I have been no big fan of Bill Gates over the years (The Best Posts Responding To Bill Gates’ Appallingly Clueless Op-Ed Piece) nor of the work in schools done by his foundation (The Best Resources For Learning About The Role Of Private Foundations In Education Policy).
But there have been recent signs of hope from him (That surprising thing Bill Gates said).
His latest interview with Ezra Klein at Vox disabused me of those thoughts….
Here is what he said about education:
When we think of the potential for online education, there are two different ways to look at it. One is to say, “What about the motivated students that really know they want to learn?” You know, this is the equivalent of when a Carnegie library would go up in a town, who were the strivers that actually went in there and started checking out books and got a real uplift because of that availability. Is that 10 percent of the kids, 20 percent of the kids? Now add online support, bulletin boards, interactivity, feedback, personalized progress. We will get those things in different languages for different subjects in extremely high quality for free, delivered even to fairly small screen sizes, connected up over mobile networks.
The much harder question is the goal of motivating and educating virtually every child in the society. Without a very strong teaching core that can create the strong social structure and the sense of why you need to do those things, you’re not going to get every kid in the inner city in the US or the global equivalent. There, you’ve got to improve the teaching itself. But that, too, is subject to online tools where teachers can see what others do well, or they can get feedback.
I think it’s great that he first recognizes that online education primarily serves the most motivated. In that regard, he’s ahead of many other vocal proponents of that idea.
But it’s all downhill from there.
He then puts the responsibility of student motivation all on teachers, and that the key to teachers learning to be better is through online education.
There is no recognition of how issues of student motivation also related to many challenges outside of the teacher’s control (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough and The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement).
And it sounds like he’s doubling-down on the generally awful conclusions of the Gates Foundation report touting videotaping teachers as the cure-all for teacher professional development (see A Beginning List Of The Best Posts On Gates’ Final MET “Effective Teaching” Report and The Best Posts & Articles About Videotaping Teachers In The Classroom).
I just hope he finds something else soon that catches his interest so he stop experimenting with the lives of our students, their families, and us teachers…