Education Insights

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

  • Education Insights

    Travels to New Zealand and the state of education


    New Zealand is in the midst of lots of changes.  Some of it is politically driven but most of it is driven by a real desire to improve education in the country and really grow how education can make a difference among both students who have had access to technology and the students who have been removed from that opportunity for economic or social reasons. One of the interesting things about New Zealand is how national assessment and benchmarking has affected how the leaders think about the quality of their education system. One of the things I heard quite a bit when I was in New Zealand was the solid performance the country has had on PISA and TIMSS benchmarking tests.

    For the countries and the students who are doing well and achieve high scores on the tests it can be a source of amazing pride throughout the country.  It seemed like everyone I talked to was reflecting on the fact that New Zealand's education system was fairly healthy comparatively from around the world.  And that's good.  It's good to see a country take pride in their education's success and successful outcomes. On the other side of the coin, I encourage education leaders to just not focus here, because fundamentally you don't want to not only rest on the education progress you're making but also take too much into any one measure. We've got to continue to innovate and elevate our education expectations regardless of one or two national assessments that happen every few years.  Ultimately, we've got to continue to push hard.

    I was excited to see the leadership in New Zealand is embracing that challenge and seeing that the way in which technology can make a difference and impact in the country is certainly nowhere near where the potential lies. There's lots of amazing conversations happening around how do think through everything from 21st century skills integration to how do we think about digital access to accessibility, technology, and making a meaningful impact. There’s also a fundamental connection to the industries and industry motivating elements like entrepreneurship as a key focus in the education system.

    Although New Zealand may have good test scores, there’s clear motivation from people to continue to make improvements, and I'm confident they'll continue to be a world leader and push for change that can be helpful for the rest of the world to look at and learn from.

  • Education Insights

    U.S. Teachers Leading a Learning Revolution


    I was excited to be able to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 U.S. Forum last week in Redmond where 100 educators from 25 states showcased their innovative classroom projects to vie for a spot to compete at the Partners in Learning Global Forum later this year. The event is not just a competition, but a celebration of teachers who are making a difference in their local communities and helping their students prepare and expect more for their future. It’s also a great professional development opportunity as educators receive not only some technology training, but the opportunity to network, learn from and collaborate with like-minded peers who inspire others to scale change in education.

    I was impressed with all of the U.S. projects I was able to see. It was great to see classroom projects tackling real-world problems like oil spills, unemployment, diabetes, disaster response, wildlife and more that help students build 21st century skills they’ll need for the workplace. The examples of creative uses of technology in learning represented the Pre-K–12 spectrum and included great ideas for blended learning, student video game design, professional development, flipped classrooms with students teaching their peers, and improving communications skills for those with autism and other special learning needs.

    Check out the video below and my interviews with three teachers. Michael Braun teaches at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, and he’s using Touch Develop to get kids interested in computer science by teaching them how to develop mobile phone apps. You can learn more about his learning activity on the Partners in Learning Network here. Vince Interrante from Mineola Middle School (New York) and Robyn Hrivnatz from Lamar CISD (Texas) teamed up on a rocket bottle project that spanned more than 225 students at five schools on three continents! You can learn how they made this happen here.

    The U.S. team will be sending 16 finalists to the Global Forum in Prague, Czech Republic on November 28-December 1. The 9th annual Partners in Learning Global Forum is the culmination of local and regional events that reach nearly 200,000 participants from over 115 countries. This year’s forum will gather 500 participants, including the most innovative global educators, school leaders, education leaders, and government officials.

    For updates on the event and how to participate in the future, follow our #pilgf Twitter hash tag and our Facebook page.

  • Education Insights

    Congratulations to the Imagine Cup 2012 Winners!


    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!

    Education-focused projects:

    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.

  • Education Insights

    2012 Microsoft Education Partner of the Year -- Dell


    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.

  • Education Insights

    Teachers share their excitement for Office 365 for education at ISTE


    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.


  • Education Insights

    Office 365 for education – a game changer for teaching and learning


    The cloud and online learning are key trends and opportunities to transform education today. And with today’s launch and availability of Office 365 for education, schools now have a holistic collaboration platform that will change the game. As schools face ever-tightening budgets and the pressure to innovate, Microsoft is offering enterprise quality technology for free that will modernize teaching practices and help prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

    Office 365 for education builds off of the great platform we've established with Live@edu and is the next evolution to provide a better experience for communication, collaboration, and productivity tools for education institutions of all types…while saving costs and delivering a great connected experience for students and educators. With Office 365, schools get Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Office Web Apps at no cost. You can sign up today at

    Announced as part of the one-year anniversary of Office 365, prestigious K-12 and higher education institutions around the world are moving to Office 365 for education. Our cloud suite was chosen by the Scottish Government to supply Office 365 for education as the integrated productivity suite for the future of the renowned Glow Platform - representing upwards of 1.2 million students and teachers across the country. In Qatar, all 93,000 students and 15,000 teachers will have access to Office 365 at their fingertips. There are many schools across Europe moving to Office 365, including the University of Dundee that is moving off Novell GroupWise to expand communication capabilities on campus. These schools join other large academic institutional and countrywide commitments to Office 365 such as the India Council for Technical Education with 7.5 million users and the Catholic International Education Office with over 4.5 million users across 102 countries.

    Students must be more than consumers. They need to be creators. They need to know how to communicate and collaborate with others. Office 365 is the best productivity experience that’s used all over the world and that companies are demanding expertise in. And there is no compromise for going to the cloud with Microsoft. The experience and features that you expect on the desktop and offline are also there in the cloud. Schools can connect all devices to the cloud, and every student and teacher regardless of location, to realize the potential of online learning.

    Teachers can create curriculum, record lectures and publish them on online class sites in the cloud where students are able to view, open, produce, edit and share their homework. Office 365 provides new ways to extend classroom teaching time and distance learning, tutor students online, and whiteboard ideas. Students can engage in ad hoc instant messaging or video chats to collaborate on class projects in real-time, regardless of where they’re working or on what device. They can create documents with Office Web Apps that provides the same features as the desktop version of Microsoft Office, share class notes by synchronizing OneNote notebooks, and create digital portfolios.

    What I’m most excited about is Lync Online which will enable teachers to create purposeful, personalized and fun learning experiences. The University of Massachusetts Amherst and the National University of Ireland, Galway are using Office 365 to create virtual teams and prepare students to be more effective in the business world than other graduates. They are immersed the very first day of class in the cloud. Take a look at the video below.

    With Office 365, learning possibilities are limitless. And I can’t wait to hear how it’s helping to increase students’ success in your school.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft and Dell empower students with accessible technology and training


    Early in my career at Microsoft, I was inspired to see how accessible technology empowered and enriched the lives of individuals with disabilities and enabled new opportunities to learn and communicate. These experiences fueled my passion to ensure that all students have the right technology in place to help them learn. Educators understand the importance of supporting students with special needs, yet the process of selecting and using accessible technology can be complex.

    Today, Microsoft and Dell are announcing a new collaborative effort to make it easier for schools to empower students and teachers with accessible technology and training. Dell’s Assistive Technology Service—created by special education teachers and accessibility specialists—simplifies the process of selecting accessible devices and assistive technology products. Through this Service, schools receive support and training including Microsoft’s accessibility guides and curriculum resources that illustrate how to use accessibility features in Microsoft products, like Windows and Office, in order to enhance learning and create accessible teaching materials like digital talking textbooks.

    Dell and Microsoft share the belief that accessible technology provides educational opportunities for students with disabilities and learning-styles differences. At Microsoft, we actively listen and learn from our customers to identify best practices of accessibility in schools and report recommendations for providing accessible technology. Dell’s Assistive Technology Service adopts these recommendations so educators can focus on instructional practices that empower learners with disabilities, and not on the administrative tasks of deploying technology.

    When educators have more time to focus on instruction, teachers have opportunities to develop intriguing ways to use technology in the classroom. I’m inspired by the ways educators are using technology to make lessons come to life. Many schools are using Kinect in the classroom to encourage students with disabilities to engage with curricula using physical gestures and their voice. Lagoa Secondary School in Portugal noticed that the use of Kinect classroom activities can boost subject matter proficiency, promote class cohesion, and strengthen social skills among students of varying abilities and disabilities. Teachers from Loudoun County, Virginia are sharing their advice on using Kinect in special education classrooms.

    In Washington state, a school for students who are blind uses Microsoft Lync―part of Office 365―for distance learning. Office 365 for education―a free tool for educators and students worldwide―empowers educators and students to work together on classroom projects and documents simultaneously, collaborating in real time with virtual meetings, and participating in instant messaging and video conferencing across the globe. To help keep students safe as they learn online, we promote a safer online experience for students by providing online safety resources as part of Dell’s Assistive Technology Service

    Together with Partners in Learning and Dell’s Assistive Technology Service, Microsoft is dedicated to providing creative accessibility solutions for education so every student can realize their potential.

  • Education Insights

    More than 4.5 million Catholic School Students to Receive Microsoft Office 365 for Education


    Sharing my blog post from The Official Microsoft Blog...

    Today, the Catholic International Education Office (OIEC) took an exciting step toward delivering a brighter future for Catholic students around the world, demonstrating there is no greater resource to invest in than that of youth. Recognizing changes were needed to provide their students with the 21st century skills they’ll need in their future careers, OIEC is partnering with Microsoft to bring Office 365 and other resources to more than 200,000 Catholic schools all over the world with the potential to reach 43 million students.

    The partnership between OIEC and Microsoft deploys some of the newest technologies, including more than 4.5 million subscriptions to Office 365 for education – a free tool for educators and students worldwide, which will be made available this summer during the first wave of deployment. The agreement empowers educators and students to do a number of things, including working together on class projects and documents simultaneously, collaborating in real time with virtual meetings, and participating in instant messaging and video conferencing across the globe. They’ll also be able to create and maintain compelling websites and edit them as easily as they would a Word document, and access a new “Social Network of Catholic Education,” designed by Microsoft and based on Windows Azure, as a private element of the Partners in Learning Network.

    As someone who spent 20 years in the Catholic education system, I know the importance of a great Catholic education, and have experienced firsthand the exemplary efforts of the leaders to prepare their students for the challenges and opportunities of the future. It comes as no surprise to me that OIEC is pioneering this significant change to the education of their students – they have recognized the value of integrating technology into the classroom as a way to teach 21st century skills.

    With this announcement, we see the shifting dynamics of the modern Catholic classroom ushering in an exciting era for the worldwide Catholic community, and, hopefully, serving as a harbinger for traditional classroom changes around the world. Research from IDC states that in the next decade, 77 percent of all jobs will require technical skills of some sort, and when institutions like OIEC make announcements akin to the one they made today at the Vatican, I feel a boost of confidence that our students will be prepared.

    We need to continue to get creative about the ways technology can make a real impact in the lives of students and prepare them for the jobs of the future. Through this partnership, we will do just that. I am proud the leadership of the Catholic International Education Office has chosen to partner with Microsoft to deliver on their commitment to educators and students to modernize its schools and further its mission to promote education for all. Together, we can make a real impact in the classroom for both students and educators, and look forward to taking this journey with the Catholic community around the world.

  • Education Insights

    New online safety features coming in Windows 8


    It’s a fact of life that students increasingly are looking to the Web to consume information about their world, connect with friends, to gather information and research for school work and more. As students' digital appetite continues to grow, parents and schools need to be much more mindful of the potential dangers with regards to online safety, and provide the necessary guidance and instruction to students so they can have a safe online experience.  As a technology vendor and industry leader, Microsoft has a responsibility to help make the Internet safer for everyone.

    That’s why I’m excited about the new Family Safety features coming in Windows 8. You can read more details about the new features in Building Windows 8 blog here. With Windows 8, you can monitor what your kids are doing, no matter where they use their PC. Windows 8 gives you a “monitor first” approach, which provides informative activity reports for each child that summarizes their computer activities, including a list of websites they are visiting, latest search terms, what they are downloading and the amount of time spent on the PC and most used apps and games.

    The Web is obviously a great learning tool both in and outside the classroom to help students build 21st century skills such as collaboration, problem solving, global awareness, knowledge building, and skilled communication. Microsoft has a lot of existing resources you can use to help provide kids with a safer experience online. Here is a site with some great resources.


  • Education Insights

    Thank a Teacher


    We hear so much about what is wrong with the education in the U.S., but I know this week we can get beyond the debate and the dialogue to focus on celebrating teachers and how we can better support teachers so they can help students be successful. It is after all National Teacher Appreciation Week. The question should be…which teacher are you going to thank this week?

    Teachers are the foundation of a strong education system. Some people even go as far to say that effective teachers are the number one predictor of student success. We're partnering with the Department of Education on to encourage more young pepole to go into the profession of teaching. I think what we have to do in the United States and all over the world is celebrate the value and role of teachers in our society, elevate the profession, and elevate the importance that they have in the lives of our families, of our children and of our countries. While it’s good to recognize the sacrifices teachers make, we need to shine a spotlight on the joys of being a teacher, the rewards, the impact and the value that being a teacher has on so many people’s lives.

    That is why I started a new blog this year called “Daily Edventures,” where each day a voice of an “everyday hero” working to improve education worldwide is promoted. Teachers, school leaders, policy-makers, business leaders, celebrities…people who have embraced enhancing education as a core facet in their lives. This is their blog. Who are they, what inspires them, what frustrates them, what hopes do they hold for the future of education? Today, we highlight the 2010 U.S. National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Wessling. I encourage you to take a listen to my interview with Sarah to hear what she thinks makes a great teacher. I personally admire Sarah because she takes the chance to embrace failure, relates content to students’ lives, and most importantly, she tries to not only create life-long learners, but is one herself.

    Those of us at Microsoft who are lucky enough to work in education feel a personal passion and commitment toward the future of education. And I have been so lucky to meet so many incredible educators around the world who have the power to inspire our children. There are amazing things happening from the work chess legend Gary Kasparov’s doing to use chess to improve learning, to Mamta Patel Nagaraja’s work at NASA to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers. This journey has confirmed what I knew before the year started…there’s no shortage of ideas, approaches or great leaders.  We need to work together to drive and scale change…and we can no longer tolerate dissension or distraction from our mission to help every child reach their full potential.

    Partners in Learning is Microsoft’s $500 million global initiative to help improve teaching and learning. So far, we’ve reached 10 million teachers and 200 million students in 119 countries. In November, in Athens, Greece, we will convene hundreds of the world’s best teachers at the Partners in Learning Global Forum. It’s the culmination of regional and country events around the world where educators compete to represent their countries most innovative teaching that uses technology and helps students build 21st century skills. If you are a teacher reading this, I encourage you to apply to attend what promises to be a life-changing experience.

    So, who will you say “thank you” to today? I am saying thanks to all of you out there who continue to work hard for our children’s future and inspire me every day to work harder to serve your needs.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft's new investment in the future of digital reading


    We are excited about the opportunity digital reading has to provide new avenues for personalized learning to help students and teachers realize their full potential. Today, Microsoft announced a strategic partnership with Barnes & Noble to develop future innovations to accelerate e-reading across a broad range of Windows devices. One of the first outcomes of this partnership will be a Windows 8 app bringing one of the world’s largest digital libraries to hundreds of millions of Windows customers in the U.S. and internationally. Combining the technology assets of Barnes & Noble and Microsoft will enable faster, more compelling innovation in the e-reading market around digital content consumption, creation, and publishing.

    This partnership is affirmation of the increasing shift and force of digital reading and digital learning. There is a fundamental shift occurring in the way people are reading and this new partnership with Barnes & Noble positions Microsoft to be at the heart of that revolution and accelerate it. In the next three years, e-books are forecast to grow to a third of overall books sold from less than 5% today. According to a recent Pew Internet Research study, there are four times more people reading e-books on a typical day now than was the case less than two years ago. As I've blogged about before, what's most exciting is how technology will enable a more immersive reading experience, as people begin to engage with content in fundamentally new ways, through annotations, multimedia, real-time updates, collaboration and sharing.

    Today, education customers can get digital textbooks through a number of major e-reader applications on Windows 7 such as Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader, and Kno’s web e-reader, and we'll continue to partner with many companies in this space and directly with publishers. We count amongst our strategic partners who use and build on our technology, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Cornelsen, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Santillana, John Wiley and Sons and many others across the globe. Microsoft recently held its first annual Education Publisher Summit where we had the opportunity to gather dozens of leading publishers together that we work with around the world to talk about the state of publishing and the increasing role technology is playing...not only to change the state of readng but to fundamentally transform learning. I think one thing in common among the folks in the room is the shared aspiration to go beyond books. We need to think about how learning objects and the use of digital technology in new and immersive ways can transform classrooms/learning environments and adapt to serve the needs of individual learners and teachers.

    I think the goal is to actually look at the current state of technology in education, and the way in which people think about new devices and tablets as just the beginning of a changing future...or maybe the end of the first phase of technology's role.  We've got to now move beyond automation of technology to really think about transformation.  Certainly, we have a lot of work to do ahead. We’ve learned from our more than 20 years of experience in education, that putting a singular device in a classroom or in the hands of students does not go far enough to enrich the learning experience, and we expect much more innovation to continue from the marketplace. We are collectively working to help transform not just reading…but LEARNING...and at Microsoft, we are rolling up our sleeves to tackle the hard and meaningful problems to deliver REAL IMPACT for educators and students alike.

  • Education Insights

    India Ministry Selects Live@Edu in Microsoft’s Largest Cloud Deployment Ever to 7.5 Million People


    This week, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) branch of India’s Ministry of Human Resources and Development made a big bet on delivering a brighter future for not only India’s up-and-comers, but for the future of India itself. Recognizing that an educated population is one natural resource that increases in value as it increases in size, AICTE announced the deployment of Microsoft Live@Edu to more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes throughout India.

    Now more than ever, governments all over the world face increasingly tough decisions on how, when and where to invest for ensuring economic stability and spearheading growth. India, in particular, continues to push the envelope on innovation with its current strategy to invest heavily in education.

    Today, there are pockets of innovation happening across India’s school systems, but antiquated technology in India’s technical colleges and institutes has undermined opportunities for successful student outcomes. A lot of students experience an inability to access the tools critical to academic success that, for some, translates to a lack of know-how needed to succeed in the workforce. The current IT system does not allow students, faculty and staff to communicate from anywhere at any time. The cloud solves this problem, enabling a seamless collaboration experience.

    AICTE selected Live@Edu based on a critical need for a world-class cloud productivity solution for their students that could grow and evolve with ever-changing student needs. The decision means that more than 7.5 million students, educators and staff will soon have access to free, cloud-hosted communications and collaboration services. The impact to students’ improved quality of education extends beyond collegiate success by enabling a smooth transition for students from college to workforce. Live@Edu is the leading communications and collaboration suite in the cloud for education, with more than 22 million people using the service worldwide.

    When it comes to belief in the power of education to transform lives and entire economies, India’s Ministry of Human Resources and Development and Microsoft also share a common belief that successful outcomes for students require more than just a product. Unlike other companies, it is Microsoft’s unique ability to offer additional support through programs like BizSpark – a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving them access to Microsoft software development tools and connecting them with key industry players – that inspired AICTE to choose Live@Edu for their students.

    A quality education is the key to economic opportunity, not only for individuals, but for their communities. I applaud India for recognizing the time has never been better to commit to providing modern-day classroom tools needed for students to thrive.

  • Education Insights

    Talking about gaming and learning at SXSWedu


    Last week, I had the chance to attend the 2nd annual SXSWedu event. It was a great time for networking and learning, and I think they’ve taken the spirit and energy of the main SXSW film and music festival and applied to a more thoughtful and open dialogue for education reform.

    I had an opportunity to lead a panel on game-based learning and its impact on student achievement with some experts in the field from Rochester Institute of Technology, Just Press Play, Second Avenue Learning and Chicago Public Schools. We talked about how gamification could impact the core of the way in which learning and content is transformed, how we can create new models for teaching more innovatively, as well as thinking differently around getting kids connected in personal ways both as it relates to gender equity, as well as driving the right kind of education outcomes for careers and skills. It was a thoughtful conversation but there’s lots of work to explore in this space.

    I had the opportunity to talk more with Stephen Jacobs from RIT after the panel to share some more of his insights with Just Press Play and what he is doing at RIT.


  • Education Insights

    Recommendations for Providing Accessible Technology for Students to Enhance Personalized Learning


    We believe that everyone should have access to technology. One way Microsoft is helping to transform education for teachers and students with disabilities is through our global partnerships.  UNESCO is one of many partners we work with because we share a commitment to digital inclusion in education―inclusive classrooms, personalized learning, and accessible technology. These elements are the cornerstones of our partnership.  Today, at the International Conference on Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities, Microsoft is hosting a panel to discuss a report released by UNESCO entitled "Consultative Accessible ICTs and Personalized Learning for Students with Disabilities." 

    Children with disabilities worldwide make up the world’s largest and most disadvantaged minority in terms of education.  An estimated 186 million children with disabilities worldwide have not completed their primary school education.  For students with disabilities, access to educational opportunities can often be enhanced through accessible technology.  Personalized learning requires attention to the unique needs of all students—particularly students with learning difficulties or physical disabilities.  The benefits of accessible technology and personalized learning can extend to all students, including those with even minor impairments.

    To focus on this issue, Microsoft and UNESCO convened a two-day meeting in November 2011 to bring together 30 knowledgeable participants from more than 10 countries to discuss accessible technology for students and report on practical solutions for educators. All participants were deeply knowledgeable about accessibility and technology use in schools. Participants included teachers, school administrators, experts from the IT industry, and representatives from organizations with a focus on disability issues. 

    The UNESCO report outlines practical solutions, such as:

    1. Maximize use of accessibility features in current school technology.  Mainstream computers and other technology used in schools often include settings and features that enhance accessibility, yet many educators are not trained on accessibility, and do not know which features will help students with specific disabilities. Increasing awareness of available accessibility features and providing teacher training will help many students without requiring schools to acquire new technology. To help schools, Microsoft publishes accessibility guides that address solutions for current and older PCs.  In addition, Microsoft recently published Curriculum Resources for Special Education for Windows 7 and Office 2010. This curriculum resource provides specific examples and best practices that show how the PC can be personalized for students with learning style differences or physical disabilities.

    2. Support teachers with training, curriculum resources, and accessibility contacts. Teacher training and support is critical. For teachers to be able to help students personalize their PCs and adjust accessibility settings, teachers must first have the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources themselves.  Also, accessibility is a complex subject that requires an understanding of how learning style differences and disabilities impact computer use. Teachers need to know who to contact within the school or local community for information about accessibility. Some schools—including Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia―have accessibility teams that conduct student evaluations, accessibility training, and have assistive technology experts to support the school community. Also available from Microsoft is an accessibility teacher training workshop.

    3. Consider students’ accessibility needs early in curriculum development. And, create teaching materials that are accessible to students with disabilities.  Schools are able to successfully integrate students with disabilities when teachers understand how to adjust curriculum and create accessible technology materials. For example, a student who is blind at Colegio San Benito in Santiago, Chile uses a laptop with Windows, Microsoft Office, and a screen reader. Her teachers provide assignments, quizzes, and exams via Word documents.

    4. Facilitate students to learn the life skill of personalizing technology. This skill will benefit students as they progress through the educational system and into the workforce.

    5. Consider accessibility when planning school technology. During technology planning, purchase decisions, and deployment, consider the accessibility needs of students. Weaving accessibility into the overall technology plan rather than adding accessibility as an afterthought could reduce overall technology costs.  A book called, "The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools," addresses these topics and best practices for creating an accessibility team in public schools in the United States.

    6. Make accessible technology a key consideration for national and regional policies. To achieve inclusive education, accessible information and communications technology (ICTs) should be explored by educational authorities and Ministries with a view to updating national and regional policies.

    Accessible technology has the power to enrich education for a population of students with disabilities that otherwise would have a difficult time communicating. As students with disabilities are integrated into mainstream classrooms, teachers need support, training, and effective resources to help students succeed. That is why Microsoft is dedicated to building accessibility into our products and providing accessibility resources for educators. 

  • 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!


  • 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

    A turning point for education? Trends to watch in 2012.


    Will the year 2012 prove to be a turning point for education? There’s certainly an ever-increasing spotlight on the quality of education and an interest to help improve it from all corners of society. As I travel around the world, I see many technology companies increasing their focus and investment in education. And I think it’s time for the industry to pull together to think not just about winning and losing, but how we can do what’s right for students and make learning better.

    I’m inspired everyday by the work of teachers, school leaders, policymakers, and business leaders who have made improving education worldwide a facet of their lives. As part of Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, we work with more than 9 million teachers in 115 countries, and it’s amazing to me that regardless of local economics or other challenges in their unique learning environments, teachers find a way to make a difference in students’ lives.

    With the ever-changing economic climate, the next year is sure to be filled with both challenges and opportunities. Here are some trends and themes I think we’ll continue to hear more about in 2012.

    1. A tighter focus and prioritization on workforce readiness and jobs. This is going to be everywhere. Traditional universities are thinking much more about preparing students for the workforce, immersing students with job skills training earlier. Traditional community colleges, technical and vocational schools will continue to see a rise in popularity and student interest. And even in the K-12 space, schools are doing more to introduce skill-based learning outside of the core subject areas of math, science and reading that students are tested on. This is true globally where the unemployment rate is also at record lows. In countries like Spain and Korea, entrepreneurship is rising in importance and kids are looking to discover and create new industries. Through our Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) project, we know skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity are vital for students as they prepare to enter the workforce.  So much so, that The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a worldwide, three-yearly evaluation in OECD member countries of school pupils’ performance – will be including Collaborative Problem Solving as a mandatory component of the 2015 study.

    2. A support for innovative teacher methodologies is critical. There’s a lot of debate whether technology can replace or diminish the role of a teacher in the classroom. At Microsoft, we believe investing in teaching and professional development of teachers is one of the most important investments we can make in education. One teacher can reach thousands over the course of a career, and literally catalyze the future of a community. Between our Innovative Teaching and Learning Research and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there is a lot of research on teacher effectiveness and its impact on student learning. We know the more education a child obtains, the higher their income earning potential is…and now there is a new study out of Harvard and Columbia  that shows how just even one great teacher can impact a student’s future earnings. The Partners in Learning Network is a free community resource with networking, educator resources, lesson plans, and invaluable learning content from the world’s best teachers.

    3. 2012 is when the cloud moves from a curiosity to a necessity. While more than 22 million students, faculty and staff are using Microsoft’s cloud services today in education, there is going to be huge growth. Schools will recognize the cloud is a key component to their digital content platform strategy to storage options as it relates to security, identity, back-up, etc., It’s also a way to cost-effectively deliver more technology to more people quickly and so that they can focus their IT resources on projects that really drive improvements to learning.

    4. Real data-driven learning. Another big trend I think you will start to see is more examples of data-driven learning and education taken to the next level. Historically, data-driven education has been a chart taking activity where we get data and display information, but then reaction to the data has been inconsistent. The data collection of students’ progress hasn’t been driving a real opportunity for proactive support. This is where business intelligence (BI) can enable a much richer dialogue with regards helping teachers personalize learning and being able to create individualized lessons for students at different places in their learning.

    5. Gaming and the emergence of Kinect as a PC factor. Yes, I am a gamer…and I blog a lot about how gaming and the mechanics of gaming can and should be brought into education to help drive expectations of students higher. At CES, I had an opportunity to see Kinect applied in very interesting ways. There were vendors showing how Kinect can work with digital whiteboards and classroom navigation, lecture capture, and how voice control can be integrated in very simple and elegant ways. We are starting to see a grassroots effort and more teachers include Kinect as a component of classroom design and a way to motivate students. It’s also a way for schools to save money yet still acquire innovative technology to create rich, interactive experiences. The marketplace for more education solutions will continue to grow after the Kinect for Windows SDK and Kinect for Windows Sensor is released publicly on February 1st.

    6. Change the conversation from the device to learning. I think we’ll see a movement where schools will move beyond 1:1 computing and really focus on digital learning. It will transform from a device conversation to a learning conversation. There will be trends like “bring your own device” (BYOD) that support it, and the proliferation of multiple device types (laptops, slates, tablets, phones) that support the technology environment schools want and need. But then the conversation needs to turn to connecting the devices to curriculum and pedagogy and the assessment models. And all the content needs to be accessible on multiple devices and be available anytime and anywhere.

    7. The rise of digital curriculum and reading. The rise of digital reading is certainly a reality in the consumer space, but textbook providers are just starting to build out next-generation content experiences. I think we’ll finally start to see the transition and some schools like this one in Turkey as early adopters. While many schools will use the opportunity to save money on traditional textbooks to fund devices, schools have to think about this holistically and not just buy a device to replace a textbook. Digitizing textbooks in and of itself is not transformative, but by focusing on the entire learning continuum and how digital curriculum and content created by students and teachers can be connected to back-end systems that can link the student outcomes to assessments, personalized learning and increased student achievement…now that’s transformative change.

    Microsoft is working with more than 150 publishers worldwide, including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Cornelsen, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Santillana to publish and distribute digital textbooks in the cloud. These textbooks and new content will be able to be consumed by students on a variety of devices, from Windows 7 notebooks to tablets and slates, Windows Phone, Xbox, Kinect and Office 365, reflecting the diversity and personalization required as part of the learning experience.  

    I think it will be a very exciting year.

  • Education Insights

    Cool new devices for schools at CES


    I’m back in the office after a quick trip to Las Vegas for CES. I love to walk the show floor each year to see all the new gadgets, not just because it’s fun to tinker with new technology, but because I like to get a first look at the new innovations that could be most useful when applied in education. There are a lot of new Microsoft products that are available to schools now or very soon. Surface 2.0 has just shipped, the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) and a Kinect for Windows sensor are coming on February 1st, and Nokia phones built on Windows Phone are out now.

    Our hardware partners are building some cool PCs and Windows 7 runs super-fast and super-long on them. They’re building rich input devices, with mice, keyboards, and pen inputs – some go from a laptop to a tablet in just seconds -- satisfying those students who want the best of both tablets and PCs in one.  There are also a lot of new form factors designed to appeal to students that are lightweight with rich screens, and that are very flexible with support for gaming and use things like voice and touch commands to enable a very immersive experience. Ultrabooks were the star of the show. You can see the latest Windows 7 devices here and in the embedded video below.

    I am really excited about all the choices schools have when it comes to determining what device they want to bring into their institution. As we know 1:1 learning is going to become more rampant with the shift to digital content and the need to make sure kids are prepared for college and career. We’ve learned a lot about technology’s effectiveness in schools and in 1:1 programs in particular, and I encourage school leaders to think holistically about the learning environment before they jump to buy technology for technology’s sake. I met with JP Sa Couto and Critical Links at CES. They help schools think about all aspects to create the most effective learning environment. They have done a lot of research and investment in looking at everything from the school furnishings to lighting to looking at ethnographic studies to literally determine how a device best fits into a school.

    Schools want devices for different activities….reading digital textbooks, taking notes, creating presentations and papers, the ability to plug in an array of peripherals and 3rd party solutions, and centralized IT management and security. And as data-driven education improves, schools need to be able to analyze what students and teachers are doing with the technology and link the outcomes to assessments and personalized lesson planning through business intelligence and learning management systems.

    There are a lot of great new tablet PCs and laptops designed especially for education that can withstand the rigors of heavy use during the school day, including getting thrown in backpacks and dropped on the playground.

    At CES, Lenovo was showing off the newly released Lenovo Classmate + . It’s a rugged PC laptop that converts into a tablet, sports a drop resistant exterior, spill proof keyboard,  reinforced steel hinges, 10.1 inch touch display with pen (optional HD), 10 hour battery life, multiple USB ports and VGA or HDMI output to monitor. The Lenovo X130e is also a good choice for K12 schools made rugged with rubber “bumpers” and reinforced hinges to take a long school day. 

    Dell’s Inspiron Duo continues to win praise from students and teachers alike because its innovative flip hinge design makes it very easy to go from touch to type in seconds.  The 10.1 HD multi touch screen, student sized keyboard and rugged design make it the perfect device for schools that want a HD tablet and a laptop in one device.


    For university students who want a computer that’s light, fast, durable and stylish, ultrabooks are all the rage. The video below showcases the latest hardware from Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony.

  • Education Insights

    Join the new Partners in Learning Network today and start spreading ideas to improve education worldwide


    I’m delighted to officially announce the launch of our revamped Partners in Learning Network here at the BETT Show in London. Originally launched in 2009, the new community site is now open to teachers and school leaders in over 115 countries, and has been enhanced with many new features and resources all designed to encourage collaboration and the spread of ideas for improving education around the world.

    If you’re not familiar with the Partners in Learning Network, this is a free community resource designed to provide educators with a place to engage with other like-minded professionals to enhance their personal development and classroom experience for their students. This is not just a networking site; it is a treasure chest of resources, lesson plans, and invaluable learning content from the world’s best teachers. To kick things off, we’ve already populated the site with over 40 different tools such as lesson plans, learning activities and tutorials that are available for immediate download for use in the classroom.

    We started beta testing the new site back in November, and we’ve already received some encouraging feedback from teachers.

    “There is importance in how the Partners in Learning Network can work to offer teachers an online community filled with product downloads, tutorials, activities and discussions. What I am excited about is the opportunity to share with teachers some ideas and resources that ALL our students could use effectively and easily in and out of the classroom.” 
    --Nicole Lakusta, Educational Technology Facilitator, Parkland School Division, Canada
    More on Nicole’s blog here.

    “As a professional development opportunity, the Partners in Learning Network is unparalleled. The more teachers and schools that we can get involved the more innovation and corresponding results will follow.”
    --Louis Zulli Jr., Network Administrator, Center for Advanced Technologies, Florida

    Here are some new features our early users are most excited about…

    1. Using Microsoft Translator, the site is available today in 36 different languages. That means members can not only communicate with others in their own language, but any user can translate any content into one of these supported languages, or make suggestions and edits to previously translated pages. This is incredibly exciting because it allows us to offer educators a truly global community.

    2. New achievement badges help members identify the community’s mentors, teacher trainers and experts, to encourage collaboration and the sharing of ideas and best practices. A new tagging infrastructure ensures that as teachers upload content such as learning activities, tutorials about incorporating technology, sample projects and other ready-to-use educational resources, that the content is quick and easy to find. 

    3. We know there are a lot of choices for social networking sites, and that many educators may already have established profiles and followers on other sites. That’s why Partners in Learning Network members are able to promote and link to their other social media properties. We also make accessing all of the resources easy by allowing members to sign-in using Windows Live ID, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, or Yahoo, instead of having to “start over” on a new site or just choose one. They can also use pre-existing log-ins from these accounts to sign-in to the Network.

    To sign up now, visit and start spreading ideas to make education worldwide better!

    We’re having a great time engaging with some of the best and brightest in the education community this week in London, and have made a few other exciting announcements. Please see my earlier blog post here to learn more.

  • Education Insights

    The importance on assessing students’ 21st century skills, not just math, science and reading


    (Cross-post from the Microsoft EMEA Press Centre blog.)

    This week, Microsoft is taking part in the annual Education World Forum in London. For us, it’s a great opportunity to meet with education ministers from around the globe and hear about the different issues facing their countries. It’s an important part of the work we do in this sector; by listening and understanding both the opportunities and challenges, we ensure our business is available to support them in the quest for inclusive and relevant education for everyone.

    Three years ago, Microsoft partnered with Cisco and Intel to launch the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) project. Made up of governments, intergovernmental organisations and research and teaching institutions, ATC21S is a collaborative research program created to address a specific problem: that traditional assessment methods do not properly evaluate the skills needed to prepare learners for working in the modern world. Skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation are all vital attributes for students but not currently measured effectively by most countries. These skills can prepare a student for the workforce and provide stronger economic opportunities for the future.

    ATC21S has moved from concept and definition stage through to the development of assessments and trials for collaborative problem-solving and ICT literacy -learning using digital networks. Today, we’re excited to announce the road ahead. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a worldwide, three-yearly evaluation in OECD member countries of school pupils’ performance – will be including Collaborative Problem Solving as a mandatory component of the 2015 study.

    "ATC21S has played an essential pathfinder role to move the assessment agenda forward. It fills a critical gap between existing basic research on assessment design and methodologies, on the one hand, and the implementation of large-scale assessments that provide reliable data at reasonable cost, on the other. Its latest venture, the piloting of tasks to assess collaborative problem-solving skills, provides important insights for OECD's efforts to broaden future PISA assessments to encompass interpersonal skill dimensions." – Andreas Schleicher, Head of Indicators and Analysis Division, Education Directorate, Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)

    PISA is aimed at improving educational policies and outcomes. It tests literacy in reading, mathematics and science, measuring education’s application to real-life problems and the knowledge needed for the world of work. This close alignment with our own aims means that PISA’s interest helps to focus the ATC21S work in informing the methods, approaches and teaching and learning strategies needed, and we’re really proud to be working together.

    To make sure schools are ready to teach and assess 21st century skills, and specifically, collaborative problem solving skills, we’ll shortly be releasing policy and teaching guidance, as well as sample assessments. Through these materials, teachers will be able to identify gaps in development and assess where they may need to invest in curriculum change.

    As employers of tomorrow’s talent, it’s important for Microsoft to support education initiatives, using our resources, visibility and global reach to help improve learning and education all over the world. Alongside our common interest, assessing students on 21st century skills is an important step in spreading economic development. Many of the jobs that today’s students will perform may not even yet exist. As I’ve blogged about before here and here, using old models to assess these students fails to prepare them to adapt their skillsets for the ever-changing world of work.

    UPDATE: The ATC21S team is blogging from the events and sessions on site in London. You can follow the discussion here.

  • Education Insights

    Navigating the world via Bing and Microsoft Translator


    One of the things I love about the Bing toolbar is the translation service that uses Microsoft Translator technology to provide online automatic translation of text and web pages.  In my worldwide role, I am increasingly traveling to countries I’ve never visited before and communicating with folks who speak many different languages.

    Before I travel, I like to read up on where I am going to learn about the education system, economy and culture…so the Bing Translator, which translates more than 35 languages, is tremendously useful and has made my life easier. After you load the Bing toolbar and go to a web site in another language, like Chinese, Japanese, French, etc., the text of the web page is automatically translated to your preferred language. 

    This translation technology from Microsoft Research is slowly proliferating across Microsoft products. Besides instant translations in Bing, you can also have multi-lingual conversations in Windows Live Messenger and Microsoft Lync, and translate words in Office 2010 documents. Schools can also add the Microsoft Translator widget to their own web pages. Partners and other companies are also using the Translator API to help break down language barrier. Facebook, Trip Advisor, Harper Collins and eBay are using the API to bring their services and content to new audiences and languages.

    If you haven’t already, I suggest checking out the Bing Bar here, download it and give it a try.

  • Education Insights

    Rethinking Innovation in Education


    I had the pleasure of attending the Worldwide Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), held in Doha, Qatar recently. This is the third year Microsoft has participated in the summit and it continues to be a very valuable K-20 conversation around the state of education around the world, and the need for reform. I participated in an interesting conversation regarding the need for reform in education.  The official session was titled, “Rethinking Innovation in Education.” You can watch the discussion in the embedded video below.

    One of the things I tried to do in my comments was disconnect innovation with technology, because too often it's synonymous for schools…as people think about innovation, they jump too quickly to technology as the solution.

    There is tremendous enthusiasm for technology in education and it's definitely part of learning's future.  The opportunity to share information, collaborate around the world, to consume truly endless amounts of content and get access to information anywhere, anytime, anyplace, is a game changer that fundamentally will have a huge role in the future of the way learning takes place. But the lessons we've learned in the past remain constant, and frankly even more important now than ever…and that is supporting great teaching, making sure kids are properly motivated to succeed, and that we align a holistic approach to a student's learning environment, from a classroom environment to getting parental involvement to making sure that we've got the right assessment in place, etc. Technology can support, enable all of those things, but technology alone isn't going to overcome a bad teacher or a bad environment.

    The other issue we have to think about is as it relates to the technology itself, because in many cases the technology will evolve to create a new opportunity for learning.  Most of what we've done with technology in schools all over the United States and the world has been to automate the passive learning models and modalities.  So, we've taken classrooms and turned them virtual. We've taken tests and turned them online. We've taken books and created electronic books. While all these transitions are valuable and helpful, they don't provide any transformative experience other than moving from a piece of paper to a digital screen or a phone conversation to a text message.  And while the value and efficiencies can support schools and help budgets, the learning process isn't transformed.

    What can make a change is how technology is applied to create much more responsive, reactive and personal learning environments. To create the settings to connect students to quality of content and information that previously was unavailable, to refine learning to respond predictively to a learner's need based on learning styles, test scores, etc. And when all these elements come into play, learning retention increases, test scores potentially increase, and we have more engaged and motivated students.


  • Education Insights

    18 of the world's most innovative teaching projects


    As I’ve said before, the highlight of my year is attending the Partners in Learning Innovative Educator Forums around the world. This year's worldwide finals event in Washington, D.C. was no exception.  It's an amazing opportunity to talk, to witness some amazing heroes from every corner of the globe, and the innovations that these teachers are delivering for students to really change lives.

    The Partners in Learning Global Forum is the culmination of a year-long series of progressively competitive national and regional events that recognize the very best in innovative teaching and learning.  The educators that made it to the Global Forum were selected from almost 250,000 teachers and schools that started the process.  During the event, educators attended professional development workshops, collaborated on learning activities, heard from a wide range of amazing keynote speakers, and presented their schools and classroom projects.  At the end of the week, we welcomed our 18 new Mentor Schools and recognized 18 classroom projects as the most innovative in the world in 6 different categories. (see picture below of all of the winners)

    This year's event was attended by 800 educators from 75 countries and served as a reminder of the opportunities before us, the inspiration that teachers can provide, and the need we have to celebrate a community of great leaders.

    I humbly congratulate the teachers recognized as winners, but all the teachers in attendance are certainly winners. You can see some great examples of the energy and collaboration from event in the video links below, as well as by reading the reflections from some of the participants and judges recounting their experiences here and here. News coverage in New Zealand, India, and Ireland also shows you how these teachers are being celebrated in their local communities.

    We are already getting questions about next year’s Partners in Learning 2012 Forum, which will be held in Athens, Greece in November 2012.  National and Regional events will be held throughout the year around the globe. You can stay up to date on local events by connecting with us on the Partners in Learning Facebook page and following us on Twitter (@MicrosoftPIL).

    2011 Global Forum Daily Recap videos:
    Day 1:
    Day 2:
    Day 3:
    Day 4:

  • Education Insights

    Talking about technology access on Rainmakers.TV


    Back in September, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting (see blog post here) where Microsoft made a new commitment to help bring digital access to one million low-income families in the United States. I was able to speak with Stan Emert, the president of Rainmakers.TV about Microsoft’s Shape the Future initiative that is the program driving increased technology access around the world. Check out the conversation below.

    Since CGI, Microsoft has announced a new partnership with the FCC where we will support the “Connect to Compete” initiative and provide a portal for free online job skills training, assessments and basic digital literacy. Beginning in 15 states over the next three years, we will also expand our Microsoft IT Academy program and deploy Microsoft Office training through our retail stores, local schools, libraries and community college.

    We believe technology can be an enabler to obtaining a great education and I’m excited about what the future holds and can’t wait to see the impact we start making in 2012. 

  • Education Insights

    Live@edu Tops 22M Users, Grows 100 Percent Year Over Year


    (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.

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