Will Microsoft’s Surface tablet computer be better for students than the iPad?

Bill Gates didn’t say that explicitly, but he did talk about the importance of giving students devices with keyboards when asked about the subject during one portion of an extensive interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it’s never going to work on a device where you don’t have a keyboard-type input,” he said. “Students aren’t there just to read things. They’re actually supposed to be able to write and communicate. And so it’s going to be more in the PC realm—it’s going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive.”

Microsoft’s Surface, unveiled last week, will have two types of keyboard accessories that attach to the edge of the tablet. The company hasn’t yet said whether they will come with the devices or be sold separately.

Read the full Chronicle of Higher Education interview here.

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  • Leon0112

    If teachers have to take away smart phones and tablets because students are using them to communicate, why can’t they be used to educate as well? Sorry, Bill, I am not buying.

  • Anonymous

    At UW, I exclusively used iPad to take notes last year. It was great and efficient as I was able to share notes from lectures and my team meeting without having to retype. It was much better than laptop screens blocking view and keyboard klicky-klack sound.
    I guess BG hasn’t heard that you can write with a stylus or finger on iPad and you can buy external keyboard if you need. I believe Logitech has one that also becomes iPad cover.
    There was nothing in Microsoft Surface that impressed me. Too little, too late, no innovation.

    • guest

      I think Bill has at least your technology aptitude and awareness of what is/isn’t possible on the iPad.

    • Odog4ever

      What kind of classes did you take again? Are you saying its viable to take college level notes with just a finger? Is it also viable to type up papers using a touch screen? Really

      Don’t kid your self, if you need to use a blue tooth keyboard with a tablet you are basically using a PC laptop in a different form factor. And I mean PC as in personal computer, Apple products included.

      A tablet alone, without input peripherals, is not going to cut it in real college courses unless you are taking notes in underwater basket weaving class…

  • Guest

    “Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record.” How true! The Lake Washington School district is spending millions giving students netbooks that are already obsolete.

  • http://twitter.com/1381 Eric Miller

    My students are already doing great work with devices that lack keyboards: http://edviewport.com/2012/06/26/keyboard-type-input/

    • http://twitter.com/metapgmr Jean-Jacques Dubray

      I think he also meant to say that it won’t work with a floppy disk. I use notability on my iPad all the time (albeit not in the classroom) and I am taking hand written notes again, what a pleasure !

      First keyboards require mouses, otherwise you’ll keep your hands flying between the Keyboards and the screen, and that combination is actually a big barrier to knowledge because it is totally unnatural (and inefficient) to capture knowledge just in text/PPT graphics (or doodle with a mouse).

      I would say that despite Bill’s best effort Microsoft has a horrible track record in coming for solutions that works in the class room. I asked him a question at the Architect forum, I think in 2008 or 2009, to see whether he believed that Windows should have a special version for kids or even seniors and his response was that he didn’t see the point, his own kids were doing just fine with Windows as it is. I think at this point, we can conclude that he doesn’t get it. It is even contradictory with his support for the Khan Academy, which doesn’t use … any keyboard.

      My 14 year old daughter has agreed to test taking notes with an iPad next year for her first year of HS. I would have never dared to asked her the same thing with a Windows laptop.

      • guest

        “I would have never dared to asked her the same thing with a Windows laptop.”
        Obviously. Because her reply would have been “Dad, there’s no reason to test something that we already know works”.

        • http://twitter.com/metapgmr Jean-Jacques Dubray

          if you say so … she is actually the one who asked for a Mac first (a couple of years ago), then I bought mine, and got one for my son, we all have iPhones and on our way to all get an iPad. She had to know something I didn’t … to make that choice.

          • guest

            I’m not talking about her particular preference in PCs. I’m simply noting that PCs, be they Windows-based or Macs, don’t need to prove their ability in the scenario you outlined. The iPad does, as you pointed out. And let’s not confuse popularity among a particular demographic with either worldwide reality or technical merit. They’re not necessarily related.

          • http://twitter.com/metapgmr Jean-Jacques Dubray

            yes, I understand, I don’t think PCs (OS X or Windows or Chrome) have proven themselves as powerful note taking devices, and especially in schools at any age (including college). I’d be interested to know how you take notes in Polymer 405 or Fracture Mechanics 502 with Office …

            I could even argue that Office / Google Docs and the like have introduced vast amounts of low productivity in the entreprise because they force note taking activities to be rows of text. People don’t cary (paper) notepads anymore as a result the level of communication/alignment has gone down with the rise of PCs and Office Suites (regardless of the vendor). That, I know, doesn’t work in school at all and I would certainly discourage my kids to go that route.

            Rows of text fundamentally lack capturing the essence of relationships which is at the core of knowledge.

            So before, Bill starts changing education, I would recommend he gets an iPad and a Bamboo stylus, drop his famous Yellow paper pad and evaluate how much note taking has progressed thanks to iPad / Note taking software. IMHO, the first thing to change is giving effective note taking devices to students. That I can guarantee you will tremendously improve the academic achievements of our kids.

  • Odog4ever

    Also I think the tech media is doing a great job glossing over the fact that Bill emphasized, no less than twice in that short clip even, that revamped curriculums and internet access are more important than the device used. In that he it completely right. Devices are not a band-aid.

    • guest

      The media and many of the comments here have a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything coming from Bill or MS. Did he say tablets or smartphones had no utility in education? No. But several comments here rebut it like he did. While we lack the context for his response, it sounds like he was answering something akin to “will iPad-like tablets be the one device for education worldwide?”. If that’s the case, then I can understand him saying no, that one device would probably be something that could address the full spectrum of creation + content. And as you say, he states several times that the device is not the most critical part. But instead Bill’s clueless and doesn’t get it. The same ol’ anti MS meme.

  • http://twitter.com/ArcComputer david prokop

    tapping your fingers on glass ‘is going to hurt you’ in the long run.

    glass does not cushion the impact of thousands of finger tip taps per day. People will lose feeling in their finger tips and the small finger tip shock will cause joint pain in the finger joints as a cumulative effect over months or years.

    taking written notes with e-ink on a tablet device is a much safer input method (humans have been writing for a few thousand years) or with a well designed ergo keyboard.

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