At a young age, Gates was already an autodidact, someone compelled to learn for himself what he needed to know. Over the course of his life, Gates has maintained this habit: He dropped out of college after two years, but he has continued his education through incessant reading and conversing. Michael Specter, a New Yorker writer who profiled Gates for the magazine, has said that the Microsoft founder “is one of these autodidacts who reads, reads, reads. He reads hundreds of books about immunology and biochemistry and biology, and asks a lot of questions, and because he’s Bill Gates [he] can get to talk to whoever he wants.”

Gates is particularly interested in these topics because of his philanthropic work combating disease in developing countries. Another arm of his philanthropy, of course, involves the promotion of technology in education. Many of Gates’ fellow leaders in the ed tech world are also members of the autodidact club. Computer scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, academics—they are a self-selected group of individuals who have schooled themselves in a fast-changing field for which there is no settled syllabus, no well-established curriculum. In turn, their preferences and proclivities have shaped the educational technologies that the rest of us use, as well as the expectations we hold about what ed tech can and should do.

This is no surprise: We all rely on our own experiences in forming our ideas of how learning works. But the experiences of ed tech creators and promoters are notably influential—and notably unusual. Most people are not autodidacts. In order to learn effectively, they need guidance provided by teachers. They need support provided by peers. And they need structure provided by institutions. Amid all the effusions about how ed tech will “change the way we learn,” however, these needs rarely merit a mention. Instead we hear about the individual and his app, the person and her platform, as if teachers, classmates and schools were unnecessary and unwelcome encumbrances.

This is a very particular take on learning: the autodidact’s take. We shouldn’t mistake it for most people’s reality. Productive learning without guidance and support from others is rare. A pair of eminent researchers has gone so far as to call the very notion of self-directed learning “an urban legend in education.”


Folksonomies: education learning

/home and garden/bed and bath/bedroom/bedding and bed linens (0.555860)
/education (0.506786)
/art and entertainment/movies and tv/reality (0.377971)

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Bill Gates:Person (0.908002 (negative:-0.442580)), autodidact club:Organization (0.405338 (neutral:0.000000)), Michael Specter:Person (0.289841 (neutral:0.000000)), Microsoft:Company (0.256474 (positive:0.264893)), New Yorker:FieldTerminology (0.253506 (neutral:0.000000)), founder:JobTitle (0.228135 (positive:0.264893)), writer:JobTitle (0.225272 (neutral:0.000000)), two years:Quantity (0.225272 (neutral:0.000000))

Educational psychology (0.981918): dbpedia | freebase
Education (0.868216): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
School (0.535664): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Alternative education (0.530746): dbpedia | freebase
Instructional technology (0.504974): dbpedia | freebase
Learning (0.494159): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Psychology (0.491890): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Autodidacticism (0.473838): dbpedia | freebase

 Bill Gates Is an Autodidact. You’re Probably Not.
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Paul , Annie Murphy (08/12/2014), Bill Gates Is an Autodidact. You’re Probably Not., Retrieved on 2014-08-12
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: education learning