Growing interest by Barbadian students in the Khan Academy programme has been recognised and will continue to be supported both locally and internationally.
Support for the initiative was made clear this week, as investment in it came in the form of 30 computers, flown in by JetBlue and handed over to the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (METI), as gifts to three primary schools.
Alex Eiden, an Essex Fells, New Jersey, resident and student at Montclair Kimberley Academy, collaborated with the Ministry to implement the Khan Academy Mathematics Initiative here on the island. Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organisation created with the aim of providing a free, world-class education ???for anyone, anywhere???.
However, the keen interest and progress by the island???s children in the online programme was assured some two months ago, when the Ministry undertook an evaluation of the Khan Academy Mathematics Initiative with teachers who are Information Technology Coordinators (ITCs) in the 10 pilot schools.
The initiative is one which uses Khan Academy???s online platform as a tool to improve knowledge and skills of Mathematics at any level of our school system.??The review was led by Senior Education Officer in the Ministry, Fernando Carter; Mr. Eiden; and his father, American businessman, Frederick Eiden.
It evaluated the use of the programme by over 2,000 students in the 10 pilot schools: St. Ambrose, Charles F. Broome, St. Christopher Primary, Bayley???s Primary, People???s Cathedral, Ellerton, Cuthbert Moore Primary, Bay Primary, St. Lukes Brighton and Hillaby Turner???s Hall.
Providing an assessment of usage by students, Alex Eiden said the 10 schools had earned 20 million Energy points. Energy points, he explained, were earned as students used Khan Academy ??? watching videos and doing the exercises.
He further explained that some exercises afforded them additional points depending on the degree of difficulty, and how quickly the students completed the exercises. ???It is an impressive number and I, for one, am very happy with this number,??? he declared.
The Khan Academy Ambassador acknowledged that each school had recorded satisfactory results, with some reaching or exceeding the two-million energy point threshold by March 13, 2016. Among those singled out were St. Ambrose, Charles F. Broome, Ellerton and Bayley???s Primary.
The father and son team, however, acknowledged that there were myriad challenges at the various schools, and as such, the numbers were not designed to reflect competitiveness.
???What we are looking for is to put Barbados on the world scene, in terms of what is happening; what can happen; where can we receive complimentary funding for the Ministry of Education so that Barbados can be potentially the showcase in the Caribbean,??? Frederick Eiden said.
The programme is supported by JetBlue and has generated interest from other charitable organisations. Last year, through the Eidens, JetBlue also donated 30 computers to two of the pilot schools, namely St. Ambrose and St. Lukes Brighton. The 30 presented earlier this week went to Bay Primary, Cuthbert Moore Primary and the People???s Cathedral Primary.
???We wanted to ensure complimentary funding was available so that the students could use top technology inside of the classroom,??? stressed the older Eiden. He added that with the introduction of more computers and bandwidth, the Ministry???s IT specialist would be able to manage and control the available resources to improve learning.
The father and son team expressed gratitude to the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry, Senator Harcourt Husbands, the management of Sandy Lane Resort, the team from the Ministry, as well as the associated sponsors.
Mr. Carter said the formative evaluation of the progress of Khan Academy was intended to look at the challenges, hurdles, positives and ways in which Mathematics skills could be improved upon.
Commending the efforts of teachers and their charges, the Senior Education Officer emphasised that the main purpose of introducing the Khan Academy online programme, almost a year ago, was to improve the performance of primary school students in Mathematics.
???We recognised that there were challenges in the subject of Mathematics; we recognised too that these challenges should be tackled from a variety of ways or methodologies and this is just one,??? he explained.
Mr. Carter also spoke to the future of the Maths initiative. ???The Ministry will play its role in terms of improving the connectivity; upgrading existing equipment and being the kind of facilitators who ensure that the Khan Academy initiative goes on to the next level. There is a role for the Ministry to also play in terms of public relations, working together with the Barbados Government Information Service, and you the ITCs and the principals.???
Lauding the Eiden team for sourcing the computers, he said the Ministry looked forward to their continued efforts at finding sponsors to support programmes for the improvement of our educational system and the efficiency of the Khan Academy initiative here.
Teachers heard that part of their role was convincing the three entities – principals, other teachers and parents – of the importance of the Maths initiative.?????Convince them that it is just a tool, and as a tool, you can utilise it to suit your objectives and further the process of learning by adding value. And, of course, if you have not yet communicated to the parents about their role, you have to.
???Communicate it again and again because they play a very important role in the whole school. That parent connection is critical, especially at the primary level. Homework should not be perceived by the parent as just a pen or paper exercise,??? Mr. Carter stressed.
Other thoughts from the evaluation reflected that since the introduction of the Khan Academy, which brings Silicon Valley learning into Barbadian classrooms, to students and their families, some teachers had witnessed the eradication of the fear of fractions and the beginning of a search for knowledge that extends beyond the world of Mathematics.