Education Insights

Education news, trends, and highlights by Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Education, Microsoft

February, 2009

  • Education Insights

    Workforce Readiness Impact with CareerForward


    What am I going to do with my life? What is the world of work like? What will I need to succeed?

    These are questions our students will certainly ask themselves at some point in their education career. Asking these questions early and having access to some helpful and inspirational answers is increasingly critical. Our current students are preparing for an ever changing and specialized workforce...and many of our younger students are preparing for jobs that do not yet exist. When learning is grounded in core competency development, students acquire the necessary skills to embrace current and future workforce needs by developing a flexible skill base that empowers them in the pursuit of a variety of career paths. 

    Developed through a unique public-private partnership between Michigan Virtual University, the Michigan Department of Education, and Microsoft US Partners in Learning, CareerForward provides helpful guidance to prepare all students to ask and answer questions on future options, interests and possibilities. More than 18,000 Michigan students have used Career Forward  --  what a perfect way for high school-aged kids to begin exploring career options and simultaneously get online learning experience. By means of an online course covering globalization, career planning, financial literacy and entrepreneurship, CareerForward empowers students at any grade level in middle and high school to take charge of their own education, career path and future prosperity. Students who take the course will better understand the crucial importance of their education and have the ability to improve their motivation and choices in high school and college.

    Students, parents and teachers nationwide now have access to this course at no charge at

    I urge schools to review the materials and consider offering this resource to their students. In addition to the rich rewards of the content, the process of taking an online course itself is a valuable skill that prepares students for the future online learning options they will be provided. Please share feedback if you’re using the program.

  • Education Insights

    Video of the Week: Imagine Cup 2009


    Imagine a world with less poverty, hunger and disease, greater survival prospects for mothers and their infants, better educated children, equal opportunities for women, and a healthier environment; a world in which developed and developing countries worked in partnership for the betterment of all. Now imagine that you are part of the solution.

    This is the bold vision hundreds of thousands of students will attempt to address by participating in the 2009 Imagine Cup.  This program annually sets a very high bar for student expectations and connects our students to the real problems the world is facing that they will confront as future leaders.

    Imagine Cup 2009 Embedded Development Invitational

    The Imagine Cup encourages young people to apply their imagination, their passion and their creativity to technology innovations that can make a difference in the world – today. Now in its seventh year, the Imagine Cup has grown to be a truly global competition focused on finding solutions to real world issues.  Open to students around the world, the Imagine Cup is a serious challenge that draws serious talent, and the competition is intense. The contest spans a year, beginning with local, regional and online contests whose winners go on to attend the global finals held in a different location every year.  The intensity of the work brings students together, and motivates the competitors to give it their all. The bonds formed here often last well beyond the competition itself.

    This is a program that truly makes me proud to be a part of Microsoft!

  • Education Insights

    Saving Money & Planet with Virtualization


    Every ChildIn addition to growing concerns over schools’ carbon footprint, our higher education and K12 institutions are facing rising electricity and gas costs - upwards of 150% increases in some institutions.  In our current economic climate, the need to optimize expenses is paramount.  However, by leveraging some of the new technology options available (hosted software, virtualization), schools can save money, add increased service and be environmentally responsible. 

    From an environmental perspective, power consumption is a good starting point to address – particularly since the rise of technology in our schools has added to power demands and cost.  Since 2002, the number of computers in a typical school has doubled, and with that more power-hungry servers have also arrived (a typical rack-mount server might have a 700 watt power supply). 

    One popular and effective option is to consider a virtualization strategy for reducing the number of physical servers you need in your server room, and giving you more flexibility in your ICT infrastructure. With virtualization solutions, you can consolidate your academic institution’s under-employed servers onto a smaller number of fully utilized machines. Owning fewer physical devices and reducing your datacenter footprint gives you a direct way to help:

    • Reduce your hardware, energy, and management overhead
    • Scale to growing demand and adapt to change
    • Enhance security and reduce risk

    Virtualization is an integral component of the Microsoft platform. This means that you will not pay extra for it and it doesn’t require custom development to use it.  When you look at your list of requirements, don’t assume that you need to buy (and integrate and deploy) a new solution for each. Consider these alternatives to buying additional software:

    Here’s a great case study that provides some insight on the state of Kentucky’s virtualization plan.

    The Kentucky Department for Education runs 900 servers on behalf of their schools – 200 in a data center, and 700 spread across their school system. They found they were each running at typical 10% of capacity, because they had dedicated servers for each task. By deploying virtualization they estimate that they’re going to reduce their physical servers by 60%, reduce data center space by 50%, and reduce power use by 25%. Their goal is to reduce any downtime by building in redundancy – ensuring there are fewer interruptions to learning across their school system. This also enhances their disaster preparedness as a result. It’s a compelling success story.

  • Education Insights

    Video of the Week: CareerForward


    I know I shared information about the CareerForward resource last week...but given the incredible interest in this course, I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit more about the offering.  The attached video provides an excellent overview of the course...with information on content, delivery models and even a discussion on global competitiveness from Yong Zhao, Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University.  I hope you find the video helpful and I'm eager to hear feedback from those of you that roll out the course to your students/institution.  Click here for CareerForward video.

    I also invite you to join an On Demand Webcast on CareerForward presented by Microsoft's Allyson Knox, Jamey Fitzpatrick, President of Michigan Virtual University and Matinga Ragatz, Global Studies, World History Teacher.

    This webcast is part of our weekly Teacher Tech Tuesday Webcast series...a great series featuring a range of tools and technologies that can help save time and improve effectiveness. Enjoy.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft Elevate America


    I'm in Springfield, IL this week (up far too late)...preparing for both speaking at and attending the AeA 21st Century Learning Environment Symposium. I am excited to see the increased focus on 21st century skills and the heightened recognition for  need to prepare our students for the global workforce.  This is a deep passion of mine and lifting our students expectations and career aspirations is the reason I do what I do for Microsoft.

    Certainly technology skills are an important component of the new workforce environment and preparing students with IT training and resources has long been a focus for Microsoft.  Navigating the many offerings and programs available has long been a challenge for students and education as well however...

    That's why I'm excited to share a new online resource, Elevate America, that helps individuals understand what types of technical skills they need for the jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities of today and tomorrow, and resources to help acquire these skills. The site provides access to several Microsoft online training programs, including how to use the Internet, send e-mail and create a résumé, as well as more advanced programs on using specific Microsoft applications.

    One of the things I'm most happy for is the increased exposure for Microsoft IT Academy.  I am constantly surprised by how many educators/students do not know Microsoft has had a program that provides Microsoft IT curriculum and tools for the classroom environment. All designed to connect to real world certifications and job opportunities.

    More information on Elevate America is available at

  • Education Insights

    Video of the Week: Your Digital Lifestyle


    New feature this week....Every week I'll be posting a video (sometimes more than one) that highlights education case studies, technology tools, training, or even inside sneak peeks at Microsoft events, customer advisory meetings, etc.  The first post is a video that's probably very familiar to those of you who have seen me deliver presentations.  It does a great job of providing an overview of how the digital life of our current students spans a wide range of technology types and usage modalities.  The video features Microsoft examples (demonstrating the holistic thinking across Microsoft on how these technologies intersect) but certainly a host of other options exsit and could also be integrated into this scenario.  It's also quite a fun watch...enjoy.

    Your Digital Lifestyle: Girl from Mars

  • Education Insights

    It takes a community to prepare a child


    Preparing youth for the 21st century workplace is the goal of our teachers and institutions…and certainly having prepared 21st workers is a key requirement for our private industry.  It’s this point of intersection that creates an opportunity and mandate for institutions to explore and embrace public and private partnership opportunities.  As we are faced with the urgent challenge of preparing our students for an increasingly competitive global workplace, the appeal of broader, substantive partnerships has grown significantly.

    Local education agencies have historically sought out and valued partnerships mainly for the funding they offered. More recently however, educators have come to recognize the value in sharing the immense responsibility of preparing youth for the 21st century with the broader community.  We have embraced this shared responsibility with our Partners in Learning outreach in the US…part of a global Microsoft outreach to over 100 countries.  Based on collaborative agreements with governments and non-governmental organizations, Partners in Learning is notable for its engagement of every level of the education sector, from state departments of education to school and university leaders, teachers, and students.

    Partnerships of this scale have become an opportunity for Microsoft to advance beyond its typical role as grantor, into more strategic roles as a full and equal partner with education. By offering help with planning and by contributing expertise in business management, technology integration, and leadership development, Partners in Learning initiatives evolved into “true” partnerships.

    We have learned a lot from our Partners in Learning engagement - lessons that have helped us respond to education needs, improve our services/programs, and deepen our commitment to supporting the needs of institutions, teachers and students.  We have also learned lessons that have helped us understand how to deliver mutually valuable public and private partnerships…and have shared them in a resource I think you’ll find quite helpful…especially as you respond to increasing economic and workforce stimulus pressure.

    Our whitepaper,“Establishing Public/Private Partnerships,” provides insight into how to establish, monitor and extend partnerships and identifies some checkpoints to determine if a partnership is worth pursuing in the first place. Here are some of the key areas covered:

    • Degree of mutuality. Will there be equality in decision making, resource exchange, accountability, transparency and participation? Will there be mutual benefit and respect?
    • Retention of organizational identity. Do we understand the unique assets and skills each partner brings to the table? Have we considered both tangible assets, such as money and material, and intangible or soft resources, such as expertise with collaborative processes?
    • Readiness and ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. Will the partners commit to strong communication and a continual process to refine the partnership’s vision, goals and procedures?
    • Transparent partner motivations, expectations and benefits. Has each partner clearly articulated motivations and expectations for participating in the partnership? Are partner benefits explored and supported?
    • Leadership and a shared vision. Are partners represented by leaders, who can make decisions, participate in strategic planning and ensure accountability? Are they committed to a shared vision? Are they innovative thinkers?
    • Willingness to embrace change and remain flexible. Do partners expect and embrace change? Can the partnership weather turnover in personnel?
    • A clear plan with goals, objectives and accountability. Is the plan clearly understood by all and not subject to interpretation? Does it include plans for sustainability?

    Whether you’re pursuing a partnership with Microsoft or other local businesses/institutions in your geography, I think you’ll find the whitepaper enlightening and a good template for your engagement.

  • Education Insights

    Breaking from traditional learning models? Look to non-traditional institutions for inspiration.


    I spent the early part of the week in Indiana and Maryland…aside from the excitement of seeing the new Indianapolis airport (when you travel as much as I do these things are really important) I was again reminded of the holistic focus, pragmatic approach, and speed of execution of our community college and for-profit institutions. Those who know me recognize the affection I have for these institutions because of their importance, passion and relevance, but I was also impressed by the end-to-end “learner workflow” mapping that is inherent to their operations. With purity of focus, they help students improve their lives and thrive in the 21st century workforce. With freedom from department by department decision making, for-profit and community colleges can move quickly and make a direct and measurable impact on student outcomes. As all schools and universities struggle to respond to tightening budgets WHILE enhancing services and workforce readiness of students…the examples and best practices of non-traditional education may help inspire and provide an innovative roadmap.

    Some of the key elements of the community college/for-profit approach that map to broader education trends I witness across the US include:

    • Curricula, offerings and programs are mapped to local workforce needs.
    • There is a strong sense of community and public/private resource usage creates a sense of inclusion.
    • End to end student care is a reality…from the first website visit to the first job…community colleges monitor student experience, apply rigorous analytics to improve services, and execute triggers to identify and rescue students at risk.
    • They insist on connected systems and tools – community colleges don’t have the luxury of supporting endless platforms, yet they’ve managed to come up with innovative ways to think broadly about how everything works together and is centrally and easily supported.
    • Because of the broad populations they serve, community colleges have to address access and equity. Their creativity drives new models of tuition affordability and access to technology.
    • 21st century learning outcomes are embedded into core curriculum and assessment…students don’t wait till graduation to “enter the real world.”
    • Total cost of ownership, return on investment, and speed of deployment…the language of business is embraced by these institutions and creates urgency and efficiency.

    Many of the above elements are being explored and even mastered by institutions both in the US and worldwide. However, as you seek to identify ways to link assessment to collaboration, classroom, and curriculum, reduce costs, and address 21st century skills gaps, be sure to add community colleges and non-profit institutions to your best practice investigation.  Chances are you’ll find they have end-to-end plans in place to improve student learning and institution health that deliver on the promise of technology, and chances are they’ll also be happy to share lessons learned.

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