Bill Gates on K12 Education

I finally got around to watching Bill Gates’ recent TED talk.  This is the talk you may have heard about where he released mosquitoes into the audience.  Well, after spending the first half of the talk speaking about the challenge of defeating malaria, Gates spent the last half addressing the question, How do you make great teachers?  He made a couple of points that made me think of classroom response systems.

One was that he praised the teacher at a KIPP school he recently visited for engaging all of the students in her classroom throughout the class period.  He argued that more classrooms should be like this, where students can’t goof off or not pay attention.  I would argue that classroom response systems are one great tool for helping teachers (at the K12 level or at the college level) keep all students in a class engaged with the material.  Since all students can be expected to respond to a clicker question, not just the two or three students who put their hands up first, clickers can be used to help keep all students on task.

Another was that he indicated that in some school districts, test score data that could be used to help teachers identify strengths and areas for improvement isn’t shared with teachers!  This surprised me.  If there’s existing data on student learning that teachers could use to improve their effectiveness, why not share that data with the teachers?

This reminded me of a conversation I had with an elementary school principle at the recent ConnectEd Summit.  (Yes, I’m still talking about that…)  She was looking at my book and discussing with me how clickers might be useful in a K3 setting.  One point she made was that classroom response systems have the potential to provide her teachers with useful data on student learning, particularly if the questions used were tied to state or national standards.  A teacher could use the data generated from one day to help determine the plan for the next day.

So if anyone reading this happens to know Bill Gates, please let him know that I would be glad to talk with him about how classroom response systems might help meet the challenge he outlined in his TED talk!

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