Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference is always a great opportunity to connect with people who are supporting Microsoft's efforts in education. There was truly a global representation of partners from all over the world that gathered in Washington, D.C. last month who have been working with universities and schools and supporting Microsoft technology. The theme of this year's event was clearly the optimization of what the cloud can offer, both with regards to cost savings, a simplification of IT environments, and really creating new experiences for our schools and universities.

We have a lot of partners who are really excited about building off of the platform of free solutions we provide with Live@edu.  What's interesting is that they're providing not only context for Live@edu and the education scenarios by providing it, integrating it in with learning management solutions, ERP and student information system solutions…but they're helping to work on activation and deployment to make sure that schools are up and running quickly, integrating in with single sign-on and identity management, etc.

Partners like Full Armor showcased not only the work they did to get all the schools in the Commonwealth of Kentucky deployed on Live@edu, but really shared the kind of services they can provide not only to our schools and universities to help deploy Live@edu, but working with other partners to make sure there's a comprehensive solution involved.

it's learning from Norway…who previously had been using a Google platform for their mail solution…are excited about the potential Live@edu provides, not only with regards to enterprise connectivity, but the roadmap that Microsoft is providing to build on Live@edu in the future, and it's learning will be moving their platform to Live@edu. One of the things they remarked on was that not only is Live@edu more attractive with regards to the enterprise nature of the solution, but the fact that there were Microsoft people around the world committed to education…that was a differentiator for them.

Every year we recognize a partner that's been doing innovative work and providing value. Gestar won the 2010 Public Sector Education Partner of the Year award. This partner from Brazil is using Microsoft Dynamics to provide a comprehensive student information and data gathering system for schools, and they've recognized the problem that many schools have in that data that's collected but not acted upon really is wasted data.  They've optimized their Dynamics back-end solution with a front-end built around Microsoft Silverlight that allows a very simple to use touch interface for teachers to extract data, to act on data, and to have a comprehensive record of students and group of students work.  It's a great example of a partner recognizing the reality of what's going on in the classroom because of their local connection, and the Gestar solution both provides a rich back-end solution for data collection with Microsoft Dynamics, but a very easy to use front-end solution for the future.

But perhaps the biggest highlight of the show was seeing representatives from the Microsoft Students to Business program walking the floor with “Hire Me!” t-shirts throughout the conference.  The program allows students who are connected to Microsoft certification and training via things like Microsoft IT Academy and DreamSpark, or who have competed in things like the Imagine Cup competition, the opportunity to join Students to Business where they receive career coaching and career development tools. They also have an opportunity to get placed with Microsoft companies and partners that are doing business with Microsoft…and many of them were not only interviewing and connecting with partners at the show, but really promoting the value of Students to Business for partners to reach back to find talent. They taped a conversation with me about technical careers and getting students engaged…you can watch that below. These students were really a great example of the connection that education and our schools have with the work that's going on and the innovations that are happening with Microsoft partners around the world.