I’ve talked about DreamSpark before of course but the start of the school year seems like a great time for a reminder. The Microsoft DreamSpark Program provides students with Microsoft Professional Development tools for free! Lots of tools! The full professional suite including Visual Studio and several server products. It provides access to the XNA creators club as well. It’s an amazing amount of software.
A recent edition is that now students can build and deploy apps to Windows Phone Marketplace for free through DreamSpark (In the US and other selected areas - also you have to be 18 in the US*) This is a real value as it lets students create and sell applications without paying the usual marketplace fee.
The part of DreamSpark that gets the most attention is the sign up for college/university students. But high school students can get in on this program as well. The way this works is that someone (an adult who may be a teacher or an administrator) signs the school up and gets up to 200 access codes. This person (called an administrator by the program) then validates that the students they give these codes to are in fact students. The students can then sign up and start downloading software for free. And of course taking advantage of the other program features. Sign up you high school at https://www.dreamspark.com/highschool/
Give students some software and cut them lose to learn on their own. And have them look at the Imagine Cup and to think about entering that as well.
*Note: Late edit there is a minimum age for submitting to the Windows Phone marketplace "You are at least 18 years of age (or of an age of full legal capacity in the location where you reside) on the date you submit your Application(s) to Microsoft; " I didn't know that when I first posted this entry. Sorry if I got anyone's hopes up to high.