Speaking at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum here Wednesday, Gates laid out his vision for just how technology is going to transform learning.
"We need to be humble in making predictions of how technology will affect education," Gates said, because people made big predictions about how TVs, video tapes and software would influence education that haven't come true.
Still, Gates said he believes that the reasons people select great universities or schools--access to professors' lectures, the ability to discuss issues with other students and the need to attend classes to gain a degree--will all be changed by technology.
Lectures will be distributed for free over the Internet, students will hold discussions at a distance in chat rooms, and testing and accreditation, Gates predicted.
"Technology allows for more specialization and improvement" in education, he said.
The role of the teacher is still fundamental to learning, Gates stressed, but more effort must be put into training teachers in IT, and more tools must be created for them--for instance, software that could help them create a curriculum from online sources.
As part of its educational efforts, Microsoft announced that it is expanding its Innovative Schools program (which helps local partners modernize schools) into the United Kingdom, as well as into 11 other countries, including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Ireland and Sweden.
In the United Kingdom, Microsoft has been working with local authorities in Kent, Knowsley, Lewisham, Sandwell and Sheffield to integrate technology into educational institutions.
Damian Allen, executive director of children's services at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, said Microsoft created "a clear road map to improve operations, learning, and communication between the classroom and home through the use of technology."
Also at the Government Leaders Forum, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, spoke about the role technology can play in improving education so the country can remain competitive in the face of globalization.
"Liberating technology makes it possible to say every person can and should enjoy the advantage of education," Brown said.
A global economy in which people are more connected than ever before is becoming more of a reality each day, he said, and to prepare, government must promote innovation.
"The answer is not protectionism," he said. "The answer is not turning back the clock...but to invest more in science, technology and creative industries."
Brown also stressed the need to include the whole population in this shift and not to widen the digital divide.
"How can we make technological innovation work for not just some of the people but all of the people?" he asked.
Sylvia Carr of Silicon.com reported from Edinburgh, Scotland.