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.