Bill Gates: Three Trends That Technology Empowers Teachers

Original author: Bill Gates
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Forty years ago, Paul Allen and I founded Microsoft because they wanted to help everyone get as much from computers as we could. Then only a large business had access to modern computer technology, and we thought that it would be useful for millions of people to have such opportunities at their fingertips. Since that time, personal computers, programs, and the Internet have changed every aspect of life in the United States — almost.

I still wonder why technology has so little impact on education. Now I think a lot about what teachers can do if they get new tools, especially if they themselves say what tools they need. Last year, I wrote about six sites for teachers that attracted my attention, and noted that "it's too early to say which one will make a breakthrough in education." And now it’s too early, but we are starting to notice patterns in which teachers use computers and the Internet to give students a more dynamic education.

Here are three trends that teachers tell me about.


A revolution in the collaboration of teachers and students

Right now, teachers spend hours checking homework and tests, writing grades in tables that they themselves compose. After this routine, teachers do not understand how each student works - because they are guided only by lines and columns with numbers and the information about the student that they remember. But online systems provide information about each student. At the Summit Public Schools network in California, students and teachers work on the Personalized Learning Platform. Teachers not only see the tasks for each student and their completion, but also use predictive analytical tools and visualization to determine which students are on the right track and which urgently need help.

New educational software changes the rules of the game

Teachers spend time choosing the technologies that work best. Then the developers receive feedback and improve the products. More and more successful examples are emerging. Software called Newsela , for example, interprets news for readers of various levels. It doesn't matter what skills specific students have in a particular class - teachers can discuss the same information with everyone. Another example is ThinkCERCA , an essay writing software. It's easier to solve a math problem online than to write an essay online, but ThinkCERCA helps teachers and students work together on every part of the process, from writing notes to creating a plan and working on a draft. The program does not generate an essay score - the teacher works one on one with the student.

Teachers use online aggregators to share ideas with colleagues across the country.

For many years, students had a textbook, and teachers had a plan, although they might not like it. The Internet is helping teachers make their own curriculum public. Teachers communicate, discuss lessons, share experiences to improve the learning process. Teachers are pleased with the possibility of such a joint work - before it was not. A few years ago, New York State put together a collection of top curricula called EngageNY. This collection came in handy for teachers; materials from it were downloaded over twenty million times. Other sites, including Better Lessons and LearnZillion , have made similar libraries. Teachers use proven plans to learn from them or borrow individual techniques, adapt and improve them.

Two common denominators combine these trends. First, technology provides teachers with more resources. Teachers save time, get the necessary information and are free to choose how to use this information. Secondly, teachers themselves have become a tool in the development and application of technology. The head of ThinkCERCA is the teacher. Teachers at Summit have been working with the creators for several years. Teachers kick their feet for software and lesson aggregators that they like best.

For me, the main technology is what people can achieve with them. We are starting to see teachers using their improved interaction with students. It will take a long time to understand which ideas will have a greater impact, but it is very interesting to observe the changes that are already taking place.

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