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Bill Gates Promotes E-Learning

Bill Gates is a fan of online learning, so much so that it is among the nine innovations to receive funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the next several years, according to the second annual letter by the Microsoft chairman outlining his vision for tackling the most pressing challenges facing the United States and the world.

While much of the letter addresses poverty and health issues, two of the 12 pages are devoted to education topics: online learning and teacher effectiveness.

On Page 9 of the letter, Gates describes his own fascination with online education, particularly the open source physics courses offered by MIT.

So far technology has hardly changed formal education at all. But a lot of people, including me, think this is the next place where the Internet will surprise people in how it can improve things—especially in combination with face-to-face learning.

The Gates Foundation will partner with teachers, software developers, and the online community to improve the availability of high-quality online courses, for both formal and informal settings. One area that needs improvement, according to the letter, is in the organization of online content, which I delved into in this piece in Technology Counts 2009. Gates suggests that setting some standards for categorizing and rating resources would help teachers find the best lessons for a particular topic and grade level.

Over time I think a large community of contributors and reviewers will develop and allow the online material to be easy to access and a crucial resource for all types of education. There will need to be a number of pilots to see how to take this resource and blend it into the classroom experience. I plan to spend a lot of time on this to see what would help get it to critical mass.

Take a look at the letter and let me know what you think.

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