Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One-room school embraces global reach

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THIS modestly sized book is full of great ideas and an even greater sales pitch.

American Internet tutoring superstar Salman Khan lays out his views on science education. He believes a sweeping makeover of educational practices, using web-based technology, is vitally needed and eminently practical in today's wired world.

Khan's dream is to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere and, believe it or not, he is on his way to fulfilling his remarkable goal.

In 2004, as a 28-year-old hedge fund manager, Khan posted some short videos explaining math concepts on YouTube. Two years later, he founded the Internet-based website The Khan Academy.

Today, his site boasts more than 3,000-plus science and math videos, which are viewed by more than six million students from Addis Ababa to Zanzibar.

The Khan Academy has influential supporters, including both the Bill Gates and Google foundations. Gates contends that Khan's innovative web-based methods point in the direction math and science education must go, to meet the needs of future generations.

The archaic Prussian model of education -- the foundation of today's educational practices -- is the main impediment to Khan.

For hundreds of years the typical classroom has been the same: one teacher and 20-plus six- or 10- or 18-year-old children obediently listening to the all-knowing adult who follows a lock-step, chopped-up curriculum.

This system, he argues, is ineffective and irrelevant in our world. It was created by a fixed, inflexible society to produce passive receivers and compliant repeaters of information.

Its goal was to turn out submissive workers; however, in the exponentially changing modern world 65 per cent of the jobs students will get have not been invented yet. Indeed, it is impossible to image what kinds of workers the world will need in 20 years.

In an ever-shrinking world, modern educational practices must incorporate a global focus to build social bridges among people and meet the needs of students in emerging economies.

In the olden days we had the one-room school house. Today, Khan argues, we need a "one-world school house." This model, he argues, has the power to unleash student intellectual potential and facilitate educational development in the world's emerging economies.

What would this classroom look like? Because science and math complement each other, Khan believes, they should be taught together so students gain a unified understanding of the concepts.

Classrooms would be multi-aged. Older students would be role models and mentor younger students who could progress at their own rate, rather than being forced to standardized learning.

Using the type of tracking software developed by Khan, teachers could monitor student progress and supplement computer-based activities with short, personalized lessons and strategies.

Internet-based educational websites, such as the Khan academy, coupled with inexpensive wireless laptops and tablets are making educational opportunities available to students in developing economies and students worldwide.

One day these students would not only use the same software programs, they would work together.

Today's teachers agree that their students need to be trained to think differently and to take greater responsibility for their learning. They are open to new web-based technologies in science, English-language arts and social studies. Innovative educators, like Salman Khan, are taking them in the direction they want and need to go.


Ian Stewart teaches at Cecil Rhodes School in Winnipeg and is a founder of the Sumerian Math Club.


The One World School House

Education Reimagined

By Salman Khan

Hachette 259 pages, $30

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 J8

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