Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education Microsoft News

Gates' Future of Education Straight Out of '60s 203

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the bring-back-the-beatles dept.
theodp writes "Bill Gates really should have talked more with ex-Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie. While Khan Academy's new self-paced exercises, coach management options, and game mechanics (merit badges/points) prompted Gates to gush to the high-rollers at Salman Khan's TED Talk that they 'just got a glimpse of the future of education,' Ozzie's seen this movie before, having written similarly-featured PLATO courseware as a student at Illinois. In the '70s. On plasma terminals. With touch screens. Fifty years ago last Friday, 27-year-old EE PhD whiz kid Don Bitzer and partner Peter Braunfeld demonstrated the nascent PLATO system to assembled dignitaries at the 'President's Faculty Conference on Improving Our Educational Aims in the Sixties.' Hey, everything old is new again! Gates is hardly the only tech luminary who don't-know-much-about-PLATO-history — CS Prof Daniel Sleator felt compelled to school the Web's founders on PLATO in '94."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Gates' Future of Education Straight Out of '60s

Comments Filter:
  • by Byzantine (85549) <carson@@@sdf...lonestar...org> on Monday March 14, 2011 @01:21PM (#35481536) Homepage Journal

    Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments.

    • by DingerX (847589) on Monday March 14, 2011 @01:27PM (#35481626) Journal
      PLATO was a pretty big and influential system. Education was its primary task, but the educational software paled compared to the games. I think Jetfight was Bruce Artwick's first flight sim (someone will wikicorrect me, no doubt), and it was multiplayer from the start. The first online, single-instance multiplayer graphical FRPG (Aka MMORPG, although probably would be more correctly called a protoroguelike) was Moria, and it featured the joys of permadeath.

      The fact that it didn't really catch on as the answer to technology in education should tell us something about those who keep going back to this model for learning.
      • Where are you from? And exactly how long have you been on this planet, dood? PLATO sucked royally and big time -- that programmed instruction was another simpleton corporate scam, exactly what Gates is trying to do, privatize all education, because the much smarter Steve Jobs wisely began investing in getting Apples into the schools and now they are the computer of choice, across the spectrum. 'Nuff said....
        • Where are you from? Plato was insanely ahead of its time, did not suck. Programmed instruction may not be the end all be all, but no need to slander one of my favorite vintage platforms. I played Krozair and the other dungeon games until my fingers hurt !!

          • by dunng808 (448849)

            The PLATO concept was ahead of its time, but the eventual marketing plan was not. Originally developed at University of Illinois, participation by remote schools was virtually free. Once the concept was proven the technology was sold, as was common then and now, and the buyer charged more than schools could pay.

            What PLATO did demonstrate was people's desire to interact. Not only games, but with a primitive form of Email.

            PLATO has been an inspiration in my own educational concept, the Open Slate Project. We

        • by smbarbour (893880)

          Sorry to burst your bubble, but Apple stopped being the computer of choice for schools in the early 90s. I attribute their decline to Wozniak's departure. Jobs has the marketing know-how, but Woz was the innovator. The last time Apple was the pioneer in their field was when the Apple II series was in its heyday. Everything they've done since then, someone else did first. Apple just did a better job at marketing.

        • PLATO was loved by teachers and students in my local school system in the late 90s. Then they moved onto COMPASS until someone had the idea, let's do it in the cloud... Apex and Odyssey were born. They tell me that these programs have contributed to their great successes as defined by the "No Child Left Behind" act.
      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Long ago, I knew some guys who were thinking of bit banging the 11 bit Plato serial interface for their terminals. I suspect that they did not do it.

        Later a school director bought a number of Plato terminals without realizing that they needed to be on line to work.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "The fact that it didn't really catch on as the answer to technology in education should tell us something about those who keep going back to this model for learning."

        This comment is, quite frankly, complete bullshit. It's like saying, "It was raining, so I used an umbrella, but then I was swept away by the tsunami. So what good are umbrellas?" I particularly liked the sweeping (and meaningless) reference to "technology in education." What the hell does that mean?

        It is not an opinion that Khan Academy works

      • When I was an undergrad, we had a few PLATO terminals in the computer lab. (To calibrate for age here, about six months before I turned 30, a couple of other guys had big birthday bashes, but unlike Bill and Steve, I hadn't yet made my first billion dollars...)

        PLATO was not only the world's coolest Star Trek game terminal, it was also the home of Notesfiles, a system that influenced Netnews (=>Usenet) and also Lotus Notes. It took Bill a few years to catch on to how this Internetworking stuff might be

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Hell, it seems like all decent dreaming about the future occurred in the 70s. I remember looking for something to show my kids a positive view of the future. I ended up buying the same old Neil Ardley "The World of Tomorrow" books from libraries that were getting rid of them.

      And yet of all the neat ideas presented in that series, it seems like the only thing that has actually come to pass in the last 30 years were the double-decker airlines.

      • For a fun look at our dreams of the future that never panned out, you should check out Popular Mechanics' recent book "The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past".

    • by spun (1352)

      Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments.

      Just because something is unknown to Bill Gates does not mean it is unimportant or failed to impact future developments.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      In the 70s, internet did not exist nor did Khan's videos. It is not about a computerized education system, it is about student choosing what to watch and having at their disposal hundreds (thousands ?) of well made videos by a competent speaker that happened to not be formated by the current teaching system.
    • "Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments" ..

      They should know if they are in the business of making pronouncements on such ..

      I think you just got a glimpse of the future of education,said Mr. Gates [jobsinprop...cation.com], as Mr. Khan left the stage.

    • Just because something existed in the 70's doesn't necessarily mean people should have known about it or that it had any impact on future developments.

      That's because in the mind of most dweebs, nothing exists until Apple reinvents it.

  • The truth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Monday March 14, 2011 @01:23PM (#35481578)

    The wheel of time turns, moving from one age to the next. History falls to myth, myth to legend, legend to half remembered tales spoken around the fire, and eventually, long after even that is forgotten, that age comes again.

    • Objection! OP is quoting "The Fellowship of the Ring"

      Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for forty years, PLATO passed out of all knowledge.

      • by Toze (1668155)
        Mister Wright, OP is quoting Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time. Objection denied.
  • Did you really think that Gates is capable of coming up with an original idea? Even as he attempts to revise and groom his image for history, he remains unable to innovate.
  • Apparently Bill never saw the episode where Bart is mistaken for a genius after he steals Martin Prince's IQ test answers and gets sent to a genius school. The entire foundation of teaching over there was based on this system.
    • by jdgeorge (18767)

      Apparently Bill never saw the episode where Bart is mistaken for a genius after he steals Martin Prince's IQ test answers and gets sent to a genius school. The entire foundation of teaching over there was based on this system.

      Would you please clarify what you mean by:
      1. "over there"
      2. "this system"

      I don't think I'm getting the meaning of your comment without those pieces. Thanks!

      • by AaxelB (1034884)
        Having not seen the episode Drakkenmensch is referencing, I cleverly used my reading skills to deduce that "over there" references the "genius school" that Bart was sent to, and "this system" refers to the sort of system that the various linked articles (and, indeed, this very Slashdot discussion) are about. Reading is fun!
        • by jdgeorge (18767)

          It isn't clear to me if the "foundation of teaching over there" was referring to the PLATO system, or to the Khan Academy, which are very different approaches.

          Thank you for trying to clarify, though.

          • by gorzek (647352)

            The teaching style used in the referenced episode was one where the teacher provided little direct instruction. What instruction was given was turned into a game, and most of the time the students were left to learn on their own, given access to books and science materials to peruse/experiment with at their leisure. The idea being, I guess, that smart kids are self-motivating and will learn on their own without being forced to sit still and do rote exercises.

  • by alispguru (72689) <(bane) (at) (gst.com)> on Monday March 14, 2011 @01:41PM (#35481834) Journal

    PLATO terminals were cool, but they cost about one human teacher annual salary [wikipedia.org] at the time, and needed a mainframe costing 100 human teacher years behind them, plus telecom links that were obscenely expensive by current standards. They were barely economically feasible only if you assumed large cost drops from volume production.

    Comparing PLATO to modern internet distance learning is like comparing the Wright flyer to a modern jet aircraft.

    • by swordgeek (112599)

      Yeah yeah, everything you say is true. But at the end of the day, modern jets came about because bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, we learned from and improved on the Wright flyer. Forgetting this piece of history is a GREAT way to repeat the mistakes it made, instead of learning from them.\

  • Obligatory Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by oldfogie (547102) on Monday March 14, 2011 @01:42PM (#35481854)
    For those who really care -- Plato (emulated) is still online.

    Cyber1 [cyber1.org]
    • by jafac (1449)

      Awesome! I did not know this! Finally, I can rob the network of useful TIPS again!

  • The main difference I've seen in Khan Academy is in the quality of the lectures. Most (all) videos I've seen are horrible. The tutorials on Khan are clear, straightforward, and informative with no fluff or embarrassingly lame animations. The several people I've talked to that used Khan found the tutorials to be even better than their own instructor's classroom lectures (they were taking calc, Diff Eq's, and linear algebra). I recommend Khan for that reason.

  • Let's face it - Gates was lucky.

    IBM let him sell his copy of DOS.

    Businesses decided to standardize on DOS PCs over Macs, making Microsoft a success, despite a weak product.

    Ever since then business, education and government have been happy to shell out the "Microsoft Tax" every time there's a new release of Windows or Office. Most of Microsoft's non-core ventures have been colossal failures. Yet, because this man was in the right place, at the right time and was given mountains of lucre for products which

    • Don't ever underestimate the power of being in the right place at the right time. Couple that with am opportunistic business sense and the persistence to keep pushing on in spite of seemingly insurmountable hurdles, and your chance of success is higher than most.

      Of course, Gates and MSFT went quite a bit beyond that, with monopolistic practices, vendor intimidation, and outright plagiarism in some cases, but underneath that lies the fundamentals above. We may not like how MSFT got where it is, but you can

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        Don't ever underestimate the power of being in the right place at the right time. Couple that with am opportunistic business sense and the persistence to keep pushing on in spite of seemingly insurmountable hurdles, and your chance of success is higher than most.

        Of course, Gates and MSFT went quite a bit beyond that, with monopolistic practices, vendor intimidation, and outright plagiarism in some cases, but underneath that lies the fundamentals above. We may not like how MSFT got where it is, but you can't deny their basic principles.

        But it's a bit like saying the First Poster to a topic has greater credibility than subsequent posters. Hitting reload a hundred times and then hastily writing something coherent and hitting preview and submit faster than someone else doesn't, IMHO, make it a better post.

      • by sjames (1099)

        I don't think anyone is denying that a great deal of luck, a touch of nepotism and a willingness to cheat can propel you to financial success in this world. They're just saying that it doesn't make you a technical genius it just makes you a lucky rat bastard.

    • Let's face it - Gates was lucky. IBM let him sell his copy of DOS

      Gates was selling microcomputer BASIC to the Fortune 500 as far back as July 1976.

      FORTRAN and COBOL in 1977. In 1979 8080 BASIC takes an ICP Million Dollar Award - and PC software sales are now officially big business.

      In the late seventies, CP/M was the standard OS for business applications. Microsoft's first hardware product was the Z-80 Softcard for the Apple II and the Apple III.

      Gates promised to deliver a serviceable 16 bit CP/M clone for the 8086 in time for the scheduled launch of the new IBM - a

  • Simply because the idea or a previously failing implementation of something happen decades or even hundreds of years prior, does not mean a new application of the same idea won't work later on.

    Some ideas are ahead of their time for social reasons; others for technological reasons and still others simply because of bad marketing. There are lots of reasons for things to not go over well at first and later become successful. (Aspartame was rejected several times before Dick Cheney got it approved by the FDA

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Sometimes ideas fall out of favor, too, because theory doesn't work well practice.

      How often have you seen a failed idea given a new coat of paint and paraded around for oohs and ahhs?

  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Monday March 14, 2011 @02:13PM (#35482330)

    self-paced study courses have a major problem. They need a specific type of student. The student must be exactly smart enough to easily learn the material, yet dumb enough not to play the system to "get it over with."

    Self-paced study material can be a major frustration for students who need a little more help (perhaps to have a concept presented differently) or who need more practice. If a student does not grasp something quickly enough, a rapid demoralization occurs and learning stops.

    When smarter students becomes bored, they too become frustrated and learn ways to play the courseware. That rapidly supplants learning the material.

    Self-paced learning is absolutely not a solution to a major need in education.It can't replace stand-up training. BG should spend some time and get himself an education degree and then spend a few years teaching before making grand pronouncements. He has no qualifications to speak on this subject.

    • by keytoe (91531) on Monday March 14, 2011 @03:04PM (#35482922) Homepage

      When smarter students becomes bored, they too become frustrated and learn ways to play the courseware. That rapidly supplants learning the material.

      So, the smarter student becoming bored due to learning the material rapidly which causes them to no longer learn the material?

      When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher thought I was slow because I wasn't doing the material provided. It was recommended I undergo psychiatric testing. Testing concluded that I was bored out of my skull and just wasn't interested in doing 5 pages worth of division problems every night after grasping the concept after a day.

      The next year, my parents put me in a small private school that provided self-paced learning. It was the single best academic experience of my life, and I gobbled up the curriculum through the 7th grade level - in all subjects. At no point did I ever become bored with the material as it was always new and interesting to me.

      Regrettably, my parents couldn't afford to keep that up, so it was back to public schools for 5th grade. My parents tried to get me into the accelerated classes, but my teacher was convinced I should instead be in with the remedial. He insisted I be IQ tested. I did much better than he expected and got in.

      I took honors classes my first year in high school, then decided to 'take it easy' my sophomore year with regular courses. I did abysmally for a semester and ended up having to do summer school to make up for a failed term of history. I immediately recognized the pattern and switched back to honors programs at the semester.

      From this experience I learned a few things:

      1. - If I'm not challenged, my interest drops like a stone.
      2. - Bored smart students are indistinguishable from remedial students to a teacher with 30+ students in the class.
      3. - Modern public schools are doing nothing to encourage bright young minds.
      4. - And more philosophically, that the world is full of shitty, mundane things you just have to do even if they're pointless and inane. Public school is actually really good at teaching this, but in this aspect I was a terrible student.
      • by rsclient (112577)

        For your item #3 -- "doing nothing to encourage bright young minds" -- except for the honors courses. And the accelerated courses. And the IQ tests that can get you in to them.

        • by keytoe (91531)

          For your item #3 -- "doing nothing to encourage bright young minds" -- except for the honors courses. And the accelerated courses. And the IQ tests that can get you in to them.

          Honors and accelerated are not the same thing as self-paced learning. In the context of my story, the point I was attempting to illustrate was the glorious year I spent in a self-paced environment and provide a counter example to the post I was quoting. If there had been genuine self paced study available at my school, I probably wou

          • My school didn't have any kind of advanced classes. Through 6th grade, we just had "classes". Starting in 7th grade, we had "dumb" and "not as dumb". I had the outstanding opportunity to study in the less dumb courses. When I got to college, I heard people talking about AP courses and such, and it took me a while to finally put together that these were advanced courses that some schools offer; it's not like anyone ever explained what they were, since most people were from places with larger populations

    • but on the other end the just read the book and makeing passing the class about the finale test is just as bad.

      smarter students will get bored in a class where the professor just reads the book.

      And basing it all on the leads to smart people how are bad at taking tests to do bad while people who can cram for a test but have no idea on who to use the material to get better grades.

    • I taught for a while... and here's what a lot of people miss.
      Education is a mass service. People often forget this.

      You have exceptional people like Bill Gates and many 'smarter' people who think everyone is as interested and capable in learning as themselves. They're not. So most 'advanced' interesting educational initiatives flop in the real classroom. Oh believe me... we were always bombarded with all kinds of new strategies... you very quickly lose interest in these. At best, you can grab these kids, put

    • by japhmi (225606)

      self-paced study courses have a major problem. They need a specific type of student. The student must be exactly smart enough to easily learn the material, yet dumb enough not to play the system to "get it over with."

      In the system demonstrated, the self-pacing is combined with teacher instruction. Combined with customizable testing that requires mastery that was demonstrated, there's no need to "get over it" - and if it's stumping you, there is a teacher available.

      Self-paced learning is absolutely not a solution to a major need in education.It can't replace stand-up training. BG should spend some time and get himself an education degree and then spend a few years teaching before making grand pronouncements. He has no qualifications to speak on this subject.

      Exactly the opposite. Spending time at an ed school is about the worst way to learn about things such as: how students really learn, how to change education, and new approaches that will actually work. Ed schools are mostly propaganda with some old ideas pe

  • The Baker Electric Automobile was in production from 1899 to 1914 -- I guess electric cars were not and never will be competitive with gasoline and diesel powered vehicles. What? Better batteries? Better motors? You mean that the technology has caught up and electric cars might now be viable?

    Maybe Plato was just ahead of the available technology.

  • Oh, stop it, Bill! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eepok (545733) on Monday March 14, 2011 @02:38PM (#35482638) Homepage

    Bill, you don't understand education. You didn't take the time to understand children, teenagers, sociology, social psychology, pedagogy, performance/theater, linguistics, or any other field necessary to comprehend what a teacher is and just spend your time and money looking for a silver bullet cure to any ailments.

    First, Bill tried to give away millions to students to pay for their college education. Of course, it came in the form of competitive scholarships so those who were already destined to receive a bunch of money (because of a strong educational history and innate brilliance) simply got more. This made no change.

    Then came the funding of techno-super schools. But they were neither in areas in need of improvement nor were the schools any cheaper (more expensive, obviously) to run. Another failure.

    Bill, if you want to make a change, do this:
    Create a system for the development of teachers. Not super-teachers or techno-teachers-- just teachers. At the moment there is no hub for potential teachers to go to that catalogs all the credential or master's programs. There's no easier step-by-step guide for the process in California. Everyone just quotes a vague order of things.

    Also, if you don't want to help the creation of teachers (and hell, give grants to pay for their wages!), then try just funding the modest renovation of crap-hole schools and class rooms in low-income neighborhoods.

    If you want to make a change, help the poor. It's that easy.

    • After all, Bill Gates is a College Dropout.

    • by Hylandr (813770)

      Considering he was an outcast in school this disconnect is hardly any surprise.

      - Dan.

    • by Acius (828840)

      Have you actually read [washingtonpost.com] anything that Bill Gates is saying on this issue? He makes pretty much the exact same points. He's already doing the stuff in your "do this" section.

      If you want to get angry, go get angry at someone who deserves it.

      • by eepok (545733)

        His "identify great teachers and emulate them" initiative is not what I'm talking about. All he wants to do is what everyone has been doing for years in and out of education: "Best Practices". And he even makes the same error in assumptions: "To flip the curve, we have to identify great teachers, find out what makes them so effective and transfer those skills to others so more students can enjoy top teachers and high achievement."

        Transfer those skills to others? WTF? That's not how education works! There's

    • by sammy baby (14909)

      I remember a few years ago, before the end of the dot com boom, reading an article about a bunch of newfound millionaires - and Bill Gates - talking about how the new information economy was going to completely revolutionize the economies of third world nations. To his credit, Gates was dismissive, stressing repeatedly that "the Internet" wasn't going to magically transform poverty stricken countries rife with malaria into paradises of soy-latte sipping professionals in Kenneth Cole shoes. With countries

      • That's a fascinating point that I've never heard put in quite that fashion. I'm unsure how much of this is your words or Gates', but "basic health" and "safety" sound very much like the more basic needs described by Maslows Hierarchy (of Needs!).

        Maslow described a hierarchy of human needs that went something along the lines of: Physiological --> Safety --> Love/Belonging --> Esteem --> Self-Actualization. We (humans) need to address each of these needs in order to learn and grow. An understa

    • by Tom (822)

      Bill, you don't understand education.

      It's not the only thing he doesn't understand. Many of his lauded "visions" are totally bonkers and his first book had to be re-written years later so as to not appear to be as dramatically off the mark as it was.

      Fact is - and I know that's hard for people brainwashed with capitalism-cures-everything ideology - that money does not generate intelligence nor creativity. Where you find the two linked, the mental attributes always came first. People don't get smarter as they get richer. They may, however, appea

  • by Hylandr (813770)

    The Webs Founders!?!?

    My Ass!

    - Dan.

  • Gates's not Gates' in title...

  • PLATO was just a platform. The PLATO Project never created any courseware of its own. It merely taught professors how to write their own courseware. They told them pretty baldly what they (PLATO folks) thought worked, and what didn't, but the results were up to the courseware authors, and their students were stuck with the results. Some were drill'n'practice types, some did thoughtful, exploratory stuff, and some (to my mind the most successful) wrote laboratory-emulation software that let the students

  • Uhm. There are all sorts of tools available now for building instruction and teaching. Am I the only one here with a Master's in Instructional Technology?

    Plato was cool for it's time, but there are a lot of great options out there. We don't have to get stuck in the past.

  • According to a 1981 dated Users Guide document.

    http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/cdc/plato/97405900C_PLATO_Users_Guide_Apr81.pdf [bitsavers.org]

    ``AIDS is an on-line reference manual for authors and instructors, which contains definitions and explanations of most of the PLATO system features.'' [4-5]

    • I hated PLATO (which was, to be fair, most likely actually hatred for the garbage content which poorly used the system), but I remember being amused by AIDS.

  • Pundits of science and technology intransigence are our political, religious, and business leaders, obviously.

    There are so fracken many "Open" content producers for education (K...PhD) that I won't go copy a URLink for the Luddites of our culture. USA Public Education could bound past the historical and present USA have-&-have-not "separate-but-equal" BS education system with little effort and reasonable cost. Then our economy would not have the vast supply of expendable have-not folks to flip-burgers,

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Norris [wikipedia.org]
    "William Charles Norris (July 14, 1911 near Red Cloud, Nebraska -- August 21, 2006) was the pioneering CEO of Control Data Corporation, at one time one of the most powerful and respected computer companies in the world. He is famous for taking on IBM in a head-on fight and winning, as well as being a social activist who used Control Data's expansion in the late 1960s to bring jobs and training to inner-cities and disadvantaged communities. ...
    Another

If a subordinate asks you a pertinent question, look at him as if he had lost his senses. When he looks down, paraphrase the question back at him.

Working...