Education Insights

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

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  • 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

    Expanding Partners in Learning to Higher Education

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    The Partners in Learning program is a flagship program for Microsoft's work in education, and one of the things that I'm most proud of as a Microsoft employee. It started eight years ago and is the company’s 10-year $500 million commitment to invest, support and celebrate the work of teachers around the world, as well as helps school gain better access to technology and provide teacher professional development.

    Through Partners in Learning we've been working with over 115 countries to celebrate teachers, to mine and identify innovation, and to scale the progress of change in education more rapidly all over the world. We've learned a lot, we've had tremendous partnerships from stakeholders in countries that we support, and we continue to be amazed and inspired by the great work and the great lessons we've seen from innovative teachers and innovative schools around the world.

    One area I've always wanted to recognize is the need and the value that higher education institutions can have…to spotlight the innovation that's happening on university and college campuses, and to support the exploration of faculty using technology in new ways.

    I’m excited to expand our Partners in Learning work to now include higher education institutions.  Not only will this allow our higher education institutions to act as partners to scale their great work, but they can learn from other models, help expand innovative teaching and join a community of faculty members and committed education leaders. Because higher education institutions are producing our next generation of teachers…we believe faculty are critical stakeholders to engage in this conversation, so larger group leverage the innovative teaching work that's happening around the world to influence what we're teaching our next generation of teachers in university campuses.

    We will also be working with the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) to provide universities, especially senior leadership, with guidance and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues around the world on critical issues that can help them be better prepared for the future of running their organization and preparing their students for the demands of the 21st century.

    The newly expanded Partners in Learning for Higher Education program will focus on Academic Summits, a Teacher Education Initiative and the Higher Education Consortium. Check out our new website to learn more on how you can get involved.

  • Education Insights

    Working with UNESCO to help teachers use technology in their classrooms

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    One of the things on the mind of government officials and education leaders around the world is how to raise the quality and impact of teaching and innovative teaching practices. The use of technology to drive change and innovation in classrooms is at the center of the debate, and we see invest in teacher training and support the use of technology more actively. We’ve been working with UNESCO to expand teacher competencies to not only elevate the profession of teaching, but to create a foundation for others to model effective teaching practices.

    At UNESCO’s General Conference this week, Microsoft is proud to be part of a consortium of information and communication technology (ICT) companies supporting the launch of the second version of the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, a global initiative helping teachers and schools maximize the use of ICT for learning. An overview can be found here.

    In 2008, UNESCO and industry partners including Microsoft, CISCO and Intel launched a framework to help teachers integrate and harness the power of ICT for their students, called the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT). The ICT-CFT fits within a holistic approach to improving the use of ICT in education and the development of 21st Century teaching and learning – starting with identifying the complex skills students need for success today, ensuring teaching is measureable, and supporting teachers as they develop and use the innovative pedagogical practices required for students to develop these skills.

    As governments create long-term strategies for coming out of the economic recession, and the focus turns to job creation and skills, ensuring today’s students have the skills needed to compete for the jobs of tomorrow is critical for every country’s competitiveness.

    At Microsoft, we see this as a three-step approach with three important questions to answer: What skills are needed and how do we measure them? What are the practices required for teachers to teach and students to learn these skills? And how can leaders expand the adoption of these teaching practices and competencies across districts or a whole system? Microsoft has partnered in the research and development needed to address each of these needs.

    The first step identifies which 21st Century skills are important and how they can be measured, helping define the assessment and content required to ensure the next generation’s future employability and competitiveness. The ATC21S consortium, a partnership between Microsoft, Intel and CISCO and the University of Melbourne, has worked with hundreds of researchers around the world to define these complex skills and develop new assessments to measure them. The research will provide governments, inter-governmental agencies and content providers with skill definitions, sample assessments and guidance on how to measure and teach complex skills such as Collaboration, Problem Solving and ICT Literacy-Learning in Digital Networks.

    The next step is research and development to identify the teaching practices and learning experiences that will allow students to develop these skills. Microsoft is sponsoring the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research project aimed at figuring out the most effective and innovative teaching practices to ensure students are prepared for life and work in a globally connected interdependent world. ITL Research, which is designed by the non-profit research institute SRI with advisory from UNESCO, the OECD and others, is helping school systems define the teaching practices needed to help students effectively develop 21st century skills. And through Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, the methods developed through ITL have been offered directly and at no cost to schools around the world to measure their own innovative teaching and learning. For more information, see http://www.pilsr.com.

    And finally, through the UNESCO, CISCO, Intel and Microsoft partnership, the third element – scaling competencies – is addressed by the UNESCO ICT-CFT. This partnership has established a framework providing education districts and systems with a means to scale the teacher competencies required for new, innovative teaching practices maximizing the use of ICT in the classroom and for administrative use. Importantly, due to UNESCO’s support, the ICT-CFT has global reach – delivering a common framework to measure and develop teacher competencies that support effective use of ICT for learning for school systems around the world.

    While each step in this process is important, the UNESCO ICT-CFT initiative is unique in its ability to provide much needed guidance for systems to have a common understanding of the ICT teaching competencies. As with all partners involved in the creation of the second version of the ICT-CFT, Microsoft is excited to launch the next phase of an initiative that is benefiting students globally and preparing the next generations for a bright future.

  • Education Insights

    The Kinect Effect in Education

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    As a gamer and someone who's excited about the potential for gamification in education and the way in which we can apply incentives and other features of gaming to the learning process, I am a huge fan of Kinect. I'm a fan of the opportunities it's going to open up for new user interfaces, the opportunities it has to engage students in new ways of learning, and the ways in which it can actually drive innovation in creating new experiences in the classroom and beyond.

    With the 1-year anniversary of Kinect this week, we are celebrating “The Kinect Effect” – all the unexpected, innovative and exciting ways people are using the controller-free game device that we could have never imagined as the intended use. It is transforming the ways people think about technology in healthcare, education, art and many other industries.

    We've already seen tremendous enthusiasm and usage of Kinect among academics and hobbyists tinkering with the Kinect for Windows SDK. And today, Microsoft announced that we will make available a commercial version of the Kinect for Windows SDK early next year. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is one of the many of educational organizations among the 200 applicants in the pilot program building applications using Kinect right now. The Kinect SDK will provide toolsets for inspiration of great ideas and great applications of this new technology, and I'm excited to see the impact.

    A lot of work has been done in Microsoft Research (MSR) to extend the ways in which we think about physical reality, gesture control, as well as how it interacts with the real world.  Kinect is a great example of a technology that's pushing the edge and demonstrating not only what's here today but what's possible for the future. This video below extends that type of thinking in a project called Holodesk, which uses a hologram and a transparent display to create a synthesis between the physical world and the digital world in a way in which you can manipulate objects, collaborate, as well as integrate physical objects with virtual objects in space. The potential for this in education…simulating, modeling, and looking at three-dimensional objects is exciting.

    What’s next? Check out the video below for some of our ideas, but we’re hoping you’ll join us invent where Kinect goes next. 

     

  • Education Insights

    Leveraging SharePoint for your LMS

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    As schools and teachers continue to use digital assets for collaboration, homework assignments, and more, learning management systems and tools such as Moodle have grown in popularity in classrooms.

    ELEARNINGFORCE manages to take many of the same features and tools requested by customers and built a solution around Microsoft SharePoint as a toolset.  This not only provides greater range of functionality and power but overall cost savings as it relates to administrative costs, management, etc.

    Kelvin Hicks and I had an opportunity to talk about his thoughts on some of the broader trends as it relates to technology and education, and the growing role collaboration is having on the education process in classrooms and virtually. Take a listen…

     

  • Education Insights

    Celebrating the most innovative schools on World Teacher’s Day

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    In celebration of World Teachers’ Day, I’m excited to congratulate the 2012 class of Mentor and Pathfinder schools joining the Microsoft Partners in Learning (PIL) Schools Program. These schools and the teachers behind them are a constant source of inspiration for their steadfast dedication and passion to drive positive change in education.

    The 82 schools selected from 61 countries provide a glimpse of the best innovations happening in education around the world. Selected through a rigorous application and evaluation process, these schools were chosen based on their global examples of inspirational leadership, proven records of innovation, and successful implementations of change. The Microsoft Partners in Learning Schools Program was built on findings from 12 pioneering innovative schools that have each taken a unique approach to assessing, improving, and evaluating their learning environments to successfully move beyond the limits of the classroom and traditional learning models. There are now more than 7,000 schools in this program. You can see and learn more about the Pathfinder and Mentor schools on this interactive Bing map.

    While all of these schools face different challenges and opportunities, their implementations of innovation in the classroom have global relevance that we can all learn from. Based on the notion that teachers cannot be successful innovators unless their school systems support inventive teaching and learning, the PIL Schools program helps school leaders develop a vision to transform their school community into an environment that fosters 21st century learning. Through the mentorship program, schools can share successes as well as search for solutions by tapping the global intelligence of some of the most notably successful schools, and school leaders, in the world. The program aims to discover, share and scale best practice and develop models and assets that any school can use to help students reach their full potential. The video below gives an overview of three of our Mentor Schools from Colombia, Finland, and South Africa.

    It takes great leadership to drive great change in any organization, and especially in education there is an increasing need to elevate women into leadership positions. UNESCO established World Teachers’ Day back in 1994 to celebrate the profession and to promote international standards for teaching. This year’s theme is “teachers for gender equality. “ Earlier this year, Microsoft and UNESCO entered a new partnership to address the unequal education opportunities and low literacy rates for women and girls across the world. We hope that today’s spotlight on the importance of teachers for children’s successful futures renews and spurs  more discussions and actions to open up equal opportunities for women and girls to access a quality education. For more on that, please read UNESCO’s blog post on the Microsoft On The Issues blog.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft Commits to Bring Digital Access and Skills Training to 1M U.S. Students

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    Yesterday, I had the privilege of combining my personal passion with my profession on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting to announce that Microsoft will bring digital access to one million students from low-income families. The video of our announcement can be found here(Photo courtesy of Clinton Global Initiative)

    Microsoft is extending its global Shape the Future program to the United States. Shape the Future has already provided digital access to 10 million students around the world, and is a continuation of Bill Gates’ original vision of a PC for every desktop and home. Now, through Shape the Future, Microsoft is working with public and private partners to ensure access to technology for youth from low-income households through broadband Internet access at a reduced cost and discounted hardware, software and educational training software.

    Joining me in making this commitment to Shape the Future at CGI’s Annual Meeting were some of the public and private partners that work with us to make this vision a reality: the FCC as a public-sector supporter and the National Federation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and One Economy as our non-profit commitment supporters.

    In speaking with school leaders, there’s one thing I’ve heard time and time again: Students without Internet access at home face an uphill battle in school that affects their academic progress as well as their opportunities to graduate and get good jobs. Below is an infographic that helps illustrate this challenge.

    This can end up being a challenge for the community as a whole. As I’ve said before, access to technology should be a right for every student – not a privilege – and correcting this inequity is something I feel strongly about. Never has this been more true, when technology is increasingly becoming a requirement of many jobs (50 percent of today’s jobs require technology skills or digital literacy. This is expected to increase to 77 percent in the next 10 years) and the number of Americans in poverty has hit a record high.

    The impact of 9.5 million U.S. students not having digital access at home not only impacts that individual student, but has lasting economic and social consequences. In school, these digitally excluded students experience a graduation rate 6 percent to 8 percent behind their connected peers. A recent report from The Arnold Group calculates that this disparity costs the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion over the working life of these students. Society carries this burden in terms of lost earning potential, lost tax revenues, poorer access to preventative health information and reduced efficiencies of social programs.

    Digital inclusion not only empowers our students, but represents a real opportunity for cities and states to create local jobs, improve economic growth and increase their region’s competitiveness. This is at the core of Microsoft’s belief that an excellent education is a socioeconomic and workforce imperative.

    Shape the Future is one of the initiatives that I’m most proud to work on, and this announcement represents why. Putting technology in the hands of a student who did not have access is a powerful step on the path leading to employability, economic opportunity and a better future.

    To read more about Microsoft’s commitment to Shape the Future, and what we’re doing with our partners to address the issue of digitally excluded students and their families, please see Tuesday’s press release.

  • Education Insights

    Remembering heroes on 9/11

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    As an American and a New Yorker, the impact of the events on 9/11 has certainly had a deep personal impact on me.

    I was actually traveling to visit schools in Florida the morning of 9/11. I left from Boston’s Logan International Airport, the same airport where two of the planes unknowingly carrying terrorists also departed. While I was half asleep, the pilot interrupted with the announcement that we were making an emergency landing and the plane quickly descended straight down and my life flashed before my eyes. At the time, no one was certainly thinking about a terrorist attack. We ended up landing in Charlotte, greeted by a flight attendant who said, “Welcome to Charlotte.”

    The events of 9/11 have changed how we think of the world and how we appreciate our freedoms and our safety. It’s also changed the way in which we celebrate the heroes in our world…our military, firefighters, doctors, law enforcement officials, rescue workers, etc. And certainly I count teachers in that class as well.

    I’ve long believed that the reverence and distinction we apply to heroes…and in many cases the way in which we celebrate military fanfare with symbolic medals of distinction…all need to be appreciated for the work that they do. When I think about 9/11, I think about celebrating and thanking the heroes who work tirelessly who help others, and I celebrate teachers in the same way.

    (Photo Courtesy: Mark Lennihan/AP)

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft Education Partner Interview: Cambridge University Press

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    I started the conversation a few days ago about the evolution of digital publishing in education. As publishers move to digital text and reading, online storage and digital libraries are becoming increasingly popular as a destination path.  The cloud, in addition to providing tremendous opportunities to scale, can create a great opportunity for publishers to use cloud storage and access to create unlimited anywhere anytime access for students, and create easier and more powerful digital libraries.

    Microsoft Azure is increasingly a tool that publishers are looking towards for cloud storage and access. Cambridge University Press is one of the leading publishers looking to the cloud for digital publishing and content. I spoke with Ed Collins there who shared some of his thoughts on how they are thinking about using Microsoft technology to extend the reach of their content. Check out the video below.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft Education Partner Interview: Tribal

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    One of the things schools are increasingly looking towards is the use of technology and data to create an opportunity for transformation and optimization of student learning opportunities. I’ve blogged previously about how schools are using data better to drive more successful student outcomes, and how partners are building new solutions to help them.

    Tribal is one of our partners who is helping schools enable transformation by the use of data and integrated systems to create both business intelligent frameworks for teachers to more effectively assess student performance…but more effectively use technology to drive engaging and personalized learning opportunities for students.

    I had a great conversation with Tribal recently about how they have been working with 700 schools in England to uncover pockets of excellence that is happening in some schools…and how their technology solution is helping to scale those best practices to other schools.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft Education Partner Interview: SunGard

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    As technology in higher education continues to evolve and become more mission critical to operations across systems and learning environments…administrators are seeking new ways to evolve their current platforms. They’re also looking to embrace cloud technologies, mobile devices, as well as creating new opportunities for faculty and students to leverage technology.

    One of our education partners, SunGard, is working through new ways to not only think globally around technology solutions but to create a balance of existing and emerging technology systems to create opportunities for higher education to move forward.

    Brian Knotts, Senior Vice President, Global Architecture, at SunGard shared his thoughts with me in a great conversation featured here in this video.

  • Education Insights

    What new devices mean to the world of publishing in education

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    One of the most exciting trends happening in education today is the evolution of digital publishing. Publishers around the world are starting to embrace not only new reading modalities but new form factors and devices to create both interactive and enriching experiences for students and educators.

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is on the forefront of this and is working towards creating an engaging opportunity for educators and students to leverage content in exciting new ways.

    Tony Clancy, Vice President of Technology Strategy and Architecture at HMH, and I had a great conversation about the potential, and the work that HMH is working on to deliver this in the coming years. 

  • Education Insights

    Innovative Teaching & Learning Research Project

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    During my visits I often have the great fortune of seeing best practices truly transforming schools and classrooms.  I get to hear and learn from educators who are making magic happen for their students…and while I’m always inspired and energized…I am often challenged by the recognition that these projects largely do not scale and often will not be easily sustained or replicated beyond the project creator. Scaling innovation in education is a global issue and something we all must work to solve and identifying innovative teaching practices and the impact that they can have on student outcomes is a great place to start.

    As people all over the world are talking about the need to transform education to align with the realities of life and work in the 21stCentury…we need to remember this is not just about the effective use of technology but about developing kids who are deeply engaged in the learning process and taking the initiative to learn.

    How we make this transformation happen in schools and classrooms and how we measure success remains a critical priority.  As part of our commitment to education transformation, we initiated the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research project (www.itlresearch.com) to contribute information and policy insights on where and how effective education transformation is taking place around the world.  ITL Research is a multiyear global research program designed to investigate the factors that promote the transformation of teaching practices and the impact those changes have on students’ learning outcomes across a broad range of country contexts.

    We are working with global and local education leaders such as UNESCO and local Ministries of Education to include them in the research process and will be sharing data and results openly with all research partners and with the broader academic education community.  The goal here is to recognize the importance of innovative teaching practices, inspire others to commitment to scaling innovation and creating a foundation for holistic education transformation.

    Another exciting component of this project is the opportunity for individual schools and leaders to take part.  Microsoft’s Partners in Learning School Research is a self-assessment survey research system that helps educators and school leaders understand and measure innovative teaching practices that develop the skills students need for life and work in the 21st Century.  It’s an incredibly powerful tool that will give individual leaders an opportunity to measure and identify innovative teaching practices and compare and measure against the global survey results.  The process is also very easy to administer…

    1.  A school leader signs up on this website.
    2.  A research leader from the school sends out the survey to all educators and school leaders in the school.
    3.  Each educator and school leader takes a 15 to 20 minute online survey about innovative teaching practices.
    4.  Once the surveys have been completed, a research report based on the responses is sent to the research leader within 24 hours, who can then share it.
    5.  The report shows measures of innovative teaching practices in the school and examples of innovative teaching practices.
    6.  The surveys can be repeated each year to track and measure progress.

    Visit www.pilsr.com to learn more about this project and how your school can take part.  Maria’s video below does a great job of providing an overview of our work here and the opportunity ahead.

     

  • Education Insights

    New assistive learning technologies removing communication barriers on Windows 7

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    Technology is having a transformative impact around the world. I wanted to share another great story, this time from the Abu Dhabi Center for Autism in the United Arab Emirates, where children with autism are benefitting from new technology form factors and user interfaces in assistive learning scenarios.

    In the video below, you can see how the Maestro speech communication device built on Windows 7 works. It was developed to give individuals of all ages and abilities living with speech and language disabilities the ability to communicate using a sleek, stylish tool that allows the individual to blend in with their peers.  Messages are composed by selecting vocabulary on the screen. Depending upon the individual’s abilities and needs, he or she may compose messages using symbols, words, phrases or letters – singularly or in combination.

    The Maestro’s InterAACt language framework presents vocabulary in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the child, providing context when needed, and ensures that the child has the right words for every situation. InterAACt not only supports face-to-face interactions, but also communication by e-mail, text message and phone. The Maestro’s hardware also individuals to access the device via touch and alternative access methods such as scanning, eye gaze, joystick and Morse code.

    The Maestro communication tool does a great job of removing barriers to communication by giving children with communication challenges the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate with others.  And even better…it gives people the ability to independently initiate conversations!

     

  • Education Insights

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

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    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.

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    2011 Microsoft Education Partner of the Year -- Desire2Learn

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    I’ve spent some time in Los Angeles this week at Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) meeting with partners, talking about business opportunities to build on the Microsoft platform to deliver new solutions to the education market and celebrating their successes. This year, Desire2Learn won the 2011 Microsoft Public Sector Education Partner of the Year Award for delivering innovative solutions that directly address customer challenges.

    Desire2Learn is recognized as a global eLearning solution provider and I'm excited about the work they are doing across the Microsoft platform. The Desire2Learn environment is a complete web-based suite of easy-to-use tools and functionality built exclusively on Microsoft Windows and SQL Server. Other Microsoft technologies integrated—or soon to be integrated—in their products include: Live@edu, Windows Phone 7, Lync, Office 365, and SharePoint Server.  We see Desire2Learn really delivering a broad range of solutions that connect a range of Microsoft technologies in real ways that schools want to use them in terms of providing flexible connections to learning management applications, providing a very collaborative stack, and building it on affordable and flexible technology that scales with schools.

    Earlier, I had the chance to speak with Jeremy Auger, Desire2Learn’s Chief Operating Officer. One of the things we talked about was the way in which they're using the Microsoft platform to build very custom solutions for schools, that they're taking what they've learned and feedback from schools who have used learning management systems before and filling the gaps and responding to customers’ wish lists.

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    Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 helping schools save money and make 1:1 computing real

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    In my 19 years at Microsoft, I've never seen a product evolve as much as Microsoft MultiPoint Server has in such a short period of time. Buying more computers to provide more students with access to technology is not the only expense schools are worried about…there are also budget considerations for energy and maintenance.

    With Microsoft MultiPoint Server 2011, one host computer can be shared by up to 20 users simultaneously reducing upfront hardware acquisition costs as well as ongoing operational costs. I’ve previously blogged about the benefits of Microsoft’s MultiPoint solutions here. With the 2011 version, there are even more benefits that extend the life of computing and provide collaboration spaces where you can connect a group. 

    One of my favorite new features is in the management console called MultiPoint Manager (video). It’s great for teachers to easily monitor what all the kids are working on and keep them focused. From the teacher’s desktop, you can zoom in on a student’s screen, block activity, open and close applications and put restrictions on Internet access to specific sites.

    Recently, Microsoft commissioned Forrester Consulting to examine the total economic impact and potential return on investment (ROI) for Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 for schools in emerging markets. The study found that schools “can expect an ROI of 206%, a “payback” period of less than five months, and an overall cost savings of 66% compared to the alternative scenario of investing in a traditional 1:1 computing environment.” Click here to read the full report (PDF download) and check out the latest customer success stories from Czech Republic, India and Nepal below.

  • Education Insights

    Vote now for this year's Imagine Cup People's Choice Award

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    In just about two weeks, more than 400 students from 70 countries will travel to New York City to compete at this year’s Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals. I'm starting to get inspired by all the projects created by students that not only enhance the way technology is making a difference in education, but really use technology to help individuals in their daily life.

    One of the projects that caught my attention is a project using Kinect to help students with cerebral palsy in Croatia that gives a hint for the potential future for this technology, and the many ways in which students can think about the ways to connect technology to practical examples to make a difference.

    The team from Venezuela made their own interactive whiteboard and tabletop from low-cost materials compared with commercial devices that are not accessible for most schools in the world. The students have also developed applications and created a website to share, rate and recommend interactive material online with other teachers to make primary classrooms more engaging.

    In all fairness, all of the student participants represent the next generation of entrepreneurs and inventors and they are tackling the world’s toughest problems…they have great ideas to improve healthcare, to stop pollution, disease and hunger, to improve disaster relief response, to increase access to education, and much more.

    I encourage you to check out all the videos at www.imaginecup.com/pca and vote for your favorite. The People’s Choice contest runs through July 12. The winning team will be announced on Wednesday, July 13 at the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in New York City, and will receive a $10,000 (USD) prize.

  • Education Insights

    Kinect in education…open for ideas and exploration with the new SDK

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    I’ve previously talked about my excitement over games-based learning and natural user interface, and how increasingly Microsoft has invested in exploring how these areas can make a difference in education.

    Since its release, there has been tremendous enthusiasm and fascination about Kinect as not only a tool to help navigation and interaction, but to help students to get even more engaged in learning. The video below is a great example of a project in South Africa to show how Kinect is making a difference in getting students more excited about their learning environment, and helping students at different places in their learning styles get engaged in the classroom…and actually get more excited about schoolwork.

    There's also been a fascination about using Kinect to control environments. A powerful example is the evolution of the universe via Kinect and the navigation across the universe with Kinect.  The marriage between Microsoft's efforts and amazing work with WorldWide Telescope and Kinect is perfectly demonstrated in this video where the power of the Kinect sensor can actually allow you to navigate planets and stars, and literally swim across the universe.

    The launch of the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) is just going to be the beginning for what should be an exciting time for Kinect, as well as natural user interface. Universities, developers, researchers are excited about the potential Kinect will bring to create more interactive classroom environments, to create more learning style environments that will help students with disabilities, students with autism get more engaged with learning, as well as potential for much more interactive navigation tools, taking on what has been done with smart boards to get students involved in the classroom. During a 24-hour code camp for the SDK beta launch, teams of university students and researchers built amazing applications.

    The power of Kinect is just waiting for ideas and exploration.  It will be interesting to see what happens going forward.

  • Education Insights

    Making access to technology a reality via Shape the Future

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    One of the initiatives I'm most proud of is the work we do around Shape the Future.  It's really all about making access to technology a right and not a privilege for every student on the planet.  And increasingly this is a priority for governments and schools throughout the world.

    As we think about the opportunity for technology to play a role in business, and certainly to play a role in access to information and the way in which it can empower the classrooms…there's a lot of things that I would put as reminders as schools think about one-to-one computing.  I've been working with school districts for the past decade or more on thinking about one-to-one models and the aspiration to move, and I have a couple pieces of advice for folks to consider… and this is regardless of what hardware or even what software you want to use in the device…hopefully some helpful thoughts as you think about the program.

    Resist the temptation to acquire first.
    The first thing I would say is we've got to start with thinking and resisting the temptation to think acquisition first.  Typically, when schools think to change, they start with a device and once the device comes into the classroom in many cases if you've not done the right thing upfront, the battle is already lost.  School leaders need to start with thinking about people, the implications of learning, and how the device will really be used.  In many cases you want to ask questions about what you're trying to accomplish with regards to transforming learning in a broader way without the restrictions and the limitations of understanding for a teacher on a device or doing things around deployment, etc.

    Think about sustainability.
    Two, you've got to think much more about a sustainability approach.  So, you've got to think not only around how funding on acquisition exists, but how long-term projects will be sustained with regards to ecosystem.

    In many cases we're seeing schools really shift away from providing devices from a one-to-one perspective, and governments being more responsible for thinking around creating sustainable funding models, tax structure models, etc.  In many cases, those are much more viable long term, both to expand technology access to all folks who need it, but also to sustain it long term.  The days of actually buying technology as a project or a limited initiative with special funding increasingly become less sustainable and really should change.

    Delivery of the device matters.
    The third thing I would say is where you deliver the device matters.  From all of our pilots and the work that we've done around the world we've learned that giving a device to a student in a classroom has the least impact with regards to the long-term life of the device.  It's better to give the same device to a student via the parent/caregiver or via a retail location outside of the school walls, because the device will be embraced by the families more broadly. It will also be respected much more by the students, as opposed to putting the burden on maintenance or support, and really the respect of the device will be decreased if it's delivered inside the school.

    Think about the ecosystem.
    The fourth thing I would say is the ecosystem matters.  So, partnering with banks, telecommunications companies, and NGOs to make sure that these projects are not only more sustainable but also include a broader range of services and support.

    Training is imperative.
    Fifth is obviously critical access to make sure that training is provided for families, both students, teachers, and parents, everything from online safety to digital literacy training to integration of ICT with regards to training and the curriculum is important.

    I think those are the key things to think about before jumping into a one-to-one initiative.  To learn more and to see about some of the projects that we're doing around the world to help shape the future and provide access to technology for students in education…check out our Shape the Future Facebook page and like our Facebook page. There’s a lot of great videos that explain our vision for the Shape the Future program and sum up some of the work that we are doing around the world.

  • Education Insights

    Update from the road...Education in Greece, France and Sweden

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    A quick update from on the road…

    I've been traveling a lot recently to both help Microsoft plan for our upcoming fiscal year, as well as meeting with customers as the school year winds down in parts of the world. I just had a very interesting visit in three countries that all have very different education systems based on where the economy stands…so it's interesting to see how it's changing thinking and prioritization of education in countries.

    I'll start out with the country that I visited which had the worst economic current conditions, and that was Greece. Greece's problem with regards to education is really one about creating job opportunities in the country to keep and retain students.  One of the challenges the country is facing is students are migrating away from the country because economic conditions are creating a population decrease for families, and we want to help continue to create opportunities. The economic conditions are creating urgency with regard to changing the education system and actually creating opportunity for not only new entrepreneurs and new growth but creating new imperatives inside the school system to prepare students for the future.

    It's interesting to see the vitality that the government in Greece is putting towards education as a priority, and really shifting investment to make sure that education helps the country get out of the current economic environment that they're facing. After visiting Greece, I had an opportunity to go to France, and things in France are actually economically a little bit better but also the way in which they're thinking about technology is starting to advance.

    France is one of the countries that has a very specific education philosophy and education practice and methodology. Other countries like Japan and Russia, who have rich academic traditions and pedagogy, have been often the slowest to change and have been the most resistant of technology integrating into the classroom and actually shifting the way learning is done.

    And that's starting to change in all of those countries, and certainly that was what I got from France, both meeting with the education ministry as well as individual schools and universities.  There's not only an embrace of technology's role and importance in the classroom, but a recognition that it's a part of everyday life. Not only technology in the classroom, but empowering teachers to think differently about their education models and how they think about content and assessment with technology is something that we're starting to see more and more of.

    One of the things we talked during a meeting with the ministry in France was the way in which they're starting to think about celebrating and embracing innovation and looking at innovative teaching models that are happening around the country is very much aligned to what we do with innovative teachers and innovative school projects via Partners in Learning.  It's often the way in which many countries start, by looking at the models that exist in their country, and celebrating those examples for others so they can get inspired by how they can transform with technology.

    France's universities are also very active in looking at the cloud solutions, and I had an opportunity to meet with a number of CIOs throughout France, and they're certainly excited about the potential the cloud provides to save costs but also to scale out the services across the board.

    The last country I met with, Sweden, is actually facing economic prosperity, and certainly it's interesting to see how that dynamic plays in terms of the way in which they think about technology.  They're the most aggressive on making sure 1:1 is a priority around the country and providing devices to students.

    In some respects it's interesting, because of the economic conditions, that the focus tends to be a little bit too much on device than I would like to see. One of the things I tried to caution the school leaders I met with in Sweden was to think much more about holistic transformation broadly and resist the temptation to focus on devices specifically, but that's an area that they're growing in and certainly looking to make sure that every student in Sweden has access to a device in the next few years. There is a huge opportunity for them to change the way in which they think about content and the way they think about schools 24/7, anywhere, anytime going forward.  So, a huge opportunity to look at Sweden as a benchmark for how 1:1 evolves.

    So, very interesting models in all of the countries…it really reflects a lot of what we're starting to see in education. There's not only a reality with regards to economic conditions that drive decisions, but the economic conditions around employability, jobs, and economic prosperity is often driving the urgency for education reform and change in countries. This connection is often not only an important thing to embrace but an opportunity for us to really create and ground the change in a lasting and meaningful way in the classroom, with parents, and with students.

  • Education Insights

    More fun and learning with Ribbon Hero 2

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    One of my favorite things that Microsoft has created is Ribbon Hero. This free download and tool provides a game-like environment for students and teachers, and really anyone, to get more comfortable with the features and resources within Microsoft Office…and especially learn how to navigate and leverage the power of the Office Ribbon.

    The Office Labs team at Microsoft released version two of the Ribbon Hero and it takes the concept even further by providing a game narrative for the exploration of the tools.  It actually reintroduces one of Microsoft's most renowned innovations from the Office product, Clippy, which was designed to make the Office product more friendly and more easy for people to use.  Ribbon Hero 2 follows Clippy’s travels through time as he explores different time periods and tries to get back home. With each time period, the player gets to explore a new game board with challenges they must complete to get to the next level. Each challenge takes the player into Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote to complete a task and race for a high score with colleagues, classmates and friends.

    It's a great tool to demo, to help students and teachers get engaged, be more productive, organized and creative…and how to just use some basic functionality in the Office environment. It's a really great way to explore the power that's in the product, but also to have fun at the same time. See a preview below and download it at www.ribbonhero.com.

     

  • Education Insights

    #ThanksTeach Celebrates Microsoft’s Support of Teachers

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    At Microsoft, we believe that education can change the world. We recognize that teachers play a direct role in education and influencing the lives of students. Each year, millions of teachers contribute to the learning and development of students across the U.S. They instill life lessons that live on well after education is complete.  Teachers have the ability to build communities. I know...I’ve seen it happen.

    As a celebration of Microsoft’s commitment and support of teachers, and in honor of Teacher Appreciation Month, our employees are saying #ThanksTeach. Thank you to our teachers who dedicated their lives to the future of students. I have several throughout my education who I’m thinking of this week.

    If you haven’t visited our new Partners in Learning Facebook page, now is good time! This week, it’s been transformed to a place where Microsoft employees and others are sharing messages about teachers that have positively impacted their life. We are also tweeting these messages from @MicrosoftPIL. I encourage you to take a minute and mention a teacher that made a difference to you, your kids or your community. Don’t forget to use the #ThanksTeach hashtag so that we can see a running list of all of those important teacher contributions. 

    We have over 8 million teachers participating in the Partners in Learning Network, reaching 190 million students. Talk about an impact they make on a daily basis. I say, #ThanksTeach to them!

    Although we’re celebrating Teacher Appreciation Month, it is always a good time to recognize and appreciate teachers every day of the year. It is their encouragement and passion that makes a difference in the lives of students. I have a team of people that work closely with educators around the world. Check out the video below to see our #ThanksTeach moment.

    PS. If you’re a U.S. teacher or know a great one...applications for the U.S. Innovative Education Forum are due May 15. Application linked here. The global finals will be held in Washington, D.C., in November. Stay tuned for additional information in the coming months.

     

  • Education Insights

    Celebrate Pi Day By Giving Microsoft Math 4.0 A Try

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft's Global Education Partner Summit

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    I have had a great time connecting with our education partners the last two weeks. Last week, we had an opportunity to talk about students and technology with a lot of our OEM partners from around the world. This week, at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, we hosted close to 200 education partners from 45 countries for our sixth annual GEPS...or the Global Education Partner Summit.

    This is an opportunity for us to connect with partners who are supporting education, to not only identify ways in which we can collaborate together, but really understand the issues and trends, and how we can best support the needs of education institutions around the world. And it's interesting, because a lot of these partners are working with schools and universities in countries all over the world, and have real insight in terms of the on-the-ground transition and transformation with technology...and I think we can see some interesting trends that are true across the industry.

    One of my key takeaways from conversations with partners here...its seems like the next phase of technology evolution is happening. Schools are onboard with either data analytics and using some sort of business intelligence to inform learning opportunities and improve school outcomes, but they're actually looking for a higher level connection, as opposed to just aggregating data, actually using it to drive decisions and outcomes.

    Digital content, it's less about acquiring digital content, it's more about how it becomes effective. So, publishers are sharing ideas and thoughts around not only how they can get content digitally, but actually how to make that content to come more alive, to enable personalized learning experiences with students, and outcomes.

    We're seeing partners who work with governments around access start to think not only about just getting access to a device to a school and supporting our Shape The Future initiative, which helps make technology possible for students and a new population of students around the world. And partners are not only working through how to get that technology into the hands of kids, but actually really drive outcomes and make sure that teachers are prepared and trained, that schools have the back-end technology to support learning, both with regards to things like security and identity, but also thinking about how they can enable experiences with the cloud, etc.

    On the cloud, there's been a lot of enthusiasm for Microsoft's Live@edu solution set, and what partners can do to enable Live@edu to really come alive with schools. One of the things that was mentioned by partners is that we need to think about helping reinform our education institutions about the potential of the cloud, and the way in which they think holistically about the integration of services, support, content with cloud-based services extending that to scale. What we've been really focused on with Live@edu and certainly for Office 365 for education down the road...is thinking about how partners can extend and really provide those solution sets in real ways with customers.

    I love to see the enthusiasm from our partners around the potential technology has, and the increased meaning of technology and its impact to students and educators, and thei impact that is having on conversations. What this means is...we're shifting away from discussions on why to invest in technology, or how do we fundamentally do it, to what's the impact. Getting to this next level of conversation I think will not only improve education outcomes and the value proposition for technology investments, but it's going to enable a richer set of solutions and leverage the talents of a lot of our partners to really drive effective change across the world...so I'm really excited about that.

    One of the things we highlighted at GEPS is the progress we are making with getting applications on Windows Phone 7, and a lot of our partners are going to be helping us drive that next generation of change. We had a student from Gonzaga University, one of our Microsoft Student Partners, come on stage and highlight an application that was built by a team of students participating in last year's Imagine Cup. It is an application to help with malaria research using the Windows Phone 7 platform. By giving students powerful toolsets like Microsoft DreamSpark with access to software like XNA, Visual Studio, Silverlight and more, they will help us create a new distribution platform with the phone. We're going to see lots of Windows Phone 7 applications from students in the Imagine Cup this year and I hope to see some great examples in the regional finals and at the worldwide competition happening in New York City this July.

    I'm excited about the potential of the phone, how students are using it, and how it will open up opportunities for schools...but it's really just about the embrace of mobility. It's not just about Windows Phone 7, it's about how they integrate with other devices. We've shown progress with the iPhone application for OneNote. It's how we think about the increased proliferation of devices, both laptops and slate devices, and how schools bring that into a language of broader change and evolution. This is what is really exciting for Microsoft, and a lot of the partners.

    Keep in touch on my blog and let me know topics you'd like to learn more about. You can also join our Microsoft Education Partner Network here, and track details of our upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference happening this July in Los Angeles here.

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