“We started this program nearly 10 years ago based on the belief that education is a fundamental human right and the single most important investment in our collective future. This has never been more true, and I’m really pleased to see the continuing commitment to innovations that can help all students and teachers reach their full potential”, says Bill Gates.
A little over 10 years ago Bill Gates helped champion the idea of Partners in Learning with the goal to improve teaching and learning, and specifically the use of technology in education. He believed that by providing resources and support for teachers and students — rather than devices — the world as we knew it could be transformed. He continues this advocacy today, and as demonstrated in a recent New York Times article, remains one of the foremost experts on creating positive change in educational practices – both at the policy level, and at the ground level.
As Microsoft has just announced the extension of the Partners in Learning Program for another five years and two hundred and fifty million dollars, Microsoft carries on the tradition that began with Gates: supporting the essential work of innovative educators throughout the world. I thought it would be a great time to do an interview with Bill, share the good news, and gain some perspective from him about the next five years!
It is my honor to share today’s Daily Edventure with Bill Gates.
ANTHONY SALCITO: You helped launch Partners in Learning 10 years ago. The program has now reached more than 200 million educators and students in 119 countries focused on building teacher capacity and developing students skills that have them better prepared for the demands of the 21st century. Do you remember what your early goals were for the program?
BILL GATES: As a leader in the technology industry, we were thinking quite a bit in the late 1990s and early 2000s about how we could improve education on a global level. We knew education was the cornerstone of social and economic opportunity. We understood from previous initiatives that just giving away software or offering computer training courses wouldn’t enable the kind of changes needed. We also recognized that a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t work with a global initiative. So the goal with Partners in Learning was to create an integrated set of resources that could be tailored locally to increase technology access for schools, encourage innovative approaches to pedagogy and professional development for teachers, and provide education leaders with the tools to envision, implement, and manage change.
ANTHONY SALCITO: What education projects are you most proud of?
BILL GATES: The decision a decade ago to fund a global program like Partners in Learning was bold, ambitious, and frankly something of a risk. The fact Microsoft is funding it for another 5 years is a testament to its success. As with any big unknown, some parts of PiL have worked better than others, but all of it is a success as far as I’m concerned, because it has helped improve and strengthen the program.
ANTHONY SALCITO: With your travels around the world what do you think are the opportunities for education and the challenges?
BILL GATES: Growing up, I was fortunate to have some great teachers who nurtured a love of learning and encouraged me to try out new things—like experimenting with computers. A lot of young people don’t have that opportunity—often because of the economic circumstances of where they live. Research has proven what my own experience taught me: that teacher effectiveness is one of the most important factors in determining how well students learn and whether they succeed in school. PiL has been focused on that since it was launched in 2003—providing teachers with great technology and the most effective teaching practices so they can nurture, inspire, and educate every student. When it comes to students and teachers in the developing world, they can face enormous challenges. Technology may lie beyond the reach of millions of students and teachers for some time to come. But those schools that do have technology need to be getting the most out of it possible and teachers need to understand the best possible ways those technologies can add to their effectiveness. That’s true progress, even if we still have a long way to go.
ANTHONY SALCITO: What advice do you have for us for the next 10 years of Partners in Learning or for me specifically as we continue the journey to work in partnership with educators around the world?
BILL GATES: There is no silver bullet to improve education. What works in a given country or region depends a lot on unique cultural and economic circumstances. At the same time, we’ve gotten a lot smarter about key factors, such as identifying and measuring effective teaching, helping teachers improve, and rewarding excellence. The challenge and the opportunity for PiL is to continue to be a learning organization as it works to empower educators and their students.
ANTHONY SALCITO: Microsoft was founded on what was at the time a bold vision for a PC in every home and on every desk. We’re still working to make this a reality globally…but projects are growing broadly in education with rise of tablets and 1:1 computing. What are you most excited about regarding impact on learning with this trend?
BILL GATES: When done right, technology can definitely help teachers be more effective and make learning more interesting. We’re seeing an explosion in the use of the Internet to broadcast and post teacher lectures and curriculum. The next step is teasing out the best of that. There are huge opportunities to create more engaging and interactive ways of learning, including personalized learning that gives students and teachers important real-time feedback. “Blended learning” that combines the best parts of classroom teaching and online learning is still a work-in-progress, but an important and exciting one. And we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the use of social networks to increase collaboration among and between teachers and students. We are in an extraordinary period of change in education. My hope and expectation is that PiL will continue to push the frontier over the next five years as it has over the last decade.
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About Bill Gates
William (Bill) H. Gates is chairman of Microsoft Corporation, the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
On June 27, 2008, Gates transitioned out of a day-to-day role in the company to spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He shares his thoughts about the foundation and other topics on Gates Notes, a Web site launched in January 2010. Gates continues to serve as Microsoft’s chairman and as an advisor on key development projects. In June 2006, Craig Mundie assumed the new title of chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft and is responsible for the company’s research and incubation efforts.
Born on Oct. 28, 1955, Gates grew up in Seattle with his two sisters. Their father, William H. Gates II, is a Seattle attorney. Their late mother, Mary Gates, was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent, and chairwoman of United Way International.
Gates attended public elementary school and the private Lakeside School. There, he discovered his interest in software and began programming computers at age 13.
In 1973, Gates entered Harvard University as a freshman, where he lived down the hall from Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft’s chief executive officer. While at Harvard, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer – the MITS Altair.
In his junior year, Gates left Harvard to devote his energies to Microsoft, a company he had begun in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen. Guided by a belief that the computer would be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home, they began developing software for personal computers. Gates’ foresight and his vision for personal computing have been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry.
Under Gates’ leadership, Microsoft’s mission has been to continually advance and improve software technology, and to make it easier, more cost-effective and more enjoyable for people to use computers. The company is committed to a long-term view, reflected in its industry-leading investment in research and development each year.
In 1999, Gates wrote “Business @ the Speed of Thought”, a book that shows how computer technology can solve business problems in fundamentally new ways. The book was published in 25 languages and is available in more than 60 countries. “Business @ the Speed of Thought” has received wide critical acclaim, and was listed on the best-seller lists of the “New York Times”, “USA Today”, “The Wall Street Journal” and on Amazon.com. Gates’ previous book, “The Road Ahead”, published in 1995, was at the top of the “New York Times” bestseller list for seven weeks.
Gates has donated the proceeds of both books to non-profit organizations that support the use of technology in education and skills development.
In addition to his love of computers and software, Gates founded Corbis, which is developing one of the world’s largest resources of visual information – a comprehensive digital archive of art and photography from public and private collections around the globe. He is also a member of the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which invests in companies engaged in diverse business activities.
Philanthropy is very important to Gates. He and his wife, Melinda, started a foundation in 2000 to help reduce inequities in the United States and around the world. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports philanthropic initiatives in the areas of global health and learning, with the hope that in the 21st century, advances in these critical areas will be available for all people. To learn more about the foundation, visit www.gatesfoundation.org
Gates was married on Jan. 1, 1994, to Melinda French Gates. They have three children. Gates is an avid reader, and enjoys playing golf, tennis and bridge.