Updated 7:07 p.m. PST.
This week’s anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti is a somber reminder of the enormous task ahead. With over one million still homeless, a cholera epidemic, and much of the country still reduced to rubble, the dream of “building back better” seems distant. And yet, as I blogged this past October, helping Haiti build a strong education infrastructure is one of the most promising areas where technology can help and give people hope for a brighter and more prosperous future.
Ninety percent of the schools in Haiti were destroyed in the earthquake, including L'Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haïti (ESIH), Haiti’s leading technical school…it is one of the first schools to be rebuilt and is a great example of progress. ESIH is on a path to grow to 2,000+ students during the next five years, and the school views the capacity improvements realized through the cloud as a vehicle to help expedite growth. They are deploying Microsoft Live@edu (www.liveatedu.com) and Windows MultiPoint Server as a big part of the technology solution. By using Live@edu and MultiPoint Server, ESIH now has a credible online identity, a robust student information management system, 25 GB of personal storage per student, as well as a brand new computer lab that provides a gateway to the cloud. The ESIH Live@Edu website is live and has been customized by ESIH into French.
Even before the earthquake, the school struggled to manage communications with students and faculty. Meanwhile, the vast majority of students used alternative email sources…if they had access to a PC at all…which offered them no connection or online identity with their academic institution. As with many institutions in Haiti, ESIH sees student information management systems as a top priority after infrastructure enablement. On January 17, Live@Edu will be deployed to the entire 700 ESIH population of students, faculty and administrative staff. Additionally, MultiPoint Server, which allows multiple students to simultaneously share one computer, is not only providing more students access, but it is also helping schools save on power consumption because they don’t have to run so many computers. By comparison with the US, energy costs are 14X higher in Haiti…so this is a tremendous added benefit.
Prior to the deadly earthquake, only about half of the school-age children were enrolled in school and only half of Haitians over the age of 15 could read… a key contributor to the extreme poverty in Haiti. As we work together with the community to help rebuild Haiti’s schools, we have an opportunity to give students new learning tools and IT skills they never had access to before. The video below shows how IT skills enablement is critical for Haiti to achieve 21st-century education and how technology is opening doors and providing new opportunities for schools and students. For more on how Microsoft and our partners are helping Haiti rebuild, check out the stories here.
In many ways, I feel like I am part of the “technology transition generation.” I’m surprised more hasn’t been written or discussed on this. What this means is I’m am part of a generation old enough to know a time before technology and appreciate how far we’ve progressed and young enough to still be immersed in technology every day. My first video game system was THE first video game system Pong…my first portable computer was THE first portable computer...my music collection has progressed from LP, to 8-track to cassette to CD to MP3. I can very clearly appreciate how far technology has come because I’ve lived through the transition. And since I’ve been working for Microsoft for much of this transition, I’ve often been on the frontlines of the changing technology landscape.
Kids today have a far different technology lexicon and heritage. This video below shows school children in Montreal trying to identify technology gadgets from the late 20th century and highlights the gap as well as some age-defining realizations. What’s more interesting...the implications on learning and technology for a generation where the Internet is pervasive…natural input not keyboard is defacto interface standard …content is available everywhere on anything…and your social circle is defined by who you’re connected to as much as who you actually know.
In this landscape...how should what we assess and test change? Are we limiting technology’s potential by defining usage based on old norms and simple transition from analog to digital? In a world so technology-rich…why isn’t the incremental impact and experience changing? Thoughts?
I know I’ve written on the importance of accessibility in education before, but I wanted to share this video below which does an excellent job of featuring some real examples on how technology can make a difference. It features some ways in which Microsoft is incorporating an accessibility focus into our design for Windows 7 and other products like Microsoft OneNote.
There's also some new how-to articles on our website to help educators make the PC easier to use for students to see, hear and use...even how Microsoft OneNote can help students with dyslexia stay organized. For more information on Microsoft accessibility technologies, resources and tools for enabling access for everyone, please visit this website and tell us what you think and what you'd like to see more of. www.microsoft.com/education/enable
In my blog, I like to share and reflect on technologies that I think represent exciting new potential for the future, are relevant to education ICT integration, or provide tangible examples of larger trends. Montage, a tech preview from Microsoft’s Fuse Labs…does all three.
Certainly, the way in which teachers and students use the web is changing…as such the way in which we search, share and present information should also evolve. Montage provides an incredibly easy to use web-based service that makes it fun to create and share a visual album of the web on the topics you care about.
Imagine a teacher who could easily create a Montage around a class topic and share it in advance with students in preparation for the day’s lecture...or students that could use Montage to create a navigation for their school report. Students and teachers can use Montage to add content from a variety of sources, including RSS feeds, Twitter, Bing News, and YouTube. The creation then can be easily edited and shared out for review. Check out this video here for inspiration.
I think the potential here is exciting and it hints at the way in which not only web-based content and search is evolving, but the ways in which content providers need to think about the future for digital books and the integration with online content. It’s a great example of having a dynamic and easy to modify topic-based view of the web. Imagine this dynamically integrating publisher content, or providing active appendices to traditional digital books. The Montage is constantly evolving as you create and arrange each area with the content of your choice…even after it’s published, your Montage keeps itself up-to-date by automatically pulling in new tweets, news, pictures and more.
Digital books should not be static “electronic texts”…this technology provides an option for the future and is something fun to try today. Check out http://fuse.microsoft.com/project/Montage.aspx for more info and stay tuned for updates by following @getmontage on Twitter.
Example screen shot:
Sharing my blog post published today on the Microsoft On The Issues blog here...
This week, people from around the world will gather at two education events in London – the Education World Forum (EWF) and the BETT trade show – to discuss how technology can help improve the state of education in the United Kingdom and globally. The role of technology in education has been a hot topic of late, sparked in large part by the Waiting for Superman documentary in October, the New York Times article on technology and attention spans in November and the Newsweek interview with Bill Gates about seniority-based pay.
In the midst of all this debate, I believe one thing is clear – successful economies rely on an innovative and well-prepared workforce. This requires that students are equipped with 21st century skills such as collaboration, communications, creative thinking, problem solving, digital literacy and citizenship. And to engage and prepare our students, we need high-quality teachers who are, themselves, adept at future-ready skills. Underlying all of that, we need to make sure that the teachers and students have access to the technology that will help each of them learn and grow.
This week at EWF and BETT, Microsoft will look at the critical issue of how 21st century skills are taught and acquired, and roll out new ways to provide access to great technology at a low cost – all so that students can be best prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow. To help advance the teaching and acquisition of 21st century skills, this week we are announcing:
Microsoft has also been helping students, educators and schools get access to technology at low costs in a number of ways through ‘Shape the Future’ agreements – which have helped 42 countries bring technology access to more than 6 million students, educators and citizens – and with great technologies such as Live@edu and Windows Multipoint Server. To further improve technology access in schools, this week we are also announcing:
The tough reality is that there isn’t a magic bullet for solving the complex challenges involved in equipping students with the skills they need for the jobs of the future – but I believe that this week’s news shows we continue to make steady progress in understanding the issues involved, and providing real solutions.
I’m incredibly thankful for the work I get to do and humbled by the importance of our company's focus in education. I am also proud of the impact Microsoft is making. Most notably I’m proud of the commitment of our people...employees, who on their personal time, are making a huge difference.
This story here is a great example of the compassion of Microsoft employees to the issues in education...and the need for focus on supporting girls specifically. Margo Day is the West regional vice president of U.S. Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners at Microsoft. During a trip last fall to Kenya, she spent some time doing volunteer work with World Vision and was greatly moved and inspired to do something after visiting a primary school and rescue center for girls who had fled their homes to avoid the traditional practice of female genital mutilation.
The work Margo Day has done in Kenya is a shining example of the impact that a group of individuals can make. It also shines light on the need to push for gender equality and education opportunities for all. Every child deserves access to a great education and we need to work locally and globally to ensure inequalities are fought against, the oppression of low expectation is lifted, and every student is empowered to reach their potential.