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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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By tecknurd on 6/28/2012 5:13:53 PM , Rating: 1
When I was in middle school, I had to carry around up to four books. These books were hard-bounded. I had to wrap the books with paper that I got at a grocery store to protect the books from the abuse through the year. If I do not do this, I have to pay a fee, but they fee will be billed to the parents. I had a locker to store the books. Some days I have to bring home up to three books and they were heavy. I have to make sure I have all the books that I need for homework or else my parents will bitch at me and I will get a bad grade. When I got to high school, I barely carried around books. For each lesson, the teacher gave out pamphlets. My high school cut out the books, but the money went into printing out lessons for each student in the class that can have up to 30+ students. I went to public schools, so the cost of the books for each student for any public school will put stress on the curriculum.

The school in California giving out iPads to students is the step in the right direction to provide books that can be easily be access and updated on a yearly basis, but I think it is the wrong device. The iPad cost too much compared to four books. What that school should have selected is an eReader like Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Simple Touch. The cost of the eReader is about $100 to $140. Sure eReaders does not have color yet because e-Ink is still being developed and improved. e-Ink based eReaders are durable unlike iPads that require care to not damage the display because the screen is glass. e-Ink screens are flexible and usually covered with plastic, so they are durable enough to be used by kids. iPad may be a good decision if the school is willing to write apps that provides interactive lessons that the teacher can create, but iPads are still in my opinion the wrong device even for that. iPads are just over kill for a school curriculum.

After using my Barnes & Noble Simple Touch with GlowLight for about a week, it is a good book subsitute and I only charged it once and it still at around 60% of charge left. I can keep the books in one place and the eBooks can be updated. If schools moved to electronic devices like what I have, they can really help the student out by making sure they have the book and the student will not strain their back carrying a lot of books in their backpack. Also the school does not have to worry about providing space for lockers. Bill Gates is wrong that schools should move to more like notebook based devices instead like tablet or eReader based devices when giving out electronic devices to students. I do believe that handwriting should still be used for doing homework because the student will remember more than just hunt-n-pecking on a keyboard, so that is why I suggest eReaders as a better option to provide books to students.

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