Have you ever paused for a moment and thought "Wow. I’m glad that the richest man (and indeed some of the richest people in the world) is a philanthropist and technophile rather than a ruthless conqueror with a ‘money at all costs’ mentality?"

If you haven’t, perhaps this interview* will help you to come to this conclusion. We managed to get Bill Gates** to answer*** some of our questions around the exciting developments currently going on in educational technology (Edtech for short). Here’s how it digressed:

Cam from Banqer: Bill, thanks for the time. Let’s not waste any of it, I’ve seen that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a whole portion dedicated to all levels of primary and secondary schooling, what’s the vision there?

Bill Gates: [No problem], the foundation’s vision is accelerating the adoption of personalized learning around the world through technology. We’ve got to get some example products that are clearly so successful that it really opens peoples’ minds to what the role of technology here is.

Cam: Right. Isn’t accessibility the main issue when it comes to technology in the classroom? Not all students can afford one of these luxury goods! [Holds up tattered and aged Windows Phone received at Christmas a few years ago.]

Bill: Well, the biggest single barrier was that telling kids to use to use digital devices outside of the classroom might discriminate against kids who might not have an internet or PC access. Now both the penetration rates of tablets and PCs are much higher, and some of this can be done on the phone screen. Deciding which things you need the big screen for versus which things work off the small screens — that’s an area of interesting activity. Like if you’re just practicing vocabulary on something like Duolingo, that works really well on the phone. If you’re watching a history lecture, maybe. Reading a textbook, maybe. I like big screens, but we gotta get to all the kids. So, the biggest barrier has largely come down.

Cam: Ok, well why is Edutech so effective?

Bill: School is always about motivation. The idea of personalized learning [through smart Edutech] is you always know yourself where you are on a topic, that you have the sense of what the tasks are, how much there’s left to do to achieve certain levels. So there is more personal agency. For the students who are falling behind, they’ll get more time with the teacher. And it’s very interesting to track, in the classroom, that some kids go faster than others. But you have some variability where there’ll be one topic where some kids are going fast, and then different kids will have a hard time on another topic. It’s pretty obvious that in the one teacher, 30 kids-type classroom, there’s a lot of boredom [not motivation] in there. The material has been in the textbooks for a long time. In some subject areas, it hasn't even changed that much. If we can use [Edutech] to draw people in, then that's incredibly valuable.

Cam: What impact will this have on teachers? Is this signalling some sort of teacher-apocalypse where many will be made redundant?

Bill: Whenever I talk to teachers, one of their biggest concerns is that they don’t have the tools they need to do their best work. We see the same results in polls of teachers. [With Edutech], you want to get rid of the drudgery pieces, like creating math homework and grading math homework. You know, teachers want to get in and help individual students, and so I don’t think it’s really a different skill set. Eventually the schools of education will expose people to these new learning models as they get really pervasive. So you’ll come in ready to go with these things. There may be a generation of teachers that doesn’t adopt these things. But certainly the younger teachers coming in, they’ve chosen to be in education, and they know this is part of it. For the [average] teacher, it’s mostly eliminating the stuff they are not that enthused about doing. [No apocalypse].

Cam: Thanks again. Happy to be in this space with Banqer!

Bill gives a smile [indicating he’s fond of Banqer].

  • Interview*: Historical archives of articles and interviews have been researched.
  • Bill Gates**: Transcript excerpts that have been directly sourced from his brain/mouth.
  • Answer***: Contrived, but intellectual integrity has attempted to be maintained.

Insights from Cam Richardson (Gates groupie, Edutech explorer, and Banqer Team Member)