During my time in Puerto Rico, I had the opportunity to meet education leaders in both the higher education school system (read more in my previous blog post) and primary and secondary schools, as well as the very vibrant and committed partner community.
It was great to see the partners, who are often competitive with each other, recognize the need for change, the need to stimulate the value and impact of education in Puerto Rico, and the need and willingness to work with Microsoft in conjunction with our initiatives. There’s a focus on building solutions around data analytics, the student dropout issue, and then a slowly emerging need around digital resources and electronic books that's coming.
The next part of the visit was with the Department of Education where I met the new Secretary, Dr. Odette Piñeiro, who I think is very visionary. She recognizes that you have to bring a much more inclusive view to the school district in thinking about everything from the way in which the language of the school changes, to the way buildings are modernized, to the way citizens connect to education.
During the course of the conversation, Dr. Piñeiro’s focus on technology was clear…but one of the things that really speaks to her leadership is that she also recognized that as a global company, Microsoft has additional capabilities outside of merely providing software, and most of her interest was really not about technology…it was about teachers and how we can help teachers, which is great to see, and that's something we are excited about the future potential of working together with the Puerto Rican Department of Education.
As part of a Microsoft Education Alliance Agreement we signed with the government while I was there, we will help provide affordable access to technology to 200,000 K-12 students in the country so they can stay abreast with emerging technologies and meet the challenge of enriching their learning experiences. Microsoft will also help the DOE promote greener schools…one of the projects consists of creating a Hohm training. Microsoft Hohm is a free web service that will allow students to understand their energy use and how to apply energy-efficiency strategies in their schools.
The last part of the trip…which was probably the highlight…was a visit to the mountains of Puerto Rico, and Bonifacio Sanchez Jimenez High School in a town called Aibonito. The school is one of the four pilot schools for Windows MultiPoint Server around the world. I talked to teams of students who are collaborating on projects using Multipoint. Some teams are creating a blog. Another team has created this automatic system so when it rains, sensors detect the moisture and the windows automatically close.
One of the best values of Multipoint is it will help create more computing options at a lower cost for schools. So, you expand one CPU to up to eight computers and expand the value of a device (see my earlier blog post on MultiPoint solutions). Interestingly, every time the school talked about Multipoint and its impact, it was always about the fact that it was a collaborative tool that provided a centralized computing station where a project team would work together, sharing documents, talking with each other, etc. and this was the difference maker.
You can learn more about how MultiPoint and technology is used in this Puerto Rico classroom in this video here. A picture below of me and the students in Aibonito.