Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Bill Gates on curious kids
Fast Company's Anya Kamenetz interviewed Bill Gates for the most recent issue of the magazine. In it, Gates touches on ideas for boosting teacher skills, MOOCs, and the like. But I thought Gifted Exchange readers might find this part most interesting. Kamenetz posed this question: "You've said that when you were in high school, you followed your own interests, taking on independent study, working on computer programming day and night. Is there room for that kind of student-driven learning in a highly rigorous, metrics-based environment?" Gates answered that "People who are as curious as I am will be fine in any system. For the self-motivated student, these are the golden days. I wish I was growing up now. I envy my son. If he and I are talking about something that we don't understand, we just watch videos and click on articles, and that feeds our discussion. Unfortunately, the highly curious student is a small percentage of the kids." What do you think of this? Will the brilliant and curious do well under any system? Are these the golden days for self-motivated students? On one hand, there certainly are a lot of resources now, available online for anyone. If you're interested in learning advanced math, nothing is stopping you from watching Khan Academy for hours. My 5-year-old son is really into maps right now, and he's been studying Google maps, sometimes announcing how many miles it is between two random destinations, and exactly how long that will take by car, mass transit, or foot. But I'm not sure that schooling is in a golden age for the curious. As Gates points out, the campaign to measure what kids are learning is not a bad thing. But some schools, obsessed with pass rates on grade level standardized tests, have decided that kids who easily meet the bar don't deserve any attention. One way to close the achievement gap is to lower the ceiling, rather than raise the floor. What do you think? Are these the golden days for self-motivated, curious students?