Education Insights

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

Posts
  • Education Insights

    Observations of education systems in India and Japan

    • 17 Comments

    Before the holidays, I spent a week in India and Japan where I had the opportunity to meet with many education leaders and partners in higher education and K12, including some students. I continue to see common themes around the globe, and wanted to share with you my experience and thoughts from the Eastern Hemisphere.

    In India, they certainly see the value with regards to technology's impact, and the connection with regards to ICT and workforce readiness and creating new economies. I was impressed that India is starting to think about broader subjects and getting teachers trained more broadly…meaning India had a surge around technology with core ICT-based skills, so the population of students who most benefitted were those interested in going into computer science, engineering, etc…now you’re starting to see innovation and expertise around technology and transformation of those subjects bleed into core subjects like arts and history.

    I think innovation has been happening in pockets and primarily focused on modernizing computer science, but they're trying to scale it out to core subjects as opposed to just the technology side, which I think is a good trend. With 1.2 billion people in the country, there are obviously huge scale and infrastructure challenges. We see this happening in other schools where one subject is advanced…like a 6th grade science class is modernized, and then you go into a social studies class and it’s completely unchanged.  What India is starting to look at is what has propelled its’ success in one area and start to figure out what the root cause is so they can broaden best practices into other curriculum. I think that’s a good takeaway for folks -- it’s okay to innovate in one area, but then you need to break it down. That’s why you go to the critical question model…it’s not about the specific technology, it’s about what was the driver, what are you impacting, how did it connect, what was the change…and you can scale that…you can’t scale a 6th grade lesson for science, but you can scale the core thinking and what was being done in the classroom – a collaborative environment, the assessment methodology, etc. It’s about learning with technology as opposed to learning technology.

    One highlight of mine while I was in India was participating in a student forum as part of the launch of Live@edu at Delhi Public Schools. The kids put a colleague of mine and me on the hot seat and asked us really good, smart questions…some on the environment, some on the features they like in Live@edu, etc…and had some thoughtful ideas on Live@edu, where it could go, what's going on, etc. Students were very focused on learning Live@edu features to help them collaborate better with other students and they were excited about the live video chat capabilities. They were very thoughtful about Live@edu integration with Office…the Web Apps functionality is very exciting for them as they have a lot of computer labs where they have machines without Office installed, but they want to be able to access and work with documents in Office…so this new technology will definitely be an enabler for them.

    My experience in Japan was completely different.
    One of the things I saw in Japan was they are definitely looking to the U.S. for successful education models. Similar to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) here in the States, they have something called the New Deal.

    Japan has a huge challenge with regards to the birth rate declining due to the fact that more women have careers, fewer people are getting married and having kids. The higher education institutions kept saying, you know, because of the birth rate we have to be more competitive for students.  So, this notion of competing for students is certainly something that's real in Japan because of the lack of quantity of students. 

    As part of the New Deal, parents get an allowance of $300 per student per month for supporting education and their kids to foster both the quality of the kids in the education system, as well as to encourage parents to have more kids. But one of the things from a technology perspective the New Deal is doing is outfitting classrooms and teachers. Every teacher is going to have a laptop and a projector in their classroom in Japan.  So, they're betting on teachers first, which is really interesting…but the embrace of technology in Japan is still far behind other countries as the classroom environment is still very traditional.

    I met with the superintendent of the Shinjuku-Ku Board of Education and talked about innovation happening in their schools, which is fairly progressive for Japan. What they are starting to do in Shinjuku-Ku is integrating that laptop and projector into a much more transformative curriculum approach. Most of what they are going to do with this equipment is to prepare the teacher to do the exact same thing that they’ve been doing for hundreds of years in Japan. And Shinjuku-Ku is looking to push it a little further and start to get into curriculum, design, insert it into more collaborative environments, more active classroom kind of work, which are very common things that we do in the US, but in Japan it is a bigger deal.

    While in Japan, we also had good forum with university CIOs who are looking at a lot of the core trends that we see all over the world, such as virtualization to help save money and the environment. They're thinking about the potential of CRM to do a better job with regards to managing data, supporting alumni, student workflow and more…and they're increasingly using technologies like Silverlight to improve the look and feel of their systems, portals and other platforms.

    Finally, I was able to help announce the first Education Alliance Agreement in Japan with the Institute of National Colleges of Technology, an organization called “KOSEN.” KOSEN is comprised of about 50 technical colleges with more than 60,000 students, faculty and staff. Microsoft Education Alliance technology programs and initiatives provide schools and teachers with affordable access to the best educational technologies and content. Our goal with these agreements is to enable students to benefit from the very best tools and content, support teacher planning, provide learning materials and professional development opportunities. It will be exciting to see how the colleges roll out programs such as DreamSpark, IT Academy and Imagine Cup…and I can’t wait to see how the students will grow and succeed.

  • Education Insights

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

    • 13 Comments

    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 www.office365.com/education.

    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

    Education trends to watch for in 2010

    • 8 Comments

    As I reflect on 2009…what did and did not come to full fruition since I wrote this post last year…and what lies ahead for the year 2010, many different trends and topics come to mind. I’ll try to distill my list down to a handful of key themes and thoughts I’ve developed from being on the road this year talking to school leaders, teachers and students….areas where I am encouraged we will see big impact.

    Over the last 12 months, the economy has created a new paradigm for the way in which we think not only about technology, but resourcing in general. Schools will continue to feel pressure from the down economy worldwide to drive the connection between school and work in terms of making sure students are prepared for the workplace and that new job opportunities are being created. There is belief the economic stimulus efforts will fuel innovation in the industry, and many countries are betting on education to drive change and hope for the future.

    And despite this challenge and need to reduce budgets and lower expenses…the expectations of faculty, staff and students continues to rise in terms of wanting IT to deliver now…and the ability to use technology to serve this demand is increasing. Certainly, cloud computing and virtualization options provide huge opportunities to extend and enable technology much more broadly, and I think we’ll see software plus services become more prevalent and real in the coming year.

    The significance of using analytics to drive decisions will mount. It’s crucial to identify where impact is happening and how can we deliver personalized learning through assessments and customized content, as well as using education analytics to drive decision making across institutions in a broad way. I think we will see a shift from the search for display to the search for answers with regards to data.

    I am excited about the possibilities of getting more people access to PCs on a variety of devices…from netbooks and other low-cost devices…to finding a way to allow access to the devices both at school and in the home. I think there will be increased flexibility and innovation with regards to funding and acquisition strategies.  I definitely see governments moving away from traditional school purchase plans to much more broad tax structures, as well as support of Telco models to create acquisition strategies or access without having to go through the school.  And the ways in which we will interact with a PC via non-traditional form factors such as touch, speech and pen-based computing will become more of the norm.

    Blended learning is a buzzword now, but I think over the next year you'll see increased experimentation with these models where you have students inside a traditional school taking online classes, and vice versa…online students getting much more support and instruction via traditional teachers or traditional learning models.  I think there will be increased usage of content customization tools to personalize and augment content to support specific learning needs.

    The concept of lifelong learners is creating vast opportunities to expand the way in which we think about delivering content...increased utilization of the mobile infrastructure is one area. There are more and more mobile devices and smarter mobile devices in the hands of students, educators and learners of all types.  For the most part they've had very little connection to the traditional learning environment or content delivery environment.  With the proliferation of devices, I think we’ll see more and more online reading taking place on traditional mobile devices, as well as new education applications.  In the short term, I think a lot of it will be reference based, like online dictionaries, online translators, etc., via phones, but increasingly it will be more content based.

    Lots of potential…however, I think for the most part 2010 will bring a much more pragmatic application of the technology infrastructure that exists and much more accountability with regards to the results.  I think the economic strain is going to create a situation where schools are going to have to do more with less in a real way.  They're going to have to derive more impact under the technology investment they've already made.  They're going to have to do a better job of managing educators' time to be more effective with learning outcomes, and they're going to have to deliver more value with regards to the quality of the education in terms of impact on job opportunities and workforce readiness.

    I’m still optimistic about the headway we can make in 2010 in realizing true transformation in education. What do you think will make the most impact?

  • Education Insights

    More Universities Choose Microsoft Cloud Computing Solutions

    • 8 Comments

    The U.S. Education team is in Denver this week at the 2009 Annual Educause Conference. We are excited to talk to and listen to higher education institutions about how we can work together to bring new, innovative technology to lecture halls around the world to create personalized learning experiences. Cloud computing is a hot topic in these tight economic times when school leaders are wondering how they are going to financially make it…and we are excited to share the success stories of our customers who are succeeding by deploying Microsoft’s range of software plus service product offerings.

    Live@edu adoption continues to grow

    We continue to gain huge traction with Microsoft Live@edu, our hosted email, communications and collaboration solution for students. In the past four months more than 5,000 schools have enrolled with Live@edu, joining the thousands of other institutions in more than 100 countries already providing Live@edu to tens of millions of students worldwide. Our growth in universities and colleges includes recent wins at the University of Washington and the University of Missouri, as well as:

    • Seton Hall. The university chose Live@edu over Google Apps for Education to provide email and collaboration features for its 10,000 students and is currently rolling it out to 70,000 alumni. Read their case study here.
    • University of Cincinnati (UC). UC has an extensive 55,000 Live@edu deployment, including user identity management and password synchronization with ILM, a single sign-on portal and more. Students can launch any of the Live@edu applications directly from their Blackboard home page and synchronize with their class schedules.
    • Ohio University. Ohio is almost done activating more than 140,000 Live@edu accounts for current students and alumni. While the school is looking to reduce costs and improve communications with alumni, students cite the modern web interface, increased mailbox capacity and powerful search capabilities as top features.
    • Colorado Community College System (CCCS). CCCS is comprised of 13 colleges, serving more than 115,000 students annually, and assigns all students Live@edu email accounts to use as a primary point of contact and to ensure timely communications.

    New collaboration opportunities

    We are also announcing new SharePoint Online-based collaboration and productivity services will be available for students as part of the Live@edu next year. These new SharePoint-based services will offer IT departments more flexibility and control to set up and manage their school’s collaboration and productivity tools in a security-enhanced environment…as well as the ability to access and manage permissions to sites, documents and content (pictures, videos) with enterprise-class control.

    For students, these new services give them access to similar types of functionality that has made SharePoint the fastest growing server product in Microsoft history. It will enable them to create, edit and securely access content from their school’s site anywhere, whether at home, at the school library or even while on the road for holiday. It will allow them to organize, track and easily share classroom information, interests, expertise and easily find colleagues. By leveraging Office Web Apps that are currently in technical preview, students will have a new online space where they can securely upload, easily share, and collaborate on documents, including in-place editing. We believe this will better prepare them for the workforce through use of functionality and technology used every day in the workplace.

    Microsoft’s software plus services model—which spans mission-critical datacenter availability and security, Live@edu, Microsoft Online Services collaboration and communication offerings, and Windows Azure—combines the reach and flexibility of the cloud with the power of on-premises software applications. Today, we see that people want to access information on the PC, in the browser and on a mobile device…and I think this the real value in moving to the cloud…having the flexibility and choice to run your solutions either in the cloud, on premises, or a mix of the two.

    Schools adopting Microsoft Online Services

    Universities are beginning to embrace the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite on campus, which is comprised of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting. These products have been traditionally on premise, but are now available in a paid-for, hosted environment in the cloud that Microsoft manages for you that you can buy through partners.  These online services offer streamlined communication, simplified management and business-class security and reliability…and new this quarter, we are increasing the mailbox size five-fold to 25 GB for every user.  Recent customer wins include:

    • University System of Ohio. The state of Ohio has signed an Education Alliance Agreement with Microsoft that will bring a cloud computing approach to the entire state. Exchange Online is one of many products that will provide significant cost savings, increased productivity and improved performance while minimizing environmental impact.
    • Hofstra University. Hofstra is moving its faculty and staff to Exchange Online. By using Microsoft’s security, spam filtering and archiving capabilities, the technical staff will be able to concentrate on providing other high-valued academic services to the University.
    • Belmont University. Belmont is using Exchange Online to serve approximately 1,400 faculty and staff email accounts. The Exchange Online implementation supports the school’s green initiatives by saving space and energy costs. They anticipate saving about $30,000 a year by not having to hire additional IT staff to support.

    We will be talking about our software plus services solutions and more at Educause. I hope you stop by our booth (#608) to engage in dialogue and give us feedback on what you need technology to deliver to make your institution more efficient and effective. Our event session schedule can be found here.

    And if you are unable to be in Denver this week, be sure to check out our education webcasts on these topics and more here.

     

  • Education Insights

    Blue-sky thinking on Kinect and Xbox in education

    • 8 Comments

    I am excited about the upcoming launch of Kinect for Xbox 360 this November and the potential to push the envelope to create new experiences for the classroom and virtual learning environments.

    Not only does Kinect (formerly known as “Project Natal”) represent an exciting new platform for the potential of gaming and interaction in new ways…it's intriguing to think about the possibilities of not only extending natural user interface beyond touch and speech and pen, but actually using visual recognition, voice recognition, as well as gesture motion to capture and create new experiences with technology. Kinect was born out of Microsoft Research...there's a great video below that shows the concept to reality. You can also read more about what researchers are envisioning for the next 5-10 years in human computer interaction here and here.

    There's tremendous application potential for the classroom, whether it's gesture-based input for smart boards or whiteboards, or the potential of having students getting more active in the classroom with projects and visual simulations, etc. There are so many opportunities for partners to really push this technology in new ways. Think about the possibilities if the capabilities of Kinect were transferred to the PC…or if it was optimized for publishers to be able to create content for the classroom on the Xbox.

    I’ve blogged before about gaming as an education solution…and I certainly see the potential beyond gaming to think about what the future of a classroom would look like or the future of connection between students and team-based activities, as well as things as simple as raising your hand and having your classroom recognize the student who raised their hand.  Interactive experiences, really new dynamics for interacting with content, using gestures to navigate, using voice recognition, creating new types of simulations using full motion and even helping kids with fitness. There's lots of opportunity for this type of technology to really accelerate the way in which we get more and new, different experiences with technology.

    What do you think? Is this too far out for schools? What would you create?

  • Education Insights

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

    • 7 Comments

    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

    Microsoft Live@edu to help connect millions of students and parents in New York City Schools

    • 6 Comments

    As someone who grew up in the Bronx, I am very excited about our first customer win as a result of our partnership with ePals. New York City Schools has chosen ePals SchoolMail service to bring an email learning solution to about two million students and parents…and Live@edu will be used on the backend to help create the secure, reliable and scalable collaborative learning environment. This move to the cloud will save the district an estimated $5 million annually on infrastructure and maintenance costs.

    According to Gartner, in three years, over 50% of student email services will be hosted by a provider. So, with budget deficits at crisis levels around the U.S. and the world, and teachers being laid off…more and more schools are embracing the cloud with Live@edu, and now our combined solution with ePals, to meet the needs of teachers and students to provide new experiences and drive education transformation. It’s a rare opportunity to add tremendous new functionality, reduce costs and deliver more services to more people to help bridge the digital divide all at the same time.

    Built on the enterprise class platform of Exchange 2010, ePals will be using Microsoft Exchange Web Services and Outlook Live to build the email system and new calendar application that will connect to New York’s on-premise system for teachers. It will enable better communication and collaboration among teachers, parents and students so families can be more involved in their child’s education and success. Together, ePals SchoolMail and Live@edu create an extensible platform that delivers the control, security and other powerful features that are essential to K-12 schools. The Exchange Web Services API, Exchange Transport Rules and other security aspects allow ePals to write robust customized policies for schools to meet their requirements of safety and productivity for teachers, students and their data.

    From an IT perspective, Live@edu will enable cross mailbox search and dynamic distribution groups. The joint solution will allow schools to set up sophisticated policy-based controls that regulate which students, parents and teachers can email and share information with each other for security purposes, and what level of filtering, moderation or monitoring is desired for specific roles, grade level, or other school groups. Rules can also be applied for instructional value to email use, for example by facilitating peer-based editing, feedback, as well as to better communicate with parents and to involve them in the educational process with their children.

    When I went to school, there were no computers in New York City schools. The capabilities for students to connect with a world of learning materials and resources provided by ePals giving students a global connection…and then the ability to share thoughts and dialogue is a tremendous opportunity for students to look beyond the boundaries of their city and look beyond the expectations they might have had for their futures to drive a more exciting future for themselves. Most kids growing up in New York sometimes don’t even understand there is an entire world outside of New York because it is so large. When I lived in the Bronx, I had never even gone to Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island until a few years ago…you tend to stay in your borough. These technologies can help kids gain a broader perspective on the world and help them expand their potential for the future.

    I was a kid that used technology as an outlet and I credit technology with helping me envision a future. I am excited to be connected to this solution in New York City. Having worked with the school district over the past ten years, plus growing up there and the fact that my brother teaches at the largest public high school in the Bronx…I know these communities need support and inspiration and this will be a huge impact.

  • Education Insights

    Improving teaching & learning in Kenya with 1:1 computing

    • 6 Comments

    Access to education is certainly one of the world’s most pressing problems. This week at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City, we are making a number of commitments to partner with industry leaders and governments to provide access to technology to drive change in local communities by enhancing teaching and learning methods, thereby improving skills needed by students to thrive in the 21st century.  
     
    We are partnering with Intel, Cisco, USAID and the Kenyan Government to improve the quality of primary and secondary education in Kenya by launching the Accelerating 21st Century Education (ACE) project and develop a best-in-class model for deploying ICT in education. This is a combined commitment valued at more than US$9 million and centers on creating “one-to-one e-learning” classrooms in 60 focus schools across Kenya. We will help deploy more than 6,000 networked computers for student and teacher use; train teachers to effectively integrate technology in the classroom; train technical support staff at each school; install a wireless infrastructure inside the schools and Internet connectivity; provide access to digital educational content; and help develop the local IT industry in Kenya to promote economic development and sustainability.

    Additionally, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft will work together to establish a School Technology Innovation Center (STIC) in Nairobi. The center will be dedicated to research on innovative emerging technology solutions and serve as a repository and showcase for best-known methods of teaching, learning and educational technology. The Microsoft Worldwide Partners in Learning team runs School Technology Innovation Centers in a number of cities around the world – Brussels, Belgium; Johannesburg, South Africa, Prague, Czech Republic; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Amman, Jordan; Sao Paolo, Brazil.

    There are a number of curricula that we offer through Partners in Learning that will be made available for teachers in Kenya. One such example is Peer Coaching, which trains teachers to help other teachers in their school and area more effectively use technology for 21st Century teaching and learning. It has been very effective in Brazil and Thailand. Other curricula that will be made available includes Security Day Curriculum, Live@edu, Leading Change for school leaders and basic digital literacy.

    According to UNESCO, since 1990, the Kenyan government has renewed its commitment to improving education. And although, it is still a developing country and many schools still lack electricity or suitable classrooms for learning, Kenya is becoming a strong regional and worldwide advocate for the effective use of ICTs in teaching and learning. With the 1:1 initiative, Kenya has a tremendous opportunity to realize a dramatic transformation of its education system…access to a device opens up a new world in terms of access to information, different technologies, resources and learning opportunities. The computers will transform the classroom experience by giving school leaders and educators the ability to drive student achievement, performance, development and career aspirations overall.

    As education is increasingly looked upon by countries all over the world to help respond to economic challenges as a source for innovation and incubation of new ideas, businesses and industries…one thing that schools equally recognize is that transferrable competency skills are as critical if not more critical than the core content that has traditionally been taught behind school walls. As the connection between school and the workplace become more transparent, schools need to embrace the value of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, etc. And access to a computer provides a way to build these necessarily skills needed to compete and succeed in the 21st century.

    I am proud we are able to scale some of our programs and bring them to Kenya to help invest in 21st century learning, stimulate the local economy and help the government fast track its education reform efforts. Over the course of three years, this project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 39,000 students and 7,000 teachers through improved educational infrastructure and training.   Kenya’s Ministry of Education estimates than an additional 300,000 people will benefit indirectly from the STIC and other aspects of knowledge sharing.

    We are also happy to report out on the success of the Global Give Back Circle, a Microsoft supported initiative helping disadvantaged girls in Kenya to successfully transition from high school to university. You can read more about our efforts here and here.

  • Education Insights

    Lessons learned from the School of the Future in Philadelphia opens dialogue on nationwide school reform

    • 5 Comments

    You’re going to hear us talk a lot about the School of the Future in Philadelphia in the next year. The School of the Future is a unique partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft to create a sustainable and replicable model for improved instruction and systemic reform through the use of organizational best practices and innovations in curriculum, architecture, environmental and technology design. The school has now been open for three years and we are beginning to examine, discuss and share what we have learned publicly. We are asking the most critical education scholars and researchers to take a hard look at the school and to identify what we can learn from our efforts and make changes. We believe it is paramount to be transparent and open this part of the journey to uncover some of the real challenges schools are facing…especially now as the Federal government is poised to spend billions of dollars to improve our nation’s schools.
     
    Last week, Microsoft and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted an event in Washington, D.C. to discuss the progress of the School of the Future to date. While, eSchool News offered this summary of the event, the purpose was not to evaluate and give the School of the Future a passing or failing grade – frankly, it’s too soon to make that judgment. However, what we do know is that there are many indicators that while challenges exist, we are moving closer and closer towards true impact. The purpose of the meeting was to begin a discourse around the successes and challenges of the School of the Future and offer lessons learned in the areas of educational innovation in high school redesign, technology integration in the classroom, and how to get the maximum benefits out of public-private partnerships, so the School of the Future and other schools can improve.
     
    We can’t measure a long-term journey with a short-term yardstick. The work of true reform takes tremendous time and effort. If you are going to do this work, get ready for a long journey with many bumps in the road. How do we assess a process that is improving, adjusting so rapidly, when our current methods of reflection yield our findings obsolete by the time they are shared?

    Some examples of what we are learning…
     
    • Professional Development and curriculum strategies need to be organic yet deliberate at the same time. While challenging, this tension will allow for systemic adoption over time.
    • Community inclusion takes time. Identifying strong pillars in the beginning to act as foundational relationships is critical.
    • Technology will always add an extra layer of intricacy to any work. Integration using an incremental approach will support long-term adoption.
    • Just as our students need real-time reflection as they progress, so do our efforts of reform. This work with AEI is one step we know will improve the School of the Future, as well as provide a bright light on truly transformational efforts at whole school reform.

     Microsoft is absolutely committed to the long-term success of the School of the Future in Philadelphia. We will continue to have these honest and introspective conversations and share the constructive criticism received to help drive true school reform and change across the country. We will listen and act on feedback. We are working with Harvard Education Press and the experts who participated in the AEI event to compile their opinions, feedback and recommended actions to improve school redesign in a book that will be published this fall. And perhaps the best chapter is being written today…educators from the School of the Future are compiling their “3 years of inspiration” stories now that the school year is drawing to a close.

    The School of the Future partnership is about confronting challenges…not building a model for schools in a vacuum. And we look forward to continuing the dialogue with you. 
     
    If you aren’t familiar with the School of the Future, here is some more background reading…

    Microsoft School of the Future resources: http://www.microsoft.com/education/schoolofthefuture/
    2003 partnership announcement: “Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia Team Up To Build School of the Future”
    2004 ground breaking announcement: “Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia Break Ground To Build School of the Future”
    2006 school opening announcement: “School District and Microsoft Open School of the Future”
    Fact sheet from SOF Summit, December 2008: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/sof/docs/SOTFFS.doc
    School of the Future Green Building Design: My earlier blog entry here

    MSNBC story from the first day of school, September 2006:  “Microsoft-designed school opens; three years in planning, ‘school of the future’ comes to Philadelphia”
    Fast Company story, September 2007: “Microsoft’s Class Action”

  • Education Insights

    Why Microsoft cares about education and what we are doing about it

    • 5 Comments

    Sharing my blog post published on The Official Microsoft Blog from today...

    With the release of "Waiting for 'Superman,'” the topics of education reform and the quality of U.S. public schools are getting mainstream attention. A lot of news headlines and opinions abound about what are the right and wrong solutions to fixing our classrooms and raising student outcomes and who to blame for the problems. It’s what the education community has been talking about for decades, and I’m pleased to see that the importance of education has finally elevated and entered the national dialogue.

    At Microsoft, we believe every child has a basic right to an excellent education. The challenges of education are too big for any one institution to fix. We believe it will take a broad range of private and public partnerships to contribute to this effort and Microsoft is committed to doing so. As a business leader, our future is dependent on a competitive workforce, equipped to succeed in the 21st century.

    Across the company, we are invested in improving education in a variety of ways. We empower, train and connect innovative teachers and schools through our Partners in Learning program. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into state partnerships across the country to not only bolster innovation, but to help those organizations working on curbing the drop out epidemic. And with programs like DigiGirlz, Imagine Cup and EduConnect, we are providing opportunities for kids to learn about careers in technology, to get interested in STEM, and for our own employees to volunteer in local schools.

    This week, Microsoft is one of the sponsors of NBC’s Education Nation and rolling out a number of vehicles that foster the dialogue on the remedies to the current quality disparity in education across the United States.  Our hope is that millions of people will come together to discuss the challenges schools are currently facing, learn about best practices and then, finally, engage people to take action.

    New Teacher Map App. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the launch of a new teacher resource, http://www.teach.gov, the Bing team is showing off the Teach Here map app that provides a simple way to search for teacher prep programs, teaching-related scholarships, certification offices, and local job opportunities. Learn more about it here.

    Ask Arne. On Friday, October 1st, MSN.com and Whitehouse.gov will be hosting a live webcast with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to encourage the national conversation around education reform. Anyone who cares about the state of education in America is encouraged to submit a question and vote on the questions you want Secretary Duncan to answer at ask-arne.msn.com.

    Our School Needs. Starting today, schools across the country can begin to submit their entries in the Bing “Our Schools Need” contest. Whether your school needs a new gym, new laptops, or a new photo lab, the finalist will win the grand prize of $100,000. In total, Bing is donating over $500,000 to schools in the form of prizes and donations to DonorsChoose.org.

    MSN Tastemaker on education. During the weeks of Sept.27 and Oct 4, contestants in the MSN social reality show “The Tastemaker” will be creating—and inspiring their social networks to create—Public Service Announcements in favor of education reform. The contestants will be judged on their ability to rally the web, and one of those audience-generated videos will be chosen by Viacom for distribution across its properties.

    This week, the Microsoft News Center will also feature a daily Q&A series called, “The Education Community Speaks Out,” where we will hear from representatives from different parts of the education community to understand their perspectives, frustrations and hopes for the future. You can read the stories here.

    And don’t forget to join the conversation at www.bing.com/redu and to learn more about the education transformation movement in the U.S. and see how you can get involved and bring long-term meaningful change to our local schools.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft announces $15M R&D focus on next-generation learning models, plus resources for students & teachers

    • 5 Comments

    UPDATED July 18th at 8:00 a.m. PT with URL to White House press release.

    Recognizing it will take all of us…schools, parents, guardians, foundations, governments and corporate partners to meet the challenges facing our kids today…we are honored to be invited to meet with President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senior White House Advisors, and industry leaders,  for a roundtable discussion on education reform on Monday.  We are hopeful that gatherings such as this will continue to elevate the conversation and remind us all that providing every child a quality educational experience must be a right of this country, not a privilege. Continued investment in education is the key ingredient in creating a skilled workforce that will grow and sustain our national economy. (See White House press release here and Wall Street Journal story here.)
     
    At Microsoft, we believe we must continue to create more engaging and effective learning environments that result in improved student performance, and reflect the digital nature of students’ lives. However, all too often we have seen schools implement technology for the sake of technology. So today, we are announcing a $15M investment in 3 key areas of innovation – increasing engagement, managing information, and supporting educators.
     
    Around the world, every day, students are engaged in playing games. These digital exercises provide us insight into their motivations and passions. And yet, our classrooms and content take little advantage of this information. With this new investment, Microsoft will support research and development in understanding and creating learning environments that integrate the characteristics of gaming that kids are passionate about. Just imagine…every day a child will fail at a game, and yet keep coming back to try again. But in our classrooms, for most, once a child experiences failure, they shut down. We need to bring the same passion they bring to their digital lives into our classrooms. This investment will help our partners and educators do just that.
     
    Microsoft also recognizes that with the growth of both informal and formal learning opportunities, we must do a better job capturing and sharing our learning artifacts and achievements. To support this need, Microsoft will invest in the development of a digital learning archive. This will allow kids the ability to capture their learning artifacts, achievements, and various other types of data in a secure repository, allowing them to gather in one place their lifelong learning record, and share this information with those they choose.
     
    While we believe technology can be the accelerator to make schools more productive and more effective, it is no silver bullet. We recognize that every day, teachers are challenged to bring the right tools and resources into their classrooms, and so we are not only investing in technology and the platform, but in the innovation of human capital as well. Therefore, over the next 3 years, Microsoft is committing to train more than 150 thousand educators in the U.S. to elevate their skills so they can benefit from these new technologies. We will also provide access to new professional learning communities, best practices and training to every teacher in the United States through a new Partners in Learning Network.
     
    For more than 25 years, Microsoft has worked with teachers and schools worldwide to improve education by using technology to engage, explore and create. Today’s $15M investment builds on the company’s recent education commitments to help increase the number of Washington State students earning bachelor’s degrees in high-demand STEM fields, investments to improve access to technology in Los Angeles and San Francisco, our annual investment in U.S. Partners in Learning and many more totaling over $90M.

  • Education Insights

    Ribbon Hero: Game-based learning for Office

    • 4 Comments

    I love this new add-in for Office 2007 and Office 2010! This week Microsoft released a new concept test prototype for Office called Ribbon Hero.  Ribbon Hero explores a new approach to Office training that’s designed to deliver a fun, engaging experience to help people explore the features available in Office…whether it’s to help you learn how to do things faster, or uncover features you never knew existed. Unlike traditional training, Ribbon Hero presents a game-like environment for learning and lets people compare their scores and feature usage on Facebook. It currently works with Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Download it here.

    I think this is tremendously useful to schools and the gaming context will surely resonate with students and teachers. I love the achievement system.  There are two ways to “play.” You can either earn points by just working and using features in the applications…or you can take random challenges to learn new features or fine tune areas where you might be rusty…and then you are rewarded later with more points when you use the features you’ve learned. There are some great how-to videos on the Office Labs site here that show you how Ribbon Hero works. And check out the early reviews of what others are saying here.

    We certainly recognize the need to make our products easier to use and more user-friendly…and we are also continuously leveraging our experience with things like our work on the Xbox and partnerships with NYU and the Games for Learning Institute to recognize that understanding the way in which gaming plays into curriculum is very important.

    And that means much more than what often most people think about, which is just building a game-based kind of experience or a simulation of the Civil War in a game as an example. It is really about taking the constructs and the language of gaming into education.  And things like achievements and the way in which we structure learning with regards to recognition and points, etc…those things are incredibly important and potentially powerful in the experience.  And that's exactly what's happening in this scenario where we're exposing making Office easier to use, much more friendly for users, we're bringing some concepts that students and educators may be familiar with in the gaming world to get them more interested in learning.

    Check out Ribbon Hero and let me know what you think…

  • Education Insights

    Education transformation in Bangladesh

    • 4 Comments

    I had the pleasure of meeting recently with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, around exploring options to invest in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is an emerging country with a very young labor force…and like many countries around the world, looking to explore opportunities for emerging technologies and how technology’s role can drive impact in education as part of their Digital Bangladesh initiative. It’s exciting to see hope for a nation that’s growing with an economy that’s being built on driving innovation and new industries and rooted in the foundation of education transformation.

    There are more than a 150 million people in Bangladesh, the 7th largest population, which I was surprised by. The average age of the labor force is 23-years old, which is one of the youngest workforces in the world. They are well positioned with regards to economic expansion as noted by its listing as one of the “Next Eleven” potential largest economies of the 21st century.

    Bangladesh has a female Prime Minister and a progressive government which has wide support, and they’ve been very good about working with the U.S. and building relationships with companies and the administration. With the Digital Bangladesh initiative, the Prime Minister is working to improve core infrastructure in the country like roads and transportation, but also recognizes the value in education. Like a lot of countries, they’re exploring individual technology devices for each student, looking for opportunities to train people in new skills, and extend digital content. There are some interesting write-ups here and here on how the country is trying to meet the challenge.

    I am inspired to explore future partnerships with Bangladesh and help in their efforts to modernize and transform education, and help students in the country realize their potential.

  • Education Insights

    Travels to New Zealand and the state of education

    • 4 Comments

    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

    IE9 as a reading platform

    • 3 Comments

    If you haven’t already checked out the new Internet Explorer 9 beta…first off, I encourage you to go to http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/ to explore the potential for the new web browser.

    I've often talked about the potential for technology in reading, and we've seen the potential for digital reading on devices like the iPad and Kindle, and even software tools for the PC like Blio. These are great examples of creating convenient and automated views of digital reading, rich pictures, note-taking, etc…but in many ways both the presentation of the information and the experience is not transformational.  It provides an online or a technology-based translation of an analog form.

    I believe this a great trend and certainly long overdue, but in many ways it's not the future of digital reading.  I think the future of digital reading will be much more reflective on the identity of the person reading. It will be much more multimodal in terms of it will include input from others, ability to aggregate a whole host of information sources, as well as authorship, provide experiential and learning activities…and it will learn as you go in terms of it will take feedback and modify text, etc.. 

    Increasingly, reading environments won't be delivered in static electronic book forms, but online experiences that really take advantage of the Web. We're starting to see some of this trend with the IE9 beta, which demonstrates the potential for HTML5 to really create new and innovative Web experiences. One of the things about IE9 is that it creates the ability to run websites and experiences that you visit in an app-like form…so you don't feel like you're in a Web page, you feel like you're in an application.

    I think the Associated Press website on IE9 with HTML5 is the coolest of the sites. You can check out their AP News Lab “Timeline Reader” here and see the screen shot on the right. It’s a good example of making content come alive with a very rich navigation experience, multimode coming in, and the ability to drill down and get visualization experiences. Scientific American has built a really good interactive learning environment on the human brain. Another great example is Naver, which is a digital news archive (picture bottom left) for a number of different newspapers in Korea…it is interesting to navigate and select different stories from different papers to put in a scrapbook to read later…all powerful examples of the potential of HTML5.

    I think HTML5 represents the future of the way in which publishers will build cross-platform devices, so as opposed to building content or books specific for one device…it also puts the future of the Web back into view. There has been lots of discussion around whether the Web is dead. The answer is I think far from it.  The Web is evolving to become much broader and with the ability to create much more rich experiences.  So, as opposed to writing applications for specific platforms, folks can use standard HTML5 based tools to build experiences that will run on other browsers.

    I'm excited about what the future holds…and if these examples are indication of what's to come, it will become a huge platform for publishers, content providers, and companies to build quality and engaging education experiences that will support a range of technology devices.

    What do you think?

  • Education Insights

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

    • 3 Comments

    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

    H1N1 Virus Forces Academic Institutions To Think More Aggressively About Online Learning

    • 3 Comments

    As the Southern Hemisphere officially begins its influenza season, the CDC is reporting here in the United States that the number of people visiting doctors with flu-like symptoms is increasing and far above normal for this time of year. With the new academic year now in session, the H1N1 flu virus is top of mind as we all think about how to personally stay healthy and school officials think about how to make sure students don’t fall behind in their studies if they are absent from class or they need to close their institutions.

    The U.S. Department of Education has released recommendations to schools and universities for how learning can continue in the event of an outbreak, and today Microsoft announced how it will support the administration’s efforts to minimize the impact of H1N1 in our schools. We are offering free technology resources at www.microsoft.com/education/h1n1 that will help educators stay connected with their students. The simplest thing educators can do is set up an online class workspace using Office Live Workspace where you can share assignments, handouts and documents and collaborate on projects anytime, anywhere with just an Internet connection. We’re providing how-to videos, tips and other free technologies teachers can infuse in their classroom content to make lessons more engaging.

    The H1N1 pandemic highlights the need for institutions to think more holistically about blended learning environments…that these online and distance learning solutions are valuable not only when you have to respond to classroom outages or school closures, but also creates an opportunity to connect and share information between a student and teacher beyond the classroom all the time. There’s data to suggest this type of learning boosts student outcomes. The U.S. Department of Education and the Sloan Consortium have interesting analysis here and here.

    We do offer more robust options for classroom continuity for those institutions looking to rollout blended learning solutions more broadly. As IT managers juggle with the need to expand services and react to potential need for H1N1 virtual learning environments with increasing limited budgets and staff…solutions like Office Live Workspace provide a great option.  It’s an easy to implement and FREE solution that is hosted, managed and maintained offsite, yet has the ability to connect with school identity, passwords for single sign-on, etc.  School leaders can quickly demonstrate leadership by providing tools to extend learning beyond the classroom and use the H1N1 mandate to increasingly drive the transformation of learning in and out of the classroom. 

    While the solution is easy to start-up-and-go because it’s connected to Microsoft identity, collaboration and messaging platforms…not only can sign-on and identity be integrated into core school district platforms, but rich messaging options built on Microsoft Exchange can be extended to students and parents for free via Live@edu. Live@edu is being used by schools and universities around the world and provides a suite of communication and collaboration services.

    Microsoft also provides a comprehensive set of solutions that make up a very robust distance learning portfolio. We offer everything necessary from real time meeting and communication capabilities to online content management. Using our Unified Communications and Collaboration Platform, offering both on premise and cloud/hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Office Communications Server, schools have a rich and powerful platform on which to offer distance learning solutions.

    We are honored to do what we can to support education in this country, and around the world, and look forward to continued partnership with the Department of Education and you to make technology solutions more affordable and accessible.

  • Education Insights

    Windows 7: A game changer in education

    • 3 Comments

    I will try not to date myself too much, but I started my career at Microsoft when Windows 3.1 wasclip_image001 released. With every operating system since, we’ve been not only driving innovation on the software side, but also hardware. We’ve been pushing the envelope as Moore’s Law has occurred, as processing power and memory capacity has accelerated.

    I think Windows 7 is unique because it’s not only pushing innovation with things like 64-bit and multi-touch…but the new OS also embraces older technology, both with the optimization of Windows XP via the virtualized desktop and the ability to run on older generation hardware. This is really valuable for schools because they don’t have to replace their existing systems or Windows XP systems to take advantage of Windows 7.

    We are really excited to announce that Windows 7 has been released to manufacturing today. This means our partners can now start loading new PCs for retail sales and software developers can test their new Windows 7 applications and get them ready to go to market. For our customers with volume licensing agreements, you can get your hands on the final Windows 7 code starting August 7th and work to upgrade your systems potentially before students are back in class.

    The reactions I hear from most people who have tried Windows 7 say it runs smoothly; it’s more responsive; the user interface is more intuitive; it’s a logical layout in terms of the way the OS works; and it just simplifies things for teachers, students and staff. We built Windows 7 to make everyday tasks easier and to make students, teachers and staff more productive no matter where they are located or what device they are using. Windows 7 is a much more reliable and secure environment… your machine will boot faster and your battery life will be longer.

    One of my favorite new features is BitLocker To Go. Teachers and students take data home from school on USB thumb drives all the time, and sometimes it’s sensitive data like grades. BitLocker was a great way to secure devices in Vista, and we’ve taken it a step further in Windows 7. With BitLocker To Go, USB keys can be provisioned with security measures and users will be prompted for a password in order to access the content on the USB.

    We know schools are often downloading large videos from the web for classroom discussions or documents from a district office. BranchCache will increase network responsiveness of applications, so downloads will happen more quickly and even schools with low bandwidth can take advantage. These features will be very powerful and will help school IT departments not only make people more productive, but also enhance security and control to control risk and streamline PC manageability to reduce costs. Check out this website here for demos on these features and more. The Windows Team blog and the Springboard Series blog are also good resources for IT professionals. If you want to evaluate Windows 7 for yourself, be sure to download the Release Candidate (RC) by August 20th here.

    In the months to come, we’ll share more about how our customers in K12 and higher education are deploying Windows 7 and the benefits they are realizing. In the meantime, check out the video below where our own Scott Thompson shows you the new client features in Windows 7 that will bring new experiences to your schools.

  • Education Insights

    The need to prioritize rural education

    • 3 Comments

    I attended the National Community Education Association’s (NCEA) annual conference last weekend in Phoenix, Arizona where they held the first national forum on “Revitalizing America’s Rural Communities.”  Every child has the right to a quality education…and improving access and opening up opportunities for students in rural areas is a worldwide dilemma we must address.

    I am a NCEA Board Member and the reason why I like this organization is they recognize the need to make education more relevant to students by helping them build job and life skills they will need for the rest of their lives. Along with that, NCEA recognizes that schools need to be much more aware of community resources and the need to connect schools to their communities and get more participation from parents and businesses. That’s why I’m on the board…I feel very strongly about what they do in terms of the connection to the community and the need for institutions to think much more broadly about the way in which their schools exist in the places that they are.

    According to the Why Rural Matters 2009 report, there are more than 9 million public school students enrolled in rural schools districts in the United States alone…that’s 19% of the nation’s total public school enrollment. Rural populations suffer from bandwidth challenges; they suffer from the ability to scale projects because of the lack of teachers and resources; and they also suffer with regards to diversity of education offerings because they don’t have enough teacher specialization to support all the curriculum and learning needs students may have. This is also very true around the world.

    In many ways, the challenges and the solutions collide. Technology is a valuable tool to connect to each other and other parts of the world, in addition to the ability to leverage online learning or blended learning to support curriculum gaps. But because of the lack of resources, bandwidth, etc., rural areas are often the most poorly serviced with regards to technology access even though it’s one of the areas where technology can help the most. So there’s a balance we have to address.

    We need a greater focus on revitalizing rural education…making sure we have a healthy dialogue about rural challenges the way we do with urban challenges. I think one of the great opportunities in the rural environment is the ability to connect schools and students to their local community. In my keynote at the NCEA event, I talked about leveraging public and private partnerships, service-learning applications (see my earlier blog post here), to blended learning environments to make learning that much more relevant and personal to individual students which is critical. In order for education in a rural setting to be a success, community officials, state and local agencies, and local businesses need to come together to address the problems in a collaborative way to leverage each other’s resources and investments.

    Through our U.S. Partners in Learning program, we committed to a 5-year partnership with the state of New Mexico to focus on schools which act as a catalyst for 21st century workforce readiness and economic vitality in rural communities to improve academic success. The purpose was to also figure out how the private and public sectors could sit side-by-side to address an education problem. This was not a case of business leaders stepping in to tell the school what they should be doing…rather, recognizing and embracing the various expertise that could be brought to the challenge.

     We funded four projects, each focused on a different learning experience – running a small town newspaper, giving a facelift to a local main street, opening a storefront, and building single family homes. In Loving, they recently celebrated the completion of a new house. These examples reflect the strong local connection New Mexico communities have with education and how the schools are able to create opportunities and hope for students…which is a very powerful thing.

    Australia has an interesting idea for rural revitalization…send city kids to the country. What’s your suggestion to improve rural education? What’s working or not working in your geography? How can we help?

  • Education Insights

    CIO Summit Chat with Debbie Karcher, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

    • 3 Comments

    Microsoft's annual U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit always provides a great opportunity to connect with a broad range of education institutions as well as representatives from across the US in state and local government and Federal agencies.  This year's event was no exception and I was incredibly pleased with the feedback and leadership demonstrated by those in attendance.  Despite the mounting economic pressures and uncertainties, those joining us for a few days in Redmond, WA are embracing the mandate to improve learning outcomes with optimism…and a focus that, in many ways, has been sharpened by reduced resources. 

    Transform. Innovate. Lead.  It was the core theme for the CIO Summit and an increasingly critical imperative for our schools as we face uncertain economic times and intense global competition.  In many ways, the role of the CIO in education is rapidly evolving to optimize opportunities for innovation, leadership and drive smarter technology decisions with a balance on education outcomes, funding and long-term strategic direction.

    During the summit many key themes surfaced...most reflecting the new environment created by the economy...cloud services, virtualization, impact on education analytics on learning outcomes, and 21st learning.   I had an opportunity to sit and chat about many of these topics with Debbie Karcher, CIO for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), during the event and wanted to share a short video from our conversation.

    Debbie supports an ever-expanding range of solutions across America’s 4th largest school district.  I’ve worked closely with M-DCPS for the last several years, and have always been impressed with their clarity and consensus of vision and the urgency with which they approach their work.  Under Debbie’s leadership, they have been working to modernize and overhaul the district using technology and data to help raise student achievement, establish equity and support students, teachers and staff.

    In the video, Debbie shares her lessons learned from the journey to help transform Miami-Dade County Public Schools, as well as some fundamentals on USING DATA that I think reflects a lot of what I see around the country. In some ways the pivot on using education data parallels my argument on 1:1.  On the 1:1 side, we spend far too much energy/time on acquisition of the device and not nearly enough time on bringing holistic reform to the classroom, curriculum, and assessment.  With education analytics, schools spend lots of time building the robust and secure data center and developing rich visualizations of data…not nearly enough time is spent landing the data into everyday rhythm for teachers, students and parents.  Data-driven decision making is powerful when it actually helps make decisions on content, student needs, areas of specialization, etc.  As Debbie notes, overcoming teacher and parent hesitation to actively use the data M-DCPS is providing is not something to be ignored.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Debbie and the entire team at M-DCPS are doing some heroic work and their models and thinking are good resources for schools going down a similar path.  Districts looking to 1) improve learning outcomes by supporting teachers with resources to quality instruction, 2) encourage routine student use of technology to support learning, and 3) provide parents with tools and data needed to help them more actively engage in the education process…should take a look at the Miami-Dade Public Schools solution, process, and outcomes.

    More info on Miami-Dade County Public Schools work:

    School website: http://www.dadeschools.net/
    Project case study: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000002944
    Video case study:

  • Education Insights

    Learning new skills at Kodu Kamp

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    I spent some time recently with teachers and students at the FUSE Lab's Kodu Kamp in Redmond, Wa. I've blogged a lot about technology and students' appetite for technology as it relates to gaming, how content can come alive and students can get more excited about learning via gaming.  Kodu represents a little bit of a different environment where gaming is helping launch potential interest in careers, and it does a really great job of simplifying the way in which programming comes alive for students. 

    One of the things I saw in just talking to students at the Kodu Kamp was students really were excited to be able to construct and problem solve the creation of their games...they were almost doing it natively. It was fascinating to watch them build games and environments, understand what was going wrong if they encountered a problem, and diagnose how to make specific events happen based on rules, and smooth the transition from one environment to another. I think this was more exciting to them than actually playing the game. Kodu is a great way to expand the appreciation of very complex sets of problems for students to figure out, build critical thinking skills, as well as get kids exposed for the first time to what technology and software programming is all about.

    In Australia, Kodu pilots were conducted in 20 schools to better understand the impact of teaching and learning when incorporating Kodu and other Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. The outcomes of the study can be found here. It's an interesting read to understand the perspectives from both teachers and students and who most benefitted.

    To get started ...here's a short and simple 7-minute tutorial video on Kodu made by a school in the UK...and you can find a classroom curriculum kit for your school here. We would love to hear more feedback and see the games your students are creating...

  • Education Insights

    Thoughts on the future of education in Russia

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    I was excited to go to Russia recently and learn more about the education system.  There are plenty of places around the world where technology accessibility or access to education and reform are meeting in the middle...places where students and teachers are starting to get more and more access to technology…and it's becoming much more common to support education on the periphery, and the school system is also starting to recognize the need for broader reform.  And I think those two trends are converging to create lots of potential and opportunity in Russia.

    Russia has a long way to go with regards to reforming the education system around some of the core themes that we see around the world…use of data more aggressively, connection to employability and workforce readiness skills, use of electronic content and curriculum.  Certainly there's lots of opportunity there. Here's a recent interview with the president of Microsoft Russia for a view on how we see the potential for IT in the country.

    Ironically, Russia in the early '60s was one of the first countries to really integrate technology into the curriculum, particularly in the science and mathematics area.  A number of early Russian professors were some of the first to experiment with providing students access to computing power as one example.  But the reality is that there has been a lull over the last several years, and due to the economic struggles with Russia in the early '90s there has been an opportunity now to revamp and refresh the school system. Every school in Russia has some level of Internet access, but the problem is that most teachers haven’t been trained in ICT, so there’s some skepticism about the effectiveness of ICT in education. There's a spirit of urgency I sensed from the educators and leaders I talked with…they recognize there is lots of work to do, but really a hope for the potential.

    I think Russia is a place where culture and history provide some very obvious clues to what's going on and we see that in the education system. You can actually see it in the traffic.  Moscow is a city with significant traffic problems, and part of the problem is due to a growing population and an infrastructure that needs modernization. But part of the reality stems from a cultural preference that individuals have to own their own car and drive their car.  And it was not long ago where the privilege of owning a car was not something that everyone had a right to.  So, there's a cultural significance rooted in why there is so much traffic in Moscow, and I think that's also connected to some of the history with regards to the education system.  But that is changing, and we have some aggressive educators who are thinking about differently, and making tremendous things possible.

    I saw a good indication of this optimism during my trip to a high school in the outskirts of Moscow. Yefim Ratchevski is the director of education at school #548 which won the best school in Russia two years ago. Yefim is a true innovator in technology and he is open to modern techniques and technologies to improve student learning outcomes and innovative teaching practices. He's thinking differently about how the school can use data to enhance the learning environment.  He's also really starting to recognize the need for blended learning environments in Russia, so creating much more interactive classrooms, thinking about ways in which you can use online courses to provide more choice and flexibility for students, and the reality that the school day is changing.

    The more and more I travel around the world and see institutions trying to address challenges…whether it's lack of teachers or courseware or flexibility with regards to physical space, or embracing opportunities to provide a more rich and active curriculum…I think the limits we see in education that will most change over the next five years is this dependency on time and place, where education is rooted in sequential offerings in a specific time that happens in a specific location.

    I think in the future blended learning models, much more dynamic curriculum engagement, students who are driving their own learning, will become more commonplace, and schools will optimize around that environment, and certainly Yefim is working to do that in school #548 in Russia. They have dynamic curriculum environments and they are usually Microsoft MultiPoint Server to create not only more access to technology within computer labs, but they're also creating collaborative workspaces for students to engage socially.

    With leaders like Yefim, I think Russia is on a good trajectory. They will be able to take a lot of the lessons learned around the world and apply them in a fresh way into the Russian environment, and they have obviously willingness and optimism around the potential for technology to change.

  • Education Insights

    Measuring the impact of technology in the classroom

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    I think we can all recognize the greatness and the magic that happens with our students is driven typically by the hard work, the commitment, and the talent of teachers around the world.  Therefore, it's critical we find a way to capture their successes, share them broadly and scale that kind of impact globally.

    That is the basis of the new Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research project we are sponsoring. Microsoft will invest $1 million (U.S.) for the next several years, and SRI International will conduct the research in four countries initially – Finland, Indonesia, Russia and Senegal. We want to identify what causes innovation in the classroom…how can innovation spread throughout an entire school…what causes a teacher to innovate…what are the common elements that innovations share around the world…and how can we do a better job of not only encouraging more teachers to embrace these new models, but also scale existing best practices.

    The ITL research will broadly investigate current teaching and learning supported by technology that is taking place at the school and system level determining what makes technology in the classroom most effective. The ITL research focuses on teachers’ own adoption of innovative classroom teaching practices and the degree to which those practices provide students with learning experiences that promote the skills they will need to work in the 21st century.

    I think it’s important to have a common framework internationally to measure education transformation. The research will come up with a common language we can use to discuss key issues around how to make ICT in education work effectively and provide tools to measure outcomes.  As an example, when we met with the stakeholders, we quickly came to the understanding that what’s meant by “new skills” in one country is different in another…21st century skills and what’s meant by traditional teaching practices are different in each country. In Senegal, skills needed could mean teaching students how to purify their own water.

    And that’s why we have chosen such a diverse cross-section of countries. Almost all international education research usually takes place in advanced developed countries or emerging markets, but not usually spanning both. As a global company with billions of customers, Microsoft also needs to create products and solutions that will serve all markets and people. This, I think, is the ambitious part of the project…figuring out what educational measurement tools can be used to assess teaching and learning in rural schools in Africa, as well as more modern cities like Helsinki. So, we are developing consistent classroom observation methods, interview protocols and learning assignments…then the data will be coded in a quantitative sense to see what kind of 21st century skills kids are using to do their assignments.

    The initial four countries where research will be conducted are perceived as leaders in education in their region, and we will add more countries each year. We want to span the full range of types of infrastructure and technology infrastructure so we can learn about how ICT in education works in places very advanced like Finland where the country’s top PISA scores over the last decade are widely recognized…to everything in between and much less advanced like Senegal and Indonesia, and diverse places like Russia.

    We believe that innovative teaching practices like personalized learning, the extension of learning beyond the classroom, and the integration of technology can help drive 21st century learning outcomes. And when our research is successful in measuring this, we are hopeful it will impact and contribute to the development of policy and curriculum to further ICT’s role in education.

    You can follow the progress on the ITL website here. For more immediate ideas on how to bring innovation to the classroom, check out the forums and communities in the Partners in Learning Network where educators share their lessons, challenge traditional thinking and learn from each other.

  • Education Insights

    Celebrate Pi Day By Giving Microsoft Math 4.0 A Try

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    We know math is a universal need in education...and also a major source of frustration for students. In fact, 73% of parents and 77% of teachers say math is the most difficult homework subject for their students, while only 36 percent of parents say they are prepared to help their children with math homework.  And a recent study found that 53% of 18-24 year olds say they can’t do math. As the country increases its focus on STEM literacy, students are looking for new, compelling ways to learn what can often be a complicated subject.

    Traditionally, math has not been effectively taught and completed digitally by students for a number of reasons.  One is data input difficulties, and another is the inability of math systems to capture and display the steps in solving problems. Perhaps more importantly, many students and parents are unsatisfied with math solutions available today. As teachers seek tools to help teach math in fun, engaging ways, Microsoft has developed Microsoft Mathematics 4.0. This tool can help students better understand critical subjects, like math and science, increasing STEM literacy, which, in turn, prepares the next generation for greater success.

    Whether you are a student, a parent, an administrator or just a math fan, you owe it to yourself to download and try Math 4.0. Unlike previous versions of the product, Math 4.0 is now available for FREE...yet includes many enhancements from earlier editions. Math 4.0 joins other math and science-related downloads, such as the Math Add-in for Word and OneNote, and Chem for Word, as free resources for teachers, and serves as a great way to incorporate technology in the classroom.

    Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 features a large collection of tools, tutorials and instructions designed to help students tackle math and science problems quickly and easily.  It includes a powerful math engine that works behind the scenes to calculate and solve math equations and functions, but has a friendly user interface. Algebra and geometry students benefit from fast, clear, step-by-step equation solving, while more advanced students get help in subjects such as calculus, trigonometry, physics, and chemistry.

    This product is a great tool for reinforcing math concepts, especially as students are working on their homework and don’t have their math teachers readily available to answer questions. The step-by step equation solving capabilities serve as a virtual tutor. A full-featured Graphing Calculator with extensive graphing and equation-solving capabilities offers a wide range of additional tools including the Formulas and Equations Library, which contains a library of more than 100 common math equations and formulas that enable students to identify and easily apply the right equation necessary to solve math and science problems. Additionally, Microsoft Mathematics makes it easy to generate large 2D and enhanced 3D color graphs that fully depict an answer. Teachers and students can play with variables in the equation and instantly see the effects. An animated Trace function shows how values change at different points along the graph. It is the ultimate interactive learning tool.

    As math enthusiasts celebrate the annual Pi Day, I encourage you to visit www.microsoft.com/mathematics to download the free product. We hope that today’s math students will graph, solve and convert to their hearts’ content, and find the fun, not the fear, in math.

  • Education Insights

    Rapid technology change and the technology transition generation

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    In many ways, I feel like I am part of the “technology transition generation.” I’m surprised more hasn’t been written or discussed on this. What this means is I’m am part of a generation old enough to know a time before technology and appreciate how far we’ve progressed and young enough to still be immersed in technology every day.  My first video game system was THE first video game system Pong…my first portable computer was THE first portable computer...my music collection has progressed from LP, to 8-track to cassette to CD to MP3.  I can very clearly appreciate how far technology has come because I’ve lived through the transition.  And since I’ve been working for Microsoft for much of this transition, I’ve often been on the frontlines of the changing technology landscape. 

    Kids today have a far different technology lexicon and heritage.  This video below shows school children in Montreal trying to identify technology gadgets from the late 20th century and highlights the gap as well as some age-defining realizations.  What’s more interesting...the implications on learning and technology for a generation where the Internet is pervasive…natural input not keyboard is defacto interface standard …content is available everywhere on anything…and your social circle is defined by who you’re connected to as much as who you actually know. 

    In this landscape...how should what we assess and test change? Are we limiting technology’s potential by defining usage based on old norms and simple transition from analog to digital?  In a world so technology-rich…why isn’t the incremental impact and experience changing?  Thoughts?

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