Microsoft Joins Khan Academy To Bring Free AI To K-12 Educators

Today, Microsoft and Khan Academy announced a collaboration that will provide teachers with free access to AI teaching assistant Khanmigo. In development since 2023, Khanmigo has been used in pilot programs by over 55,000 teachers and students across more than 50 school districts. By donating its Azure AI-optimized infrastructure, Microsoft has made free access to all US K-12 teachers possible, thereby eliminating the first obstacle any educational innovation faces, namely, finding room in the budget.

Deirdre Quarnstrom, VP of Microsoft Education, stressed that “Microsoft and Khan Academy have a shared vision to reach as many users as possible.” Today’s announcement ensures teachers everywhere will have free access to Khanmigo for Teachers and easy access to the full stack of Khan Academy resources through Microsoft Co-Pilot and Teams for Education.

Finding Time

Anyone trying to introduce a new educational product to teachers will have heard the resounding chorus of “There is no time for that.” Between testing regimens, district pacing guides, and other external factors, teachers have no time for anything new. Only innovations that promise to return time to teachers will be taken seriously. It is not just whether the innovation can make it possible to do something better; it has to be better and faster. Some might ask, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”

Khan Academy has focused on providing tools for easy integration into teachers’ natural workflows, and the collaboration with Microsoft and integration into Teams for Education amplify this focus. Khanmigo can automate activities like writing a rubric or moving from a set of standards to a set of learning objectives. It can also digest data and generate reports on student progress to the district. Each of these items achieves the goal of returning time to teachers.

Khanmigo also provides just-in-time professional learning. Requests to “refresh my knowledge” or provide support with stem topics have been among the most frequent types of AI requests. Getting answers immediately when needed and in the smallest dose necessary to accomplish the task at hand greatly improves the efficiency of professional learning. A common challenge with introducing any new product is the amount of time required to get up to speed; integrating Khanmigo for teachers into Co-Pilot and Teams for Education is a giant step in this direction.

Extending Reach

Once teachers are ready to embrace a tool, the next most significant challenge is getting it to the students who will most benefit from it. Without classroom integration and focused effort, resources will be used only by self-directed, self-motivated learners willing to seek them out. Students who are confused and in need of help are not often able to navigate the use of open educational resources in a manner that will address their needs.

Kristen DiCerbo, Chief Learning Officer for Khan Academy, noted that it was exactly this desire to get tools to the students who need them most that led Khan Academy, which has been making its educational resources freely available since 2008, to develop a district offering in 2019 that would provide the ability to interface with student information systems, and professional learning to help teachers deploy the resources. Khanmigo can be present while teachers are doing their work, making it easy to direct materials to the students who need them. Whether drafting lesson plans, identifying support resources, or writing exit ticket questions, Khanmigo is there and waiting to help.

One of the great benefits of this is the efficient connection back to the large database of Khan Academy instructional and assessment materials. The challenge any large collection of resources presents is determining what to deploy and when. If my only tool is a hammer, it is easy to grab a tool when I need one. It might not be what I need, but it takes no time to find it.If I have 2,000 tools, each ideal for a specific use, no matter how good the organization is, I will likely waste time sorting and searching, which is better spent just doing. With Khanmigo as my assistant, ready to provide the right tool when asked, the odds of my getting what I need promptly are significantly increased.

Keeping The Humans In Charge

The most exciting aspect of the Microsoft/Khan alliance is that it keeps humans squarely in charge of the learning process. AI presents a challenge that must be continually addressed. As AI tools’ capabilities increase, there is an inherent risk that the machine will start telling the human what to do. For teachers, this can often be part of a three-way tug-of-war, with the district also making demands.

Amidst this tug, it is easy to forget that the essential moment of satisfaction in teaching students is watching the light bulb go on as students grasp an idea they are struggling with. Ensuring that teachers continue to have this opportunity is vital if teachers are to remain in the profession. As AI tools enter the picture, the best results will be obtained when the AI acts as a teaching assistant, taking over reporting information back to the district and summarizing student progress while allowing the teacher to stay focused on the actual teacher.

Khanmigo for teachers understands the teacher workflow and enables routine tasks to be automated. Tedious aspects of teaching—lesson planning, recording keeping, and reporting to districts—can be automated, allowing teachers to have the time to connect with students and actually teach.

Education is fundamentally relationship-driven, and anything that pulls the teacher away from connecting with students ultimately does a disservice to education. Microsoft and Khan Academy have clearly identified this challenge and taken steps that should improve the lives of teachers and, most importantly, the learning of students.