Review: The One World Schoolhouse (Salman Khan)

The One World Schoolhouse – Salman Khan ebook free download pdf

This is a short, easy to read, nonacademic (few references) book. it has som shortcomings on matters dealing with test taking and intelligence tests, but isnt that important for the main topics of the book. this book shud be read by anyone interested in public policy regarding education.



As always, quotes and comments below. quotes ar in red.




I was born in Metairie, Louisiana, a residential area within

metro New Orleans. My father, a pediatrician, had moved

there from Bangladesh for his medical residency at LSU and,

later, his practice at Charity Hospital. In 1972, he briefly

returned to Bangladesh and came back with my mother—who

was born in India. It was an arranged marriage, very traditional

(my mother tried to peek during the ceremony to make sure

she was marrying the brother she thought she was). Over the

next several years, five of my mother’s brothers and one cousin

came to visit, and they all fell in love with the New Orleans

area. I believe that they did this because Louisiana was as close

to South Asia as the United States could get; it had spicy food,

humidity, giant cockroaches, and a corrupt government. We

were a close family—even though, at any given moment, half

of my relatives weren’t speaking to the other half.






Let me be clear—I think it’s essential for everything that

follows—that at the start this was all an experiment, an impro­

visation. I ’d had no teacher training, no Big Idea for the most

effective way to teach. I did feel that I understood math intu­

itively and holistically, but this was no guarantee that I ’d be

effective as a teacher. I ’d had plenty of professors who knew

their subject cold but simply weren’t very good at sharing what

they knew. I believed, and still believe, that teaching is a sepa­

rate skill—in fact, an art that is creative, intuitive, and highly



i think he is right about that. so, it makes no sens to me when danish politicians focus on having research-based education. this means that the teacher must be a researcher himself. but given the nonperfect and perhaps low (?) correlation between teaching ability and researcher ability, that seems like at best at bad idea, and at worst, a dangerusly bad idea.



It ignores several basic facts about how people actually learn.

People learn at different rates. Some people seem to catch on to

things in quick bursts of intuition; others grunt and grind their

way toward comprehension. Quicker isn’t necessarily smarter

and slower definitely isn’t dumber. Further, catching on quickly

isn’t the same as understanding thoroughly. So the pace of

learning is a question of style, not relative intelligence. The tor­

toise may very well end up with more knowledge—more use­

ful, lasting knowledge—than the hare.


it pains me to read stuff like this. u gotta into g mr. Khan.



Let me emphasize this difference, because it is central to

everything I argue for in this book. In a traditional academic

model, the time allotted to learn something is fixed while the

comprehension of the concept is variable. Washburne was

advocating the opposite. What should be fixed is a high level

of comprehension and what should be variable is the amount of

time students have to understand a concept.


obvius, but apparently ignored by those that support the current one-size fits all system (based on age). well almost one size. ther is special education for those simply too stupid or too unruly or too handicapped to learn somthing in a normal class.



The findings of Kandel and other neuroscientists have much

to say about how we actually learn; unfortunately, the standard

classroom model tends to ignore or even to fly in the face of these

fundamental biological truths. Stressing passivity over activity is

one such misstep. Another, equally important, is the failure of

standard education to maximize the brain’s capacity for associa­

tive learning—the achieving of deeper comprehension and more

durable memory by relating something newly learned to some­

thing already known. Let’s take a moment to consider this.


yes, this is very important. hence why mem-based learning works really well (an online learning site,, is based on this idea, and it works very well!). also think of how memory techniqs work – they ar based on associations as well. cf.


recently, quite a few books hav been written on this subject. probably becus of the recent interest in memory as a sport disciplin. cf.



Active learning, owned learning, also begins with giving

each student the freedom to determine where and when the

learning will occur. This is the beauty of the Internet and the

personal computer. I f someone wants to study the quadratic

equation on his back porch at 3 a.m., he can. I f someone thinks

best in a coffee shop or on the sideline of a soccer field, no prob­

lem. Haven’t we all come across kids who seem bright and alert

except when they’re in class? Isn’t it clear that there are morning

people and night people? The radical portability of Internet-

based education allows students to learn in accordance with

their own personal rhythms, and therefore most efficiently.


good application to fix the morningness vs. eveningsness problem (in DA: a-menneske vs. b-mennesker). cf. and



Tests say little or nothing about a student’s potential to learn

a subject. At best, they offer a snapshot of where the student

stands at a given moment in time. Since we have seen that stu­

dents learn at widely varying rates, and that catching on faster

does not necessarily imply understanding more deeply, how

meaningful are these isolated snapshots?


yes they do. achievement tests correlate well with g factor.



And all of this might have happened because of one snapshot

test, administered on one morning in the life of a twelve-year-

old girl—a test that didn’t even test what it purported to be

testing! The exam, remember, claimed to be measuring math

potential—that is, future performance. Nadia did poorly on it

because of one past concept that she’d misunderstood. She has

cruised through every math class she’s ever taken since (she

took calculus as a sophomore in high school). What does this

say about the meaningfulness and reliability of the test? Yet

we look to exams like this to make crucial, often irreversible,

and deceptively “objective” decisions regarding the futures of

our kids.


it implies that it isnt a perfectly valid test. no one claims that such tests hav perfect validity.


it doesnt say anything about reliability afaict.



What will make this goal attainable is the enlightened use of technology. Let me stress ENLIGHTENED use. Clearly, I believe that technology-enhanced teaching and learning is our best chance for an affordable and equitable educational future. But the key question is how the technology is used. It’s not enough to put a bunch of computers and smartboards into classrooms. The idea is to integrate the technology into how we teach and learn; without meaningful and imaginative integration, technology in the classroom could turn out to be just one more very expensive gimmick.


[had to type it off, apparently, the OCR cudnt handle bold text???]


Surely mr. Khan is right about this.



I happen to believe that every student, given the tools and

the help that he or she needs, can reach this level of profi­

ciency in basic math and science. I also believe it is a disservice

to allow students to advance without this level of proficiency,

because they’ll fall on their faces sometime later.


living in a dream world. good luck teaching math to the mentally retarded.

lesson: this is why NOT to use words like <every> and <all>. it is not possible to raise everybody to full mastery of basic math and science. but it is surely possible to lift most people to new heights with better teaching etc.



It turned out that Peninsula Bridge used the video lessons

and software at three of its campuses that summer. Some of

the ground rules were clear. The Academy would be used in

addition to, not in place of, a traditional math curriculum. The

videos would only be used during “computer time,” a slot that

was shared with learning other tools such as Adobe Photoshop

and Illustrator. Even within this structure, however, there were

some important decisions to be made; the decisions, in turn,

transformed the Peninsula Bridge experience into a fascinating

and in some ways surprising test case.


The first decision was the question of where in math the kids

should start. The Academy math curriculum began, literally,

with 1 + 1=2. But the campers were mainly sixth to eighth

graders. True, most of them had serious gaps in their under­

standing of math and many were working below their grade

level. Still, wouldn’t it be a bit insulting and a waste of time to

start them with basic addition? I thought so, and so I proposed

beginning at what would normally be considered fifth-grade

material, in order to allow for some review. To my surprise,

however, two of the three teachers who were actually imple­

menting the plan said they preferred to start at the very begin­

ning. Since the classes had been randomly chosen, we thereby

ended up with a small but classic controlled experiment.


The first assumption to be challenged was that middle-

school students would find basic arithmetic far too easy. Among

the groups that had started with 1 + 1, most of the kids, as

expected, rocketed through the early concepts. But some didn’t.

A few got stuck on things as fundamental as two-digit subtrac­

tion problems. Some had clearly never learned their multiplica­

tion tables. Others were lacking basic skills regarding fractions

or division. I stress that these were motivated and intelligent

kids. But for whatever reason, the Swiss cheese gaps in their

learning had started creeping in at a distressingly early stage,

and until those gaps were repaired they had little chance of

mastering algebra and beyond.


The good news, however, is that once identified, those gaps

could be repaired, and that when the shaky foundation had been

rebuilt, the kids were able to advance quite smoothly.


This was in vivid and unexpected contrast to the group that

had started at the fifth-grade level. Since they’d begun with

such a big head start, I assumed that by the end of the six-week

program they would be working on far more advanced con­

cepts than the other group. In fact just the opposite happened.

As in the classic story of the tortoise and the hare, the 1 + 1

group plodded and plodded and eventually passed them right

by. Some of the students in the “head start” group, on the other

hand, hit a wall and just couldn’t seem to progress. There were

sixth- and seventh-grade concepts that they simply couldn’t

seem to master, presumably because of gaps in earlier concepts.

In comparing the performance of the two groups, the conclu­

sion seemed abundantly clear: Nearly all the students needed

some degree of remediation, and the time spent on finding and

fixing the gaps turned out both to save time and deepen learning in

the longer term.


if that is really true, thats a HUGELY important finding. any replications of this?



As we settled into the MIT routine, Shantanu and I began

independently to arrive at the same subversive but increasingly

obvious conclusion: The giant lecture classes were a monu­

mental waste of time. Three hundred students crammed into

a stifling lecture hall; one professor droning through a talk he

knew by heart and had delivered a hundred times before. The

sixty-minute talks were bad enough; the ninety-minute talks

were torture. What was the point? Was this education or an

endurance contest? Was anybody actually learning anything?

Why did students show up at all? Shantanu and I came up with

two basic theories about this. Kids went to the lectures either

because their parents were paying x number of dollars per, or

because many of the lecturers were academic celebrities, so

there was an element of show business involved.


i feel exactly the same about my university classes. i want to learn goddamit, not sit in class waiting for it to end.



Then there are the standardized tests to which students are

subjected from third grade straight on through to grad school.

As I ’ve said, I am not antitesting; I believe that well-conceived,

well-designed, and fairly administered tests constitute one of

our few real sources of reliable and relatively objective data

regarding students’ preparedness. But note that I say prepared­

ness, not potential. Well-designed tests can give a pretty solid

idea of what a student has learned, but only a very approximate

picture of what she can learn. To put it in a slightly different

way, tests tend to measure quantities of information (and some­

times knowledge) rather than quality of minds—not to men­

tion character. Besides, for all their attempts to appear precise

and comprehensive, test scores seldom identify truly notable

ability. I f you’re the admissions director at Caltech or in charge

of hiring engineers at Apple, you’re going to see a heck of a lot

of candidates who had perfect scores on their math SATs. They

are all going to be fairly smart people, but the scores tell you

little about who is truly unique.


mr. Khan obvisuly knows little about intelligence tests. sure, SAT, ACT, GRE tests are achievement tests, but those correlate moderately to strongly with g factor, so they are okay to decent intelligence tests. and ofc, IQ tests like RPM are really good at measuring g factor. they really can measure a students potential, in that it measures the students ability very well, and that is closely related to the students potential.



For me personally, the biggest discovery has been how hun­

gry students are for real understanding. I sometimes get push-

back from people saying, “Well, this is all well and good, but it

will only work for motivated students.” And they say it assum­

ing that maybe 20 percent of students fall into that category. I

probably would have agreed with them seven years ago, based

on what I’d seen in my own experience with the traditional aca­

demic model. When I first started making videos, I thought I

was making them only for some subset of students who cared—

like my cousins or younger versions of myself. What was truly

startling was the reception the lessons received from students

whom people had given up on, and who were about to give up

on themselves. It made me realize that if you give students the

opportunity to learn deeply and to see the magic of the universe

around them, almost everyone will be motivated.


it will be interesting to see just how many students care.



Is Khan Academy, along with the intuitions and ideas that

underpin it, our best chance to move toward a better educa­

tional future? That’s not for me to say. Other people of vision

and goodwill have differing approaches, and I fervently hope

that all are given a fair trial in the wider world. But new and

bold approaches do need to be tried. The one thing we cannot

afford to do is to leave things as they are. The cost of inac­

tion is unconscionably high, and it is counted out not in dol­

lars or euros or rupees but in human destinies. Still, as both an

engineer and a stubborn optimist, I believe that where there are

problems, there are also solutions. I f Khan Academy proves to

be even part of the solution to our educational malaise, I will

feel proud and privileged to have made a contribution.


indeed, never trying anything new implies no progress.


reminds me of another book i want to read soon.




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