Love him or hate him, Bill Gates has been a strong influence on tech, education, and many other fields. The Chronicle posted an interview of Bill Gates yesterday, and they talked with him about a wide variety of topics. The complete interview is well worth a read, but I’m mainly interested in what Bill had to say about tablets. He’d rather see laptops in the classroom. Rather funny that, considering Microsoft announced the Surface Tablet only last week.
Here’s an excerpt from this particular answer:
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.
Given that I don’t think I can get my blogging done without a keyboard, you might be surprised to find out that I think he’s wrong. It’s not just that you can add a wireless keyboard to a tablet, or that you can use the onscreen keyboard. Nor is it that the small size of many desks in the average high school classroom.
I simply don’t think you need a keyboard to create nor do you even need one to write. If it were necessary then schools would have issued typewriters or word processors to students decades ago. Most all the HS I attended had either typewriter labs (older schools) or computer labs (newer schools), and yet I did nearly all my schoolwork by hand, including writing papers.
What’s more, his position ignores the fact that there’s far more ways to create content that simply typing. I don’t believe I have the space to list them all, but it would start at drawing and email and continue to scribbled notes and go on from there. About the only type of creation where a KB would clearly win out over a touchscreen would be long form typing. That’s not enough of a reason to require a laptop over a tablet.
And I think I already have proof that Bill is wrong. The San Diego USD recently switched from issuing laptops to issuing iPads. They bought 27 thousand iPads this year and plan to pass them out next fall. In past years they purchased netbooks. While battery life was likely a driving factor for the switch, I bet the SDUSD looked at how students would use the iPads (vs laptops) and realized keyboards weren’t that important.
via The Chronicle