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#SXSWedu: Bill Gates calls for more connected educators

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Today’s students will always be connected to their high-school classmates. No more last-minute exercise regimens before the 10-year reunion. “Friends” or “friends of friends” will already know who gained — or lost — 10 pounds, started a family and fulfilled superlative titles like “most likely to succeed.”

There is no denying that social media platforms have transformed how students interact with one another. If it’s up to Bill Gates, social media will also transform teacher communities, ultimately improving how we educate students.

During his keynote at the SXSWedu Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas, Gates called for a changing of the old guard — “the sort of isolation that has been more of the norm” — to the adoption of  digital connections to create communities where teachers learn from each other.

“The fact that these platforms let you categorize and talk about what your challenges are and sort of reach out to experts anywhere in the country who will be able to give you examples of what works with that type of student, it’s really breaking down that isolation in a really strong way,” Gates told attendees.

“What’s born out in the data is that there is a set of teachers who are absolutely phenomenal, and it’s interesting to me how little study has been done of videotaping and talking with them — understanding what they do well,” he said.

“Obviously as we learn more about that, and we do need to learn more about that, either we need to have them as the lecturer or capturing those ideas and having teachers watch those and learn from them and be evaluated on those characteristics. That will raise the quality of the profession as a whole.”

After the keynote, I was thinking about Gates’ message of online connectedness and remembered that he recently spent time with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg creating a video in which they advocate for teaching coding in schools. I wonder what they talked about around the water cooler? I wonder if Gates and Zuckerberg are “friends.”

Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor, with responsibility for content in a variety of SmartBrief’s education e-newsletters. She also manages content for SmartBlog on Education and related social media channels.

Photo courtesy of SXSWedu 2013 Event Images.