This week, I’m in Toronto for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). As always, it’s amazing to see this broad ecosystem of partners who support our education customers both with implementation with technology innovation, but also with industry expertise and integration. Our education partners continue to be not only strong advocates of change in innovation and education, but have been doing the practical work both to support our customers and also to influence Microsoft's strategy and the continued quality of our engagement in education.
The event is always a great opportunity to not only salute and thank our partners for their commitment and connection, but also to align to make sure that we're working together to serve schools effectively in the year ahead. With the range of new technologies from Microsoft like Office 365, Windows 8, and the continued expansion of our cloud services with products like Windows Azure, the opportunity for partners to build on our platform and provide rich and robust solutions for education have never been stronger.
Connecting with partners at WPC always feels me with optimism for the work ahead, and it's a great sense of gratitude on the Microsoft approach of being focused on partnership as part of our core DNA.
It's fitting that a long term partner was recognized this year as our Global Education Partner of the Year, and that's Dell Corporation. Dell has been a close Microsoft partner on the Windows platform with Windows devices, laptops, slates, and tablets for many years, but their partnership is actually much broader than just Dell hardware devices. While Dell’s Education Data Management (EDM) solution won the award this year, the company continues to expand their platform with serving our mutual customers with education licensing, integration solutions, cloud solutions, and more. Dell has become a rich and valuable partner in many areas with a commitment to customer service and a real shared commitment to work in education.
Microsoft recently announced a new collaboration with Dell’s Assistive Technology Service to provide Microsoft’s accessibility guides and curriculum resources with their service. We’re also excited about Dell’s recent acquisition of Wyse Technology as we’re working together to jointly market school IT labs and one-to-one computing solutions that allow a cost effective delivery of innovative IT enabled education. I had the opportunity to talk to Andre Beuchat with Wyse recently about the tremendous growth and adoption of virtual desktops in education. Take a listen to the video below, and I will be posting more partner conversations this week.
Congratulations again to Dell, and a big thank you to all of our partners who are working so hard to make an impact in education.
I wish I could be in two places at once, but it was physically impossible for me to be in Australia for the Worldwide Imagine Cup finals. More than 350 students from 75 countries met in Sydney last week to present their technology projects that tackle humanitarian issues including health, accessibility, the environment, education and more. The winning Software Design project was developed by Ukrainian team quadSquad who constructed a pair of gloves with sensors that can translate sign-language gestures into audio.
Imagine Cup is one of the best things that Microsoft does for students. The 10th annual event is the world’s premier student technology competition. It takes the passion and capabilities and desire to make the world a better place that students have and channels it with technology to create real impact. In addition to the potential impact of the students’ projects, Imagine Cup helps students prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, gaining direct experience in technology innovation, entrepreneurialism and teamwork.
This year's competition was exciting, because we saw for the first time students tackle application development on Windows 8 and the Windows Metro Style app challenge, as well as Kinect. In fact, two-thirds of all the education-focused projects attempted to make education more interactive with Kinect for Xbox 360. Like every year, the quality of the students’ work continues to grow and improve, and the viability of the projects that students are creating to have a meaningful impact on the world is certainly at hand.
This year I was pleased to see so many creative ideas on how to better education, and especially proud an education project won one of the major competitions. The team Drexel Dragons from the United States won the Window Phone Game Design contest. Students from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania created an engaging game designed to teach math and problem solving in new ways to elementary school students. “MathDash” provides a fast-paced, rewarding gameplay experience that reinforces math skills taught to elementary school students. It encourages players to approach problems from a different perspective, giving them an intellectual advantage by teaching them to think outside the box.
I continued to be inspired by the students, their enthusiasm, their energy and their optimism for how technology can play a better role in the world. I encourage you to take a look at all the education projects below. More information is coming in the next month around next year’s Imagine Cup competition. Russia will host the 11th annual event in St. Petersburg in July 2013.
Congratulations to all the 2012 participants!
Argentina – Team BoddyMusic
BoddyMusic is a virtual classroom application that specializes in music education for people with disabilities, enabling users to play various musical instruments with body movements via Kinect for Xbox 360.
Belgium – Team Make A Sign
Make a Sign is a sign language database for all languages, based on Kinect technology, enabling students of many different languages to learn to sign.
Brazil – Team Doers
The objective of “Do More” is to make players aware that through teamwork, every problem can be solved. This game encourages players to participate in changing the world by giving donations, volunteering their time or even by changing their mindsets.
Chile – Team LifeWare
IntegraKinect is a tool for people with cerebral palsy that enables them to interact with a computer through a Kinect sensor and microphones to capture sound and movement.
India – Team D Labs
D Labs allows tutors to understand the behavioral patterns of children with dyslexia by using games to assist them in alphabet identification and movement recognition.
Mexico – Team ReImagine
KIWI is a platform that helps to both diagnose and treat attention deficit disorder. It consists of educational software and exercises, along with software that helps developers, doctors and teachers create and personalize applications that will enhance the treatment for these students.
Peru – Team Wake Up
Project Wake Up allows children with Down syndrome to improve their attention, memory, communication, motor skills and perception by using Kinect and Natural User Interface. Additional components of Wake Up include gesture recognition, color tracking and artificial intelligence.
Philippines – Team Divided By Zero
KidCAMP gives teachers and families of autistic children affordable education tools designed to monitor student performance, improve communication and augment existing special education curriculum by using the Internet and a mobile application.
Romania – Team Complex
Seedbit is a Web application stored in the cloud that unites individuals, companies and NGOs in a fun, social way to get them involved in social causes they are passionate about.
Slovakia – Team OwNet
OwNet addresses the negative impact that poor Internet connectivity can have on schools, offering teachers and students a faster and more efficient way to use the Web for educational purposes, including collaboration tools.
Last week, I attended ISTE in San Diego to help celebrate the launch of Office 365 for education. There have been lots of discussions with customers, but many were initiated by school leaders and teachers directly. They are not only incredibly excited about what the product is going to offer schools, but amazed by the functionality that Lync is going to provide. It’s an eye-opener and a game changer in the conversation in terms of both virtual learning scenarios and rich collaborations, and we think it can be a great way to connect teachers to resources and to students anywhere, anytime.
There’s also great enthusiasm for the work we are doing with Windows 8. Lots of conversations on devices, tablets and bring your own devices scenarios that are very popular now in the United States. The other thing that I think is a broad theme here is the much expansive reflection beyond just digital content and digital reading to more of a focus on the holistic learning environment and actually put some of the core things in proper perspective.
A looming reality at the show, and across the industry in general, is the increased need for supporting teachers and how we can make technologies and tools more real and practical. In all the vendor booths, there’s focus on how do we use this stuff more sensibly. I think it reflects a more mature approach to these tools…as opposed to making technology the star, it’s really about how it is applied, how it’s used well, and how it makes a difference in classrooms. That spirit is something we’ve been trying to build around the Partners in Learning Network.
I met a lot of great people in San Diego...including Helen Gooch, who is the instructional technology coordinator for Clarksville-Montgomery School District in Tennessee. She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) and she is helping rollout Office 365 to her schools. My conversation with her is below.