education | November 05, 2012

Walter Isaacson Calls Salman Khan "The Coolest Person in America Today” [VIDEO]

Who is "the coolest person in America today," according to Walter Isaacson? Why it's education speaker Salman Khan, of course. One of TIME's Most Influential People, Isaacson is the author of the record-breaking biography of Steve Jobs, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, the former CEO of CNN and the former Managing Editor of TIME. As part of the Fall 2012 Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series, Isaacson sat down with Khan to discuss his new book, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined and the work he is doing with his digital school, The Khan Academy. In the interview, Isaacson also compares Khan to a modern-day Benjamin Franklin. He says Franklin's creation of the first one-room school house revolutionized education then in much the same way that Salman's Khan Academy is doing now. The problem with Franklin's one-room school house, however, is that the same model is still being used today—even though our world has completely changed. That's where Khan and his digital learning comes in to play.

In his book, and in his talks, Khan describes a new learning system that allows students to work at their own pace and not be rushed into a new concept without fully comprehending the previous one. You wouldn't build a home on top of a foundation that was only 80 per cent completed, he explains, so why should students be moving onto new things when they haven't fully grasped what came before? Instead of segregating students into age brackets that have to learn the same material at the same age (forcing kids to be moved ahead even when they don't fully understand something), Khan suggests letting students work on something until they fully understand the concept. This way, a solid foundation of learning is built, rather than one where students only retain half of what they've been taught because they were rushed to move ahead in order to keep up with their classmates. Khan's tutorial videos on YouTube play to this strategy, and his revolutionary teaching style has earned him the recognition and respect from heavyweights like Bill Gates, Google, and Isaacson.