As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, $7.2 billion dollars is being allocated to expand broadband Internet access across the U.S. The dream is to make sure every home has a broadband connection, but even the Federal Communications Commission admits the $7 billion is not enough to wire everyone. Microsoft believes connecting schools, libraries and hospitals first will generate the quickest, most impactful and most equitable distribution of social benefits. Our Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, called on the FCC to take this direction. Marc Berejka, Senior Director of Technology Policy and Strategy, reinforced our company’s position in a blog post here.
The fuel for our country’s economic recovery will be provided by innovation…and our future, in many respects, is in the hands (and minds) of students in our classrooms, universities and libraries. Prioritizing broadband for schools and libraries will connect to the heart of our communities and help shift expectations and aspiration of the impact technology can have on reaching its potential for improving and enriching learning.
While the majority of schools have basic Internet access, it’s often limited, slow and not capable of handling the technology applications our administrators and educators need to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century workplace and life. As we continue to expand use of digital learning environments to deliver personal and adaptive experiences for our students, the need to ensure rich connectivity in and out of the classroom becomes paramount. Digital natives have an expectation of an “always on” and “always connected” environment…and our commitment to deliver needs to address not only access everywhere…but access for ALL.
Digital curriculum, virtual classrooms, etc., will create opportunities for rich collaboration and enable our teachers to serve the needs of individual students. These experiences and opportunities will be created by careful rigor, planning and holistic thinking….but supported by integrated and flexible technology and access to broadband.
As we embrace the Federal stimulus as a source of confidence and optimism…the need to start by resourcing our schools and libraries…to support our country’s greatest resource…our children…becomes clear. This SETDA report provides more information on the state of broadband in our schools, key recommendations, and district, community and state models for broadband implementation.
Today, we announced the Alabama Department of Education plans to make CareerForward available to every student in the state as one way high school students can meet the new online learning graduation requirement there starting next year. CareerForward teaches globalization, career planning, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Readying our students for college and the workplace should be our number one priority because the competition for jobs and talent between the U.S. and other countries has never been more intense. You can read more about CareerForward and the resources available to roll it out to your schools and districts in my earlier posts here and here.
According to the latest McKinsey report, forty years ago the U.S. was a leader in high school graduation rates. Today, we rank 18th out of 24 industrialized nations. A January National Governors Association (NGA) report states that we have 3.8 million young adults out there without a diploma, and who are not in school and not working. And as I travel across the country and talk to young people, I am amazed at the number of students who have not declared a major in college – a phenomenon, I think, is uniquely American. We need to get kids thinking about their futures much earlier in life and taking action. CareerForward is just one way students can see the relevance of their school work and how that parlays into their future economic prospects.
Michigan was the first state to adopt an online learning graduation requirement, and the first to deploy CareerForward statewide. More than 18,000 students have committed to taking the course this year. We have a new video showing the success Michigan is having with the program. Check it out below…the students and their teacher are inspirational.
My video interviews with some of the U.S. Imagine Cup winners are now posted (watch below!). The three brothers from Team MultiPoint Web talk about their winning project designed to let multiple students simultaneously use the same computer to learn, and why they are so excited to head to the World Finals in Egypt in July. Team Special Child shares details about their project created to provide assistance and organization to the adoption process. And Team Mango Bunnies shares their experience being the only all-girls team at Imagine Cup and the importance of getting young women and girls interested in technology.
Reflecting back, it was amazing to see these technology solutions were designed not by CEOs or scientists, but by high school and college students across the US. Their creativity and innovation speaks volumes about the promise of technology to really make a difference in peoples’ lives in the way we think, work, and communicate. This is just a representation of the potential and opportunity found in our classrooms and schools – a potential that if nurtured can help build a better world and sustain our future prosperity.
If you too are inspired by the Imagine Cup, a great way to begin to get your students on track to compete in future events is to expose them to the FREE tools Microsoft provides to high school and college students via DreamSpark. Click here for an informative discussion on the DreamSpark offering by Microsoft’s Tammara Edgin.
For me, one of the most exciting things about working with students is seeing their passion and absolute belief that they can, in fact, change the world. At Microsoft, we want to do whatever we can to encourage that optimism, and to help students use their technical skills in ways that can help make the world a better place. That’s the goal of our annual student technology competition, the Imagine Cup. See my earlier posts on Imagine Cup here.
This week, I had the humbling experience of being in the presence of some of these bright, young students who are taking action to change the world at the U.S. Imagine Cup finals in Cambridge, Mass. I just wrote a post on Microsoft On The Issues blog announcing this year's winners. Check out who will represent the U.S. in the worldwide finals happening in Egypt!
I blogged recently about the about the importance of identity. And after featuring my avatar in a recent discussion I had at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I thought it would be fun to share…Ants.
Ants is my Xbox Live avatar and a connected Windows Live identity persistent across Live experiences, collaboration platforms, instant messaging, etc. Whether it’s through things like Xbox Live, Second Life or learning management systems like Moodle, digital avatars are increasingly a part of how we express ourselves, communicate and collaborate. If used properly, they can be a safe alternative to photographs and help students get more personally engaged in their online learning experience and collaborations.
This is Teacher Appreciation Week…a good reminder that a week is never enough to recognize and express our gratitude to our true heroes…teachers. To celebrate the week, and as part of our regular Teacher Tech webcast series, Erin Gruwell, Founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation and a truly inspiring leader, will be hosting a live webcast on Wednesday 5/6 at 7:00pm EDT. Sign up here: (http://www.microsoft.com/education/events/teachertech.aspx).
Whether you remember an inspirational leader from your childhood, a stern mentor who pushed you past perceived limitations, or a constant source of encouragement and support…I’m sure there’s been a teacher behind some of your best successes. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the teachers that have touched my life. Greater still is my admiration and appreciation for our current teachers. They demonstrate the very best. They lead with passion and unwavering commitment, and dedicate themselves to helping others reach their true potential.
Please use this week to reach out and thank teachers. Every day is a great day to honor and salute our teachers!
As economic conditions continue to deteriorate, and many school districts and institutions are learning their budget downfalls are now even steeper…the pressure is on to cut costs and services. I believe information technology can play an important role in helping you respond to this rapidly changing economic environment. There are a number of technologies helping schools lower expenses and improve effectiveness and efficiency…virtualization, unified communications, video conferencing and new collaboration tools to name just a few.
We partnered with HP and the Chronicle of Higher Education to put on our first ever virtual trade show. The free online event – “How to Keep Your Institution Ahead of the Curve” – is now archived and available in case you missed it. I encourage you to check it out. You can download white papers, watch videos, and browse through customized solutions available from Microsoft and our partners. With Lisa Baker from HP, I had the chance to answer customers’ questions, and we had a good discussion on the trends we are seeing in today’s economic climate for education and cost-saving strategies. There’s also a discussion with CIOs from Notre Dame, Wichita State and Arizona State on how they are adapting their IT operations and management. Just head into the “Auditorium” to listen to the podcasts…
Take a look at these additional resources and case studies for inspiration on what’s possible…
Microsoft Economy Guide for Education: https://www.microsoft.com/education/economy/default.aspxTechnology opportunities through ARRA: https://www.microsoft.com/education/stimulus/default.mspxCustomer Case studies:• School District Standardizes IT Environment, Saves More Than $100,000 in Costs • Operating System Upgrade Helps School District Streamline IT, Strengthen Security • College Uses Application Virtualization to Deliver Course Software Easily, Inexpensively