Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bill Gates - Didn't that dinosaur retire?

In case you haven't yet seen it, Bill Gates spoke last week at the annual TED conference. The world's media widely reported his "malaria stunt", where he released a swarm of mosquitoes into the audience, saying: "there's no reason only poor people should have the experience". Sounds like Bill's lost the plot?

What wasn't reported was his bullshit on how technology can improve education:
Putting a few cameras in the classroom and saying that things are being recorded on an ongoing basis is very practical in all public schools... You can take those great courses and make them available so that a kid could go out and watch the physics course, learn from that. If you have a kid who's behind, you would know you could assign them that video to watch and review the concept. And in fact, these free courses could not only be available just on the Internet, but you could make it so that DVDs were always available, and so anybody who has access to a DVD player can have the very best teachers.
Sorry Bill, but this is not a good use of technology in education. Where's the interaction? Where's the engagement? How will our learners construct knowledge by watching a DVD? Learning is not a passive spectator sport!

It appears that retirement was the best move for old Bill... we are no longer living in the 1980's.


Alex of Melbourne said...

I agree, learning is a two-way street, but something must be said of the amazing rate of take-up of iTunes U.

Imagine a poor school couldn't afford to get 'Celebrity Professor X' to the school but could download a podcast/video of theirs.

Then poor school teacher could have class discuss what was said. You don't get Celebrity Prof. answering the questions, but you do get their thoughts and discussion happening with poor school teacher.

Wags said...

Hi Alex,

Yes, as long as the video of "Celeb Prof" isn't simply a recording of a class that he presented. A video recording, to be effective, should be made with the audience in mind. A F2F audience is in a very different state of mind to the audience sitting watching passively on a screen.

I guess it relates to my objection to recordings of lectures. Have you ever tried to listen the audio of a 2-hour lecture? Bloody boring, and difficult to learn anything from it. There are much better ways to use technology.

We shouldn't be simply taking what's happening in a face-to-face situation and recording it. Instead, let's be more creative and use the technology in more interactive ways, custom-designing material and interactions to meet the needs of our distant or screen-based learners.