Recently Bill Gates spoke to members of Microsoft’s Faculty Summit “on the future of education, programming and just about everything else”. I guess if you’re that rich, you must be an expert on pretty much anything.
So, what did the omniscient Mr. Gates have to say about education? For one thing, that he has not made any mistakes in funding his experiments.
Gates acknlowedged during the session that some of his work might have unintended, negative consequences, but not this one. “In the education space,” he responded to a question from the audience, “I frankly don’t see that much of a downside.”
No unintended, negative consequences. I guess, just like the Zune, we’re supposed to forget the billions and years spent on creating “small” schools, the concept that was supposed to revolutionize the American high school. Not to mention his current misguided and unsupported-by-any-research advocacy for “value add” teacher assessments.
Of course, Gates is also a major supporter of online education.
But, Gates acknowledged, we’re also a way out from online education achieving its full potential. We need to develop better understanding of what makes a good online course (“just sticking a camera in front of someone … who has a captive audience [won't cut it]“) and how to replicate non-lecture experiences like lab time and study groups. We also need to figure out how to supplement the cognitive and social development that comes along with attending school in person (although, he noted, MOOCs might also be able to help teachers focus on these things).
I’ll be very interested to hear the all-knowing Mr. Gates explain how one teacher is supposed to support the cognitive and social development of 5000+ MOOC students. Especially in a one-way format like the Khan Academy, of which he is a major advocate.
And just so you don’t think Gates is only wrong about education, consider his view of the American intellectual property system, which he claims is “working very well”. For someone with lots of IP lawyers, he’s probably right.
The view from on high is so much better than the one here on the ground, isn’t it?