×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Gates' Future of Education Straight Out of '60s

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the bring-back-the-beatles dept.

Education 203

theodp writes "Bill Gates really should have talked more with ex-Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie. While Khan Academy's new self-paced exercises, coach management options, and game mechanics (merit badges/points) prompted Gates to gush to the high-rollers at Salman Khan's TED Talk that they 'just got a glimpse of the future of education,' Ozzie's seen this movie before, having written similarly-featured PLATO courseware as a student at Illinois. In the '70s. On plasma terminals. With touch screens. Fifty years ago last Friday, 27-year-old EE PhD whiz kid Don Bitzer and partner Peter Braunfeld demonstrated the nascent PLATO system to assembled dignitaries at the 'President's Faculty Conference on Improving Our Educational Aims in the Sixties.' Hey, everything old is new again! Gates is hardly the only tech luminary who don't-know-much-about-PLATO-history — CS Prof Daniel Sleator felt compelled to school the Web's founders on PLATO in '94."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

203 comments

TORA !! TORA !! TORA !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481506)

Tora ??

Bill Gates (-1)

devxo (1963088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481508)

I think Bill Gates succeeded in a lot. He brought us Windows, DOS and all the amazing computer experience associated with his products. Great job from a great guy.

Re:Bill Gates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481936)

Indeed, Bill Gates is winning like a boss, unlike failtrolls who fail at trolling.

Existence != Importance (2, Insightful)

Byzantine (85549) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481536)

Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments.

KnownAbout != Importance (3, Interesting)

DingerX (847589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481626)

PLATO was a pretty big and influential system. Education was its primary task, but the educational software paled compared to the games. I think Jetfight was Bruce Artwick's first flight sim (someone will wikicorrect me, no doubt), and it was multiplayer from the start. The first online, single-instance multiplayer graphical FRPG (Aka MMORPG, although probably would be more correctly called a protoroguelike) was Moria, and it featured the joys of permadeath.

The fact that it didn't really catch on as the answer to technology in education should tell us something about those who keep going back to this model for learning.

Re:KnownAbout != Importance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482072)

Conversely maybe because it is a good idea it has been reinvented numerous times. All it takes is one of those time for the general public to see the benefit and then it takes off. And as others have said, familiarity with computers is a huge change in the general public, which could be all the difference this time around.

Clueless about PLATO (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482216)

Where are you from? And exactly how long have you been on this planet, dood? PLATO sucked royally and big time -- that programmed instruction was another simpleton corporate scam, exactly what Gates is trying to do, privatize all education, because the much smarter Steve Jobs wisely began investing in getting Apples into the schools and now they are the computer of choice, across the spectrum. 'Nuff said....

Re:Clueless about PLATO (1)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482472)

Where are you from? Plato was insanely ahead of its time, did not suck. Programmed instruction may not be the end all be all, but no need to slander one of my favorite vintage platforms. I played Krozair and the other dungeon games until my fingers hurt !!

Re:Clueless about PLATO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482854)

I authored some PLATO courseware, and on the side, games. The TUTOR language provided a lot of useful abilities such as modifiers on judging student answers with varying thresholds of spelling and conceptual choices. As a simple example, asking "Through what do you enter a house?" could easily have its answer programmed with a list of concepts (door, threshold, portal ..) but allow spelling errors and letter displacements on those. You could limit the number of attempts, and provide programmed hints.

After I left the educational programming scene, I did not keep up with whether PC or Apple languages ever duplicated the ease in which courseware could be written.

Re:Clueless about PLATO (2)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482932)

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Apple stopped being the computer of choice for schools in the early 90s. I attribute their decline to Wozniak's departure. Jobs has the marketing know-how, but Woz was the innovator. The last time Apple was the pioneer in their field was when the Apple II series was in its heyday. Everything they've done since then, someone else did first. Apple just did a better job at marketing.

Re:KnownAbout != Importance (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482892)

Long ago, I knew some guys who were thinking of bit banging the 11 bit Plato serial interface for their terminals. I suspect that they did not do it.

Later a school director bought a number of Plato terminals without realizing that they needed to be on line to work.

PLATO != Khan Academy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35483132)

"The fact that it didn't really catch on as the answer to technology in education should tell us something about those who keep going back to this model for learning."

This comment is, quite frankly, complete bullshit. It's like saying, "It was raining, so I used an umbrella, but then I was swept away by the tsunami. So what good are umbrellas?" I particularly liked the sweeping (and meaningless) reference to "technology in education." What the hell does that mean?

It is not an opinion that Khan Academy works, it is a demonstrable fact. And even though there are surface similarities between what was presented on a PLATO screen and what KA looks like, they couldn't be more different.

PLATO IV was approximately 1,000 plasma panel terminals connected to the biggest, baddest, MFing CPU any of us had ever seen. But if you couldn't get a seat in front of one of those terminals, PLATO didn't exist for you. We estimated that the average "student contact hour" of took 200 hours of design, programming and pedagogical work.

KA is millions upon millions of home computers (all of which are more powerful than the PLATO IV CPU) connected via the net to a Django-driven website that is literally changing and improving on a daily basis -- changes that are driven by teacher requests and student experiences. KA students aren't watching badly-done, rear-projected slides and listening to poorly recorded audio coming from of a Rube Goldberg, random-access audio device, they are choosing from amongst over 2,200 videos that are amazingly effective and available 24/7. Although almost all of the course presentations are currently done by Salman, that's beginning to change as they get translations into other languages, and new course material on subjects that he is not an expert in.

So don't compare PLATO to KA. It's as wrong-headed as trying to compare KRONOS to Linux 2.6.32.33-rc1. The KA feedback loop -- from developers > students/teachers > developers > and back again -- is as tight as any open source project I've ever seen. PLATO IV was the loftiest of closed cathedrals, whereas Khan Academy is a bazaar that is growing exponentially right before our eyes.

(And, yes, I do know what the hell I'm talking about because I've lived through all of this stuff. 10 of my 38 years in computing have been associated with CAI / CBT / WBT, starting with PLATO IV in 1973.)

Re:Existence != Importance (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481634)

+1 insightful.

Lots of inventions have arrived too early (i.e. before it could be used) such that they saw no success. Like primitive steam engines in ancient Rome. That 1970s project with the plasma screens, et cetera sounds like an idea that came too soon, but still has value in a modern 2010s culture where everyone is connected.

Re:Existence != Importance (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481740)

+1 insightful.

Lots of inventions have arrived too early (i.e. before it could be used) such that they saw no success. Like primitive steam engines in ancient Rome. That 1970s project with the plasma screens, et cetera sounds like an idea that came too soon, but still has value in a modern 2010s culture where everyone is connected.

Plasma screens, touch interface... Back in the 70's, putting something like this in schools would have been expensive.

These days we've got computers everywhere. Folks have them at home, they're in public libraries, schools have computer labs, individual people are hauling laptops and smartphones and tablets wherever they go. Delivering this stuff through a web interface is basically free at this point.

Re:Existence != Importance (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481810)

You sure are optimistic, but unfortunately you're wrong. A basic database system can cost the school district a few millions and years to create, when in reality it should only take a few months at the most for less than a hundred grand. Anytime the government gets involved, it costs more than it should and implementing anything in a school system will cost taxpayers more money than it's worth. PLATO was terrible and I remember hacking it at school so I'd constantly get 100% on everything.

Re:Existence != Importance (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482070)

Anytime the government gets involved, it costs more than it should and implementing anything in a school system will cost taxpayers more money than it's worth.

Nice bit of anti-government claptrap there.

Re:Existence != Importance (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482426)

To be fair, at least where I live (ontario canada) he's sort of right, a private company could outsource the database to india for 1/5th or 1/10th the price the government pays, because the government can't get away with that sort of behaviour.

Re:Existence != Importance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482950)

In that hack you probably learned more than the classes would have taught you (or that you would have retained after a little while anyway) so if you did that you deserved the 100% IMO.

Re:Existence != Importance (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481678)

Hell, it seems like all decent dreaming about the future occurred in the 70s. I remember looking for something to show my kids a positive view of the future. I ended up buying the same old Neil Ardley "The World of Tomorrow" books from libraries that were getting rid of them.

And yet of all the neat ideas presented in that series, it seems like the only thing that has actually come to pass in the last 30 years were the double-decker airlines.

Re:Existence != Importance (1)

SputnikPanic (927985) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481986)

For a fun look at our dreams of the future that never panned out, you should check out Popular Mechanics' recent book "The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past".

Re:Existence != Importance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481710)

Those that don't study the past are doomed to repeat it.

Repetition != Bad (0)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481830)

Yesterday I consumed food, drank liquids, brushed my teeth, showered, and slept. I also breathed.

I guess I'd better not do any of those things today, or I'm "doomed to repeat" myself.

Re:Repetition != Bad (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482172)

But none of the things you mentioned constitute "doom." Therefore, you are not doomed to repeat yourself because you failed to study the past, you are just repeating yourself in a non-doomy sort of way, just like everyone else. No, the "failed to study, doomed to repeat" meme simply does not apply to things such as eating, drinking, and good personal hygiene, although it could sort of apply if you failed to bathe, were socially ostracized due to offensive odors, and failed to learn that bathing is socially necessary.

Still, the important phrase here is "history." As you are not Charlies Sheen, your eating, drinking and personal hygiene are not historical. You could not study the history of your own consumption and grooming, as it is not recorded in historical documents. Bill Gates, on the other hand, has not studied computer history, and therefore is doomed to recreate the mistakes that others have moved beyond. This is known as "windows."

He is also doomed to look like a fool, as it is supposedly his technical savvy that lead to market dominance by Microsoft. Anyone who has studied computer history knows this is par for the course for Microsoft and little Billy Gates. He fails to study the past, and therefore fails to understand the present time and time again. From the Internet to mobile devices to virtualization, little Billy and his company of fools have demonstrated a surprising blindness to developing trends. Luckily for Billy, foresight and technical expertise account for very little, while marketing and image mean everything, and THAT, at least, he is very good at.

Re:Existence != Importance (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481970)

Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments.

Just because something is unknown to Bill Gates does not mean it is unimportant or failed to impact future developments.

Re:Existence != Importance (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482038)

In the 70s, internet did not exist nor did Khan's videos. It is not about a computerized education system, it is about student choosing what to watch and having at their disposal hundreds (thousands ?) of well made videos by a competent speaker that happened to not be formated by the current teaching system.

Insightful? (1)

doperative (1958782) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482040)

"Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments" ..

They should know if they are in the business of making pronouncements on such ..

I think you just got a glimpse of the future of education,said Mr. Gates [jobsinprop...cation.com] , as Mr. Khan left the stage.

Re:Existence != Importance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482264)

PLATO is still around today and used extensively for academic intervention. It is a good tool to help students, especially those behind, get back up to speed in Math, Science, English and History. Yes, it didn't end up being used by every student in every school but it is far from dead. It was touted so much back in the day, that I'd be surprised if Bill Gates hadn't heard all about it.

Re:Existence != Importance (1)

sjdude (470014) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482964)

“A generation which ignores history has no past -- and no future.” - Robert Heinlein

Re:Existence != Importance (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#35483002)

Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments.

That's because in the mind of most dweebs, nothing exists until Apple reinvents it.

The truth (4, Interesting)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481578)

The wheel of time turns, moving from one age to the next. History falls to myth, myth to legend, legend to half remembered tales spoken around the fire, and eventually, long after even that is forgotten, that age comes again.

Re:The truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481794)

Wasn't that a quote from the LotRs films?

Re:The truth (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481930)

No, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481952)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wheel_of_Time

Objection! (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481852)

Objection! OP is quoting "The Fellowship of the Ring"

Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for forty years, PLATO passed out of all knowledge.

Re:Objection! (1)

Illicon (1588477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482052)

The Tolkien Estate will be looking into this.

Re:Objection! (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 3 years ago | (#35483170)

Then they can sue Robert Jordan (as noted above, the quote is from the Wheel of time series).

As he's dead they can serve him in the hell authors go to when they take what was planned to be a 4-5 book series and dramatically expand the plot lines to turn it into a 12 book series of about 6000 pages because they want more money. The best part, he died before he finished it.

Re:Objection! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482988)

Wrong, but funny. It's actually Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.

Re:The truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481982)

One would think with the current exponential increase in information, and its wide distribution, that this pattern would be curtailed. Sadly, it seems to do the exact opposite. Insure it's persistence. There's something to be said here on our lack of inherent social learning along timescales.

Re:The truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482786)

Really? That sounds like a Lord of the Rings rip off to me.

Free youtube videos = more accessible (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481610)

Here's what I'd like to spend my tax payer money on:

Hire the countries best teachers and graphics artists, and have them create the absolute highest quality educational videos money can buy. Then, put them in the public domain.

You only have to create the videos once... it's a one time investment. Then distribute them over BT, or YouTube, or DVD, or whatever people want to do. Free college level education for everyone!

Re:Free youtube videos = more accessible (2, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481668)

You seem to have a rather limited understanding of what "education" consists of.

Re:Free youtube videos = more accessible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481772)

That's right, it's all about getting the teachers no matter how bad they are more of the hard working tax payers money.

Solidarity with workers, not Wall Street parasites (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482290)

That's right, it's all about getting the teachers no matter how bad they are more of the hard working tax payers money.

It isn't your money. When you buy a pack of gum, is it still your money? No. The money belongs to the person who sold you the gum. When you live in a society, the money you pay for the privilege is no longer your money. You exchanged the money for your citizenship rights. If you don't like the bargain, shop around and see if you can do any better. If not, that's not our problem.

Teachers make crap money. Government workers make crap money. Instead of coming after the little guy who is just trying to get by, why not go after the people who are really eating your lunch, the corporate CEOs? Here's a little joke for you. A Wall Street CEO, a Teahadist, and a teacher sit down to enjoy a plate of a dozen cookies. The CEO takes eleven cookies. When the Teahadist looks at him, aghast, the CEO says, "Hey! Watch out for that teacher. He wants part of YOUR cookie!"

Re:Free youtube videos = more accessible (4, Insightful)

clutch110 (528473) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482014)

Actually education is there for the taking. There are those who seek out knowledge.

Re:Free youtube videos = more accessible (1)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482548)

Hire the countries best teachers and graphics artists, and have them create the absolute highest quality educational videos money can buy. Then, put them in the public domain.

I think that's a pretty good idea, in fact it's an idea I'd been thinking about as well. I think it would be helpful to also include a searchable FAQ along with each lecture so that students can get clarifications. Also everybody learns in different ways. What might be clear to one student will confuse another so having multiple approaches to the same subjects allowing a student to pick and choose would be outstanding. Recently on Youtube I watched a one-hour lecture on electricity and magnetism from Berkeley. The instructor was good, i.e. he liked the subject and was good at teaching it. I found that it helped clarify my understanding.

BTM

Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481670)

Good. Since it's 50 year old technology, maybe the teachers unions won't block it for 10 years like they do with all other technology changes...

Re:Hmmm (1)

Kemanorel (127835) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482016)

Ok, I know I'm feeding a troll here, but, more often than not, it's not the teachers that do not want new tech. Most teachers, especially any that entered the profession in the last decade, are all about using the most appropriate technology for the content. Funding said tech while dealing with buildings that are literally falling apart due to underfunded maintenance budgets is usually the problem. More often than not, there is also a decent amount of bloat in the district-level administration that could be trimmed. To say that the unions are against the new tech is so very misinformed.

Now, as to the older teachers that are in many ways technologically illiterate, most of them are willing to try the new technology as well, but many (not all, but many) end up needing so much hand-holding that it ends up taking three people to do the job of one... Or so it seems to me.

Bill Gates knows how to copy... (1, Interesting)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481674)

Did you really think that Gates is capable of coming up with an original idea? Even as he attempts to revise and groom his image for history, he remains unable to innovate.

Re:Bill Gates knows how to copy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481798)

Mod point fishing from the 'People who still use M$ when referring to MS' crowd?

Re:Bill Gates knows how to copy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482482)

So, really...

Are you a Linux fanboi, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing but poor attempts at cloning Windows for a GUI?

Or are you a Jobsian Cultist, hanging on every word of that tyrant, screaming about originality and being different just like the rest of the mindless followers who are so in love with that BSD-based operating system?

Or are you a Sun worshipper? I'll give you a pass then, because damn, I feel for you.

Bart Simpson tried it in the 90's (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481680)

Apparently Bill never saw the episode where Bart is mistaken for a genius after he steals Martin Prince's IQ test answers and gets sent to a genius school. The entire foundation of teaching over there was based on this system.

Re:Bart Simpson tried it in the 90's (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482062)

Apparently Bill never saw the episode where Bart is mistaken for a genius after he steals Martin Prince's IQ test answers and gets sent to a genius school. The entire foundation of teaching over there was based on this system.

Would you please clarify what you mean by:
1. "over there"
2. "this system"

I don't think I'm getting the meaning of your comment without those pieces. Thanks!

Re:Bart Simpson tried it in the 90's (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482270)

Having not seen the episode Drakkenmensch is referencing, I cleverly used my reading skills to deduce that "over there" references the "genius school" that Bart was sent to, and "this system" refers to the sort of system that the various linked articles (and, indeed, this very Slashdot discussion) are about. Reading is fun!

Re:Bart Simpson tried it in the 90's (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35483162)

It isn't clear to me if the "foundation of teaching over there" was referring to the PLATO system, or to the Khan Academy, which are very different approaches.

Thank you for trying to clarify, though.

I can see actual students getting bored with this (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481804)

I was bored in regular classes, and I was even more bored in my EIP (Expansion of Interest) classes. Once our teacher realized we had little interest in the assigned weekly discussion topics, she set us loose with logic puzzles and Carmen San Diego instead. On the other hand, as an adult this might be a great way to brush up on all the stuff I missed in middle school and high school because I was so bored...

Why work at school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481828)

With success defined as being stupid like the kardashins or snooki, why would anyone study. Everyone wants to be rich & drunk and all you have to do is be outrageous. Until we as a society decide its important to be smart, its all for naught. Kids are not stupid. Sheen has just discovered it and is now making more being crazy than ever before. Even facebook, I mean really how hard was that compared to say designing an ARM for supercomputers like china did. Until we reward things that are actually useful to society, we will continue to fade from the world. I mean look how stupid mcCain looked last week on that talk show when he actually thought ipads were MADE in the USA?? Foxconn dummy.

Three orders of magnitude cost differential (3, Interesting)

alispguru (72689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481834)

PLATO terminals were cool, but they cost about one human teacher annual salary [wikipedia.org] at the time, and needed a mainframe costing 100 human teacher years behind them, plus telecom links that were obscenely expensive by current standards. They were barely economically feasible only if you assumed large cost drops from volume production.

Comparing PLATO to modern internet distance learning is like comparing the Wright flyer to a modern jet aircraft.

Re:Three orders of magnitude cost differential (2)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482224)

Yeah yeah, everything you say is true. But at the end of the day, modern jets came about because bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, we learned from and improved on the Wright flyer. Forgetting this piece of history is a GREAT way to repeat the mistakes it made, instead of learning from them.\

This opinion piece sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481840)

How much does PLATO charge?
How much does Khan charge?

What technology was available to the majority of consumers in the 60s?
What technology is available to the majority of consumers today?

All innovation is incremental. The implementation of the details is the key factor to determining whether the incremental innovation is revolutionary. The details include appropriateness for society. Although not much has changed in the past 50 years (we still eat, sleep, and breathe as we always will), enough has changed to make a low-cost implementations, such as Khan and others, viable solutions to changing the pedagogy of the modern classroom.

Khan is different... (1)

LOTHAR, of the Hill (14645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481858)

The main difference I've seen in Khan Academy is in the quality of the lectures. Most (all) videos I've seen are horrible. The tutorials on Khan are clear, straightforward, and informative with no fluff or embarrassingly lame animations. The several people I've talked to that used Khan found the tutorials to be even better than their own instructor's classroom lectures (they were taking calc, Diff Eq's, and linear algebra). I recommend Khan for that reason.

Re:Khan is different... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482704)

Plus, the gagh in the cafeteria is amazing.

And to get a diploma, you have to best your classmates in a melee battle. Those who you defeat but do not kill become your minions in your first venture outside of school.

Re:Khan is different... (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482948)

Objection... KHHHHHHAAAAAANNNNN!!!!! was not Klingon. Whether the product of genetic engineering or selective breeding, he was, in fact, a human being.

Why do people still consider this man a Genius? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481918)

Let's face it - Gates was lucky.

IBM let him sell his copy of DOS.

Businesses decided to standardize on DOS PCs over Macs, making Microsoft a success, despite a weak product.

Ever since then business, education and government have been happy to shell out the "Microsoft Tax" every time there's a new release of Windows or Office. Most of Microsoft's non-core ventures have been colossal failures. Yet, because this man was in the right place, at the right time and was given mountains of lucre for products which were less than stellar, he's accorded that status of a Technology Genius and all around Brilliant Guy.

Really. He's just rich. Just like Mark Zuckerberg will be when the Facebook IPO happens. Don't get your expectations up, just because someone has a lot of money.

Re:Why do people still consider this man a Genius? (1)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482252)

Don't ever underestimate the power of being in the right place at the right time. Couple that with am opportunistic business sense and the persistence to keep pushing on in spite of seemingly insurmountable hurdles, and your chance of success is higher than most.

Of course, Gates and MSFT went quite a bit beyond that, with monopolistic practices, vendor intimidation, and outright plagiarism in some cases, but underneath that lies the fundamentals above. We may not like how MSFT got where it is, but you can't deny their basic principles.

Re:Why do people still consider this man a Genius? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482526)

Don't ever underestimate the power of being in the right place at the right time. Couple that with am opportunistic business sense and the persistence to keep pushing on in spite of seemingly insurmountable hurdles, and your chance of success is higher than most.

Of course, Gates and MSFT went quite a bit beyond that, with monopolistic practices, vendor intimidation, and outright plagiarism in some cases, but underneath that lies the fundamentals above. We may not like how MSFT got where it is, but you can't deny their basic principles.

But it's a bit like saying the First Poster to a topic has greater credibility than subsequent posters. Hitting reload a hundred times and then hastily writing something coherent and hitting preview and submit faster than someone else doesn't, IMHO, make it a better post.

As a guy in my office always says: (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482694)

I'd rather be lucky then smart.

Re:As a guy in my office always says: (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482738)

Yep.

Let's go find a bunch of lottery winners and ask them what they think and then make it government policy! =)

Re:Why do people still consider this man a Genius? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482766)

+1 Insightful. Microsoft doesn't innovate, they copy. They are the Wal-Mart of software. Every time they release another crap product, people who don't know any better buy it -- and put smaller software developers out of business.

Re:Why do people still consider this man a Genius? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35483054)

Businesses decided to standardize on DOS PCs over Macs, making Microsoft a success, despite a weak product.

You mean "businesses decided to standardize on DOS PCs over Apple IIs, TRS-80s, and Commodore 64s."
The Mac didn't exist yet.

Some ideas are "ahead of their time" (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481922)

Simply because the idea or a previously failing implementation of something happen decades or even hundreds of years prior, does not mean a new application of the same idea won't work later on.

Some ideas are ahead of their time for social reasons; others for technological reasons and still others simply because of bad marketing. There are lots of reasons for things to not go over well at first and later become successful. (Aspartame was rejected several times before Dick Cheney got it approved by the FDA somehow... okay, bad example.)

While knowledge of previous success or failure of old ideas is useful, maintaining the belief that it was bad then so it's bad now is probably counter-productive. I can't say that it ever happened, but I imagine that the first attempt at "the wheel" weren't all that great either.

Re:Some ideas are "ahead of their time" (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482028)

Sometimes ideas fall out of favor, too, because theory doesn't work well practice.

How often have you seen a failed idea given a new coat of paint and paraded around for oohs and ahhs?

RwhichFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35481962)

As near as I can determine, of the seven links in the synopsis, the second one is closest to the TFA, with the rest being background information. However, that link is directly to the TED talk, not to commentary on how this idea was already alive in the 60s. The closest thing to an article pointing out the similarity of the Khan Academy process to PLATO seems to be the synopsis itself (with a lovely photo linked from Flickr).

Is this an original observation by theodp, or did an article get lost in pile?

Link Farm (2)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35481976)

No one is going to click the 7 separate links to try to piece together a non-story. If anyone is wondering what this is or why this got posted to slashdot, I've got your answer:

Someone presented something about using computers and shit for education.
Bill Gates likes what the presented.
Someone on the internet cried "OLD! We've been using computers in education, for like, YEARS now!", despite knowing nothing of the differences between what was shown then (utter trash) and what was shown now (mildly decent tools).
theodp submitted a link farm, as usual, to slashdot, and it got approved, as usual. Probably because he threw in some shit about Gates "gushing" over it - read Gates's tweets, he's like this for anything he supports.

theodp is also the submitter behind such recent "greats" as:

Microsoft Patent Deems Comic Books Shameful
Stopping The Horror of 'Reply All'
Nokia Has a Billion Reasons to Love WP7
Dawn of the TED Dead
Microsoft Rewarding Employees Who Phone It In
Do Hobbies Decrease Chances of CS Success?
Is Google Poisoning PDF?

Basically, theodp submits a lot of linkfarm shit, averaging about 5.5 hyperlinks per submission. The "story" is often fud, non-news, or general flamebait/shit-stirring involving hot button topics.

PLATO, Ender, et. al. (1)

Salus Victus (801649) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482042)

The PLATO system pushed the hardware envelope for its day, Orson Scott Card dreamed a remarkable interactive classroom in the 80's, and I was involved in a teaching research project in the 80's which used ultra-low-cost systems for computer-aided teaching. It's a theme many people have worked on. It's a theme that (ultimately) is a useful tool, but falls short of being "revolutionary" -- because it's existed (in one form or another) for centuries. It's an iteration, not a leap. It's homework.

Computer courseware can adjust the difficulty of problems to target an area where the student is having difficulty, and it can also present homework that has a visual / animated aspect to it (2 + 1 = ... dots flow together on the screen ... 3). In the end, though, it's just giving the student practice using concepts which were demonstrated by someone else. It can present facts in more interesting ways than a book, but it's still the same information you get from textbooks. You can tell a computer you "need help," and get a pre-packaged review, but you can't ask it a question.

There is certainly a place for computer-based homework in the classroom, and the company I worked with even had some excellent results helping children with learning disabilities to keep up with the rest of the class. Computers can help a good teacher manage a larger classroom effectively (potentially lowering education costs) ... but making education better? That will take more understanding of the psychology behind learning and memory, not better hardware.

A PLATO success story here! (1)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482284)

When I was a kid, I got invited to take a (short) computer camp one summer, due to my grades. Turns out, it was on the University's PLATO system.
So cool! I learned to program in Pascal on that system. Also played games.

Slef-paced education is not a panacea (3, Insightful)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482330)

self-paced study courses have a major problem. They need a specific type of student. The student must be exactly smart enough to easily learn the material, yet dumb enough not to play the system to "get it over with."

Self-paced study material can be a major frustration for students who need a little more help (perhaps to have a concept presented differently) or who need more practice. If a student does not grasp something quickly enough, a rapid demoralization occurs and learning stops.

When smarter students becomes bored, they too become frustrated and learn ways to play the courseware. That rapidly supplants learning the material.

Self-paced learning is absolutely not a solution to a major need in education.It can't replace stand-up training. BG should spend some time and get himself an education degree and then spend a few years teaching before making grand pronouncements. He has no qualifications to speak on this subject.

Re:Slef-paced education is not a panacea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482896)

Gates thinks this is the future of education because it appeals to his mindset. I had a good amount of 'self-directed" learning foisted upon me in late elementary school, and it bored me because I wasn't motivated enough to do the work. A regular, but challenging, classroom structure suited me better.

Re:Slef-paced education is not a panacea (3, Informative)

keytoe (91531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482922)

When smarter students becomes bored, they too become frustrated and learn ways to play the courseware. That rapidly supplants learning the material.

So, the smarter student becoming bored due to learning the material rapidly which causes them to no longer learn the material?

When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher thought I was slow because I wasn't doing the material provided. It was recommended I undergo psychiatric testing. Testing concluded that I was bored out of my skull and just wasn't interested in doing 5 pages worth of division problems every night after grasping the concept after a day.

The next year, my parents put me in a small private school that provided self-paced learning. It was the single best academic experience of my life, and I gobbled up the curriculum through the 7th grade level - in all subjects. At no point did I ever become bored with the material as it was always new and interesting to me.

Regrettably, my parents couldn't afford to keep that up, so it was back to public schools for 5th grade. My parents tried to get me into the accelerated classes, but my teacher was convinced I should instead be in with the remedial. He insisted I be IQ tested. I did much better than he expected and got in.

I took honors classes my first year in high school, then decided to 'take it easy' my sophomore year with regular courses. I did abysmally for a semester and ended up having to do summer school to make up for a failed term of history. I immediately recognized the pattern and switched back to honors programs at the semester.

From this experience I learned a few things:

  1. - If I'm not challenged, my interest drops like a stone.
  2. - Bored smart students are indistinguishable from remedial students to a teacher with 30+ students in the class.
  3. - Modern public schools are doing nothing to encourage bright young minds.
  4. - And more philosophically, that the world is full of shitty, mundane things you just have to do even if they're pointless and inane. Public school is actually really good at teaching this, but in this aspect I was a terrible student.

Re:Slef-paced education is not a panacea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35483102)

Yet in some ways that makes him more qualified. I say this because the modern educations system has become a a self perpetuating beast. It focuses on the bottom 80%, leaving the innovators to dwindle away in boredom. We didn't have anything approximating this forced labor system for most of human history and some surprisingly young people did amazing things, directly because of a lack of this system. I'm not saying it should be abolished. But it needs to be independently examined from time to time. After all, educators tend to be educated by the system that's currently in place, which teaches them to teach a certain way, and they go on to teach the next generation of educators that very same way.

Re:Slef-paced education is not a panacea (1)

oranGoo (961287) | more than 3 years ago | (#35483148)

True, but... the big thing in the Khan's effort is material nicely divided into chunks which can be skipped or studied in detail. Another big plus is a social component - take a look at stackoverflow and cousins - the social dimension makes these things work. The (not so clear) deficiency of Khan's academy is, while the model is nice, sticking to single source is not enough and is biased (in this case respectably well biased in good way, but inherently imperfect). Still, I see this as a push in the right direction, the trick is not to think of it as a silver bullet. This approach is bloody useful - reminding yourself of certain topic or learning new one can be achieved in an ecosystem of peers, with what seems to be good quality material. Yes, it is, and it will be even in next evolutionary cycles, an education which quality can not be compared to any real live teacher worth his own education, but if you watched the ted video you'd know that the realistic use case for this 'academy' is to be supplemental tool, and as such it has enormous potential. In and out of the classroom. Just don't abuse it or expect things from it that it can not deliver.

Technology catches up (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482396)

The Baker Electric Automobile was in production from 1899 to 1914 -- I guess electric cars were not and never will be competitive with gasoline and diesel powered vehicles. What? Better batteries? Better motors? You mean that the technology has caught up and electric cars might now be viable?

Maybe Plato was just ahead of the available technology.

Oh, stop it, Bill! (5, Interesting)

eepok (545733) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482638)

Bill, you don't understand education. You didn't take the time to understand children, teenagers, sociology, social psychology, pedagogy, performance/theater, linguistics, or any other field necessary to comprehend what a teacher is and just spend your time and money looking for a silver bullet cure to any ailments.

First, Bill tried to give away millions to students to pay for their college education. Of course, it came in the form of competitive scholarships so those who were already destined to receive a bunch of money (because of a strong educational history and innate brilliance) simply got more. This made no change.

Then came the funding of techno-super schools. But they were neither in areas in need of improvement nor were the schools any cheaper (more expensive, obviously) to run. Another failure.

Bill, if you want to make a change, do this:
Create a system for the development of teachers. Not super-teachers or techno-teachers-- just teachers. At the moment there is no hub for potential teachers to go to that catalogs all the credential or master's programs. There's no easier step-by-step guide for the process in California. Everyone just quotes a vague order of things.

Also, if you don't want to help the creation of teachers (and hell, give grants to pay for their wages!), then try just funding the modest renovation of crap-hole schools and class rooms in low-income neighborhoods.

If you want to make a change, help the poor. It's that easy.

Re:Oh, stop it, Bill! (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482736)

Considering he was an outcast in school this disconnect is hardly any surprise.

- Dan.

Re:Oh, stop it, Bill! (2)

Acius (828840) | more than 3 years ago | (#35483052)

Have you actually read [washingtonpost.com] anything that Bill Gates is saying on this issue? He makes pretty much the exact same points. He's already doing the stuff in your "do this" section.

If you want to get angry, go get angry at someone who deserves it.

All day on Plato (1)

Doctor-R (885000) | more than 3 years ago | (#35482678)

On June 3, 2010, the Computer History Museum hosted a 6-session conference on the PLATO learning system, all of the videos are up in the Computer History Museum channel. Search on youtube.com for 'Computer History Museum Plato'. There were several later model terminals (still orange plasma and touch screen) running off of a modern PC emulating the CDC mainframe.

a lovely idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35482802)

I wonder if some of those posting comments here have tried the videos and the exercises?

I'm 67 years old, retired, never great at math but thought it was interesting.
I started watching the videos 4 months ago, and I've gotten through the Khan math videos up to 1/3 the way through calculus.
It's not difficult the way he teaches it. And, as he says, you can test yourself.

Two of my grandkids (8 and 10 years old) are working on it and enjoying it.

Honestly I think the whole idea is inspiring.
Especially the chance to let teachers teach students one-on-one.
And the chance to have students teach each other.

My recommendation to anybody reading this: try it, it's fantastic!

PLATO was just a platform (1)

Mr. Protocol (73424) | more than 3 years ago | (#35483048)

PLATO was just a platform. The PLATO Project never created any courseware of its own. It merely taught professors how to write their own courseware. They told them pretty baldly what they (PLATO folks) thought worked, and what didn't, but the results were up to the courseware authors, and their students were stuck with the results. Some were drill'n'practice types, some did thoughtful, exploratory stuff, and some (to my mind the most successful) wrote laboratory-emulation software that let the students run experiments on their own on stuff that would cost too much or take too long in the real world. PLATO's big showpiece was a bio lab called "fly" that let students breed fruit flies in emulation and see how traits were inherited. No hint of drill'n'practice or programmed courseware in sight.

PLATO lessons, like textbooks, came in good, indifferent, and truly stinky varieties. The reason people remember the games is that they operated under rapid and ruthless natural selection...unlike courseware.

What a Total Jerk (1)

SumterLiving (994634) | more than 3 years ago | (#35483088)

Who does this Bill Gates guy think he is? He gives boatloads of his money away to improve education and he thinks he should have some say in how the money is spent? What a total jerk.

Think there are enough links?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35483202)

This post is like 50% hyperlinks 50% text and 100% useless.

Plato was killed by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35483294)

Plato was killed by the teachers Unions. Considering all the death threats these Unions have been handing out lately, I think I'll stay anonymous.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...