Education Insights

Education news, trends, and highlights by Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Education, Microsoft

October, 2010

  • Education Insights

    New Shout partnership focusing on education technology and the environment


    Sharing my blog post published on The Official Microsoft Blog about our new partnership with the Smithsonian and TakingITGlobal....


    This week I’m in Cape Town, South Africa and lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the most innovative education leaders, teachers and administrators in the world. We’re all gathered here for the sixth annual Worldwide Innovation Education Forum (IEF), the first time for the event ever to be held on African soil. Attendees of this event include more than 500 educators, school leaders and government officials representing over 60 countries that continue to creatively and effectively use technology in their curriculum to help improve the way students learn. This is the worldwide finale of a year’s worth of country and regional events, during which 200,000 participants were whittled down to 125 teacher finalists presenting at IEF this week.

    It’s this kind of caliber of education leaders that inspired the new partnership announced today: Microsoft Partners in Learning, the Smithsonian and TakingITGlobal have formed a three year, $1 million strategic partnership to help students and teachers connect with one another using technology, break down cultural and language barriers and drive positive social change.

    This program is called “Shout” and it looks like this:

    • The Shout program will make use of technology to help students explore, connect and act to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, while gaining important 21st-century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and social responsibility.
    • Beginning in November, at the Shout program will issue a new challenge every two months to educators around the world through a webcast with Smithsonian experts and Innovative Teachers. Educators will then have access to curriculum and content on our Partners in Learning Network to help them unleash students’ creativity as they collaborate and connect with other students around the world.
    • Every Shout project will provide students with a systematic approach to identifying a global challenge, collaborating with peers and mentors around the globe, launching an action plan, and carrying it through to create the change they envisioned.
    • The first year of Shout will focus on issues related to the land; future years will focus on water and air.
    • One project already in motion, called “DeforestAction,” started as a Shout pilot project connecting students across multiple countries including the Philippines, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Australia. These students have put actions into motion that support the protection of rainforests in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Check out a short video about their efforts here.

  • Education Insights

    Celebrating best practices of Latin American teachers


    I am in Cape Town, South Africa this week for the 6th annual Worldwide Innovative Education Forum (IEF) to celebrate and learn from hundreds of school leaders who use technology creatively and effectively in their curriculum. This year, we had 200,000 participants around the world compete in regional events, and now just 125 teachers are competing this week.

    I had the opportunity to attend the European regional event in Berlin back in April...see my earlier blog post here. I also attended the Latin America regional event in Panama at the end of August and wanted to share my experiences there.

    At the IEF event in Panama, I was very impressed with the teachers…they have a lot of pride for their profession and the ways they are making impact, but they also are not hesitant to recognize that they're behind in some areas and trying to catch up. Panama is an interesting place because of the economic prosperity, and the business opportunities around the canal, the tolls and the port to create positive scenarios. So, their view on education is a little bit different. There's a division of the Smithsonian that's focused and based in Panama and focused on the implications on forestation and the environment.  They're doing work on coral life in the oceans, as well as thinking about the implications on the environment. 

    One of the big priorities of President Ricardo Martinelli is to make sure the old part of Panama is restored and preserved to its historic value.  The country had a good infrastructure when the U.S. occupation existed, and they kind of let it run down, and now they are building it back up…and they are on a trajectory that reflects more of affluence. ..Panama looks kind of like Miami now.

    From an education perspective, Panama is trying to get devices in the hands of students and teachers.  The Minister of Education is Lucy Molinar…she's a former journalist and she was picked by the President specifically, because he wanted to bring outsiders into his cabinet to bring in different perspectives…and she has been very pragmatic about what’s needs to happen before they buy PCs. The government is looking to buy a million PCs for the students of Panama, but Molinar insists that they’ve got to get teachers trained first.

    Through our Partners in Learning program, we’ve committed to train 40,000 teachers in Panama.  In August, we put 273 teachers through intense training on how to use technology in the classroom, how do they keep kids safe online, how do they find and build lesson plans, etc. Now they're going out to train the rest of the population of teachers in Panama.

    I was impressed by the teachers’ enthusiasm.  In many ways, Latin America has been one of the leading regions to try to address technology access, and the early phases of that look very much like Portugal, which is buying computers for students in bold strokes from the government.  And while good, we have quickly seen that they're thinking much more about the broader foundational changes…making sure teachers are prepared, working through training and curriculum, and using data more aggressively.  And I saw this reflected in the teacher projects that were submitted…a much more holistic thinking around the need for preparedness, connection to employability, and the holistic framing of the broader context for technology's use.

  • Education Insights

    The cloud without compromise…introducing Office 365 for education


    I'm excited about the announcement of Office365 for education, which represents the evolution of Live@edu, and provides a game-changing opportunity for education in cloud computing. Office 365 for education builds off of the great platform we've established with Live@edu to provide a better experience for communication, collaboration, and productivity tools for education institutions of all types…while saving costs and delivering a great connected experience for students and educators.

    In addition to providing an Exchange Online, Outlook and Office Web Apps solution, we will be expanding the portfolio to include SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and Office Professional Plus. Office 365 for education will include the same services available in Office 365 for enterprises…but specifically tailored to meet the needs of educators, students, and education partners. It will have the same uptime commitment, backed up by a service level agreement, as enterprises. You can learn more about the new offering here.

    Office 365 works with the Office family of products that you're already familiar with and it also enables new experiences on the Web.  It creates an opportunity for schools to deploy technology more cost-effectively, more quickly, and manage technology advancements more easily. Why is this important?  The answer is twofold. 

    First, we can move beyond a lot of the challenges that schools have struggled with…with regards to managing and paying for and optimizing around licenses… to create a broad, safe, and secure cloud environment for students and educators. But more importantly, Office 365 becomes a building block so schools can build a foundation that takes care of messaging, communication, collaboration, even storage, as well as provide richness with regards to productivity apps, their own resources, and partner applications…all tied together with identity that is managed centrally and cohesively across the experience…to create a holistic environment for students and educators to do real learning, not just use the cloud.

    Secondly, one of the great things about this evolution with Live@edu is it increases the opportunity for partners who have already invested in core Microsoft technologies like Office, SharePoint, and Exchange, to deepen their connection to those products, as well as extend out the services they can provide for institutions at a low cost. Existing partners that build around applications for SharePoint for communication and collaboration, learning management systems, and even student information systems, can now extend the value of their solutions by integrating closely with Office 365 for education.

    We also know that safety and security matters significantly in education, and it's something we take very seriously.  One of the reasons why we're excited about this product announcement is it reflects a need we recognized early on to evolve Live@edu from a consumer-based foundation on Hotmail to an enterprise foundation with Exchange.  This provides really two things.  One, we have increased management control and security for schools, and this will extend across the collaboration storage component of Office 365 so institutions can have regulate and secure documents and collaboration experiences students have. And two, we have an established pipeline for innovation that will be supported by our enterprise customers and with some of the most demanding and diverse business requirements throughout the world.

    I'm excited about the present opportunities schools have with Live@edu and what Office 365 for education will provide schools in the future…but even more excited about the potential for partners and education leaders to create innovative uses on this to really take the experience to the next level for the more than 11 million students, faculty and staff worldwide that are using Live@edu today. We've enabled a rich experience across three screens…the phone, the browser and the Web…and created a flexible environment to really enable transformation and learning to happen.

    The cloud is not compromise… we recognize the evolving needs of schools to consume resources in the cloud…and this will continue to expand as institutions want to create more integrated learning solutions. Live@edu’s evolution to Office 365 for education is cloud without compromise and in addition to offering a great set of resources for students and educators to stay connected and productive…it offers institutions a building block for broader innovation and transformation of learning environments with technology. 

  • Education Insights

    Helping rebuild Haiti by bringing broadband to schools


    At Microsoft, we just recently kicked off our companywide Giving Campaign in the United States, which is a great opportunity for employees to donate their time and money to help support a wide range of charities that they personally believe in and are passionate about. One of the charities that I've pledged to support is NetHope.

    NetHope is a unique collaboration of the world's leading international humanitarian organizations – working together to solve common problems in the developing world through smarter use of technology. NetHope’s 32 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) represent more than $33 billion dollars of humanitarian development, emergency response, and conservation programs in 180 countries. Since 2005, Microsoft has partnered with NetHope to help transform the way the world’s largest humanitarian agencies work…and since the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti back in January, Microsoft and its employees have donated more than US$2 million year to date, to enable communications and equip humanitarian staff for relief and recovery efforts. (The picture above is of the destruction at L'Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haiti.)

    We also realize that Microsoft’s investment must go far beyond essential relief and recovery efforts. We must help provide local schools digital access so learning can continue. As I’ve blogged a lot about recently, everyone…child, teenager and adult…has the right to a quality education…and that is so important as Haiti rebuilds and the people there look toward a brighter and more prosperous future.

    At the Clinton Global Initiative 2010 Annual Meeting this month, Microsoft, along with Inveneo and the EKTA Foundation, committed to invest US$1.5M in communications, technology and capacity building for schools and NGOs.  This commitment represents anticipated impact that includes:  

    • 60+ entrepreneurs in the IT sector will gain access to new clients and the ability to deliver relevant ICT services through training and mentoring;
    • 200+ NGOs will gain improved communications and IT capabilities to improve their service delivery;
    • 40+ schools and 24,000 students will gain access to improved education through technology;
    • 100,000+ people will gain basic computer literacy skills; and
    • 400,000+ people’s lives will be improved through access to Information and Communications Technologies they never had before.

    You can read more on Inveneo's blog here. I’m excited to see this work kick off this month.  On October 25, in partnership with NetHope, Microsoft is installing its first “lighthouse” lab in Haiti to help bring the country's leading computer science college back online– a local center of excellence in collaboration with nonprofits and for-profit partners from around the globe.  We hope this work we will inspire our other partners to get involved to help transform education and to build a better future for our children – one school at a time. 

  • Education Insights

    Will “Waiting for ‘Superman’” provoke the change we need?


    There’s certainly lots of controversy surrounding the movie "Waiting for ‘Superman’"… some debate around the value of charter schools, the impact of unions and criticism of teachers. However, some things no one can deny… one, we have to celebrate and encourage great teachers, and do what we can to cherish and praise and support the value and prestige that teachers have in our society; and two, we have to continue to work together to drive change, not only for our schools, but for our kids. 

    There are no easy answers.  We have to look at the models and the innovative practices of charter schools that are featured in the film like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the KIPP Schools, but also great public schools and districts in our society and all over the world, and take those great examples and find ways to make not only opportunities available for all kids, but really work to increase the role and the importance teachers have in our society.

    For me, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” was a very personal reflection, because I grew up near a lot of the neighborhoods featured in the movie, and I could see a little bit of myself growing up. As someone who won the lottery because of great teachers and parents who made sure that I stayed out of trouble… I feel we have to honor that work in our daily lives every day to support great education and great teacher opportunities.

    One of the things that the movie talks about is the role or the rate of success the U.S. has had versus other countries as it relates to math and science performance, and the U.S. being ranked 24th in those areas, and significantly behind in some areas compared to other countries. (You can learn more about the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) here.) I think it’s important to consider that if you look at technology penetration, broadband access, devices in schools, etc., the U.S. would rank #1 compared to other countries…so, it's clear technology is not the answer alone. We've got to think differently around the role of technology, the role of schools, the role of a teacher and the role of education. That's why we're focused on initiatives like Partners in Learning, and the work we do with individual schools to drive and scale successful models holistic reform.

    One of the things that’s certainly clear is successful models need to scale, and scale is often difficult, because models are often not rooted in sound methodology and growth. I would encourage every education leader to look at our scale toolkit. We’ve been working with Chris Dede from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education to develop a tutorial to help schools create a foundation for driving change in schools. You can learn more about it in this video and article on Edutopia.

    One of the reasons why I think the KIPP schools have been successful is because they are built from a process focus from the start, and they've been able to scale because they replicate the process in other schools.  It's not tied into the individual leaders that often drive change in our schools. It is the amazing teachers and amazing principals that often define a good school.  We've got to put a process and plan in place, and the scale toolkit does this.

    We held a screening of  “Waiting for ‘Superman’” on Microsoft’s corporate campus in Redmond last week…and before the film I had the opportunity to talk with the director, Davis Guggenheim. I talked a lot about the work that Microsoft does, and the thing that he reacted to most was the scale toolkit. After researching and shooting the movie, Guggenheim saw that when you find a best practice or success, as in the KIPP schools, you need to find a way to replicate it…you need to build a foundation upfront before you apply innovation and thinking.

    I encourage you to see the film…and regardless of your opinion…it shines a spotlight on the need for us to explore and look at these hard issues. If anything, the movie is a moment in time for us to reflect on the quality of education in the United States and ask ourselves what more can we do to improve education…and not accept anything but the best for our kids.

    For some ideas on how to get involved and more on how we are trying to my earlier blog post here.

  • Education Insights

    Celebrate World Teachers' Day 2010


    If you think back and reminisce about your own early education experience, it is hard not to forget the teachers that made a difference in your life.  The teachers you can still recall 10, 20, 30 years later because of how they inspired you in the classroom probably made a lasting impression and helped shape you into the person you’ve become.  Today is the day we can express our appreciation and admiration by celebrating World Teachers' Day.  This special recognition was designated by UNESCO back in 1994 to mark the anniversary of the 1966 signing of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers which addresses teacher policies, rights and responsibilities.

    Partners in Learning is our ten year, $500 million global investment that since 2003 has reached nearly 8 million teachers in 115 countries. The program is aimed at improving teaching and learning through access to IT, localized curricula, professional development resources and training, and support for the Partners in Learning Network…which is now active in 59 countries, making it one of the world’s largest social networks for teachers. Engaging teachers are the number one predictor of student success…and we want to help equip teachers with the skills they need to build lasting impressions.  

    Educators aren’t often celebrated enough and Microsoft is proud to recognize their work and accomplishments at the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum at the end of the month in Cape Town, South Africa. There will be about 500 amazing educators that have competed at their country and regional levels to attend the worldwide event…and I’m excited to get the chance to meet some of the best and most creative teachers that are making a difference in their classrooms.

    There are great examples all around the world of teachers making a difference and preparing today’s children to be college and career ready. The video below provides just a glimpse of the great work happening in Australia, Austria, Thailand and Nigeria.

    Be sure to thank and express your appreciation to a teacher today…for the great work they do and in advance of that student who will assuredly remember their efforts 10, 20, 30 years down the road.


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