Virtual school The Khan Academy just released an official iPad app today, and if you have kids in school you might just want to grab a copy, because it’s excellent.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Khan Academy, here’s a brief history: Salman Khan started making helpful educational videos to tutor younger members of his own family. He stuck them on YouTube, because, well, that’s you share videos these days. They quickly took on a life of their own, becoming massively popular. Salman kept churning out more videos – mostly on mathematics, science and finance, but also covering history and politics too. Now the Academy has expanded, employs staff, and has big ambitions.
OK, history lesson over. What about the app?
But there’s more to it than that, and here’s where the app comes into its own in comparison to, say, saving a web shortcut on your iPad’s springboard that takes you straight to the existing content.
For one thing, the app makes browsing the huge archive of videos much easier. Delve into a primary subject and you’ll see it sub-categorized. Tap a video to watch it. If you want to download it for watching offline later, that’s done with a tap. But even better, at the bottom of every sub-category list there’s a button that lets you download all the videos in that list at once.
Also included is a comprehensive download manager, which maintains the category hierarchy so you can see all the lessons you’ve got stored locally, and which subjects they relate to. From here you can delete videos you’ve watched.
Another great feature is the built-in voice transcriptions. Salman Khan has a delicious, warm, radio-quality voice but even he sometimes talks very quickly, and without the transcriptions it would be possible to miss something. The transcribed lines also act as an instant navigator for the video you’re watching – tap a line to jump straight to it. This is fantastic if you’re going over a tricky subject and struggling to understand how a particular mathematical problem was solved. Just tap your way backwards and forwards over the same section repeatedly until you’ve got your brain around it.
Best of all for students (and another advantage over just using YouTube) is that the app lets you log in to Khan Academy using your existing Google or Facebook account. Once logged in, you can keep track of your progress – of what you’ve watched, and therefore what you’ve learned.
This is a high quality free app, and an essential download if you’re a parent of school age children. Recommended.
Pros: Free learning! Download videos for offline viewing.
Cons: None that I can think of.