Bill Gates: Just giving a tablet to students won't help them

Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates is putting most of his efforts into working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation these days. One of the goals of the organization is to help improve education in the US. In a new interview for the education-based website The Chronicle, Gates talks about his views on putting technology in the hands of students.

At one point, the interviewer brings up the reveal of Surface, the Windows 8/RT tablet that Microsoft announced last week. Gates believes offering products such as the Surface and Apple's iPad is not necessarily the best way to help the education of students. He states:

Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it's never going to work on a device where you don't have a keyboard-type input. Students aren't there just to read things. They're actually supposed to be able to write and communicate. And so it's going to be more in the PC realm—it's going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive.

Gates himself has yet to make any public comments on the Surface tablet. It's possible he will have more to say on the product as we get close to the launch of the Surface, and of Windows 8, later this year.

Source: The Chronicle

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wow. i know steve jobs pioneered the reality distortion field. now we have bill gates with his mind-boggling conundrum logic.

Albert said,
wow. i know steve jobs pioneered the reality distortion field. now we have bill gates with his mind-boggling conundrum logic.

Wrong. Steve Fail Jobs Pioneered Apple to be greedy and restrictive and destroy competition. Bill did not.

laserfloyd said,
+1 for surface having a physical keyboard!

The iPad has physical keyboards too, which makes this whole argument silly.

The problem here is NOT about what tablet is being used. It's that teachers aren't creating curriculums that intelligently involve technology. Tablets in class are mainly being used as gimmicks, and a Windows tablet is NOT going to change that. The teacher has to.

laserfloyd said,
+1 for surface having a physical keyboard!

That is definitely a big advantage, as is the mouse. The only thing that concerns me is that it looks like you're going to need a hard surface, like a table or desk, to actually use either of Microsoft's covers. Someone else (or even Microsoft themselves) might make a 'hard' keyboard that attaches to the Surface, something like the 3rd party iPad keyboards, which could turn it into a laptop, but as it is, the Surface is more of a desktop-tablet combo. Or, that was the impression I got, anyways.

He is correct. The Surface, or any tablet for that matter, is just not suitable for any kind of serious/intensive data entry. (Content creation)

TsarNikky said,
He is correct. The Surface, or any tablet for that matter, is just not suitable for any kind of serious/intensive data entry. (Content creation)

Did you use the Surface? People who did said they can type as fast as a normal keyboard so in my opinion the surface is good for work. And since you can plug in a real keyboard and mouse I don't see where the problem is.

PmRd said,

Did you use the Surface? People who did said they can type as fast as a normal keyboard so in my opinion the surface is good for work. And since you can plug in a real keyboard and mouse I don't see where the problem is.

Well there are people who can write pretty darn fast on just a touchscreen too. I didn't think anyone outside of MS had actually been allowed to use a surface together with one of the covers yet? Also, when it comes to keyboards, if typing with real keys are what you want the iPad and any Android tablet (I think) can use any normal Bluetooth keyboard...

Leonick said,

Also, when it comes to keyboards, if typing with real keys are what you want the iPad and any Android tablet (I think) can use any normal Bluetooth keyboard...

And you can also do this on any Windows tablet. And it has full MS Office. And if it's not the RT version, it has full desktop apps of all kinds, none of which need to be recoded.

He's right....tablets are still quite a fad...Windows 8 is going to make tablets into productivity machines, but there are still barriers to it being adopted by schools.

FalseAgent said,
He's right....tablets are still quite a fad...Windows 8 is going to make tablets into productivity machines, but there are still barriers to it being adopted by schools.

If not a fad, then they are for a narrowly-defined marketplace. By physical limitations, they can't become "productivity machines."

He is right. you should look at the usage of things. PCs are being Used in offices, work station and factories. Programmers code in PC not tablets!!! There is yet to be set a positive culture of using it not playing angrybirds or checking on friends in facebook with occasional email checking on tablets. these are not the way you learn things.

It's as though everyone here has missed the point. He's saying that having a tablet doesn't improve learning. It /can/ improve learning but not without a change to the way kids are taught to go along with it, with better teacher training in IT and a better way to input into the device, other than typing on a virtual keyboard.

It's like the amazon tribe which was sent a toilet by a company for a publicity stunt. It never got plumbed in and they **** in it until it was full, then left it.

Mark said,
It's as though everyone here has missed the point. He's saying that having a tablet doesn't improve learning. It /can/ improve learning but not without a change to the way kids are taught to go along with it, with better teacher training in IT and a better way to input into the device, other than typing on a virtual keyboard.

This.

Without passionate teachers and curriculum designed to stimulate students, tablets (or any other form factor computer) will have little to no impact on learning.

I agree as well and there is logistical factor to think about. What if the student's tablet breaks in the middle of class and cannot do the necessary work for the class?

Schools barely get by on the funding they have today now you need to include some type of IT infrastructure to support said tablets and network good luck with that.

Stick with books pens/pencils and paper.

PmRd said,

In 2012 that is not acceptable.

Actually, it's a good idea. Take a look in any college classroom and see how many students with laptops are actually paying attention... very few. Facebook is normally open.

rfirth said,

Actually, it's a good idea. Take a look in any college classroom and see how many students with laptops are actually paying attention... very few. Facebook is normally open.

Yeah, but they're most likely the same student's that'd be doodling in their pen/paper books. People will pay attention to things that stimulate them. I took a laptop to all my lectures at university in the final year, and wrote notes in it the whole time I was there. The only time I surfed the web was when I occasionally needed to google a term I didn't recognise.

----------------

That said, there isn't anything that dictates that new technology must be used in schools. Some devices have practical purposes (computers, overhead projectors, etc), but some don't, and at the moment tablets fall into the latter category.

I still don't believe that tablets are a replacement for PCs (laptops or desktops), or even just pen and paper.

Again, that all said, tablets don't seem to be trying to capitalize on an untapped education niche, the text book. I'm not talking about shiny interactive textbooks, just pages with text on them, that are searchable. That'd be a good use of a small tablet, or even a kindle.

Im surprised he didnt mention inking tbh, he seemed to champion it in the past and taking notes with an active digitiser was the bomb. I feel tablets+inking+linked in classroom software would be the best combination

aviator189 said,

I agree.

And the great thing about Surface is plug in a keyboard and mouse and suddenly you have a desktop computer and for most users its more than powerful enough to be a desktop. I could see it replacing students' laptops/desktops because of that reason.

PmRd said,

He meant real useful computers

I've got nothing against the Surface - it's actually pretty cool - but I don't understand why people the need to bash tablets. Plenty of people get a lot of use out of them, so why not just be happy about that and stick to whatever you prefer for yourself?

BannanaNinja said,

And the great thing about Surface is plug in a keyboard and mouse and suddenly you have a desktop computer and for most users its more than powerful enough to be a desktop. I could see it replacing students' laptops/desktops because of that reason.


Exactly! I'm bummed because its my last semester at college and by the time Surface comes out I'll have graduated (hopefully). I never got an iPad or any of the other "tablets" because they were simply not sufficient for me as an engineering student. Surface would be so convenient, not to mention cool, to carry around with my books. Maybe I'll enroll into postgrad program just to show off my shiny sleek Surface. Oh and prolly diss those stuck up iPad-carrying population.

THolman said,

I've got nothing against the Surface - it's actually pretty cool - but I don't understand why people the need to bash tablets. Plenty of people get a lot of use out of them, so why not just be happy about that and stick to whatever you prefer for yourself?


A pure tablet isn't a useful computer in the context of education. Education does involve more than being able to open and read PDF files.

Miuku. said,
As long as that PC happens to be running Windows, right Gates?

Well, I don't think he'd be saying "Hey guys, go out and spend your millions on Apple and Google systems!"

But I don't think he'll sit there and bleat on about Windows either. He's pretty good at simply talking about technology in general as a productive development of industries.

Spirit Dave said,

Well, I don't think he'd be saying "Hey guys, go out and spend your millions on Apple and Google systems!"

But I don't think he'll sit there and bleat on about Windows either. He's pretty good at simply talking about technology in general as a productive development of industries.


Indeed, he can talk about technology for hours (and being really informative and interesting) without dropping a word about Windows or Microsoft.

Besides, what Miuku attempted to flame Bill with this? Never seen Linus be like 'here's a computer, use it for windows'. Or Steve donating macs for people to install windows on. etc.etc.
Then again, in the books of allot of people, these 2 people are holy and Bill is the root of all evil (haven't we heard similar before? weren't we stuck in some kind of 'dark ages' for almost a 1000 years? )

Give it a rest people, Bill was never evil (The old fashion MS isn't half as bad as the current Google). Besides, he's a great guy. Give him a break for once man.

Miuku. said,
As long as that PC happens to be running Windows, right Gates?

He doesn't care, and I've worked at an institution where supplemental funding from Microsoft was used to equip the Mac-based campus, no strings attached.

Maybe he was a businessman at some point, but I think his work at Microsoft was, at least at some points, driven by a goal of making a difference to the world rather than making a successful company. The man's got vision - enough to just get up and walk away from everything a businessman could have wanted to pursue giving back to the world, so he's got my respect.

Shadowzz said,
Give it a rest people, Bill was never evil (The old fashion MS isn't half as bad as the current Google). Besides, he's a great guy. Give him a break for once man.

Either you're young or really naive. In either case Gates was the archetype for the ruthless businessman whose main purpose in life was to completely obliterate all competition when it came to operating systems or office products.

He didn't spare any legal-and-less-than-legal method to turn Microsoft into a dominant player.

As for the original comment, I was referring to using Linux in the low cost PCs which would be a considerably dangerous thing for Microsoft in the future.

Miuku. said,

Either you're young or really naive. In either case Gates was the archetype for the ruthless businessman whose main purpose in life was to completely obliterate all competition when it came to operating systems or office products.

He didn't spare any legal-and-less-than-legal method to turn Microsoft into a dominant player.

As for the original comment, I was referring to using Linux in the low cost PCs which would be a considerably dangerous thing for Microsoft in the future.

Drop the crap man. You have no idea what Gates has done in his business life. You just see the results of some of the things he's done. But making statements like the above is just showing how naive and small minded you are. You know nothing of Bill Gates business practices. Now grow out of the MS/Gates hate ok? It got old years ago.

Miuku. said,

Either you're young or really naive. In either case Gates was the archetype for the ruthless businessman whose main purpose in life was to completely obliterate all competition when it came to operating systems or office products.
Steve Fail Jobs did that not Bill. He has my respect(not many get it)
He didn't spare any legal-and-less-than-legal method to turn Microsoft into a dominant player.

As for the original comment, I was referring to using Linux in the low cost PCs which would be a considerably dangerous thing for Microsoft in the future.

Miuku. said,

As for the original comment, I was referring to using Linux in the low cost PCs which would be a considerably dangerous thing for Microsoft in the future.

2012 - the year of Linux

Miuku. said,
As long as that PC happens to be running Windows, right Gates?

You know you can get a grant from MS if you're a charity or education department that you can use to equip yourself with computer equipment. Did you know that this equipment can be anything of your choice and doesn't have to be Windows/Office?

Nope, didn't think so.