[book-cover isbn=”1455508381″ align=”right”]Technology has changed the ways we are able to communicate. And a few, such as Salman Khan are actively using these new methods to change how we educate. And this is why his groundbreaking book, One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined [Amazon link] is the ALiEM January book club selection. 

*NEW* ALiEM-IEMTC Google Hangout Discussion

In a joint collaboration with the International EM Teaching Course, a six-person videoconference using Google Hangout, hosted on Nestivity was held. Check out the words of wisdom by Drs. Amy Walsh (facilitator, co-host), Teresa Chan (co-host, ALiEM), Rob Rogers (co-host, IEMTC), Rob Cooney, Jordana Haber. Thanks to the 47 people who were watching the live hangout and the tweet comments. View Nestivity link where the multimodal discussion was held.


Reflecting upon the development and rationale of the present day educational system has led to the realization that the current system met the needs of the long ago industrial era. It lacks focus on creativity and critical thinking skills that are vital to personal and professional success in today’s world. In one of his TED addresses, Dr. Ken Robinson speaks about the changing education paradigms.

Brief Synopsis of the Book

In The One World Schoolhouse, Salman Khan lays out his goal of achieving a “free world-class education for anyone, anywhere”. Khan is the founder of the Khan Academy, an organization that offers online courses in math, science, economics, humanities, and numerous other topics. His initial inspiration for creating the Khan Academy originated from the experience of creating tutorial videos for his cousin. This experience shifted his perspectives on the value of asynchronous learning and helped develop his overarching educational philosophy.

At the outset, Khan discovered several aspects of the current educational system that were interfering with learning:

  • Students were required to move from one topic to the other as a single classroom unit regardless of their mastery of the material.
  • Students who mastered the topic prior to their classmates sat bored until they, and the rest of the class moved to the next topic.
  • Learning in topics makes building connections between topics more difficult.
  • The number of minutes in each class period, the hours in each school day, the days in each school year, and the amount of homework to assign were from the outset chosen based on convenience and habit, not to maximize learning.

Based on the far-reaching success of the Khan Academy (reaching six million unique students per month),1 Salman Khan has had the opportunity to test several of his visions for education with schools and summer education programs. He has demonstrated that gaps in knowledge can be repaired. He also found that using asynchronous learning allowed for opportunities for students to teach each other, which in turn, increased opportunities to reinforce key concepts. Furthermore, this more efficient learning structure allowed time for active, experiential learning, and fun.

A key component of Khan’s vision for education is technology’s ability to level the playing field within and between societies. He proposes several low-cost strategies to increase access to technologies in resource-limited areas. He also suggests a “micro-credentialing” system, allowing assessments based on actual knowledge and skill that could be taken at any point in life, rather than relying upon the prestige of a university as a surrogate measure of the quality of the student.

Relevance to Medicine

Though improved communication and education skills are vital for effective patient education and patient care, the impact of Khan’s approach has the potential to transform education of future physicians. First, it could change how we identify potential in prospective medical learners. Second, reflecting on what, why, and how we educate medical students is in keeping with recent trends in medical education. Recently, Mr. Khan co-wrote an editorial for the AAMC’s journal Academic Medicine2 helping to reflect upon how we might change our medical education system. Third, “flipping the classroom” may increase the efficiency of medical education could allow students to truly effect meaningful change in addressing the myriad health care challenges of our time, engaging with patients, peers, and mentors to better understand these challenges and exploring innovative solutions. Finally, taken to its full extension, increasing the availability of effective medical education available digitally has the potential to increase the number and quality of health care providers in neighborhoods, regions, and nations that have traditionally been underserved.

Book Club Discussion Questions

  1. How do you/would you customize medical education? How can we incorporate more fun, experimentation, and experiential learning?
  2. What drawbacks do you see in using “flipped classroom” or asynchronous learning approaches in medical education?
  3. What assumptions do we make about the talent or motivation of learners that may have more to do with ineffective teaching?

Join in on the discussion below. We launched with the Google Hangout On Air, but we want to hear your thoughts too! Please share below.

Book Club Review written by: Amy Walsh, MD

Peer Reviewed by: Nikita Joshi, MD; Teresa Chan, BEd, MD

Disclaimer #1: Neither I nor this website have any affiliations, financial or otherwise, with the book or Amazon.com.

Disclaimer #2: By participating in this online discussion, we reserve the right to publish your attributed thoughts in a synopsis for future print publications.

Noer M. One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelnoer/2012/11/02/one-man-one-computer-10-million-students-how-khan-academy-is-reinventing-education/. Published November 2, 2012.
Prober CG, Khan S. Medical Education Reimagined. Academic Medicine. 2013;88(10):1407-1410. doi: 10.1097/acm.0b013e3182a368bd
Amy Walsh, MD

Amy Walsh, MD

International Emergency Medicine Fellow
Regions Hospital
St Paul, Minnesota