Sylvester James Gates, Jr. is an American theoretical physicist working as the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. He loves the "super" aspects of physics: supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. To make these "super" notions more lucid for general public, he created a DVD series for the lifelong-learning centric The Teaching Company called Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality. Born in 1950, Gates obtained both his bachelor's and doctor's degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gates: I often hear colleagues speak about the matter of K through 12 education in science and mathematics because students come to colleges and universities, professors have to teach them and then the professors start saying various and sundry things. From my perspective, there are problems, but it is wrong for the nation’s professors to say it’s their problem. If there were two businesses side by side and one of the businesses was thriving and the other one was sort of going downhill, if the proprietor of the one going downhill came out and said, “There’s something wrong with the customers,” you’d look very strangely at that person. And so it is not the right answer for university professors to say that’s their problem. Both of us will have to try to fix this problem. On the university side, I think the professorate of the country is going to have to understand that it has to change its ways, its habits, the way that we deliver education. And part of this will be a more efficient use of information technology. So for example, there are some of us who in our classrooms are already at the stage where we bring our laptops into the room, we hook them up to a projector and we start running animations in the classroom as teaching tools or we go on the web and extemporaneously a student can ask a question. And because Google is such a wonderful device, you can in real time, not having prepared beforehand, but in real time have a question come to you, type the question into Google because if you’re a professor, you’re supposed to know where to find the information, pull the question up on Google, go to the webpage and show that to the classroom in real time. Now this is an approach to teaching I see some of us starting to adopt in the classroom and it’s more and more of this real time processing of information I think that’s something that we can bring as a change that may in fact interface more immediately and more effectively with where young people coming in when they come into the classroom.