(Sharing my blog post today from the Official Microsoft Blog)
Today, I’m pleased to announce that more than 22 million people now use Live@edu, representing a 100 percent year-over-year increase. That’s more than 27,000 new people signing up every day, making Live@edu the most widely used cloud productivity service for education. New schools using Live@edu include: U.S. institutions such as Southern State Community College in Ohio, New Mexico State, Florida State, University of Colorado at Boulder; Kings College London and Royal National College for the Blind, located in the United Kingdom; the Bahrain Ministry of Education and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education in the Middle East.
Just as cloud computing is changing the world of work, it’s having a profound impact in education, and it’s changing the landscape of learning. Academia is often an early adopter of new technologies, and I’m seeing schools around the globe lead the way in the transition to the cloud and digital learning environments.
While the rise of digital content creates huge opportunities for immersive learning environments and access to ubiquitous computing devices anytime, anywhere… the impact and the need for cloud integration is growing, and Live@edu, Microsoft’s free hosted collaboration and communications service, helps schools get there faster.
As the popularity of Live@edu continues to grow, schools such as Georgia State University, Dundee University in Scotland, East Norfolk Sixth Form College in England, the Inzai City Board of Education and Wakayama City Board of Education in Japan are benefiting from Office 365, Microsoft’s next generation cloud productivity service. Office 365 combines the power of Office with the capabilities of enterprise-class cloud services used by the world’s leading companies – and includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.
Office 365 for education will include everything available in Office 365 for enterprises, helping teachers save time and manage their curricula while giving students access to tools that make learning more inspiring, relevant and collaborative. Schools can benefit from Exchange Online today by signing up for Live@edu. Microsoft is also onboarding qualified education customers to Office 365 in order to take advantage of Exchange Online and Lync Online. We will add SharePoint Online capabilities in 2012 when Office 365 for education is broadly available.
There’s no question the cloud has become an important asset for schools and universities. It enhances the educational experience and fosters 24/7 learning across multiple devices, while enabling skills development to help students prepare for their futures.
I’m excited to be in Washington, D.C. this week among more than 700 of the most talented educators and school leaders from around the world at the 7th annual Partners in Learning Global Forum. This is one of my favorite weeks every year at Microsoft, because it’s actually happening with teachers…real people who are using technology in education to impact children’s lives and advancing students’ interest in learning. The opportunity to get inspired by, to learn from and to hear stories from teachers is amazing.
All these teachers have competed at local and regional events and have earned a spot to compete for 18 Global Innovative Educator Awards. Some of these teachers are leaving their country or village for the first time ever. One gentleman from Latin America had to walk five miles to catch a bus that was another three hour ride just to get to the airport to fly to D.C. These people are heroes back at home and we are so proud to put them on a stage and applaud their accomplishments.
The Partners in Learning Global Forum is not only a celebration of teachers, but it is also a demonstration of the need to cultivate innovative teaching practices. We not only need to help teachers get access to resources and best practices to make them more effective, but we also need to uplift their roles as leaders in their classrooms, their school, their state and country. We hope that in many ways this will help address what will be a huge epidemic of teacher shortages in the near future. The United Nations estimates that another eight million teachers need to be recruited into the profession by 2015. That is a huge gap. What we need to do is support existing teachers to advance and become leaders in their community and really apply the best education models for delivering results and use these teachers as an inspiration for others to enter the profession.
Teachers play a critical role in preparing the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow that will ultimately improve the world economy. A recent McKenzie study estimates by the end of this decade, two-thirds of the jobs that will be created don't even exist today. New skills will be needed if people are to fill these new and even existing jobs. To help people obtain these new skills we have to start with educators…dedicated individuals who, through their own work, prepare and empower the future generations. If we want great students, we need to start by investing in great teachers.
One of the things we’ve been doing more with Partners in Learning is embracing the connection and working with like-minded partners to drive effective partnerships and scale opportunities to make a difference in education. We believe that when business needs merge with social responsibility, and you bring together organizations that are equally passionate about education…this can be a successful formula for preparing the next generation of leaders.
Today, we announced new partnerships with the U.S. Department of Education, the British Council and the Smithsonian Institution to not only encourage more people to enter the teaching profession, but to improve the quality and access in education and training and resources around the world.
I encourage you to join our global community of education thought leaders to share your best practices and learn from others. We must all work together to make sure every child has access to a quality education, and ultimately change our world for the better.
The Partners in Learning program is a flagship program for Microsoft's work in education, and one of the things that I'm most proud of as a Microsoft employee. It started eight years ago and is the company’s 10-year $500 million commitment to invest, support and celebrate the work of teachers around the world, as well as helps school gain better access to technology and provide teacher professional development.
Through Partners in Learning we've been working with over 115 countries to celebrate teachers, to mine and identify innovation, and to scale the progress of change in education more rapidly all over the world. We've learned a lot, we've had tremendous partnerships from stakeholders in countries that we support, and we continue to be amazed and inspired by the great work and the great lessons we've seen from innovative teachers and innovative schools around the world.
One area I've always wanted to recognize is the need and the value that higher education institutions can have…to spotlight the innovation that's happening on university and college campuses, and to support the exploration of faculty using technology in new ways.
I’m excited to expand our Partners in Learning work to now include higher education institutions. Not only will this allow our higher education institutions to act as partners to scale their great work, but they can learn from other models, help expand innovative teaching and join a community of faculty members and committed education leaders. Because higher education institutions are producing our next generation of teachers…we believe faculty are critical stakeholders to engage in this conversation, so larger group leverage the innovative teaching work that's happening around the world to influence what we're teaching our next generation of teachers in university campuses.
We will also be working with the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) to provide universities, especially senior leadership, with guidance and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues around the world on critical issues that can help them be better prepared for the future of running their organization and preparing their students for the demands of the 21st century.
The newly expanded Partners in Learning for Higher Education program will focus on Academic Summits, a Teacher Education Initiative and the Higher Education Consortium. Check out our new website to learn more on how you can get involved.
One of the things on the mind of government officials and education leaders around the world is how to raise the quality and impact of teaching and innovative teaching practices. The use of technology to drive change and innovation in classrooms is at the center of the debate, and we see invest in teacher training and support the use of technology more actively. We’ve been working with UNESCO to expand teacher competencies to not only elevate the profession of teaching, but to create a foundation for others to model effective teaching practices.
At UNESCO’s General Conference this week, Microsoft is proud to be part of a consortium of information and communication technology (ICT) companies supporting the launch of the second version of the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, a global initiative helping teachers and schools maximize the use of ICT for learning. An overview can be found here.
In 2008, UNESCO and industry partners including Microsoft, CISCO and Intel launched a framework to help teachers integrate and harness the power of ICT for their students, called the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT). The ICT-CFT fits within a holistic approach to improving the use of ICT in education and the development of 21st Century teaching and learning – starting with identifying the complex skills students need for success today, ensuring teaching is measureable, and supporting teachers as they develop and use the innovative pedagogical practices required for students to develop these skills.
As governments create long-term strategies for coming out of the economic recession, and the focus turns to job creation and skills, ensuring today’s students have the skills needed to compete for the jobs of tomorrow is critical for every country’s competitiveness.
At Microsoft, we see this as a three-step approach with three important questions to answer: What skills are needed and how do we measure them? What are the practices required for teachers to teach and students to learn these skills? And how can leaders expand the adoption of these teaching practices and competencies across districts or a whole system? Microsoft has partnered in the research and development needed to address each of these needs.
The first step identifies which 21st Century skills are important and how they can be measured, helping define the assessment and content required to ensure the next generation’s future employability and competitiveness. The ATC21S consortium, a partnership between Microsoft, Intel and CISCO and the University of Melbourne, has worked with hundreds of researchers around the world to define these complex skills and develop new assessments to measure them. The research will provide governments, inter-governmental agencies and content providers with skill definitions, sample assessments and guidance on how to measure and teach complex skills such as Collaboration, Problem Solving and ICT Literacy-Learning in Digital Networks.
The next step is research and development to identify the teaching practices and learning experiences that will allow students to develop these skills. Microsoft is sponsoring the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research project aimed at figuring out the most effective and innovative teaching practices to ensure students are prepared for life and work in a globally connected interdependent world. ITL Research, which is designed by the non-profit research institute SRI with advisory from UNESCO, the OECD and others, is helping school systems define the teaching practices needed to help students effectively develop 21st century skills. And through Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, the methods developed through ITL have been offered directly and at no cost to schools around the world to measure their own innovative teaching and learning. For more information, see http://www.pilsr.com.
And finally, through the UNESCO, CISCO, Intel and Microsoft partnership, the third element – scaling competencies – is addressed by the UNESCO ICT-CFT. This partnership has established a framework providing education districts and systems with a means to scale the teacher competencies required for new, innovative teaching practices maximizing the use of ICT in the classroom and for administrative use. Importantly, due to UNESCO’s support, the ICT-CFT has global reach – delivering a common framework to measure and develop teacher competencies that support effective use of ICT for learning for school systems around the world.
While each step in this process is important, the UNESCO ICT-CFT initiative is unique in its ability to provide much needed guidance for systems to have a common understanding of the ICT teaching competencies. As with all partners involved in the creation of the second version of the ICT-CFT, Microsoft is excited to launch the next phase of an initiative that is benefiting students globally and preparing the next generations for a bright future.