Education Insights

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

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  • 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

    Observations of education systems in India and Japan

    • 11 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

    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

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    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

    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

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

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    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

    Improving teaching & learning in Kenya with 1:1 computing

    • 5 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

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

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    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

    Ribbon Hero: Game-based learning for Office

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    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

    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

    IE9 as a reading platform

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    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

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

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    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

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

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    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

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    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

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    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

    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

    Helping Reform Los Angeles Schools

    • 2 Comments

    I am excited to see what the new year brings to Mendez High School in East Los Angeles. We recently adopted the Engineering & Technology and Math & Science schools on the campus and gave them over $1 million to buy new software and hardware to provide them with the means to create a replicable model for STEM learning. It’s not just a technology donation, Microsoft is partnering with school leaders to provide leadership training and training for the teachers to help them better integrate technology into their classroom instruction and lesson plans.

    Mendez is one of 21 schools that are part of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools that was started by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to improve education in the district by turning around the city’s lowest performing schools. In addition to training teachers and staff, Microsoft will also be coaching and mentoring the students at Mendez…not only showing them technology, but also offering opportunities focused on career awareness to help prepare the youth for the competitive Los Angeles and U.S. job market.

    When we announced this news, it was great to see the enthusiasm of kids.  It just underscores the potential that technology can have to transform and provide a launching path for exploration of careers, as well as exploration of how to use the tools to solve some of the world's toughest challenges. I personally love days like this, because I not only get a chance to see and hear from teachers and see schools directly…but I get a chance to really connect with kids who are excited about their future, and are thinking about ways in which they can not only create a better world for their families and themselves, but also impact society.

    It’s great to see kids thinking about the future. Every conversation I had with the students, I asked them what they wanted to do to make a living, where they were planning on going to college, etc.  A lot of times you get students who don't have good answers to those questions in high school, and a lot of these kids didn't yet, but the ones that did, I feel like we've got to share their examples with others to say start thinking earlier…start thinking about not only where you want to go to college but how you can connect the quality of your education to the future jobs that are available to you. I had a conversation with one student who was interested in forensic medicine, and she's not interested in forensic medicine because of TV shows like CSI…she wants to help use that science to cure diseases. It is inspiring to see kids who are really thinking about some of these tough issues, and thinking about the world beyond themselves.

    The technology here at Mendez, just like in every school, is just part of the solution.  So, we're providing a foundation, but it really goes beyond that.  Microsoft's hope with Mendez is to incubate innovation and take these examples to help advance the way in which schools think about technology…and the way in which we think about the expectations we set for students.  I left the school with a challenge to start an Imagine Cup team.

    This is just the first step for Mendez and part of a larger momentum LA has to reform schools.  We've seen some great results from the Mayor's innovative schools, and the work that the new LA leadership is thinking about with regards to school reform and technology's usage there. We're excited about the ongoing partnership in LA, and the potential for the future of the students.

  • Education Insights

    Cool new devices for schools at CES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

  • Education Insights

    Celebrating the world's most innovative & inspiring teachers

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    I’m excited to be in Washington, D.C. this week among more than 700 of the most talented educators and school leaders from around the world at the 7th annual Partners in Learning Global Forum. This is one of my favorite weeks every year at Microsoft, because it’s actually happening with teachers…real people who are using technology in education to impact children’s lives and advancing students’ interest in learning. The opportunity to get inspired by, to learn from and to hear stories from teachers is amazing.

    All these teachers have competed at local and regional events and have earned a spot to compete for 18 Global Innovative Educator Awards. Some of these teachers are leaving their country or village for the first time ever. One gentleman from Latin America had to walk five miles to catch a bus that was another three hour ride just to get to the airport to fly to D.C. These people are heroes back at home and we are so proud to put them on a stage and applaud their accomplishments.

    The Partners in Learning Global Forum is not only a celebration of teachers, but it is also a demonstration of the need to cultivate innovative teaching practices. We not only need to help teachers get access to resources and best practices to make them more effective, but we also need to uplift their roles as leaders in their classrooms, their school, their state and country. We hope that in many ways this will help address what will be a huge epidemic of teacher shortages in the near future. The United Nations estimates that another eight million teachers need to be recruited into the profession by 2015. That is a huge gap. What we need to do is support existing teachers to advance and become leaders in their community and really apply the best education models for delivering results and use these teachers as an inspiration for others to enter the profession.

    Teachers play a critical role in preparing the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow that will ultimately improve the world economy. A recent McKenzie study estimates by the end of this decade, two-thirds of the jobs that will be created don't even exist today. New skills will be needed if people are to fill these new and even existing jobs. To help people obtain these new skills we have to start with educators…dedicated individuals who, through their own work, prepare and empower the future generations.  If we want great students, we need to start by investing in great teachers.

    One of the things we’ve been doing more with Partners in Learning is embracing the connection and working with like-minded partners to drive effective partnerships and scale opportunities to make a difference in education. We believe that when business needs merge with social responsibility, and you bring together organizations that are equally passionate about education…this can be a successful formula for preparing the next generation of leaders.

    Today, we announced new partnerships with the U.S. Department of Education, the British Council and the Smithsonian Institution to not only encourage more people to enter the teaching profession, but to improve the quality and access in education and training and resources around the world.

    I encourage you to join our global community of education thought leaders to share your best practices and learn from others. We must all work together to make sure every child has access to a quality education, and ultimately change our world for the better.

  • Education Insights

    Recommendations for Providing Accessible Technology for Students to Enhance Personalized Learning

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

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

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

    The UNESCO report outlines practical solutions, such as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    Schools reinventing education with Windows 7 and more...

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    It’s going to be an exciting year here at Microsoft as we are introducing a wave of new innovative software. This fall, we are helping institutions and IT professionals optimize PC environments, increase productivity and expand innovation in the classroom with Windows 7, consolidate servers with Windows Server 2008 R2 and unify communications with Exchange Server 2010.

    By now you’ve probably seen “The New Efficiency” – it’s both the theme for the product launches and it is the powerful concept behind a new way of thinking about IT…cost savings, innovation and productivity can come together to deliver operational improvements while amplifying the impact of your people. For education, this new efficiency requires some reinvention in many ways. The expectations of schools and its constituents are growing. What schools really have to do is prioritize investments and shift the ways they use existing resources as opposed to just doing more with the same resources. Basically, schools need to make different bets on how they serve content, and how they invest more in education, etc. as opposed to just squeezing more out of the same exact investment and strategy. Be sure to check out our virtual launch events here and here.

    Since Windows 7 was first released to schools with academic licensing agreements in August, many K12 and high education schools around the globe are in the process of deploying the next generation operating system and experiencing the benefits.  Check out my earlier blog post here introducing Windows 7 to schools.

    As part of its Digital Education Revolution initiative, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training is in the process of rolling out tens of thousands of netbooks to students and teachers to bring innovation to teaching and learning, and to equip students with the necessary tools they need to further their education and prepare them for the digital workforce. Check out their video below.

    West Hatch High School, in Essex, England was the first school in Europe to fully deploy Windows 7. And here in the United States, San Diego Unified School District, Catherine Cook School in Chicago, Hoover City Schools in Alabama, Kentucky Community and Technical College System and many more are investing in Windows 7.

    I’m excited to share their stories with you and more in the coming months. Please share how Windows 7 and the other new products are allowing you to transform the teaching and learning experience in your schools. If you haven't started exploring yet, you can download free trial software for Windows 7 here, Windows Server 2008 R2 here and Exchange Server 2010 here.


    New South Wales School District and Windows 7
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