In The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined, Salman Khan (the guy who started The Khan Academy) examines the classroom/lecture/homework educational model that has been in place for the past 150 years or so, and finds it wanting.
This isn’t a vitriolic book–Khan has plenty of good things to say for teachers and educators, as well as helpful insights for parents.
However, he thinks, inertia and bureaucracy unfortunately hinder the application of decades of research that show how ineffective the age segregated, standard curriculum, enforced group pacing model really is. The current way was developed by the Prussians who were looking for ways to get a compliant working class together. That worked well when most people were in farming or manufacture. Nowadays, however, we don’t need a compliant, mildly educated working class. We need a dynamic, creative, critical thinking knowledge class.
Instead of the current model, Khan believes, we should overhaul our educational system to focus on individualized learning, mastery rather than mediocrity, and integrated subjects, taught in mixed age classrooms in a year-round format.
Yes, he’s talking about taking the best parts of homeschooling and applying them to group schools. I think it’s an awesome, long overdue idea.
The book covers how The Khan Academy came to be, how it’s being effectively used in classroom situations as well as independent learning, and how it could easily and cheaply be scaled for use internationally. It contains a lot of data and research findings, but maintains a readable, upbeat tone throughout. The focus of the book is math (and, to a lesser extent, science), but you can easily see how the methods and ideas in the book could be applied to a wide variety of subjects.
If you’re interested in education, or have children (no matter how you’re educating them), I would highly recommend The One World Schoolhouse. I found it helpful, both in confirming the commitment I already have to integrating subjects, and in giving me new ideas about how to approach math instruction and practice. Although I think the site is really geared for older kids and I try to be really careful about the amount of screen time the kids get, I started letting Hannah and Jack do the math on The Khan Academy site after they get their other schoolwork done every now and then. They love it, and it’s great practice!
How do you feel about the math instruction you received? Are you teaching your kids (or helping with their homework) any differently than you were taught?
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