As I reflect on 2009…what did and did not come to full fruition since I wrote this post last year…and what lies ahead for the year 2010, many different trends and topics come to mind. I’ll try to distill my list down to a handful of key themes and thoughts I’ve developed from being on the road this year talking to school leaders, teachers and students….areas where I am encouraged we will see big impact.
Over the last 12 months, the economy has created a new paradigm for the way in which we think not only about technology, but resourcing in general. Schools will continue to feel pressure from the down economy worldwide to drive the connection between school and work in terms of making sure students are prepared for the workplace and that new job opportunities are being created. There is belief the economic stimulus efforts will fuel innovation in the industry, and many countries are betting on education to drive change and hope for the future.
And despite this challenge and need to reduce budgets and lower expenses…the expectations of faculty, staff and students continues to rise in terms of wanting IT to deliver now…and the ability to use technology to serve this demand is increasing. Certainly, cloud computing and virtualization options provide huge opportunities to extend and enable technology much more broadly, and I think we’ll see software plus services become more prevalent and real in the coming year.
The significance of using analytics to drive decisions will mount. It’s crucial to identify where impact is happening and how can we deliver personalized learning through assessments and customized content, as well as using education analytics to drive decision making across institutions in a broad way. I think we will see a shift from the search for display to the search for answers with regards to data.
I am excited about the possibilities of getting more people access to PCs on a variety of devices…from netbooks and other low-cost devices…to finding a way to allow access to the devices both at school and in the home. I think there will be increased flexibility and innovation with regards to funding and acquisition strategies. I definitely see governments moving away from traditional school purchase plans to much more broad tax structures, as well as support of Telco models to create acquisition strategies or access without having to go through the school. And the ways in which we will interact with a PC via non-traditional form factors such as touch, speech and pen-based computing will become more of the norm.
Blended learning is a buzzword now, but I think over the next year you'll see increased experimentation with these models where you have students inside a traditional school taking online classes, and vice versa…online students getting much more support and instruction via traditional teachers or traditional learning models. I think there will be increased usage of content customization tools to personalize and augment content to support specific learning needs.
The concept of lifelong learners is creating vast opportunities to expand the way in which we think about delivering content...increased utilization of the mobile infrastructure is one area. There are more and more mobile devices and smarter mobile devices in the hands of students, educators and learners of all types. For the most part they've had very little connection to the traditional learning environment or content delivery environment. With the proliferation of devices, I think we’ll see more and more online reading taking place on traditional mobile devices, as well as new education applications. In the short term, I think a lot of it will be reference based, like online dictionaries, online translators, etc., via phones, but increasingly it will be more content based.
Lots of potential…however, I think for the most part 2010 will bring a much more pragmatic application of the technology infrastructure that exists and much more accountability with regards to the results. I think the economic strain is going to create a situation where schools are going to have to do more with less in a real way. They're going to have to derive more impact under the technology investment they've already made. They're going to have to do a better job of managing educators' time to be more effective with learning outcomes, and they're going to have to deliver more value with regards to the quality of the education in terms of impact on job opportunities and workforce readiness.
I’m still optimistic about the headway we can make in 2010 in realizing true transformation in education. What do you think will make the most impact?
As a technology vendor and industry leader, we take very seriously the responsibility of helping make the Internet safer for everyone. For schools, Microsoft supports mandatory online safety education…which safety experts say is the top way to reduce the risks children face on the Internet…and we provide resources for public officials, teachers and others. Over the past 20 years, the volume of child pornography traded online has exploded. To help combat the problem, Microsoft Research partnered with Dartmouth to develop a new technology called PhotoDNA that will help fight it. This week, Microsoft announced the donation of the PhotoDNA technology to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to assist in finding and removing images of child sexual exploitation from the Internet. PhotoDNA helps calculate the distinct characteristics…the “DNA”…of a digital image in order to match it to others, helping online service providers and others to better identify and stop the distribution of known images of child sexual exploitation online. Together, Microsoft and NCMEC hope to raise awareness about the global problem of child sexual exploitation and activate a larger movement on a solution by providing some new ways for consumers, online service providers, policymakers and others to get involved. We hope this will have a tremendous impact both in the United States and around the world. The technology is currently based on images that NCMEC has identified from their CyberTipline and their role as a clearinghouse for U.S. service providers to report such images…so while many of the images are from cases in the U.S., some may be from other countries as well. Also, we anticipate that any implementation of PhotoDNA in online services from Microsoft or other service providers would likely apply wherever those services are available around the world. You can read more about PhotoDNA here and here. The video below explains how the technology works and will be used, and more from the Dartmouth computer scientist and digital forensics expert who worked with Microsoft researchers. If you’d like to get more involved in the fight for these kids, make a donation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or if you have information about a child being abused, please go to http://www.cybertipline.com/.
Earlier this year, I blogged about the value of identity and the work Microsoft is doing with the Lake Washington School District to deploy the “Geneva” platform to provide students, parents, teachers and staff easier access to education materials and information. Since then, “Geneva”…now officially called Windows Identity Foundation (WIF)…is out of beta and has been released broadly for download to everyone. For those who don’t know, Windows Identity Foundation is a new extension to the Microsoft .NET Framework that helps developers build claims-aware applications that externalize user authentication from the application, improving developer productivity, enhancing application security, and enabling interoperability.
The video here is a good case study and shows tremendous progress with where we’ve come and a real practical example of how a school is using identity with different role types, how it integrates with its netbook strategy, and the way in which they’ve connected to joint synchronized calendaring across the district. I think it is a good primer for schools to think about with regards to building an identity strategy on extendable platforms like SharePoint that they can integrate with. It also highlights a partner solution from Intand, which provides a seamless integration with SharePoint and the backend experience on the WIF platform to help with calendaring across the school district.
This solution is just not only appropriate for K12, but higher education too, because the identity environment, the need for shared presence and the number of role types have actually increased in higher education because you’ve got faculty, administrators, students, facilities people, security on campus, as well as even alumni…so in many cases the role-based provisioning and security of Windows Identity Foundation will enable scenarios in higher education.
Earlier this year, the United States Congress voted to celebrate Computer Science Education Week to promote computer science education in the US. This week (6-12 December) is the inaugural year and schools and teachers can find a lot of great resources at the official CSEdWeek web site here: http://www.csedweek.org/. Microsoft is a proud sponsor and to help celebrate we’ve compiled a rich set of information, videos and links for educators and students, featuring software, opportunities and success stories here: http://research.microsoft.com/csew/.
With the current tough economic climate, the importance of education is taking front stage around the world. It has become part of the global agenda, not only because of the need to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, but the need to encourage optimism in countries by creating opportunities for jobs and re-skilling of workers to enable innovation and new businesses in the countries. So the need for quality education has never been more important…and the opportunities for using technology to enhance learning and to enable opportunities for personalized learning experiences has never been greater. An interesting op-ed in the Huffington Post this morning from our own Rick Rashid, Marie Klawe and others about how kids need to know how to do more than simply turn on a computer and play video games, how curriculum needs to change, and how we can share our best practices and progress.
It’s timely and appropriate that we celebrate National Computer Science Education Week this week to showcase the value of technology and creating job opportunities with technology. This is an area Microsoft believes deeply in. And programs like DreamSpark, Students 2 Business and the Imagine Cup are all great examples of venues Microsoft provides to enable students to get access to curriculum, technology and support to explore careers and IT. For educators, our Expressions Web site here is a good resource for tutorials and lesson plans for web design.
A recent offering Microsoft is really proud of is BizSpark which enables students, and really anybody, to start and launch businesses using Microsoft technology provided at no cost 3 years. This has created huge opportunity to excite new entrepreneurs. Increasingly technology is a component of every business so we’ve seen this as an acceleration path for the beginnings of new businesses and that will help revitalize the economies around the world.
What more can we be doing to excite kids about careers and learning more about computer science? What support can we lend to teachers, administrators and schools?