Bill Gates: Tablets Not the Answer for Engaging Students in the Classroom
June 27, 2012 10:34 AM
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
, 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:
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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