Saturday, April 23, 2011

Independent Learning Resources for Students

Some of my students are expressing interest (or even concern) in math topics that have come up on the current math exam. In my experience, when a student expresses an interest in a math concept, it's a great opportunity, and I really don't want to let it slip out of my grasp.

Image: WikiMedia Commons
Unfortunately, schedules, other work, and the vast amount of things that need to get done can sometimes get in the way. There are only so many recesses and lunch periods to spend giving students extra help. Add in any student extra-curricular activities that take that time, and you're left without much of an opportunity to engage those students in the learning they are craving.

That's where some online resources can come in handy. Most of my students have internet access at home, so I can send them home with some links to videos and practice activities. That way, when we finally have another opportunity to practice together, they haven't lost the motivation to learn.

Khan Academy has an amazing, vast array of learning resources. Videos and practice exercises are the basics that the site provides, but there's quite a bit more to it. You can set up a coach/student partnership, where the coach can see each student's progress through the lessons available on the site. I would recommend that you take a few moments to explore their website, and they're not-for-profit, too! You won't have to pay, and your students won't pay, either.

Another site I've been trying out lately is Math Playground. I came across it while looking for a demonstration and practice activity for a specific (and apparently difficult-to-find) math concept. They have short video explanations, and related math practice exercises. I haven't yet had an opportunity to look through much of the site, but from what I've seen, it looks promising. The video explanations are clear, and the audio and video are much better than the typical I'm-writing-on-the-white-board-and-you're-looking-at-my-back-while-I-speak-and-by-the-way-I-filmed-this-with-my-old-webcam kind of materials found all over YouTube.

The key criteria for this type of resource (when I'm looking for them) is that students must be able to engage in the learning independently. Different types of resources exist, where students can collaborate with a teacher or tutor within a virtual environment, but that kind of resource is outside the scope of this post. I am looking for places where students can explore topics covered in class in more detail, at their own pace, on their own time, without needing any other help or support.

What sites do you encourage your students to use? Where do you go for clarification of a concept or topic? How do you help those students who are interested? Post a comment to let me know!