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Bill Gates Says Tablets Aren't Much Help In Education

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the but-it-worked-on-star-trek dept.

Education 575

An anonymous reader writes "In a detailed interview on the future of education, Bill Gates was surprisingly down on tablets in education — considering that Microsoft just released Surface. He said low-cost PCs are the thing for students, and he dismissed the idea that simply giving gadgets to students will bring change. Quoting: '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.'"

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575 comments

i don't really like bill gates that much but... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457515)

I completely agree with his assessment

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (0)

ocean_soul (1019086) | about 2 years ago | (#40457687)

Seconded.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (0, Flamebait)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#40457809)

yup, also agreed.

this concept that we have to defend the tablet and make excuses for it and even give it a new paradigm/name ('consume mostly') is just showing that its still a weak-assed toy.

tablets: toys for rich boys. still true.

laptops still rule in almost every way. they easily allow us to input text and just plain matters for anyone with more than a 'paw' to point.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (5, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#40457973)

We arent defending the 'tablet'. We are pointing out that CHEAP mobile devices are going to be EVERYWHERE. We need to learn how to use them to teach with, not force a desktop paradigm because its familiar. Tablets are not toys, you are a fucking luddite if you think that. Its a portable screen with a big battery, light local processing and huge hooks into 'big iron'. If you cant see how incredibly powerful that combo can be when applied correctly then you are missing the entire point. Dismissing tablets as toys shows your serious lack of vision.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40458061)

New tech has to prove itself.

No one else should cut it any slack just because you are getting all hot and bothered about your personal brand fetish becoming the new monopoly and replacing the old one.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (5, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#40458115)

I agree that new tech has to prove itself, however, comment like 'they are toys' are not helpful at all to the discussion and ignore the HUGE amount of use-cases tablets excel at.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (-1, Troll)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#40458135)

On the other hand, it is excellent FUD. Said Gates in a pre-interview conversation: "We can't seem to build a tablet that anyone likes, so let's just diss the whole concept."

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (3, Insightful)

jdgeorge (18767) | about 2 years ago | (#40457711)

I completely agree with his assessment

I'm with you. Although, in 50 years, Bill Gates will be remembered for his work as a philanthropist, not as a software tycoon. And in that light, I feel pretty good about Bill Gates these days.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (1, Troll)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40457813)

He's not lily white when it comes to philanthropy, either. A lot of that money is predicated on some pretty bad terms that benefit his buddies.

My personal feeling has always been that most of it was to make his image better... but I don't know him personally. I just feel that because of the fact that he gave so LITTLE money away to charity in the 90s and he got called on it... hard.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (5, Insightful)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about 2 years ago | (#40457857)

Yeah, I mean, for my distaste of MS, I really find very little Gates says or does that I actually argue with.

It's really creepy to me: One man starts a cancer foundation, donates to charities, and, at least publicly, seems to be a decent human being, and is generally reviled. Another man is kind of an utter dick, makes abusive business deals, and after years of being a multi-millionaire without contributing anything to society, dies of cancer, and he gets worshiped like some kind of god.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (5, Funny)

egandalf (1051424) | about 2 years ago | (#40458005)

What? Ballmer isn't dead. (This is a joke, please take it as one.)

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40457939)

I completely agree with his assessment

While I've watched computers go from useless technology, foisted on schools, to useful technology, sought by schools, I can only imagine his brilliant assessment is forged with the same insights that failed to foresee the internet when he was writing The Road Ahead. Bill's strength was always taking what someone else had invented and bundling it into his operating system and driving them out of business -- not because he needed to, but because he felt he needed to.

Some day kids and teachers will be using these in education, while PCs will be relics of the past. He really needs to shut it.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40458111)

Being a locked down walled garden appliance kind of limits their usefulness. Note how you are trying to segregate them from PCs when that's what they really are.

Your kind of ignorance is what you get when you don't really educate students about technology. They don't realize how much bullshit you're spewing right now. They don't understand what's going on.

This is just a PC with different IO devices and some artificial crippling.

That limits who can contribute in general and who you in particular you can benefit from.

Re:i don't really like bill gates that much but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458089)

Way true.

Considering the source... (1, Offtopic)

rockout (1039072) | about 2 years ago | (#40457533)

Why is anyone listening, in terms of education, to the opinion of a guy whose primary talent was taking over and copying other tech businesses? Since when did he know what direction education is going? What, because he wrote an early version of DOS he knows that tablets won't be helpful in classrooms? How does that logically follow?

Re:Considering the source... (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40457555)

Yeah. His prognostications have been pretty much a joke. People should go back and read "The Road Ahead" and see how good that was.

Re:Considering the source... (1)

rockout (1039072) | about 2 years ago | (#40457661)

Just reading the wikipedia article a few seconds ago was worth a few chuckles. Thanks for that.

Re:Considering the source... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457871)

Mod up. My grandma gave me that book for my birthday one year.

Needless to say, the metaphor is apt.

Re:Considering the source... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457583)

What did you do 20 years ago? Ok, now, anything you say outside of that one particular field is void. Forever. Your opinion can never be relevant in anything other than that one particular field.

Re:Considering the source... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457585)

Actually he did not write an "early version of DOS", he bought CPM86 for 50k and then called it his invention.

Re:Considering the source... (1)

Scragglykat (1185337) | about 2 years ago | (#40457591)

I guess because he's been in the field longer than you and I and he has had a hand in a lot of things computer. Maybe he owns a tablet and knows the horrible typing experience they offer without an added keyboard (though adding a keyboard makes it useful right?) or maybe he just doesn't like change.

Re:Considering the source... (0)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#40457817)

Sorry, he's older than me and hasn't been 'in the field longer than I' in fact, a little bet less actually.

Just because you're fresh out of high school doesn't mean the rest of us are.

Re:Considering the source... (0)

Scragglykat (1185337) | about 2 years ago | (#40458127)

Lol... fresh out of high school... you must be in your 60's then, cause I was fresh out of high school 20 years ago... I was using good ole Bill's software when I was in 6th grade, just learning to program in basic. I guess you are one of those guys that was around for the punch card machines and standing in line to feed your cards to the machines and all that jibber jabber. I don't even know why you are arguing this then... you probably think a tablet is what keeps your blood pressure down. :o)

Re:Considering the source... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457597)

Don't forget, he also had the foresight and technical acumen to be born to rich, influential parents. That helps immensly.

Re:Considering the source... (1)

capnchicken (664317) | about 2 years ago | (#40457643)

Probably because he's a smart guy that made more money than he knows what to do with and is trying to save is legacy Dale Carnegie style by educating himself on many of man kinds most daunting challenges and attempting to solve them. But don't let that stop you from hating on him for bundling IE with Windows 95 almost 20 years ago or whatever somesuch you need to still hate on the guy for.

Re:Considering the source... (1)

rockout (1039072) | about 2 years ago | (#40457751)

I don't hate him, I just think that this particular opinion of his has been pulled straight out of his ass. It's not like he hasn't been massively wrong before. It's just my opinion that he doesn't know whether tablets will be good for education any more than anyone else does. I happen to disagree with him, but only time will tell I suppose.

Re:Considering the source... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458073)

I don't hate him, I just think that this particular opinion of his has been pulled straight out of his ass.

The argument he has signed on to is neither new nor particularly controversial. Not that the question is settled -- but there are plenty of people who have questioned the value of tablets and the wisdom of handing out tech gadgets to students.

The only reason this is (vaguely) newsworthy is that he is a philanthropist with a tech background, and MS just announced a new tablet. These facts make his association with this particular line of argument seem ironic/counterintuitive/controversial. Hence, some people are listening to him.

Re:Considering the source... (3)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about 2 years ago | (#40458109)

Well no, he's been keeping up with the latest research. It's not a matter of opinion. We have the track record to show just throwing tablets into classrooms just doesn't work, in the same way throwing a gallon of paint at a wall doesn't paint the wall.

Re:Considering the source... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457679)

Why is anyone listening, in terms of education, to the opinion of a guy whose primary talent was taking over and copying other tech businesses? Since when did he know what direction education is going? What, because he wrote an early version of DOS he knows that tablets won't be helpful in classrooms? How does that logically follow?

Why does it matter who he is and what he has done, if the arguments he makes for his position are sound?

Re:Considering the source... (4, Informative)

jdgeorge (18767) | about 2 years ago | (#40457771)

Perhaps because his philanthropic work is focused in part on education, and understanding which kinds of philanthropic investment produces positive results.

Re:Considering the source... (1)

rkfig (1016920) | about 2 years ago | (#40457907)

Perhaps over a decade trying to reform schools in the Pacific Northwest and Texas through various programs funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with varying levels of success, has taught him a few things about the topic.

Re:Considering the source... (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 2 years ago | (#40458097)

He has probably already wasted money that way and saw no results. I think he has spent money on gadgets for schools in the past.

Forget the PC (4, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40457561)

Pencil. Paper. Calculator. The keyboard gets in the way of doing anything useful, especially if you're trying to do things involving symbols (like math).

Re:Forget the PC (2)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | about 2 years ago | (#40457701)

Pencil. Paper. Calculator. The keyboard gets in the way of doing anything useful, especially if you're trying to do things involving symbols (like math).

This is why a tablet would be better in most STEM classes than a low cost PC. I tried using my laptop in a CS course for taking notes. But because it wasn't a simple coding class, but more of a mathematical/theoretical course, there was no way I could. Even now, it's hella hard to try typing up papers with any sort of mathematical representations(unless you type everything in LaTeX or try using a GUI equation editor).

Re:Forget the PC (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40457805)

For more basic stuff there is scope for using a tablet. Keeping children's interest up might be possible with a well crafted app that gives them some personal attention that a teacher with a class of 30 might struggle to. Unlike a textbook the tablet can evaluate how the student is going and give them specific help in areas they are having difficulty in.

When reading a tablet with dictionary work lookup and notes to help students through the trickier parts of e.g. Shakespeare could work. It would help the student enjoy the book by not getting lost and spending more time on the actual story.

As a type of interactive textbook I think tablets might help in some areas. They are not substitutes for teachers or writing/typing.

Re:Forget the PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457855)

Pen, paper, octave in my case. There is no way for me to focus on a technical problem in front of a monitor for me

But then I also ask myself, is it maybe because I was "trained" to think this way? Since I can focus deep and write code in front of a monitor without a problem, why can I not focus and solve a non-programming problem in front of a computer? Is it the tools that are missing? If that is the case, with the correct digital tools to replace pen and paper, tablets may be ok, but I cant see it now.

Luddite (1)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#40457885)

It all depends on the teacher. When I was in junior high school in the early nineties, our Algebra teacher utilized a lab of Mac color classics. We learned algebra and graphing. We even used an early projector hooked up to a graphing calculator. In the early nineties this was cutting edge equipment. Tablets and 'computers' in general are the future. Pencils and paper are just technology, it just so happens that they have been around for 10,000 years and its only now that we are innovating.

Re:Forget the PC (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 2 years ago | (#40458027)

Honestly, tablets will be ready when I can do with a tablet what I do with a standard spiral bound notebook. I want to be able to open it, start writing, naturally, with my stylus. Don't try to OCR it (or if you do, do it in the background and make it seamless to the user), don't do anything. Just make it a virtual piece of paper with enough resolution so it *looks* like pencil/pen, like how eink looks like typeface/paper. I don't want to think I'm USING a tablet, but an "infinite" notebook that I can, later, flip through, page through, doodle on, write margin notes on ebooks, etc. But this should be a seamless experience, not a computing chore. Until then, its just an expensive gadget that I have no use for.

Re:Forget the PC (1)

egandalf (1051424) | about 2 years ago | (#40458041)

Of course, a tablet's keyboard, being virtual, can adjust to adhere better to the task, rather than suiting the task to the keyboard. This is what I like about my phone/tablet keyboards.

Re:Forget the PC (3, Interesting)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#40458053)

That's what a stylus is for. You know, the input device missing from 99% of "tablets" these days. I had a Tablet PC all the way through college, and I used it for every class. Still have all of my notes, and still reference them in my PhD work, which is easy since they're completely digitized and search able. Can't do that with Pen and paper. Can't do that with iPad either.

Exactly (5, Insightful)

edmicman (830206) | about 2 years ago | (#40457565)

I've wondered the same thing as I've seen ads that pretty much every major school district in my area are touting iPads for every student next year. I love new shiny tech, but I feel like 'get of my lawn' curmudgeon being skeptical on the benefits of outfitting every kid with a free-to-use tablet. It's especially frustrating when in the same article about the local district offering iPads to everyone (via a technology-specific millage) that same district is still 500k in the hole after cutting $1 million by way of faculty layoffs.

I haven't looked, but is there research showing that giving every student an iPad improves something?

Re:Exactly (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40457717)

If the government hands you a massive check, you're going to spend it. Reminds me of my state's subway to nowhere. They never performed any studies to see if the train would be used..... they just had some spare cash, so the spent it. It's a nice train. Just empty. In the "real world" a company that wasted money frivolously would die out, and so that tempers exuberance. In the monopoly that is government/schools, they have no such fear.

Re:Exactly (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457755)

> In the "real world" a company that wasted money frivolously would die out

And yet this never seems to happen. Large things just tend to be inefficient by their nature, private or public sector.

Re:Exactly (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40457989)

>>>>> In the "real world" a company that wasted money frivolously would die out
>>
>>And yet this never seems to happen

You need to read the whole sentence: "...and so that tempers exuberance." That means most companies try to avoid overspending, because they don't want to end-up like these companies:
Montgomery Wards
Atari
Commodore
Circuit City
I'm sure other people can provide more examples. Governments and their schools do not need to fear ending up bankrupt. They just spend, spend, spend and then raise the taxes.

Re:Exactly (0)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#40457779)

http://www.apple.com/education/ [apple.com]

Take a look, educate yourself. I'm sure you can find something like it for android as well. If you can't understand how thats better than a text book than theres not a lot that can be done for you in general.

Re:Exactly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458047)

Tablet maker says tablets are good for education..... sure, THATS a reliable source.

Re:Exactly (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457899)

I work education IT, and every leadership conference in the last few years have centred around iPads and mobile computing. There are always multiple sessions about how they allow for innovative learning, classroom-less experiences, interactive learning, and a bunch of fancy buzzwords.

Aside from very few cases - autistic kids playing an iPad game show improvement in certain situations is a common example, I haven't seen anything I'd consider an improvement, especially anything that's iPad specific. We've seen many examples of student presentations made with the iPad camera, but they're exactly the same caliber as a regular presentation, or one recorded off any old recording device. They're new and shiny, so people want them. That's generally it.

Worst case, and in general, kids use the new stuff to fuck around. Give a class iPads and laptops, and I'll show you a class of kids watching youtube. At least with the iPad their not playing flash games all day.

We recently had one principal ask how we can support a class set of iPads. We asked what he wanted to use them for, and nobody could give us an answer. There were buzzwords - mobile learning, hands-on learning, etc., but nothing concrete on how they would help the children's education.

Finally I think very few teachers have the skillset required to utilize the new technology in any meaningful way. They don't fit properly with the tried and tested pen and paper methods, and teachers aren't either technologically capable, administratively capable, have the professional development available, or otherwise have the support of their educational system for any meaningful changes. Either they lack the skills, or they lack the support, or iPads just don't fit in an education system.

Re:Exactly (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#40457947)

but is there research showing that giving every student an iPad improves something?

Yeah, it improves your chance of getting a federal or state grant to give every kid an iPad.

What an Idiot! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457567)

Does he not know you can attach keyboards to tablets?

raspberry pi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457571)

So, Bill is a fan of the Raspberry Pi?

(LOL Captcha was Beagle)

Is Tablet vs. PC the right question? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457587)

Take a modified tablet, give it a holographic keyboard and mouse, and suddenly it's a TC (Tablet + PC).

FWIW, my hunch is he's right. Tablets as they are today are not a machine that I can get any serious work done on.

Bill Gates says Mosquito nets are good investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457603)

Fisherman's agree.

It makes sense. (5, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#40457615)

Bill Gates has been at the forefront of preventing innovation in computing and holding on to old ways of doing things for decades. It stands to reason the he wouldn't be able to understand that computing is possible without a keyboard.

That said, he is right that the equipment and the curriculum must work together. You can't just buy a fancy new toy and expect it to change much. But in the case of tablets, they could easily replace textbooks and printed materials with more interactive alternatives, and of course there'd be no benefit in having a keyboard if that's what you're trying to accomplish.

Re:It makes sense. (1)

rockout (1039072) | about 2 years ago | (#40457825)

Well said. This is more what I was trying to articulate in my comment above (and I failed miserably, I see). If I could mod you up I would. Most intelligent comment so far on this topic.

Re:It makes sense. (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | about 2 years ago | (#40457837)

"It stands to reason the he wouldn't be able to understand that computing is possible without a keyboard."

Browsing, reading, playing? Yes. Computing? Not so much.

Re:It makes sense. (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 2 years ago | (#40457975)

I was going to say that tablet cost might work against them replacing textbooks, but given that you can get an Android-based tablet for under $200, and given how much college textbooks cost, this could be a possibility. Of course, this is assuming that a $70 college textbook isn't priced at $69 for the tablet version.

Perhaps a better system would be a "Netflix for Textbooks." You would buy a supported tablet (perhaps buying one through the service) and pay NFT per month for access to the textbooks you need. NFT would negotiate with the textbook publishers to get as many textbooks as possible on the service. As long as you paid for access, you would have the ability to view and take notes in your textbooks. Once you were done, you would cancel the service, save your notes locally, and you would be unable to read the textbooks anymore. (The tablet would be kept by the student for other uses post-college.) Even if this were priced at $20 a month, it could be cheaper than buying new textbooks every year. Of course, I'd wager that publishers would want the users to pay per book and would want the prices "competitive" with their print versions so as not to undercut print profits (and thus completely undermining digital profits).

Re:It makes sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458103)

Please tell me you dont use that lump of mush you call a brain to vote as well.

you know (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 years ago | (#40457625)

you dont have to like gates to see what he is saying is not wrong, at least in the short term. a tablet can only do so much, people are always talking about how it is a complementary device. Now gates says as much, and I will bet a lot on /. will be talking shit about how hes wrong. Tablets are great at replacing 40 pounts of textbooks however, as a tablet (with not easy input) is still slightly better than a textbook (no input), low cost desktops (or laptops) are better for students overall.

Re:you know (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40457683)

He might be right, but maybe not for the correct reasons.

My feeling is tablets could be HUGE in education... if they are used for cutting down the cost of textbooks and other learning material...

And guess what bug-aboo is with that. It's spelled GREEDY PUBLISHERS.

Re:you know (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#40457731)

low cost desktops (or laptops) are better for students overall

Not if they don't use them or don't have them with them when they want/need to use them because they are too big/bulky.

Re:you know (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 years ago | (#40457935)

this isnt 2001, when I had my first laptop that was roughly the size of a standard math textbook, even as such, it was the size of 1 text book, and with the 30 gig hd ( an extra 150 over the 20 gig at the time) I had more than enough room to store all the books on it (if they would have been available at the time, I think it was an insperon 8500 or 8900 I dont recall)

so you tell me what laptop in todays world is bigger than 1 textbook, let alone all the textbooks you need for class, and I will agree with you, until than you are wrong.

Re:you know (4, Insightful)

24-bit Voxel (672674) | about 2 years ago | (#40457733)

Personally I think he's right.

Bottom line, when they break schools aren't going to be able to afford to replace them. They'll be out of classrooms in less than 10 years.

He's both right and wrong. (3, Insightful)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | about 2 years ago | (#40457629)

'Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher.

That's right, I've seen this go horribly wrong before.

And it's never going to work on a device where you don't have a keyboard-type input.

I'm going to disagree here though. It worked for pencil/paper for decades, no keyboard input there!

"considering that Microsoft just released Surface" (5, Informative)

sribe (304414) | about 2 years ago | (#40457667)

Oh, really? Last I heard, nobody had actually been able to use one for even 15 seconds. Why, even MS executives on stage were not able to demo one for 15 seconds without it locking up.

Seriously though dumbass, learn the difference between "pre-announce" and "release".

The same Bill Gates? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457671)

Is this the same Bill Gates who said that no one should ever need more than 128k of RAM and that this whole "internet" thing will never take off?

Re:The same Bill Gates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458013)

He never said either of those things. Please leave /. and only return when you are ready to stop just repeating crap you've overheard at a party.

Bill, Are You That Much Out of Touch? (1, Informative)

Wingsy (761354) | about 2 years ago | (#40457689)

A lot of folks will disagree with what Bill thinks.

10 WAYS THE IPAD WILL FOREVER CHANGE EDUCATION
http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2010/06/21/10-ways-the-ipad-will-forever-change-education/ [onlinecolleges.net]

SD Unified Purchases 26,000 iPads For District Students:
http://www.10news.com/news/31225263/detail.html [10news.com]

Re:Bill, Are You That Much Out of Touch? (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | about 2 years ago | (#40457811)

Was going to say....we've had REGULAR mobile users groups at the college I work at and TONS of people using them in the office and in the classroom. Our pastors at church started using the iPad for sermon notes and it's been a boon to many kids. Bill's just pissed that his Tablet PC and now the Surface may fail.

Sounds familiar (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#40457709)

it's going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive.'

A low cost personal computer that encourages tinkering? That sounds awfully familiar [raspberrypi.org] .

Shame that the hardware is the easiest part of the solution. Gates is correct there too, curriculum and competent teachers are going to be the biggest obstacle.

iBooks ad (4, Interesting)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#40457713)

Preface: I am an apple fanboy ... but ...

iBook for text books has the best damn demo I've ever seen as to why exactly tablets would make freaking AWESOME textbook replacements.

http://www.apple.com/education/ [apple.com]

The current flash on that page displays a demo of someone using a textbook. THAT is HOW text books SHOULD BE DONE. It doesn't have to be iBooks or an iPad, but that general concept is freaking awesome and just goes to show how Billy and the Gates foundation in general aren't about helping the world so much as finding another way to rip it off.

Translation... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#40457715)

"Time to get the hell out of Dodge Monkey boy Balmer, take your stupid me-too ideas with you and stop running my company into the ground.

Love Bill"

Shillin' (2)

Beardydog (716221) | about 2 years ago | (#40457721)

This doesn't sound down on Surface at all. This reads like a shameless plug FOR Surface.

Inexpensive, interactive, "more in the PC realm", and with "keyboard type" input? I feel like I recently watched someone not shut up about those features for a solid half hour, BUT WHERE?

I completely agree with gates on this (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 2 years ago | (#40457743)

I would say that a kindle like device would be a good idea simply to replace textbooks etc.

the idea would be to save money not improve education. The books are expensive and the tablets might work out to be cheaper over all.

Think about it this way. The students might get a kindle when they enter high school and it would be theirs. They'd keep it year after year. And at the end of everything they could keep it still. I don't know what the depreciation is on kindles but four years in the hands of a high school student is going to beat the hell out of it. And they might actually take better care of it if it's theirs.

Quality Editing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457763)

just released Surface?

Could none of the half-wits who looked at this realize the difference between announcing vaporware (showing a couple of partly functional prototypes) releasing a
product.

IS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO ADD A REAL KEYBOARD TO TABLETS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457775)

That seems to be the mainstay of his argument, the lack of a keyboard.

So develop a bluetooth/IR/RF/(w/e) keyboard for the tablets.

Why is this impossible?

Re:IS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO ADD A REAL KEYBOARD TO TABL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458055)

Just call it what it is: a fucking laptop.

He's right. (4, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 2 years ago | (#40457821)

Within very specific environments computers and the like are indeed beneficial. But for education in general all these devices do is distract. Kids want toys, teachers mistakenly believe it will ease the burden of teaching and administrators are easily suckered by anything they think will make them look progressive.

Even in college, in a course which required computer use I had to be vigilant about my students dicking around on instead of paying attention. The temptation to partake in other activities is far too strong. And the question is if, even when they're used for their intended purpose, do they actually enhance learning over a printed book and a good teacher? Do they actually aid in the retention of knowledge? I think these questions need to be answered first. But I suspect no one wants them answered because it will reveal all this as the gimmick it is.

Re:He's right. (1)

brainzach (2032950) | about 2 years ago | (#40458077)

Tablets are toys

You give kids iPads, and they will start playing games, checking Facebook, sending messages to classmates and watching Youtube.

Re:He's right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458093)

Well, it's a new teaching paradigm essentially, so new teacher disciplinary controls are probably needed.

Tablet time, and non-tablet time. It can be that easy to remove the distraction - remove it.

Bill loves H1Bs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457859)

Just continuing on what he started at Microsoft, nothing to see here.

Bill agrees with Steve (3, Insightful)

raikoseagle (855141) | about 2 years ago | (#40457897)

What's interesting here is that Bill agrees with Steve Jobs on the tablet issue. Both Bill and Steve advocating against just dropping technology in to improve education. Steve was more direct, but Bill says the same thing, that it's the Teachers that matter, a good teacher can improve students with less technology far more effectively than a mediocre/poor teacher can with lots of technology.

Access to free (text-) books is reason enough (5, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 years ago | (#40457905)

Just having access to books when you need it is reason enough to have tablets or netbooks in schools. Instead of talking about Adam Smith, you can just read his books. Instead of handing out 20-30 thousand page books to all the pupils in the class, all you need is have them download a 1-2MB file. Fully searchable. And that's just one example.

A single tablet can fit all books you'll ever need in school instantly accessible at any time.

Even if tablets do absolutely nothing in the way of improving education in any other way, that's reason enough.

Gates has been wrong before... (0)

erp_consultant (2614861) | about 2 years ago | (#40457915)

But I do agree with his assertion that you have to change the curriculum and the teacher. This centuries old model of "teacher standing at the front of the class lecturing" needs to change. I think that what we're seeing at Khan Academy is the way to go. Instead of sitting and listening to some windbag lecture in class and then have homework to do, Khan advocates doing the lecture portion at home and doing the exercises in class where the teacher and other students can help out. It's more collaborative and it allows the teacher to better gauge the progress of each student. Kids these days have generally a really short attention span - partly due to the sorts of gadgets that Gates points out. How can we expect kids to do homework if they are bored out of their minds in the classroom? People change and teaching methods should change as well. I don't know that tablets will replace PC's but they are better for some tasks.

He's right and wrong (1)

Garbonzo Pitts (249836) | about 2 years ago | (#40457927)

Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record.
But changing the curriculum and the teacher has a really horrible track record too.

Re:He's right and wrong (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#40458003)

"Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record."
and?
The first cars had a terrible track records, as did the first attempts to fly. Getting things in orbit has a horrible track record.

Pretty much everything had a terrible track record at the beginning.
Considering the amount of brain power going into tablet design, and education improvement, I am convinced it just a money problem. Hell I could improve education using a tablet.

Bill gates, always the shewd buisnessman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457929)

Given: Microsoft sucks at tablet.
Bill G - "You don't need tablets."

Ipads are great for education- No really, hear me out.
1. No dangly bits, no cords needed for operation (Charging is not operation)
2. Intuative interface (The bright side works, touch what you want to mess with)
3. OS locked down out of the box, impossible to break with normal operation. Trivial to reset/sanitize/restore to defaults (Hard reset is 1 button combo and a verification swipe or two)
4. Customizable experience/apps with enterprise tools (Are you an enterprise? No. That's why you have not seen the enterprise tools dummy)

It's a slab that just works. Touch, run your education software, leave it alone when you're done. Just remember to charge it every week or so.

Microsoft tablets might be right around the corner but they're not out yet. (No, laptops running winxp/vista/7 with at touchscreen/pen input screen are not "tablets" they're crappy devices that do neither tablet nor laptop well. Microsoft's been trying to sell them for a decade and they suck. Nobody buys them. Imagine the look on Bill's face when he saw the ipad's first month's sales numbers.)

So Tabs will be the next hUge thing in education? (1)

marcroelofs (797176) | about 2 years ago | (#40457951)

Looking at BG's trackrecord in predicting the future, education will be a huuge market for tabs pretty soon. He always was not just wrong, but completely opposite to actual trends. M$ would be twice as big if not for BG 'vision'.

Basde on his history of predeicitons (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#40457959)

this means tables will be the next leap i education.

Anyways, using a tablet to replace text books needs to happen.

He makes valid points . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457965)

Tablets, like any technology, like anyTHING, is nothing more than a tool. Tools in and of themselves don't change things, it's how people (the students and more importantly the teachers in this case) USE the tools their handed. If teachers are able to change up their curriculum to use a tablet better, then tablets will be of help. As Gates says, "You have to change the curriculum and the teacher".

Generally correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40457985)

They are however beneficial to special needs students such as those with autism. Where tablets will not be of any help, is the general drudge of lectures for regular students. Laptops haven't exactly revolutionized learning either. When meaningful, compact, 3d displays are accessible I think they would improve learning.

The tech that would really change education, if used is correctly, is already available. It's called the internet, and a few people are already utilizing it to great effect. We don't need profs around the world reading lecture notes(usually worse than those available online) to students over and over again. We can all read by now.
The lectures should be available(the best lectures on the topic) in video format to the students ahead of time. Then they would get to discuss the lecture material with the professor, perhaps in small groups, to further their understanding. The current format does nothing for open communication, nobody likes asking questions in a room full of strangers and they're also hesitant to be drawn into a meaningful discussion with the constant worry of time constraints, and "covering the material". Then after the professor has to endure these drawn out events, which basically consist of the prof reading aloud, they no doubt feel less inclined to discuss the actual material during office hours. YMMV.

No he didn't (4, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#40457991)

Thanks for the inflammatory headline Slashdot. According to TFA, this is what he said:

Q. Tablet computers are big these days. The Surface tablet was just released by Microsoft last week, and iPads are all over campuses, but it doesn't sound like your approach has been to give devices to students and hope things change that way. What do you think needs to happen for factors like tablets to really make a difference? Or is that not even part of the equation?

A. 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.

And he's RIGHT. We've seen this time and time again: some school gets some tech grant and goes on a tech spending spree on crap that in the end do nothing to aid in education. When I was in school, we had initiatives like smart boards, which were expensive and broke so much, teachers ended up using them as expensive whiteboards. Then we had laptop carts, where you trucked around this 10 ton cart to classrooms where none of the laptops were charged all the way and they never worked. And when they did work, they added nothing that a trip to the computer lab would have done.

So just giving students tablets isn't going to work. They'll be fun little novel gadgets, but students need to do real work which includes writing, typing, and other things you cannot do with your fingers. I used a tablet PC throughout college, and it was the best technology investment I made. It was one of those convertible tablets that switched from keyboard mode to laptop mode, and a had a stylus for writing notes. Classmates were constantly begging me for copies of my notes, since I was able to annotate book excerpts and capture chalboard derivations easier than they were able to with traditional PnP. Then the iPad came out and everyone said it was a godsend. I bought one in the hopes of replacing my tablet PC, but I was sorely disappointed at its capabilities. From a student's perspective, it was nothing more than a toy compared to my tablet PC, and I think that's what Bill Gates is getting at.

The submitter seems to think that Bill's words contradict Microsoft's efforts with the Surface, but the Surface is everything I wanted the iPad to be. It can run serious note taking software like One Note. It can *truly* multi task applications. It has digital pen input. It has a slim attachable keyboard. And when I'm at a desk I can connect it to a monitor and keyboard and use Office, Matlab, etc. as many students need to.

A big box rather than a child-sized tablet (1)

Sandman619 (791920) | about 2 years ago | (#40458037)

This coming from the man that famously proclaimed that BOTH the iPhone & iPad were doomed to fail because a user needs a stylus rather than a finger & a keyboard with super-tiny buttons. Poor guy, he's fallen so far behind the times that he doesn't realize that all tablets have full- size keyboards, on-screen. So the illiterate kiddies can do more than read, they can post death threats on Twitter. Of course a child is much better off with a cheap windows PC @ home. Where they should be do they can study & do their homework in complete isolation rather than with some other students discussing the work that they learned that day or maybe we can strap these low cost windows PC onto their kids so they can truly be portable. Rather than an evil iPad which makes the microsoft chairman of the board really pissed because he makes $0.00 from it

One thing people don't get about tablets (4, Interesting)

Flipao (903929) | about 2 years ago | (#40458051)

It's early tech, they're going to get thinner, lighter, they're going to accept touch and pen input,... couple that with the development on technologies like E-Ink and Foldable displays and in some 10 years they'll be ubiquitous, not just in education but pretty much everywhere.

More importantly the work in UX design that companies like Apple, Palm and Google have been doing has allowed users who are not entirely comfortable with the desktop paradign to stop thinking of these devices less as computers and more as standard household items, like TVs or VCRs.

Re:One thing people don't get about tablets (1)

Flipao (903929) | about 2 years ago | (#40458123)

And for the record I know Palm is now HP and pretty much defunct, I'm talking about the UI work they did with WebOS.

The best tool for the classroom is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40458063)

hard work. That's how they beat an edumacation into me.

He happens to be right on this one (3, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | about 2 years ago | (#40458071)

Do you want to students to create content or consume content? That's the bottom line, tablets are great for consuming content but suck in a not good way for creating anything more than a brief email. Personally I'd rather have students that can create things than consume things.

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