Education Insights

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

February, 2012

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft technology preserving local languages and cultures


    As I travel around the world meeting people that dedicate their life to teaching and bringing 21st skills to lifelong learners...I find it incredibly rewarding when I am in a country where they are preserving their native language with the help of technology.

    Microsoft is committed to helping people worldwide benefit from technology while striving to uphold local language and cultural identity. Representing this commitment, our Local Language Program is a global initiative that provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions. With 4 billion speakers and more than 100 languages supported, the Local Language Program bridges the gap to technology through language and culture as well as empowers individuals in local communities to create economic opportunities, build IT skills, enhance education outcomes, enhance education outcomes and sustain their local language and culture for future generations.

    As we celebrate UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day this week, the Windows team has disclosed new local language features that will be supported in Windows 8. Currently, Microsoft provides translation tools in 46 languages, and Windows and Office in nearly 100 languages…reaching more than 90 percent of the global population. Coming up on February 28th, we will release the Microsoft Translator Hub, a tool that enables the development of custom community built translation models.

    Additionally, our Local Language Program offers:

    • Nearly 100 languages are supported by Language Interface Packs through free downloads for Windows, Office and Visual Studio.
    • The Microsoft Terminology Collection provides uniformity of meaning to IT terms translated to the local language.
    • Microsoft Translator as an added feature throughout many Microsoft properties translating web pages and text into a familiar language, as well as available to consumers for translating text and website content. (See my earlier blog post here.)
    • Speech recognition services called Microsoft TellMe that simplify everyday tasks through the power of natural language.
    • The Microsoft Language Development Center works on many services, such as speech synthesis technology for under-resourced languages. In addition, through extensive research and development, it creates language opportunities for people worldwide with disabilities.

    There are more than 7,000 languages around the world, and half of those are projected to be in danger of being lost forever over the next century. Through Microsoft technologies represented via the Local Language Program, we hope these languages and cultures can be around for future generations to come.

  • Education Insights

    The Time is Now to Move to Competency-based Teacher Professional Development


    At the recent Education World Forum in London, UNESCO’s Director General Irena Bokova created a buzz when she announced a new version of the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers. This framework identifies key competencies that enable teachers to help prepare a 21st century workforce by using information communication technologies (ICT) in the classroom.

    While research shows that combining ICT with innovative teaching practices strongly predicts students’ acquisition of 21st century skills, the challenge continues to be helping teachers develop the competencies needed to combine great learning activities with meaningful and relevant use of ICTs. There are many challenges to effective professional development of ICT integration:

    • Many teachers are aware that they should integrate ICT into their teaching practices, but are uncertain as to what that actually means. 
    • The absence of a common internationally recognized standard in the area of ICT integration, as well as training based on those standards, prevents having a consistent method to assess teacher competency
    • “One size fits all” training fails to address the needs of individuals. Teachers within one school will have very different needs. While some may have never used a computer, others will be using multiple devices and applications to achieve desired outcomes.
    • Mandating training which is not relevant. Buy-in by the teacher, including the assessment and planning of their own development, decreases resistance to training and increases the likelihood that what is presented actually will result in a change in their teaching strategies.
    • The ability to effectively scale largely face-to-face professional development to reach all teachers in a country is a daunting and expensive endeavor.

    One response to these challenges is the new Partners in Learning Teaching with Technology Curriculum, now offered via Microsoft IT Academy. Microsoft has worked in partnership with governments, colleges of education and subject matter experts from around the world, to create a curriculum which includes a range of learning scenarios and is aligned to the global standards of the UNESCO ICT-CFT, Technology Literacy Approach.

    The solution includes:

    1. A self-assessment aligned to the 2011 UNESCO ICT-CFT, technology literacy approach and provides teachers an individualized learning plan and a country or institution with a realistic assessment of their teacher competencies.
    2. E-Learning curriculum, including summative assessments, which align 1 to 1 to the UNESCO standards and enable teachers to focus only on the areas of learning relevant for them. 
    3. Competency based certification exam, being piloted in Ireland, Russia and Australia.

    The Teaching with Technology curriculum puts ICT into educational context focusing on pedagogy and practice as opposed to tool “how to”. It complements the existing resources available in Microsoft IT Academy including the Microsoft Digital Literacy courses and the Microsoft Office academic curriculum. Through Partners in Learning, and the teacher-to-teacher support resources of the Partners in Learning Network, we have invested almost $500 million in teacher professional development around the world in the last ten years because we believe that teachers are critically important in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. Offering a clear way to help measure and build teacher capacity through ICT integration competencies is a uniquely gratifying opportunity.

    Take a look and let us know what you think!


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