For this assignment I chose to read The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan. The goal of this book was to share Khan’s vision for the future of education through anecdotal stories, lessons learned through the Khan Academy, and research. Khan envisions a reform in education that promotes content mastery, creativity and increased attention to the student as an individual.
One of the major strengths of the book is Khan’s attention to detail as he discusses his vision for the future. Khan’s plan for education reform uses a flipped classroom approach. He advocates having the student watch videos (Khan Academy or some variant like it) that will teach the content in small (approximately 10 minute) chunks. Students can then come to class the next day and can complete worksheets, projects, tests and variety of other assignments to develop mastery of the concept. In Khan’s education format there would be no need for grades because every student would need total mastery of a concept before they would be allowed to move on the next topic. To reach this goal, he advocates the use of technology in the classroom to monitor student progress as they move through the topic and develop mastery over the content. While in the classroom students could avail from the aid of their peers who have a greater wealth of prior knowledge about the topic or engage on 1-on-1 or small group sessions with the teacher.
The major weakness of the book is from the author himself. The majority of his information from his own experience (in tutoring and running studies in Silicon Valley schools and camps) and cherry picked research articles. Like all people Khan bases his convictions on his own life experiences and personal beliefs, but to support his ideology he has cheery picked through research articles that support his philosophy and ignored the research of others. One example that really stuck out for me was his suggest that students learned better because they couldn’t see his face. He argued that the human brain was hardwired to watch faces and as a result became distracted from what was being said. While I agree that the human brain does look to faces, I disagree that it always a distracting feature in education. Through facial expression a teacher can convey visually what is important and can read the faces of their own students for understanding. Another problem I had with Khan was the way he used his studies, he supports a generalization based on the population of a limited community of the people. Speaking statistically the information obtained from his study would not support a correlation between his methods and educational success due to the limited samples and population pools used.
Khan’s vision for the future has major implications for the educational world if they were to come to fruition. For starters the way science is taught today would be altered for the flipped classroom model. Students all ages would be lumped together; in order to allow the older students learn responsibility and mentoring for younger students and the younger students could gain role models out of the older students. Class sizes could be up 75 students with 3-4 teachers in a classroom. Learning would only take place for about two hours a day with the rest of the time devoted creativity and the interests of the students. Breaks from school and vacations would be eliminated due the presence of increased more teachers in the classroom. Teachers could have breaks when they needed them due to the shared classroom. Students could go on vacation when they wanted because the material they would be learning would be in a digital format allowing the student to continue to develop content mastery even while away from school. There would be no need for transcript because there would be no grades, instead Khan promoted the idea of a creative portfolio which could include projects students design and completed on their own and the student database which could catalog all the content areas the student had mastered.
I would like to promote content mastery in my classroom. The concept of content mastery is what intrigued me the most in the book. Khan raised a good point in discussing this: grades both numbers and letter were some the constructed by the human mind and given meaning where there really was none. To say to a student, ‘Congratulations you passed living environment or algebra with 85% !’ is the same thing as saying they didn’t understand 15% present of the material that was taught. By not gaining an understanding of the remaining the material the student is left with gaps in their understanding that could detrimentally impact their ability to succeed with more complex and related topics. To this end I feel that content mastery is something that we as educators should be promoting with our students in order to provide with the tools they will need to succeed in more advanced classes.
Khan, S. (2012). The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. New York: Grand Central Publishing.