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The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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"Since its founding in 2006, Sal Khan's project-the Khan academy-has revolutionized our thinking on the potential and promise of unfettered, open-access online education. In his new book The One World Schoolhouse, Khan presents his vision and blueprint for how online technology can, and should, play an integral role in educating communities across the globe, closing the opportunity gap and providing high-quality education for all."―Al Gore
"In this book, Salman Khan sheds light on how our current education system leaves a gap in every student's core knowledge. He found ways to fill this gap by encouraging differentness, fresh thinking and implementing creativity in the learning process. I strongly believe that all human beings have unlimited creative power. The role of education is to unleash that power. The way he relates the proper goal of education and the natural bent of the child is fascinating. He refers "natural bent" as the particular mix of talents and perspectives that makes each mind unique, and allows minds to be strikingly original. The way Khan portrays the concept of education and the mechanism of learning is revolutionary. This book is a must-read for those providing real education to our children in this new age of technology."―Muhammed Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, and the 2006 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
"Sal Khan's passion and innovation is transforming learning for millions of students worldwide. The One World School is a must-read for all who are committed to improving education so students everywhere can gain the skills and knowledge to be successful in school, careers and life."―George Lucas, Filmmaker and Founder of The George Lucas Educational Foundation, publisher of Edutopia
"I discovered Sal Khan and Khan Academy like most other people - by using these incredible tools with my own kids. Sal Khan's vision and energy for how technology could fundamentally transform education is contagious. He's a true pioneer in integrating technology and learning. I'm happy that, through this book, even more people will be introduced to this ground-breaking innovator."―Bill Gates, co-founder & Chairman, Microsoft
"The world dreams of education reform, and Sal Khan is delivering. His pioneering video lessons have brought the thrill of learning to millions. In this compelling book, he tells the remarkable story of Khan Academy, and explains the potential in students learning at their own pace and achieving true subject mastery."―Chris Anderson, TED Curator
"Sal Khan makes a powerful argument for fundamentally rethinking the way we teach and learn. THE ONE WORLD SCHOOLHOUSE illuminates the tremendous potential for online, universaleducation to enable any child, anywhere in the world, to succeed-not only in school, but in shaping our future."―Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google
"Sal Khan is changing what we believe is possible in education. Through humor, charm, contagious enthusiasm and quiet brilliance, Sal Khan has made his lessons irresistible. Now, he brings those same gifts to explaining the revolutionary ideas behind Khan Academy. You'll adore this book because it's just like his lessons-approachable, good-hearted, smart, and ultimately profound. The story Sal tells is quite simply the story of what education will become... and indeed IS becoming, thanks to his example and to a generation of inspired teachers and intrepid education entrepreneurs."―Ted Mitchell, President and CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund
"When you read this book, you will understand how the dignity of each student is addressed by education's visionary, Sal Khan."―Ann Doerr
"Sal Khan has developed the best and most cost-efficient way to use technology to bring high quality education, creativity and innovation to all countries, including the poorest."―Carlos Slim Helu
About the Author
Salman Khan was born and raised in Metairie, Louisiana, to immigrant parents from India and Bangladesh. Before founding the Khan Academy, he was a hedge fund analyst. He's also worked in venture capital and engineering at Oracle and several Silicon Valley start-ups. Khan holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was president of his class, and three degrees from MIT.
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This book is a must read - especially for anyone who has any interests in the current system of education. The book elegantly weaves together three separate threads: (1) A mini-memoir of Sal's life and the history of the Khan Academy; (2) How the current educational system we have in place came to be and fundamental issues with practices employed by the current system (especially as it relates to both how we learn and what function education plays in today's world); (3) Paradigm shifting ideas for dealing with some of the shortcomings that are in place today.
Education reform can be a touchy subject, so I suspect that a book of this nature will attract polarized reviews. However, I do believe there is still tremendous value in reading a book, even if you don't agree with 100% of what it has to say.
While reading this book, you get a peek into how Sal and other efficient learners operate. They are curious and aren't afraid to ask even basic questions. They make connections between the material they are being exposed to and what they already know. Moreover, they engage actively with the material (rather than restricting themselves only to receiving knowledge passively through a unidirectional lecture). Finally, they dive deeper into that material (often repeating all of the above steps over and over again). There is nothing sacred about these processes - almost anyone can become an efficient learner if they are afforded an opportunity to employ them.
Unfortunately, many of our current educational practices, which were inherited hundreds of years ago from the Prussians (with minor adjustments made over time), are at odds with these more optimal learning processes. For example, antiquated models limit the amount of "time" we have to learn a particular concept, and in-turn introduce variability into how well we understand that concept. With a limited amount of time, we aren't always able to engage our curiosity or make deeper connections nor are we always able to engage with the material actively and in depth. The result is that significant deficiencies in a student's knowledge are introduced. Those shortcomings get compounded over time, leading to Swiss-cheese gaps that render it impossible for students to attain requisite proficiency, especially in more advanced subjects.
Sal describes how these concerns formed the basis for the Khan Academy's vision. He notes that we are undoubtedly dealing with a thorny problem. Not only are some of the traditional approaches to education flawed based on today's needs, but there are a veritable quagmire of interconnected practices that make it hard to rectify any one issue in isolation. Fixing the system will require us to make fundamental changes and necessitate a larger conversation. We are at a historical inflection point where we have the ability to make important changes in education. You should absolutely read this book so that you have an opportunity to both follow and actively engage in what is certain to be one of the great dialogues of our times.
The key notion is ‘mastery’ learning. In my state I am surrounded by drivers who ‘passed’ with a 70% grade on their driving tests. How important is the 30% which they failed and how do the elements within that 30% put my life at risk? Khan would have all students receiving grades of A because no student would be able to move beyond course material without having achieved mastery of the totality of that material.
This is a far greater problem in STEM fields than in, e.g., the humanities. Each English teacher will admit to having overlooked certain ‘key’ texts. In my undergraduate years, the director of the Woodrow Wilson fellowship selection committee in my section of the Midwest (a significant position) admitted that he had never read the most important (or second most important) English novel of the eighteenth century, TOM JONES. In science this will not do. If you learned nothing about carbon in freshman chemistry, you are going to be challenged when you take organic chemistry. This will be the case in any field that involves cumulative knowledge. So long as we continue to ‘pass’ students who have not achieved mastery in individual STEM fields (particularly mathematics) we will foreclose their options in postsecondary and graduate education and in their future career options.
Khan attributes many of our problems to inertia; we have simply done things in a certain way for so long that we have difficulty even contemplating changing. An obvious example is the summer break, a wonderful idea when the majority of America was agrarian and students were needed to help with the harvest. Now we let expensive infrastructure sit (largely) unused from the second week in May to the third week in August.
He also scores a series of very worthy targets: bloated administrations, absurdly-high costs and the endless dividing of subject matter into isolated microspecialties. He argues that we definitely need foundational material (in contrast to many of the so-called progressive educators who depreciated the importance of core learning), though he believes that much of this could be acquired with approximately 1-2 hours of dedicated work per school day. He wants to free up students to pursue their interests wherever they might take them. This works very well, of course, in an Oxbridge tutorial system, where students are free to depart from a lockstep syllabus and, with their tutor’s guidance, follow their curiosity. It is more difficult in a system of near-universal education with large enrollments, large classes, and tight budgets. I would add that it is increasingly difficult when the presumed foundational knowledge no longer exists. For example, he gives the example of the Louisiana Purchase, arguing that (in our days of narrow coursework with rigid borders) American students are likely to be told that this was a stunning bargain, testifying to Jefferson’s genius and cunning, rather than a Napoleonic necessity, given his need to fund his military adventures. I agree wholeheartedly with his desire to see knowledge wholistically, but in a contemporary college course in American history at many American institutions the lecturer will be dealing with a student body which often could not locate Louisiana on a map (much less the dimensions of the Purchase territory), could not identify Napoleon and may well not know which came first, the renaissance or the enlightenment.
While he is not naïve with regard to the reach of information technology he is certainly correct that the youtube material that he has developed (and the internet in general) can extend foundational learning and facilitate the individual’s quest for knowledge. He is probably correct that, ultimately (as my great 19thc teacher, Royal Gettman always said), the only knowledge that endures is that which is self-taught. He realizes that he is open to the criticism that his program will be for the very few (he gives the number of 20%; many would put it closer to 10%) who are highly motivated, tenacious and endlessly curious. He is encouraged by the results which have been attained with the usually-challenged students who have utilized his program and I want to believe that he is correct. Certainly, the GI Bill generation’s experience suggested a vast range of possibility for those with their backs to the wall and exceptional vistas before them. Contemporary studies such as that by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa (ACADEMICALLY ADRIFT, 2011) suggest that this task will be far more difficult than he imagines. Left to their own devices contemporary American college students spend what looks to earlier generations as a jaw-dropping, inordinate time on socializing.
In the course of THE ONE WORLD SCHOOLHOUSE the author explains the theories behind his system; he recounts the manner in which his Academy came to be and he explores what the ideal institution of the future would look like. This is presented with lucidity and passion; no one interested in education will come away from this book without a multiplicity of fresh ideas and stimulating suggestions.
That ideal institution, which is based in part on Waterloo’s co-op program, focuses (refreshingly) on learning and personal development. His institution bears no resemblance whatsoever to the contemporary university depicted, e.g., in THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. There are no wars over Title IX, over gendered bathrooms, of alienated faculty being punished for their tweets, of athletes involved in sex and drug scandals, administrators who embezzle, a diminishing tenure/track faculty being systematically replaced by contingent faculty, of cries for safe spaces and play-doh and an ethos which puts freedom of speech at significant risk. His interest is in learning per se and the best methods of securing it and for that we should all be grateful. I have seen the kind of institution of which he speaks and its Silicon Valley internships (part of his core vision) were vital decades ago. It is a place where students work with a highly gifted faculty with relatively few constraints. I have seen its classrooms at night when a student or two were covering a blackboard in equations. Its sole student problem, it seemed, was the socialization of brilliant students who had skipped multiple grades and were surrounded by students several years their senior (a situation which SK encourages; in the one-room schoolhouse the older students tutored the younger students and served as role models and even heroes/heroines). The only problem with this institution, the California Institute of Technology, is that it serves approximately one thousand undergraduates and one thousand graduate students in a country with 20,000,000 students in higher education. It is important that it serve as a model, but while I would dearly love to see its practices generalized that is not likely to happen in an academic ethos which is now largely vocational, corporatized and politicized. Salman Khan’s alternative system would put a serious dent in the current establishment’s market share without succumbing to the manifest flaws of for-profit education. While that is something that we might greatly desire, it is not likely that we can expect its reach to expand beyond those who are serious, motivated, focused and curious. Some of those, however, who are being failed by the current system might be reclaimed. Mr. Khan should receive our aid, support and thanks for his efforts on their behalf.