Education Insights

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

March, 2009

  • Education Insights

    CIO Summit Chat with Debbie Karcher, Miami-Dade County Public Schools


    Microsoft's annual U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit always provides a great opportunity to connect with a broad range of education institutions as well as representatives from across the US in state and local government and Federal agencies.  This year's event was no exception and I was incredibly pleased with the feedback and leadership demonstrated by those in attendance.  Despite the mounting economic pressures and uncertainties, those joining us for a few days in Redmond, WA are embracing the mandate to improve learning outcomes with optimism…and a focus that, in many ways, has been sharpened by reduced resources. 

    Transform. Innovate. Lead.  It was the core theme for the CIO Summit and an increasingly critical imperative for our schools as we face uncertain economic times and intense global competition.  In many ways, the role of the CIO in education is rapidly evolving to optimize opportunities for innovation, leadership and drive smarter technology decisions with a balance on education outcomes, funding and long-term strategic direction.

    During the summit many key themes surfaced...most reflecting the new environment created by the services, virtualization, impact on education analytics on learning outcomes, and 21st learning.   I had an opportunity to sit and chat about many of these topics with Debbie Karcher, CIO for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), during the event and wanted to share a short video from our conversation.

    Debbie supports an ever-expanding range of solutions across America’s 4th largest school district.  I’ve worked closely with M-DCPS for the last several years, and have always been impressed with their clarity and consensus of vision and the urgency with which they approach their work.  Under Debbie’s leadership, they have been working to modernize and overhaul the district using technology and data to help raise student achievement, establish equity and support students, teachers and staff.

    In the video, Debbie shares her lessons learned from the journey to help transform Miami-Dade County Public Schools, as well as some fundamentals on USING DATA that I think reflects a lot of what I see around the country. In some ways the pivot on using education data parallels my argument on 1:1.  On the 1:1 side, we spend far too much energy/time on acquisition of the device and not nearly enough time on bringing holistic reform to the classroom, curriculum, and assessment.  With education analytics, schools spend lots of time building the robust and secure data center and developing rich visualizations of data…not nearly enough time is spent landing the data into everyday rhythm for teachers, students and parents.  Data-driven decision making is powerful when it actually helps make decisions on content, student needs, areas of specialization, etc.  As Debbie notes, overcoming teacher and parent hesitation to actively use the data M-DCPS is providing is not something to be ignored.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Debbie and the entire team at M-DCPS are doing some heroic work and their models and thinking are good resources for schools going down a similar path.  Districts looking to 1) improve learning outcomes by supporting teachers with resources to quality instruction, 2) encourage routine student use of technology to support learning, and 3) provide parents with tools and data needed to help them more actively engage in the education process…should take a look at the Miami-Dade Public Schools solution, process, and outcomes.

    More info on Miami-Dade County Public Schools work:

    School website:
    Project case study:
    Video case study:

  • Education Insights

    Sign up your school for DreamSpark


    Everywhere you look, you see the impact of the global recession. The US economy is changing, and with it must our workforce change. Gone are the days when only highly-skilled “right brained” jobs required technology skills. In fact, more than 50 percent of today’s jobs require some technology skills; workforce experts predict this will increase to 77% in the next decade. Today’s reality: jobs in every industry, and at every level, require basic proficiency with computers and other digital technologies.

    I’ve written recently about our Elevate America and Microsoft IT Academy programs that help folks increase their technical skills to better compete in the global economy. Today, I’m excited to share that Microsoft is extending the DreamSpark program to high school students worldwide. For over a year, Microsoft has offered university students worldwide access to the latest professional-level developer and designer tools for free…there has been more than 2 million downloads already.

    The goal of DreamSpark is to empower students to pursue their academic and professional goals, so they are 100% ready to take their place as the next generation of business leaders. This program eases some pressure from teachers and administrators who are balancing the need for students to gain tech skills with diminishing resources.

    High school administrators will need to register their schools to help verify their school as an accredited institution so their students can get access to all the software for free. Check out the DreamSpark website for more information on the program, how to sign up and resources for free training:

    I believe students hold the key to long-term economic stability. Mainline access to software means students will learn the skills required of a demanding workplace, which triggers greater creativity and opportunity…greater success…after they graduate. And starting today, we're lifting the cost barrier so any high school or college student anywhere can learn and succeed through technology.

  • Education Insights

    Sorting out the Stimulus...Understanding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act


    As institutions and individuals cope with the implications of the current economy, there are new obstacles to overcome and new challenges to be met.  These hurdles will require our schools and school leaders to bring new thinking to all aspects of learning and effectively embrace opportunities made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). 

    And while the stimulus efforts will help buoy hope and provide the ability to rapidly address the most critical needs across our schools…we need to balance the short-term possibilities the new funds will provide with the ongoing and long-term mission of our educators. 

    Microsoft shares this mission and envisions an exciting future for education. It’s a world where students are empowered to explore new ideas and learn to collaborate, analyze and solve problems. Teachers create and share compelling, individualized lessons that open students’ eyes to new knowledge and insights. And institutions harness the power of technology to work more efficiently, forge stronger connections with their communities, and effectively prepare students to compete in the global economy.

    The ARRA will provide broad options for schools to think holistically about addressing the needs of our educators, students, buildings, classrooms…and while only a component, Microsoft believes that software and services can be a powerful catalyst for significant transformations in the way we learn.  It can enable teachers and students to share in richer, more motivating and productive learning, wherever and whenever it suits them.

    Technology solutions can also help schools do more with less…saving schools money by improving inefficient processes, using data more effectively, respecting the environment with better energy consumption, etc. 

    There are many implications and options to consider. To help schools sort out the options and provide a perspective on Microsoft’s shared commitment, we’ve created a website to help sort through the stimulus package, identify how Microsoft can support school system efforts, and help connect with long-term holistic reform thinking and action.  It includes information on a variety of solutions available and tools you can use today to help plan and respond to tight timelines required by the ARRA.

    As I’ve traveled across the country over the last few months, I’ve been inspired by your continued commitment and passion. Our leaders are responding to real pressures with innovation and optimism... two things that have and continue to make our country great.  I'm very confident our schools and students will rise to the challenge presented by the current economy and Microsoft is prepared and eager to help you move forward.
    I sat down with Mary Cullinane, Director of Innovation and Business Development, to discuss the stimulus, share our thinking, and hopefully sort out some options. Hope you find it valuable...

    Education Stimulus Interview
  • Education Insights

    I Really Do HEART OneNote



    Promoting itself as a community site for people who are smart enough to love's hard not to be a fan...of the site or product.  Check out this cool new community site...find example notebooks, share the OneNote love, and more. If you're not sure what OneNote is, visit the site on  If you're a OneNote fan...or interested in becoming one, join...

  • Education Insights

    Video of the Week: AeA 21st Century Learning Symposium


    I want to thank Ed Longanecker for providing a recap of the 21st Century Learning conversation that took place in Springfield, IL last week.  Good opportunity to share perspectives on this important topic.  Special thanks to students of the Lincoln Magnet School in Springfield, IL for their participation in the event and their work on the video. Visit the site recap for more information on the event as well as links to our competency work and 6i process.  Also included is the presentation I delivered at the conference.  Feel free to ping me if you want to learn more...

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