Book Review: The One World Schoolhouse: a New Approach to Teaching and Learning

Book Review: The One World Schoolhouse: a New Approach to Teaching and Learning

During my vacation in the Netherlands, I finished reading The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimaginedby Salman Khan. This is the same Salman Khan who invented Khan Academy, which has taken the education world by storm. I personally enjoyed the book and found myself vigorously nodding my head up and down about many aspects of the book. I was pleasantly surprised with how much detail he provided on different learning methods and styles. One method that was particularly interesting was the Winnetka Plan. I had taken many self-paced correspondence courses so I resonated with the idea.

In 243 pages, Khan focused on four major areas: his development of the Khan Academy, why he believes the current education model is broken, how Khan Academy has been successfully used in the “real world”, and his vision of a one world schoolhouse. He wrote this with a lot of passion, primarily, because he was telling his story of how he developed Khan Academy.

In part 1 of his book, Khan talked about the need for lifelong learning, and how our education system was failing to teach kids how to learn. He provided an example of how he helped his niece improve her math skills using videos, and how a strategy to provide free learning was developed. He talked about his journey that resulted in leaving his job in finance. He explained the lessons he learned while developing his system, and how students benefited  Basically, his system is flexible to accommodate different learning styles. Khan explained how his system takes into account objective mastery. He sharply pointed out that in typical assessments if a student passes with a 70%, they still move forward not understanding 30%. Our present education system does not accommodate students who do not get a topic; they are simply left behind to figure it out for themselves.

In part 2, Khan provided a pretty rich history of how our education system evolved to the point it is. He also acknowledged the difficulty to change such a system especially because of the money that is involved maintaining the status quo. Throughout this section, he not only provided historical content but also scathing criticism. He seemed to imply that our system has been intentionally designed to quash creativity and suppress deep exploration on any one topic. Within this section, Khan talked about tracking, homework, subjects, technology, and class size. He pointed out what many others have already noted; our present system was designed for a time and reason that is no longer relevant for today’s world.

The 3rd part focused on how Khan Academy has been integrated into a variety of school scenarios… successfully. With each experiment, Khan Academy was modified. The end result is a program that allows students to work at their own pace and allows teachers to focus their attention on students who are struggling with specific concepts. Khan also questioned, “Why does “education” stop at some point?” He again stressed the importance of lifelong learning.

Finally, in Part 4, Khan talked about his vision for a one world schoolhouse. To get a good idea of what he envisions, I recommend that you watch this video of his 2060 education predictions.

He envisions a world where part of school is through self-study, and the rest is through active learning projects. Learning will be more hands on, perhaps through internships. This is a model that I am very enthused about. We need to get away of the classroom lecture model and move to one where learning can be discovered actively through exploration.

All in all, this book fit neatly into my opinion on how education should occur. I believe we as educators should curate and distribute resources so that others can learn at their own pace and decide for themselves what is necessary at a specific moment at time.

I believe what Khan is forecasting is coming to reality as each day passes. If you want to get a glimpse of where we are going, I would recommend this book.

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