Washington2Washington Educational Partnership
Bill Gates — Washington, D.C., June 6, 2000
1 Thank you, Delano.* It’s exciting to be here working hand_in_hand with these two schools. The more I’ve learned about these two schools, the more impressed I am. It’s very exciting to see this kind of innovative work taking place. I have two children myself, and I’m very hopeful that they’ll have the kind of teachers and administrators that I’ve met a part of this Washington2Washington planning process. Technology can be a great tool in improving education, and there’s many ways we can see that really becoming a reality.
2 Kids are taking PCs and the Internet to new heights. They’re the ones that are designing the cutting_edge web sites. They’re the ones that are pushing forth things like digital music, digital photos, instant messaging; and they will take this tool in directions that we don’t even expect.
3 When I was a student, computers were very expensive, and almost no one had access. In fact, I was very lucky to have a slow teletype that we could use about 30 minutes a day to connect up to a mainframe computer. Even so, it was very fascinating to me to think, “what could this computer do, what was the future of this computer,” and that early exposure made a huge difference in my life. Well, today, because personal computers are very, very powerful and very inexpensive, literally millions and millions of kids can have access, many at home, and for those who don’t have an opportunity to have it at home, through their school and through their library.
4 One of the visions here is what we call connected learning community. This is the idea that when you have this breakthrough communications tool, you can reach out in ways that were never possible before. For example, just think about teachers. Teachers, how would they share their best practices? How would they find another teacher who’s teaching the same curriculum, and show them what they’re doing, and benefit from each other’s good work? Well, before the advent of the PC and the Internet, that would have been very difficult. Particularly if the two teachers were far away from each other, it’s unlikely that they would be able to collaborate together. Now, they can get online to find each other. They can share the material they present, they can edit those things, send them back and forth. And so they get an opportunity to essentially form a community of all the teachers working in an area.
5 If we think about the involvement of parents, a parent who is able to get online can see what their kid is learning; they can see what the homework that’s been assigned is so there will be no confusion about that; they can really be in touch, in a way, and even offer to participate in any dialogue that’s going on the classroom, bringing their real_world experience.
6 Most profound, however, is what it means for the students. You know, I bring a basic optimism to this, which is that I think all students start off with incredible ability and curiosity, and if they’re given the opportunity to pursue that, if they’re given a chance to see the neat things about the world in terms that they can appreciate and enjoy, that their abilities will be reinforced and that we’ll really achieve so much more potential out of the great students we have than we do today.
7 This Washington2Washington program is a very great example of this idea. Having these computers, letting these kids be out on the Internet, organizing it so that they’re sharing with a school that’s on the other side of the country __ I don’t think we know exactly what’s going to come out of this. What I do know is that it’s the energy and the creativity of these kids who will shape it and take it in a direction that I think will be incredibly positive. One of the comments from Brandon Lloyd, who is a social studies teacher here at The SEED School, was, “You just know something is going to be different in this project,” and that really sort of summarized my thinking, as well. There’s a lot of good ideas on how to kick this thing off, and I’ll be fascinated to see where it goes throughout the course of this next school year. So these kids have a chance to write a chapter in how technology and collaboration can bring things to new heights. They’re already doing a lot of breakthrough things by being part of these wonderful schools.
8 So we’re really pleased to be working with them. I’m excited about the program. You’ll be hearing more about it throughout the year, either through the Web sites or various milestones we’ll pick, as it achieves success; and definitely expect the unexpected. Thank you. (Applause.)
*Delano Jackson, 8th grader at the SEED school, nephew of Shirly Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Jackson gave the speech introducing Gates.
Gates, Bill. Washington2Washington Launch. _Bill Gates’ Speeches_. http://www.microsoft.com/billgates/speeches/2000/06-06w2w.htm (January 3, 2001).