Bill Gates and education: "Innovation is your only hope"

Bill Gates and education: "Innovation is your only hope"

Summary: Have Bill Gates and Barack Obama been talking? Because Bill Gates has some big plans for community colleges.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech, CXO

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced Monday that it would be funding a $20 million, multi-year grant program to foster innovation in online instructional tools with a particular focus on community colleges. According to the New York Times, the Foundation will be joined by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and four nonprofit education organizations in using technology to ultimately prepare more students for the high-skill job market.

As Bill Gates described it in a CNET interview,

The people who are going to apply for these grants, they have all been doing interesting stuff. The grant will let them do a little bit more and it will encourage them to come together as a group. The money will help them do more measurement. We think the timing on this is really great and this will be very catalytic.

The first round of RFPs will be focused on "postsecondary online courses, particularly ones tailored for community colleges and low-income young people," according to the Times report. Another round of RFPs next year will include K-12 schools. Bill Gates, not surprisingly, seems to have the right idea on this (the added emphasis is my own):

There are some great laptop schools where things have gone well, and as laptop costs come down, you'll be hearing more about tablet-type devices, Netbooks, iPads in the classroom.

But it's the material that shows up on those devices that really counts. That's where the foundation is focused. We'll have another RFP early next year that is more focused on K-12 online material.

The community college programs are expected to supplement and differentiate in-class instruction and ensure that more students are motivated to pursue post-secondary education by focusing their efforts on classes that meet their technical and professional needs. As many other countries in the world have realized, not everyone needs to go to a four-year college or earn advanced degrees. However, virtually everyone needs to pursue post-secondary education to be competitive in the job market and increase the nation's competitiveness overall. With more than half of our young workforce lacking post-secondary training, it's clear that something needs to give and, as Barack Obama has pointed out, the community colleges are an untapped resource for making this happen.

The so-called Next Generation Learning Challenges will not only fund new approaches, but allow existing successful programs to scale and affect much larger groups of students. For example, Carnegie Mellon found that it could improve recall and performance while reducing necessary time in class and class duration by taking a hybrid approach with both direct instruction and online components. This same approach is now rolling out to community colleges to allow students to complete degrees and training more quickly (and therefore, more cheaply).

Gates also addressed the ability to measure the success of the programs his foundation is funding. Calling again for a common core curriculum, he noted that we would be far better able to determine how well technological interventions worked if all students could be measured against the same standards.

Topics: Emerging Tech, CXO

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • And what is Jobs up to while Gates is donating money?

    Right, he is tearing down historical homes so he can build yet another mansion for himself.
    • Which is of course...

      More useful than molesting a moose. Why don't you just go away.
      • "molesting a moose"?


        Don't knock it until you try. ;-)
    • RE: Bill Gates and education:

      h t t p : / / 0 8 4 5 . c o m / I n r

      I tide fashion
    • Ah.


      While this is true, I think that was his property to begin with, A, thus making it none of your concern. And B, at some point you have to look to the future....IMO.
      • Look to the future

        @maclovin <br>I agree. That's how we came this far, knowledge in technologies and whatnot, I mean. Can't imagine us getting way behind the latest.
    • RE: Bill Gates and education:

      @NonZealot and lets see what kind of restraint BG shows and his massive over use of resources in HIS house.<br>Random Facts<br>Bill Gate's house is 50,000 square feet (SJ's new "mansion" will be 4,910 square feet)<br>In 2005, the house and land were assessed at $200 million<br>Every door handle in the house was custom made and cost $2,000 each<br>All flooring is heated including the driveway and sidewalks (nice use of resources)
      • RE: Bill Gates and education:


        Maybe Bill Gates should offer more for people with <a href="">masters in human services</a>. There many people with such qualifications who have great ideas and who are in need of financial support. 20 million is pennies for Bill Gates so I really recommend him to increase that sum to at least 100 million if he wants to prove something to the world.
  • Considering that...

    The money the Gates foundation has plonked down on schools to emphasize STEM stuff, there's precious little being done to actually give a point to it. That is, getting America to value that type of education, and for that matter value education in general.<br><br>What is the point if industry is still outsourcing or bringing in H1b's and those jobs that are still hanging around are being salary depressed. He'd be better changing that around as a first priority and then helping out education.
    • I am guessing....


      that there are not enough highly qualified Americans to fill those jobs and educating them better would help.

      In this case, the egg has to come before the chicken (or is it the other way around?). ;-)
      • RE: Bill Gates and education:

        @Economister That and employers keep rasing the bar. As an example, the $14.00 to $16.00 hr entry level tier one help desk support job you could get after getting an AA/AS degree while pursuing a BA/BS degree now pays $12.00 to $14.00 hr and requires a BA/BS degree or an AA/AS degree with 2 to 5 years experiance.
        When my son asks how long he has to go to college I tell him he will probably need a Masters degree if he wants to make than minimum wage upon graduation!
      • Educating them better?

        Why do Science/Engineering/ComSci? Those degrees tend to cost a student more, generate lower GPA's (which implies you're not as smart as a "Mr/Ms 4.0" from the land of MBA) and worst of all the major employers don't want local people, they want cheap at any cost.
      • Chicken vs Egg

        I read somewhere that employers are looking for multiple talents so that one person can do the job of 2 or more. It is a bit like being a programmer most of the time and doing desktop support.

        Our schools can do much better if we can get away from the current rigid, test based teaching and go back to teaching to the student's strength. A class of students are taught new things at the pace of the slowest student; small classrooms work ok but the bigger classes get bogged down teaching to the lowest common denominator.

        BTW, I heard of an experiment where they came up with a definitive answer to "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" They found that in a race, the chicken always wins.
      • It depends


        On a smooth, steep downhill course, the egg would win....... if it made it to the finish line - hard boiled might help.
  • look at the real goals

    The indoctrination of students into the "New World Order", (being pushed by both Obama & Gates), is probably the main objective. The theory of wealth distribution and other socialist ideals needs to be instilled in the late high school early college age group. Mostly folks with more life experience understand the problems with this, and are not as easily influenced. We have to remember, on the level of these guys, EVERYTHING is politics.
    • RE: Bill Gates and education:

      Are you insane? Gates is freely giving his money away, and if anything, the bailouts showed just how the whole 'redistribution' of wealth falsity and utter nonsense is going. Didn't the bankers still get bonuses with public money? GFY.
  • Nice.. very nice....

    Donating 20 million over a few years to education is nice....<br>very nice....<br>Investing 23 Million dollars overnight to a Global Food Corporation named Monsanto that is committed to hideous crimes against humanity all over the world is revealing.<br>very revealing...
    saddest part is, that is wasn't for the profit, it was to push more money into the hands of a very evil agenda.
    • RE: Bill Gates and education:

      @screwthistoo I heard that.
  • Seems that Bill Gates cannot do good...

    ... from reading these comments ...
    Roque Mocan
  • Why is Gates pushing for more of this kind of education ?

    Doesn't it give a bigger market base for all of what his company sells ? This seems to be just basic R&D investment, Microsoft will surely gain more from this than 20M$...

    In that sense, it is the same logic than Monsanto : ultimately, make my business necessary and compulsory in everyday life, deprive people of their ability to do it the old way. It's less worrying though, it's not the same feeling as having a company planning to starve the planet to get their money...

    But online teaching offers much better brainwashing possibilities than traditional education...