what to expect this fall, and how parents can cope.

Question: Where do you see apps like Khan Academy matching the changing school curriculum?

Khan:We call ourselves a strategic supplement. It’s kind of an ambiguous term. What does it mean?

Prior to COVID, you have this core curriculum concept. When you and I went to school, that tended to be a kind of combination of a book, a teacher’s manual, and maybe some lecture notes or rhythm guides that the teacher or district developed. Now, there are a few more core curricula that have day-to-day lessons that teachers can work through.

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No matter what curricula you look at, whether they are text-based or some of the more modern ones, they are good for prescribing daily lesson plans. Where they are missing – and this is pre-COVID – it is not good to give a sufficient amount of practice to students, especially a practice where they receive immediate feedback. They don’t necessarily provide support where teachers can know in real time what students are doing, what they know, what they don’t know.

And traditional core curricula are really weak in the way they address the problem of every student who has gaps entering the school year. You give them a synchronous lesson every day.

But what if the kids aren’t ready for that lesson, or what if some kids are willing to move on? How do you do this differentiation and personalization? And so that practice, that feedback, monitoring the teacher’s progress, and that personalization, controlled learning, were those areas where Khan Academy saw its role in the classroom, where we were able to add value as a strategic supplement.

Now entering a COVID world, something really interesting happens because that traditional curriculum that you’ve been anchored on doesn’t actually work the same way. Most traditional curricula are grounded in the background – just imagine a math class, five 55-minute sessions a week and then go do some problem solving on your own. Now, at best, you’re going to have two to three Zoom sessions a week, a lot more has to happen remotely, distance learning, using some form of online tool.

We see ourselves continuing to be the strategic supplement in that practice, feedback, monitoring teacher progress and personalizing the space, but we’re imagining – and this we saw in the spring – is that people will beat much heavier on because you can’t get so much synchronous time together in this world. It’s kind of the same idea, but the value, I think, that these online tools provide are much more important now.

Q: What are some new features or offerings that you are hoping to introduce this fall?

Khan: There are ready for degree level courses. Not only is that a way to understand if children are ready, but it is also an outlet to help them prepare and prepare for grade level, or even if you approach grade level at the same time to fill any gaps. which may have accumulated even COVID beforehand, but especially during the COVID period.

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In addition, we are creating learning plans and weekly schedules just to give teachers and parents a point of view on how at least a distance learning baseline can be seen. The reality is that many districts are just coming out of the room with epidemiologists to figure out what is even physically possible, and have hardly had a chance to think about how the curriculum looks in this world. How do we teach, what are our learning goals, how can we actually do it?

So we have a role, even beyond any tools we offer, to give people a clear perspective of what that learning might look like in that way.

We’ve been working with McKinsey & Company – we’ll publish in two weeks – a report that looked at what were the best practices from spring while distance learning, what doesn’t work and move forward, what’s best practices, what is the playbook, how can a district or school evaluate their readiness for hybrid or distance learning. We will only continue to provide much more support and training for teachers and parents to help as many people as possible go through this period.

Q: What advice do you have for parents to help their children navigate a virtual school experience?

Khan:My advice is, first, take a deep breath. You don’t even impose an expectation on yourself that you need to replicate the whole school. That’s not just practical. No one gets that. So even if you’re looking at your relatives and you seem to be having some amazing hybrid experience, it’s probably not as amazing as you might think.

But I would say that the other thing is to focus on those fundamental principles. There are two scenarios. There is the scenario where the school is supporting the family quite well. The main role of the parent is to stay engaged with what the school tells you, make sure you can form habits and patterns with your child, look at the calendar together, so that the child shows up and be committed to any activity the faculty wants. make them.

There is another scenario – and, unfortunately, I think this may be a common one – is where families are not getting the support they need and have to do it on their own. That’s where I say we focus on the basics. Depending on the age of the child, math, reading and writing, if they can get at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, they will not go to atrophy and will make progress.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @ brettmolina23.

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