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Education is a passion of Gates', and he has some ideas on how to make it better, but throwing tablets into the hands of students apparently isn't one of them

Microsoft may be looking to take the tablet market head on with its Surface initiative, but there’s one area where Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates thinks that these devices don’t make much sense: classrooms.

Gates participated in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education recently where he gave his opinions on technology used in the classroom, and what needs to be done to help students stay interested in school.

Gates heads the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology among other efforts. Education is a passion of Gates', and he has some ideas on how to make it better, but throwing tablets into the hands of students apparently isn't one of them.

"Just giving people devices, that has a really terrible track record," said Gates. "You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher and those things, and it's never going to work on a device where you don't have keyboard-type input. I mean, students aren't there just to read things -- they're supposed to actually be able to write and communicate, and so this is a lot more in the PC realm."

According to Gates, a low-cost PC is the best device for engaging students because it is a more interactive experience.
In addition to issues with tablets being thrown around in schools, Gates mentioned other problems like the high cost of education and selective admissions. He also mentioned that using technology to step out of the classroom, yet still have that classroom interaction, would be a great step toward increasing graduation rates.

"If the kids don't have to come to the campus quite as often, that would be good," said Gates. "But then what's the element that technology can't deliver? And it's through that that I really have developed a lot of optimism that we can build a hybrid. Something that's not purely digital but also that the efficiency of the face-to-face time is much greater. Where you take the kid who's demotivated or confused, or where something needs to be a group collaboration as opposed to the lecture."

Cost breakdown of iPads vs. textbooks [Source: San Jose Mercury News]

Gates' comments come at an interesting time. Just yesterday, it was reported that the Unified School District in San Diego, California had purchased nearly 26,000 iPads for its K-12 students. The district paid $15 million for the 26,000 iPads, which will be used in 340 classrooms, through Proposition S funding. This measure offers money for enhanced classroom technology.

The students in the Unified School District will be using apps like iBooks, which provides students with textbooks on the iPad as well as new study options like note taking. Most books in iBooks 2, which was released in January of this year, are at the high school level and started off at $14.99 or less. The app also offers books from well-known publishers like Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which combined make up 90 percent of textbooks available. 

In addition to iPad deployment, many tech companies are releasing new tablets soon, including Gates' company Microsoft. It's funny that Gates should mention the need for keyboard-type input on devices for students, since Microsoft is on the verge of releasing its Surface Windows 8 tablet with keyboard support. The 10.6-inch tablet comes with a 3 mm fold out keyboard that doubles as a case, and it contains a trackpad. The keyboard also has a multi-touch surface and features "digital ink," which is a pen-input technology that samples at 600 dpi.

For more on Gates' opinions concerning tablets in the classroom, check out the following video:

Sources: The Chronicle, The Verge

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Well duh!
By Shadowself on 6/27/2012 10:57:57 AM , Rating: 5
It's never been technology in schools that helped make students learn better!

A tablet is just a replacement for books and notepads and 3 ring binders. IF (huge IF) a tablet is less expensive than all the other "stuff" it replaces then I'm all for tablets in schools. Otherwise, what's the point?

I don't agree that integral or included keyboards are an absolute requirement. I've never, ever understood students in school that are sitting there taking notes on their laptops -- furiously typing away during class.

Tablets or no tablets is not the issue. Getting better teachers and giving them the authority to require students to do better is the answer.

The ONLY way to get better teachers is to pay them more AND fire the ones that don't perform.

Back in my day [I know it's ancient history.] teachers really used to flunk students. If you didn't do the minimum acceptable work, you didn't pass. In 6th grade we actually had a student who'd been flunked three times. He should have been in 9th grade. The teachers (and administrators) tried to help him giving a lot of extra time and support. He just didn't *want* to pay attention or learn. So he didn't pass. He finally got to the age where he didn't have to attend school -- and he was only in the 7th grade at the time. My school, back then, absolutely refused to graduate students who could not do the basic read, write, arithmetic thing.

Today, if you don't pass students, it counts against the teacher -- no matter the cause. It's all about the statistics. Teachers often don't control their classes; their classes control them.

RE: Well duh!
By Amiga500 on 6/27/2012 11:58:00 AM , Rating: 5
Some of the teachers are inept and the system is failed.

Any education system based on the premise that no-one can fail is absurd.

Little Jimmy is not competing with little Johnny in the same classroom in (say) California. Little Jimmy and little Johnny are competing with little Jian in (say) Xian province who is being told straight-up, "work your balls off or you'll spend your life shovelling sh!t in a field".

In 20 years time, China will be the world's de facto leader in pretty much everything - industrial and technological.

Unfortunately the clowns in charge in Western countries are handing it to them by lowering our standards down to the lowest common denominator while the Chinese are rightly focussing on driving their standards up and declaring to the masses, "if you can't keep up, too bad".

RE: Well duh!
By fic2 on 6/27/2012 5:59:09 PM , Rating: 3
But at least little Jimmy and little Johnny will feel good about themselves and have a bunch of trophies for youth soccer. How can education be more important than self esteem?

/sarcasm since I know there are twits on here that don't get it.

RE: Well duh!
By erple2 on 6/28/2012 9:54:34 AM , Rating: 2
I used to think that way, too. However, I used to carpool with someone that grew up in mainland China in the late 60's - early 70's. According to her, the path to success in China has always been through education. It was true a thousand years ago (when education was the only way to move up the caste system), and is still true today.

So little Jian from Xi'an has always been struggling to do well in school so he doesn't have to shovel manure for a living. That has not changed in thousands of years in China.

Things have changed quite a bit since I went to grade school all those years ago, but I think that you'll find that there are still smart and motivated kids coming through the school system just like there was when I went through it.

RE: Well duh!
By Dr of crap on 6/27/2012 12:16:32 PM , Rating: 3
You forget it isn't the teachers or the system, ok maybe the system a little, but the PARENTS that have pushed and said you can't flunk kids. Hell you can't punish them anymore.

Parenting 101 - be engaged with your kid, help them to read and do math and DO their homework. It's your kid, help them. AND if your kid is dumber than a bag of hammers, admit it to yourself and don't blame the schools/teachers!

The fact that low income, urban areas have high dropout rates, and low tests scores has MORE to do with parents that don't parent and help their kid in school, and VERY LESS to do with teachers that aren't doing their job.

RE: Well duh!
By WalksTheWalk on 6/27/2012 1:35:28 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, good teachers can overcome some crappy parenting. Parenting definitely matters but you're not going to rehabilitate the crappy parents.

This was following an experiment in Charlotte, NC where a school board fired all 350 teachers in an attempt to get re-hire everyone except for the bad teachers. (Note that this was to work around the union contract.) The school system ended up hiring almost every teacher back due to friendships between those doing the hiring and the teachers being re-hired. (Go figure!)

The original study concluded that good teachers can improve student output, in low income schools to the equivalency of those students in higher income schools ultimately having a net positive effect on their final disposition in society as an adult. (I know low income doesn't always mean crappy parents but there is a definite correlation there, statically speaking, in part due to drug and alcohol abuse.)

RE: Well duh!
By kattanna on 6/27/2012 4:24:19 PM , Rating: 2
fire the ones that don't perform

my diving buddy works in the LA school district and he tells me all the time about teachers that are so bad.. yet they cant get fired.

he also tells me about the schools in NY where he came from and how different they are/where then here in los angeles.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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