Sharing my blog post published on The Official Microsoft Blog from today...
With the release of "Waiting for 'Superman,'” the topics of education reform and the quality of U.S. public schools are getting mainstream attention. A lot of news headlines and opinions abound about what are the right and wrong solutions to fixing our classrooms and raising student outcomes and who to blame for the problems. It’s what the education community has been talking about for decades, and I’m pleased to see that the importance of education has finally elevated and entered the national dialogue.
At Microsoft, we believe every child has a basic right to an excellent education. The challenges of education are too big for any one institution to fix. We believe it will take a broad range of private and public partnerships to contribute to this effort and Microsoft is committed to doing so. As a business leader, our future is dependent on a competitive workforce, equipped to succeed in the 21st century.
Across the company, we are invested in improving education in a variety of ways. We empower, train and connect innovative teachers and schools through our Partners in Learning program. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into state partnerships across the country to not only bolster innovation, but to help those organizations working on curbing the drop out epidemic. And with programs like DigiGirlz, Imagine Cup and EduConnect, we are providing opportunities for kids to learn about careers in technology, to get interested in STEM, and for our own employees to volunteer in local schools.
This week, Microsoft is one of the sponsors of NBC’s Education Nation and rolling out a number of vehicles that foster the dialogue on the remedies to the current quality disparity in education across the United States. Our hope is that millions of people will come together to discuss the challenges schools are currently facing, learn about best practices and then, finally, engage people to take action.
•New Teacher Map App. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the launch of a new teacher resource, http://www.teach.gov, the Bing team is showing off the Teach Here map app that provides a simple way to search for teacher prep programs, teaching-related scholarships, certification offices, and local job opportunities. Learn more about it here.
•Ask Arne. On Friday, October 1st, MSN.com and Whitehouse.gov will be hosting a live webcast with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to encourage the national conversation around education reform. Anyone who cares about the state of education in America is encouraged to submit a question and vote on the questions you want Secretary Duncan to answer at ask-arne.msn.com.
•Our School Needs. Starting today, schools across the country can begin to submit their entries in the Bing “Our Schools Need” contest. Whether your school needs a new gym, new laptops, or a new photo lab, the finalist will win the grand prize of $100,000. In total, Bing is donating over $500,000 to schools in the form of prizes and donations to DonorsChoose.org.
•MSN Tastemaker on education. During the weeks of Sept.27 and Oct 4, contestants in the MSN social reality show “The Tastemaker” will be creating—and inspiring their social networks to create—Public Service Announcements in favor of education reform. The contestants will be judged on their ability to rally the web, and one of those audience-generated videos will be chosen by Viacom for distribution across its properties.
This week, the Microsoft News Center will also feature a daily Q&A series called, “The Education Community Speaks Out,” where we will hear from representatives from different parts of the education community to understand their perspectives, frustrations and hopes for the future. You can read the stories here.
And don’t forget to join the conversation at www.bing.com/redu and to learn more about the education transformation movement in the U.S. and see how you can get involved and bring long-term meaningful change to our local schools.
Microsoft’s commitment to education, here in the U.S. and around the world, spans almost three decades. Education is core to our mission as a company…to help individuals realize their potential…and we believe that an excellent education is a basic right and social imperative. I believe our focus on education is the most important work that we do across the company.
As the national discussion on the quality of U.S. public education and workforce development heats up, the Bing team has launched an initiative and website called REDU located at www.bing.com/redu. REDU stands for rethinking, reforming and rebuilding U.S. education. It’s designed to expand and encourage the national conversation around education reform by providing information and resources to learn, a community platform to connect, and tools and initiatives to act. What I like the most about REDU is that the focus is really on getting people involved…supporting teachers, encouraging folks to donate and volunteer to schools, find jobs, and help place new teachers. It’s a great resource that provides an opportunity to learn about what’s going on across the U.S., to extend the dialogue, and to demonstrate the urgency of the need for change in the U.S. and around the world.
Please check out www.bing.com/redu, join the conversation and see what you can do to improve America’s education system…whether you have kids or not.
Microsoft is a huge proponent of improving literacy skills around the world, partnering with UNESCO and supporting UNESCO as it leads the United Nations Literacy Decade with the goal of increasing literacy rates by 50% by 2015. I had the opportunity to attend the International Literacy Day conference and celebration hosted by former First Lady Laura Bush and UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova… and it was great to see the outpour of a focus on literacy.
Interestingly, the conversation immediately turned towards technology's role, and there was some debate whether technology is at the center of what we need to do in terms of getting people digital literacy skills, which Microsoft is certainly in support of…but I think it quickly reflected the need to have a holistic framework, which is very much what we say with regards to thinking beyond technology, and embracing soft skills. So, when we think about literacy, just like we think about technology's impact, we need to think about it holistically…thinking about literacy, social literacy, health literacy, and certainly technology literacy.
Microsoft is proud to be aligned with UNESCO to support these efforts around the world to help people get access to information, get access to training and tools, to help them live in our society, grow and prepare for the future. That’s why we are helping support the creation of a global online network to bring together literacy researchers, experts and other stakeholders. The Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) portal will allow practitioners all over the world to connect, collaborate, share information and best practices. The portal is being built on SharePoint Server by Microsoft partner Infusion and will be available beginning November 1st, 2010.
Microsoft has a long-standing commitment in providing digital literacy training to families, parents, students around the world. Our digital literacy resources help with things like access to online safety tools, helping communities get an understanding, basic or intermediate understanding of how to use technology, both as a tool, as well as the basic understanding of technology.
I spent some time recently with teachers and students at the FUSE Lab's Kodu Kamp in Redmond, Wa. I've blogged a lot about technology and students' appetite for technology as it relates to gaming, how content can come alive and students can get more excited about learning via gaming. Kodu represents a little bit of a different environment where gaming is helping launch potential interest in careers, and it does a really great job of simplifying the way in which programming comes alive for students.
One of the things I saw in just talking to students at the Kodu Kamp was students really were excited to be able to construct and problem solve the creation of their games...they were almost doing it natively. It was fascinating to watch them build games and environments, understand what was going wrong if they encountered a problem, and diagnose how to make specific events happen based on rules, and smooth the transition from one environment to another. I think this was more exciting to them than actually playing the game. Kodu is a great way to expand the appreciation of very complex sets of problems for students to figure out, build critical thinking skills, as well as get kids exposed for the first time to what technology and software programming is all about.
In Australia, Kodu pilots were conducted in 20 schools to better understand the impact of teaching and learning when incorporating Kodu and other Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. The outcomes of the study can be found here. It's an interesting read to understand the perspectives from both teachers and students and who most benefitted.
To get started ...here's a short and simple 7-minute tutorial video on Kodu made by a school in the UK...and you can find a classroom curriculum kit for your school here. We would love to hear more feedback and see the games your students are creating...