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Gates on education tech: Content more important than tools

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a $20 million new grant program to boost education technology, but the real key is going to be the content for these tools.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a $20 million new grant program to boost education technology, but the real key is going to be the content for these tools.

Under the grant program, the foundation will aim "to help dramatically improve college readiness and college completion in the United States through the use of technology." The grants will range from $250,000 to $750,000.

In an interview with CNET News, Gates was asked about technology's role in the K-12 set and the idea of one-on-one computing. Gates said:

Like a lot of things in K-12, because you don't have strong measurement, identifying which things make a real difference--it's not as well-known as you like. There are some great laptop schools where things have gone well, and as laptop costs come down, you'll be hearing more about tablet-type devices, Netbooks, iPads in the classroom.

But it's the material that shows up on those devices that really counts. That's where the foundation is focused. We'll have another RFP early next year that is more focused on K-12 online material.

All things being equal why wouldn't the grants for content come before the ones focused on technology?

Gates said that hybrid teaching models are just starting to emerge. That content theme is critical. Marvell co-founder Weili Dai said the same thing. The tools don't mean much without the content---and of course a good teacher using the technology.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure