Teachers utilize online resources to enhance education

Della Johnson | Staff Writer

Freshman Sonali Dasari uses apps such as Photomath to help her figure out how to solve problems she is confused by.

Listening to lectures and taking notes aren’t the only ways to learn anymore.

In recent years, numerous online tools have integrated themselves with the traditional, paper-pencil oriented approach. Websites such as Khan Academy, Desmos, and Mathbits have become the right hand men of teachers throughout Mason High School. 

Teachers like Heather Verstreate, an Honors Geometry teacher, have sunk deeper into the world of learning on WiFi. After many years of using Khan Academy, Verstreate said she became a Khan Academy ambassador, taking part in meetings and advertisements for the site. 

“I started using Khan Academy probably about 15 years ago, and they started the ambassador program three years ago,” Verstreate said. “Ms. Forsythe, another geometry teacher, was an ambassador the first year. She actually recommended that I apply since we use Khan Academy a lot.”

Verstreate said that the ambassador program has given many different jobs to her than that of a regular teacher using the educational platform. An important task is speaking at presentations and conventions.

“I have been trained and have access to training materials so that I can go out and, as we jokingly say, ‘share the Khan love,’” Verstreate said. “I’ve gone to Little Miami and trained teachers this year before school started. There’s a workshop that all teachers in the Cincinnati area are involved are invited to. We used to host it; it’s called High Aims. I presented at that as well. We’ve held morning meetings for teachers here at the high school.”

The website provides more than videos and examples. A majority of the way Verstreate uses Khan Academy involves assignments and mastery. She said the homework she gives has been completely adjusted and put onto the site. 

“It’s impacted my homework more than anything,” Verstreate said. “Although not all students prefer it, I like Khan Academy for homework because there is access to videos and hints. I understand that maybe students [ think] it doesn’t help, but I like the fact that you’ve got the chance.”

Freshman Sonali Dasari takes Honors Geometry and uses Khan Academy almost daily in the class. She said it is not her favorite way to learn, but she is fine with simply practicing on the site.

“Practicing on Khan Academy helps me, but I wouldn’t say that learning [the material] on Khan Academy helps,” Dasari said. “I need it taught out, rather than just doing problems. We use it pretty often because we use it to either practice or learn the topics. We use it to review Algebra One, one set per semester.”

Apps and websites have become more than simply classroom helpers. When it comes to homework, students often utilize apps such as Socratic, Photomath, and Chegg to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Dasari said she does not see any problem with using these apps to assist learning.

“There’s an app where you can take a picture of the problem and it’ll tell you the answer,” Dasari said. “I feel like some people use that to get an answer, but they also use it to learn the steps. I think that’s okay, instead of just getting an answer and putting it down.”

With the use of internet resources also comes unexpected difficulties. Verstreate said she tries to be lenient with her assignments and also still relies on traditional mediums.

“We all know the internet here is not always reliable,” Verstreate said. “And I know that happens at home as well. So, that could cause a little bit of stress for students, but I try to be as flexible as possible when it comes to due dates. Also, we still [use] traditional paper and pencil because, especially in geometry, we need those diagrams. We’ve got to be able to mark on them.” 

Honors Algebra II teacher Erin Rankin’s class has been recently working on independent learning at home. She said apps can help in moderation, but reliance on them can be counterproductive.

“I think [solving apps] can help,” Rankin said. “They can be detrimental in the fact that if there’s too much done for [the students], then they’re not really discovering it on their own. I think it can definitely help them get started, but sometimes they’re not really understanding. It depends on how they use it.”

Photo by Evelina Gaivoronskaia.