Many schools don’t have a roadmap or can’t afford to make the leap to 1:1 computing in the classroom…yet there is still a need to provide students with IT skills to prepare them for the workforce, and teachers want to increase the quality and variety in delivering their curriculum.  Based on these realities of technology access limitations around the world, Microsoft is continuously working to find ways in which we can empower schools of all types to take advantage of the power of technology to transform the learning environment in creative ways.

One of these comes via an emerging computing category known as Shared Resource Computing, which allows a customer to tap into a computer’s full capability to enable a single computer to support multiple users simultaneously, thereby minimizing the need for PC investments and bringing transformative learning activities into classrooms of all shapes and sizes. Over the past two years, we’ve seen the rapid growth in adoption of PC multiplexing solutions in education institutions worldwide, and increasingly, Ministries of Education are including this type of implementation in broad country-wide deployments. That’s why we’re investing in this emerging technology category with the development of our family of Windows MultiPoint solutions.

Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 is the flagship product in the MultiPoint solutions family. This new Windows product is targeted at educational scenarios like classrooms, computer labs and libraries, and allows multiple people to simultaneously share one computer…so you don’t need a computer for every student.  Each kid gets their own independent and familiar Windows computing experience, using their own monitor, keyboard and mouse directly connected to the host computer, so they can work at their own pace. It is really powerful when you can enable a 1:1 learning experience and embrace the power of personalized learning and excite a student to have a personal dialogue with content, the teacher and other students.

 

Windows MultiPoint Server presents many compelling benefits on the administrative front as well for cash-strapped schools. They will not only be able to provide more access to computing (up to 10 units per host computer), but they will have lower costs of acquisition and ongoing maintenance, be able to lower ongoing energy consumption costs since power is only needed for one computer…and with the need to service and support only one computer, schools will experience lower ongoing management costs. And on that note, we realize that not all schools have the luxury of having a robust IT staff, so we’ve intentionally developed MultiPoint Server to be easy for a teacher to set up and manage. You can learn more about Windows MultiPoint Server, which will be released in the first half of this year, here and watch demos of the product in action here.

 

Our partners will be key to delivering new content. We’ve released the Windows MultiPoint Mouse Software Development Kit (SDK) to help developers create interactive applications allowing up to 25 students, each with their own mouse, to interact on the same PC. Scholastic has developed Story Stage, an interactive and highly creative virtual puppet-based literacy application. And our Russian content partner Noviy Disk is releasing the English version of Curriculum Curiosity, which draws on elements of creativity, construction and modeling, design and project work via five interactive workshops, encouraging teamwork and positive influence on communication skills development for young students. 

 

This new technology will create opportunities for new curriculums and teaching styles that will require new software solutions. To empower teachers to create their own content that can inspire and excite students, we’ve created Mouse Mischief…a new, free state-of-the-art MultiPoint-enabled tool to create interactive PowerPoint classroom presentations that kids can participate in with affordable USB mice. With Mouse Mischief, students have a voice and the ability to take action in the classroom…to vote, give feedback, answer multiple choice questions, etc., and that’s very important for making learning more fun for students and keeping kids engaged. We’ve seen it really change the dynamics of learning in the classroom in pilot schools.

We hope these new Windows MultiPoint solutions will help bridge the digital gap by creating technology access for more students for the same or shrinking IT budgets. Let us know what you think…