Education Insights

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

  • Education Insights

    More Universities Choose Microsoft Cloud Computing Solutions


    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

    Observations of education systems in India and Japan


    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

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


    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

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


    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

    Inspiring teachers at the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum in Berlin


    I am fresh from a trip to Europe where I had a chance to see teachers from 40 different countries compete and collaborate at the Microsoft European Innovative Education Forum (IEF) in Berlin. At this regional Partners in Learning event, 80 schools applied for the competition and we awarded twelve winners from ten countries for their groundbreaking school projects that demonstrate the use of technology in compelling new ways.

    I found the opening keynote by Professor Sugata Mitra from Newcastle University in the UK very interesting.  He highlighted his Hole in the Wall project…an idea that first came to life back in 1999 when Mitra went to very remote parts of the world and he literally just placed a computer in a kiosk in a local village with no explanation or instructions for how to use…and students figured out how to use the computer. What he basically proved is that students are very adaptable to change, and they'll figure out how to use technology. As he says on his website, it’s “a solution that uses the power of collaboration and the natural curiosity of children to catalyze learning.” Learn more in this TED Talk video here.

    What I took away from his speech is that a teacher may say they can't use technology or embrace ICT, but there are always issues and obstacles…but if you give students an English language computer in a remote village where the students don't speak English and you tell them, “Here's a computer,” they'll figure out not only how to learn English, but how to use the computer in order to take advantage of the resources.  I think his point is students are very resourceful and they have the ability to learn, and certainly their willingness to embrace technology is a huge differentiator.

    I love IEF events because teachers are so excited to be a part of this. I think it takes a lot of bravery for teachers to think differently and try new models. In many cases, they're trying to innovate in conditions that are not really ripe for innovation, and they're dealing with challenging environments, budget crunches, etc., but they're still trying to drive change and excellence, and pushing innovation to help their students learn. It's amazing to see how enthusiastic teachers get among their peers sharing their ideas and how much winning recognition means to these teachers.
    Beyond that, there are lots of lessons to be learned and sharing of ideas at our Innovative Education Forums. Because in all these countries you have different language barriers, different geographical challenges, different economic conditions, etc., but there's lots of commonality to the things educators are trying to solve. Teacher projects from the Berlin event included new ways to collaborate with Live@edu, virtual classrooms connecting pupils with others around the world, infusing ICT into new curriculum for climate change, using Worldwide Telescope to learn about astronomy, a buddy system pairing insecure ICT teachers with tech savvy students, and math coaching via Windows Live Messenger. Many of the teachers blogged about their experiences…you can read more in Jan Webb’s blog, David Rogers blog, a Netherlands teacher blog, the Ireland team’s blog, and others here and here.

    The winners from this event represent Poland, UK, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Romania, Serbia, Denmark, Ireland, Belgium and Russia. They will be invited to our worldwide forum happening in Cape Town, South Africa in late October that will be the culmination of the regional events taking place throughout the world right now. The picture below is of the winners of the Educators’ Choice award.

    I walked away from the Berlin event wanting to double our efforts in this year, recognizing that we have to close the gaps and continue to push for, cultivate and nurture this type of innovation from our teachers and school leaders to make an impact for our children.

    We would love to hear more stories about how teachers are innovating in your classrooms. I hope you will share your stories.

  • Education Insights

    Blue-sky thinking on Kinect and Xbox in education


    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

    Education trends to watch for in 2010


    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

    Microsoft giving back to schools via EduConnect


    Microsoft recognizes the power of our employees to give back, and Microsoft has tremendously passionate employees about the mission of education. This relates to not only the education of their children but education's impact in their society, on the future of Microsoft as a company, as well as the recognition that we have resources and tools to help provide value to schools. And this goes far beyond cash and in-kind donations, we have employees helping in ways such as donating their time to teach math and sciences in local classrooms, helping teachers with technology training, hosting tech camps for students, and demonstrating a range of tools to help teachers, students, parents prepare their kids for the future.

    Microsoft celebrates and collects these initiatives under a program we call Educonnect. Educonnect is really about taking that passion that Microsoft employees have, and linking it to our focus in education. The program started in the United States but has since spread to 43 countries and counting. I think it’s important that companies like Microsoft nurture their responsibility to give back and be responsible leaders. It's this kind of work that helps make our ability to connect with schools much more real and the commitment the company has in education much deeper.

    The video below gives a glimpse of how we are trying to make impact.

  • Education Insights

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


    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

    Making access to technology a reality via Shape the Future


    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

    Visiting one of Singapore’s most innovative schools


    When I traveled to Singapore the other month and I had the chance to visit Nan Chiau Primary School and join the school’s celebration for the launch of My Cloud. My Cloud is a project in partnership with Microsoft Research in Beijing where Nan Chiau is providing access to Chinese-based learning environments for Chinese character, as well as Chinese reading for students on the Web.

    Using Microsoft Silverlight and technology from Microsoft Research in Beijing, Nan Chiau is rolling out a tool to help parents and help students learn the Chinese language and its context in greater depth. In many ways, Chinese is a dying language in Singapore.  While Malay is the national language, and many people speak Mandarin Chinese and Tamil…the majority speak English, and in society all the signs are written in English.  It’s interesting to hear everyone in Singapore speak perfectly fluent English with no accent…and now Chinese is the hard language to learn.

    Nan Chiau is a school with tremendous leadership and vision for both ICT's technology and the potential. The school has enthusiastic and committed teachers. The school recently received recognition as a Microsoft Innovative Mentor School. Nan Chiau Primary School’s vision is for every student to be a responsible and useful citizen.

    Established in March 1947, the school strives to progress with the times, continuously undergoing self-renewal in line with the needs of the nation and making positive contributions to the educational development of Singapore.  The staff has received several awards in education since 2008 as they strive to help provide an environment that is conducive to helping each student reach his or her full potential. Nan Chiau Primary School offers many special programmes which focus on not only the social and cultural development of the students, but on strengthening their academic capabilities as well.

  • Education Insights

    Integrating Kodu and gaming into the classroom


    Being a gamer myself, I’ve always been attuned to the potential for gaming to become more than just an entertainment device. I think leveraging video games in the classroom can not only stimulate thinking and help develop problem solving and logic skills, but also inspire and excite kids about learning. That’s why I’m thrilled Kodu is now officially available on the Xbox Live Community Games channel. Created in Microsoft Research (MSR), Kodu is a new visual programming tool that allows you to create video games on the Xbox 360, but it’s also a really interesting way to help young children learn the basics of computer programming through a visual and familiar interface.

    If you are with a school or an educator interested in using Kodu in your curriculum, you can sign up here to get involved in the academic beta program on the PC. Space is limited, and it requires an Xbox 360 controller for Windows and a reasonable graphics card. You can read more about Kodu’s potential use in the classroom here, and how kids at a Michigan elementary school took Kodu for an early test drive during the development phase here. Also, check out the demo video below from Alfred Thompson, one of our K-12 Computer Science Academic Relations Managers here at Microsoft. The Kodu forum also has lots of chatter if you need programming tips, want to talk to the community building games and keep up on product developments.

    The potential for Kodu in the classroom is huge. There are three core elements schools should think about in terms of how to maximize the potential of gaming from a learning perspective.  Most schools think about gaming in relation to creating simulation-based experiences in a visual or interactive way that enable collaboration (think Second Life). I blogged earlier about how avatars can help get students more engaged in their learning experiences.

    Gaming is a great way to inspire kids to get exposed to and to understand core skills. Kodu can help kids understand the fundamentals and principals of software development. We can make learning experiences more relevant. If we can get kids interested in gaming concepts early, then hopefully they will think about their potential career aspirations and develop skills early.

    I think there is also potential for incorporating gaming into the way we do assessments. Kids respond to the gaming culture. There’s this notion of achievement and winning in games that incent players to accomplish certain tasks in order to get recognition. Wouldn’t it be great if we could leverage those core concepts for learning? Using elements of games to have rich interactive learning management systems where kids are incented, rewarded and recognized to complete quizzes, to do lesson plans, or to share information and collaborate on a subject.

    I’d be curious to hear if your school is receptive to incorporating gaming in the classroom, and what innovative projects you are assigning your students…

    Kodu demonstration for schools

  • Education Insights

    Students take a new role in the teaching and learning process


    I wanted to share my blog post appearing on the “Microsoft On The Issues” blog…it’s about infusing service-learning and technology in the classroom and a new initiative we launched called the Service & Technology Academic Resource Team (START).

    I am very excited about this milestone as a result of our private/public partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service that we announced last summer. The START initiative will spotlight student-led approaches to technology learning and service. The heart and soul of START is to promote students as partners in supporting their teachers to integrate technology into effective teaching practices. I think we need to go beyond the thinking that students can just fix the printer and support other tech issues. Students can be outstanding academic and technical partners with educators and – in doing so – provide a great service to their schools and communities, experience real-world learning experiences and gain 21st century skills. 

    I think this project will also help break down barriers with those teachers who are still uncomfortable with embracing technology in the classroom. I think there was a time when some teachers were fearful of the lead that students have and the comfort students have with using technology…but this project really gives teachers an opportunity not only to not be afraid of that potential, but to harness it for both the betterment of their usage of technology in the classroom, but also to give students responsibility to help and to volunteer to serve the school in a way that not only helps the day-to-day usage of technology, but also may trigger students' interest or capacity to venture into a technology career and get excited about learning.

    What do you think about this idea of students taking a different role in the teaching and learning process? Kids…no longer just consumers of education, but active participants, part of the solution and figuring out how to create better learning environments with their teachers…

  • Education Insights

    Ribbon Hero: Game-based learning for Office


    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

    Japan’s progress on infusing technology into the classroom


    It’s been just about a year since I first visited Japan (see earlier blog post here).  What intrigues me about Japan is that the country has a very technology rich society, but the school systems are technology resistant, especially at the K-12 level. I would put Russia and France in the same category.

    These three countries at many points of their history have had very good educational models, but also countrywide educational models that are much more consistent.  As a comparison, while schools in the U.S. may physically look the same, there are a lot of things different from school to school, state to state…but Japan, Russia and France have had very consistent models. I think they're all somewhat in the same place, and for a large period of the last 20 years, they have been somewhat resistant or skeptical on technology's role in school…and frankly because of that reason they've fallen behind with regards to technology usage in most cases.

    Russia was actually one of the countries that brought computers into schools, and to math and science classes earliest, but because of a lot of changes, including the Cold War, and the economy, that started to decline. I think all three countries are starting to really see the role of technology more aggressively in education, and in all three of those countries technology is a part of everyone else's daily life, and kids and families are using computers and cell phones, etc…but the education systems have been less open to change. 

    Even in one year since I last visited…I see much more of an open attitude in Japan. The curiosity I felt last year with regards to looking at other school models around the world is still holds true…schools and the leaders I talk to in Japan are definitely looking at best practices on a global basis, the higher ed systems are listening to and valuing the connection with groups like EDUCAUSE, they're looking at other school models and university models beyond just the elites to community college setups, and also thinking about how we can create online learning environments eventually and more.

    And where technology has been most resistant to change in the K-12 system, the “School New Deal Plan” in Japan started out last year buying a laptop for every teacher, and that's had a lot of the desired output the country has been looking for.  Teachers have done more exploration around technology's role, and it's provided more pressure on school officials to think about how technology can be transformational for their kids. Students are also getting excited about the way in which their classrooms are starting to change.

    After visiting Kyoto University, Keio University and Ritsumeikan Primary School, I'm excited about the potential in Japan. Although technology adoption in schools and the classroom may be happening here more slowly…I think in many ways Japan will be best enabled to deliver the innovations of tomorrow, because they'll be able to fuse all the greatest ideas with some of the newer realities. They will almost have a fresher perspective and hopefully be able to use the lessons of the past to avoid making the same mistakes.

    One of the other things I had a chance to do when I was in Japan was to spend some time with our partners in Japan. Of course, I was excited to see the enthusiasm of the adoption of Microsoft platform technologies, but also encouraged to see how Japan is starting to think about how the cloud can enable solutions for their students and teachers. The cloud conversations were met with significant enthusiasm but also some skepticism of practicality of security and safety…all the product requirements we've been working very closely to optimize for. I also see the potential of Microsoft CRM solutions and Microsoft SharePoint Server making an impact and becoming very much a part of the way in which the partners are thinking about building solutions for schools.

    Picture from Kyoto University website:

    Picture from Keio University website:

    Picture of Ritsumeikan Primary School from school website:


  • Education Insights

    Office Web Apps Enter Technical Preview


    Today, Microsoft officially opened the technical preview program for the much anticipated Office Web Apps to a limited number of invitation-only participants. We have a few schools in this private preview who will be testing Excel, PowerPoint and Word Web Apps through Windows Live SkyDrive (OneNote coming soon). Take a look at the new screen shots on the right. The rest of us will be able to get a sneak peak when the Office 2010 beta is released later this year…you can sign up here for early notification of when it's coming so you can try it out.

    I’m really excited about the potential Office Web Apps have for education. We’ve seen schools, and students in particular, embrace a wide variety of collaborative and online environments to do work in an ad-hoc fashion and move beyond the classroom and even their PC as a core computing device. Office Web Apps will allow students to collaborate in real-time across a wide variety of experience types, whether it’s editing assignments in Word at a library computer or the ability to embrace a much more collaborative approach to sharing projects with teammates. Doing work anytime, anyplace without the restriction of the PC they’re using or the software that’s loaded on it will be a tremendous opportunity. With Office Web Apps, you can view, create, edit and share documents anyplace, on any device (phone, PC, MAC) and across popular browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox).

    Office Webs Apps will be a great companion to Office, so students can take the documents they’ve worked on and open them up for feedback and collaboration with others whether or not they have Office software on their machines…and a student won’t have to worry about whether their friend has the same version of Office either. This will open up the world of computing across campus and across different learning modalities which certainly opens up collaboration opportunities.

    I think Web Apps are great examples of Microsoft’s commitment to not only create new experiences that connect to the needs our educators and students and what they are asking for, but our commitment to software plus services.

    I’m excited to show you more about the features and functionality of the Web Apps in the coming year and how they will play with Live@edu, but in the meantime, learn more about them in the Windows Live and Office 2010 Engineering blog posts, as well as this new demo video and fact sheet.

  • Education Insights

    Celebrate Pi Day By Giving Microsoft Math 4.0 A Try


    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 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

    Measuring the impact of technology in the classroom


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    New Microsoft MultiPoint solutions enabling technology access for more schools worldwide


    Many schools don’t have a roadmap or can’t afford to make the leap to 1:1 computing in the classroom…yet there is still a need to provide students with IT skills to prepare them for the workforce, and teachers want to increase the quality and variety in delivering their curriculum.  Based on these realities of technology access limitations around the world, Microsoft is continuously working to find ways in which we can empower schools of all types to take advantage of the power of technology to transform the learning environment in creative ways.

    One of these comes via an emerging computing category known as Shared Resource Computing, which allows a customer to tap into a computer’s full capability to enable a single computer to support multiple users simultaneously, thereby minimizing the need for PC investments and bringing transformative learning activities into classrooms of all shapes and sizes. Over the past two years, we’ve seen the rapid growth in adoption of PC multiplexing solutions in education institutions worldwide, and increasingly, Ministries of Education are including this type of implementation in broad country-wide deployments. That’s why we’re investing in this emerging technology category with the development of our family of Windows MultiPoint solutions.

    Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 is the flagship product in the MultiPoint solutions family. This new Windows product is targeted at educational scenarios like classrooms, computer labs and libraries, and allows multiple people to simultaneously share one computer…so you don’t need a computer for every student.  Each kid gets their own independent and familiar Windows computing experience, using their own monitor, keyboard and mouse directly connected to the host computer, so they can work at their own pace. It is really powerful when you can enable a 1:1 learning experience and embrace the power of personalized learning and excite a student to have a personal dialogue with content, the teacher and other students.


    Windows MultiPoint Server presents many compelling benefits on the administrative front as well for cash-strapped schools. They will not only be able to provide more access to computing (up to 10 units per host computer), but they will have lower costs of acquisition and ongoing maintenance, be able to lower ongoing energy consumption costs since power is only needed for one computer…and with the need to service and support only one computer, schools will experience lower ongoing management costs. And on that note, we realize that not all schools have the luxury of having a robust IT staff, so we’ve intentionally developed MultiPoint Server to be easy for a teacher to set up and manage. You can learn more about Windows MultiPoint Server, which will be released in the first half of this year, here and watch demos of the product in action here.


    Our partners will be key to delivering new content. We’ve released the Windows MultiPoint Mouse Software Development Kit (SDK) to help developers create interactive applications allowing up to 25 students, each with their own mouse, to interact on the same PC. Scholastic has developed Story Stage, an interactive and highly creative virtual puppet-based literacy application. And our Russian content partner Noviy Disk is releasing the English version of Curriculum Curiosity, which draws on elements of creativity, construction and modeling, design and project work via five interactive workshops, encouraging teamwork and positive influence on communication skills development for young students. 


    This new technology will create opportunities for new curriculums and teaching styles that will require new software solutions. To empower teachers to create their own content that can inspire and excite students, we’ve created Mouse Mischief…a new, free state-of-the-art MultiPoint-enabled tool to create interactive PowerPoint classroom presentations that kids can participate in with affordable USB mice. With Mouse Mischief, students have a voice and the ability to take action in the classroom…to vote, give feedback, answer multiple choice questions, etc., and that’s very important for making learning more fun for students and keeping kids engaged. We’ve seen it really change the dynamics of learning in the classroom in pilot schools.

    We hope these new Windows MultiPoint solutions will help bridge the digital gap by creating technology access for more students for the same or shrinking IT budgets. Let us know what you think…

  • Education Insights

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


    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,, 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, and 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

    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

    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 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

    Improving teaching & learning in Kenya with 1:1 computing


    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

    Celebrating the most innovative schools on World Teacher’s Day


    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

    Trends to watch in 2009


    As we turn the page on 2008 and consider how much has changed in the last few months, it is clear that 2009 will be a year of profound changes.  Certainly our current economic crisis has and will continue to have broad implications for our students, teachers and institutions.  In my travels across the country, I sense and empathize with the stress many of our education leaders are feeling.  I have been extremely impressed by their fierce determination in the face of challenging environments to deliver value to their constituents…and for their continued efforts to push for innovation and improvement.  In times of tremendous pressure we need our great leaders and advocates to stand tall, buoy optimism, and continue to set the path for success.

    I’m excited about the opportunity to have very real and pragmatic discussions with our school leaders on how to face the hurdles of declining budgets and increasing expectations and I think based on some of the seeds planted in 2008, several potentially transformational trends will emerge in 2009.

    Doing more with less.  This is something our teachers understand all too well.  Teachers are asked to do more with less every day…teach more children, meet more accountability demands, etc.  I think the core trends of 2009 all reflect the need for our schools and systems to think holistically and creatively about how to get more value out of every dollar invested and every program launched.  This is nothing new for education, but the current environment reminds us of the need to make wise decisions and ensure the mission and focus of our schools is finely tuned on driving student outcomes.

    This is the time of year for reflection and predictions… and this ritual is by no means mine alone.  eSchool News, Inside Higher Ed and others are also anticipating the trends that may surface.  In future posts, I’ll go deeper on many of the key trends that I think will likely emerge.  For now, here is a brief look at my top 5 predictions for 2009.

    1. Modernization & “Greening” of our schools.  “Green” initiatives have certainly risen to the forefront of public consciousness and will be a primary component of the new administration’s plan for our schools.  There are many good reasons for this - finding sustainable resources to reduce foreign energy dependence, respecting the environment/reducing the carbon footprint, and developing more efficient and cost-effective buildings to save our schools money.  Technology can play an increasingly important role in addressing these issues and enabling the long term goal of sustainability.  Microsoft is helping to reduce the direct impact of computing on the environment through power management at the software and enterprise level. Making it easier for customers to manage their computing footprint, Microsoft helps by providing built-in energy efficiency, power management, resource optimization, server consolidation and virtualization solutions.

    2. The promise of hosted computing. Technology’s evolution has created more options for schools to deploy services and extend value.  Schools can move from on-premise computing environments to hosted solutions that offer tremendous value at little or no cost.  The addition of rich communication, collaboration and storage resources for teachers and students can be done with integration to current environments, allowing schools to maximize current investments while increasing focus on the core mission...educating our students.

    3. Access to personal computing devices.  The improved capability of mobile computing devices and the increased range of laptop options are getting us closer to the promise of one laptop per child.  However, the reduced cost of computing devices does not lessen the importance of holistic thinking about transforming education to optimize technology.  We cannot be “acquisition-centric” when it comes to one-to-one computing.  Before any device enters a school, we must apply rigor on outcomes, environment, sustainability, communication, curriculum, assessment, training, etc.

    4. Emergence and connection of “workforce readiness” to student assessment.  In order to push through the current economic slump, we must invest in equipping our students with the 21st century skills they need to compete in the global workforce.  Our students need to find their place in the “real world” and connect their education to relevant workforce competencies.  Resources like the Microsoft Competency Wheel and Career Forward are examples of our focus on helping schools respond and embrace workforce readiness.

    5. Digital Curriculum a reality. The richness of the internet and the increased availability of digital curriculum are delivering the promise of a paperless learning environment….a promise which creates the opportunity for personalized and adaptive learning.

    Looking ahead in 2009, I’m hopeful we can continue to dream big in the face of our challenges.  We must not let our current economic challenge distract us from our mission to help students of all ages realize their potential.   I’m looking forward to the work ahead and your continued partnership.

  • Education Insights

    Learning new skills at Kodu Kamp


    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'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

    The need for students to find their personal brand


    I’ve always relished the opportunity to talk to students to get perspective on their needs of technology and the way in which they respond in classroom environments. Tuesday, I had the chance to meet with dozens of high school students at the Summer Search Career Discovery Days in New York. This was especially rewarding because I got the chance to talk to students about their careers and lead them in a discussion on career exploration.

    If you haven’t heard about Summer Search, it is a leadership development program providing ongoing and long-term support for low-income high school students with some pretty outstanding results – 100% of Summer Search seniors graduate from high school; 97% go on to college; and 72% are involved with community service. (Photo on the right: courtesy of Summer Search.)

    My talk focused on how to find a personal brand, and how students should connect their passions, values and interests with potential career options. As our workforce evolves and gets more specialized, many of the jobs students will be going into don’t even exist yet, so it’s increasingly important for students to reflect on how their individual skills and competencies align with their personal passions and values. Skills and interests like working with others, writing, applying creativity, problem solving, etc. In connecting with the kids, I was surprised that this was a conversation they haven’t had. This notion of finding a personal brand was a very new concept for them.

    We really need to strive to do this with all students...have them start to connect their skills and their values in terms of what they want to accomplish in their lives and map those to career choices, as opposed to identifying a couple of iconic jobs then working backwards. We can have kids really take control of their careers by focusing on their skill sets and their interests. And I think this is very empowering, especially for these inner city kids who may not feel like they have all the opportunities that are afforded to students from other backgrounds. All the kids were from the Bronx where I am from, so it was personally rewarding to see them get excited about their career aspirations and potential. It made me think back to when I started at Microsoft very young, as a student, and the competencies and values I brought to the company…passion and a commitment to hard work.
    I presented to the kids our Education Competency Wheel. It’s a competency-based framework we use at Microsoft to hire new employees and develop professional skills. The wheel focuses on these broad sets of skills that are transferrable to any career. It’s a good resource for teachers to have this conversation around transferrable skills with their students and it will help them make an action plan to maximize students’ strengths. We train educators on how to use this at their institutions as part of our Microsoft Institute series and other events. The Education Competency Wheel can be shared with administrators, principals, teachers and students to have a common language around competency development. Currently, the tool is only available in English, but it can certainly be used globally. The competencies are being leveraged worldwide in countries like Finland where they are looking at it and asking, how can we take this work and apply it at a country level, as opposed to just a classroom or school level.

    Check out the website for more on how to leverage this resource at your school…and let us know what you think.

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