Education Insights

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

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  • Education Insights

    Microsoft Supports Safer Internet Day

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    As technology has advanced in our lives…and increasingly the way in which we communicate, collaborate, consume information and content…I think the pace at which technology has evolved has probably outpaced some of the fundamentals that we've trained our kids on how to be safe in the world around us.

    Because many parents did not grow up with technology, the things that we've long taught our kids around just basic human safety hasn't included the recognition or awareness of all the potential of technology to provide both good and harm for kids. So, we've got to continue to alert folks to the value of identity protection and online privacy, and certainly help prepare teachers, family members and parents understand what this new world of opportunity brings, but also the potential threats it could have.

    At Microsoft, we believe it’s our responsibility to help make the Internet a safer place for people, including children, to learn and communicate. Since we are often the ones driving a lot of this technology change, we have a direct connection to understand how these tools are used and how they should be effectively used. With today being international Safer Internet Day, the company is expanding its involvement and taking part in events across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the United States and partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to engage with families about online safety.

    Microsoft has recognized the importance of things like identity, and the integration of identity across a number of platforms and experiences. It starts with parental controls in Xbox…everything from not only providing parents the opportunity to monitor and control what games their kids are playing…but also to limit how many hours a day or a week a student is playing a game.  That kind of control provides parents the power to make changes, but sometimes parents need support to understand those feature sets exist or how to take action. 

    I also think we need to teach students fundamental appreciation of the value of identity protection and privacy.  In a world where this generation of students has become much more transparent…they share their likes and dislikes, who they are, etc…we need to sensitize them to the dangers and making sure that they can do that in the safest way as possible so not only their physical safety, but also their identity is kept sacred.

    Microsoft has been committed to doing this for a very long time, both with regards to core ICT digital literacy training, but making parents more and more aware of the opportunities, and how to monitor their child's safety. We've also made efforts to embed this technology to make it easier discover and more powerful and flexible to use in products like Xbox, Windows 7 and Internet Explorer.

    Please check out our security, privacy and online safety awareness and education resources here -- http://www.microsoft.com/security/resources/brochures.aspx You will find fact sheets and guidance on many computing and Internet safety issues facing consumers today, including cyberbullying, tips for Internet safety at home and at work…and even an online safety toolkit for businesses, NGOs, non-profits and schools.

  • Education Insights

    Taking Action: State of the Union

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    By 2035, today’s preschoolers and kindergarteners will be entering the workforce.  The students of today are laying the core building blocks for the workforce of 2035. That is why I applaud the focus from President Obama’s State of the Union address last week focused on innovation, education and students.  

    This triad is a critical and core focus for Microsoft, our partners and our customers. As President Obama explained, “In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business.” He went on to state that “over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education.  And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school.”

    Here at Microsoft, we are taking the President’s call to action to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math seriously. There is a big opportunity across the country to drive excitement in the student community for these subjects and a dire need for great teachers to inspire them. As the workforce continues to evolve, the jobs students in school today will enter tomorrow and in the future, in many cases, will look vastly different than the workforce of today. So we need to help students build skills for the future that will constantly evolve and increasingly involve technology. This is true for teachers too.

    But what does Innovation + Education look like?  And how can we amplify best practices that will help our students reach their full potential? 

    While we certainly don’t have all of the answers, I believe it takes a broad community effort to prepare our students today for the jobs of tomorrow. I think Microsoft has two great programs that are helping students and educators  pave the way to a brighter future.  

    Partners in Learning and the Innovative Education Forum: Registration is now open for educators to showcase and celebrate innovative teaching & learning practices.

    As described in the State of the Union, President Obama emphasized, “We want to reward good teachers.” As I’ve blogged about before, we need to up-level the importance of the role of teachers in our society. Microsoft believes that a great education starts with great teachers. We work hard to help train, recognize and reward educators through our Partners in Learning program. One of the events we host each year is the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum.  This is an opportunity to recognize some of the top teachers and build a community of support for them to share their best practices and knowledge of preparing students for the future with their peers.

    Regional events are happening around the world right now. The UK has already awarded their winners to compete at the next level. We invite educators to get involved with the program and register for this year’s Innovative Education Forum.

    Imagine Cup: More than 50,000 students in the U.S. have already registered for the world’s premier technology competition.

    During his speech, the President shared, “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”  Microsoft created the Imagine Cup nine years ago with the idea that students can and will change the world. Through the competition, they are already solving some of the world’s toughest problems.  The Imagine Cup is the Olympics of technology and the solutions they create are extraordinary. This is one way that Microsoft is encouraging innovation in America and all over the globe.

    Last year, more than 325,000 students worldwide registered to participate in the competition and engage in the dialogue of how students can change the world.  Their solutions turned a phone into a tool   to diagnose vascular disease, allowed visually impaired students to learn more effectively in the classroom and delivered vaccines more efficiently to patients.  This year, more than 50,000 students in the United States have already registered and we are seeing incredible solutions.  Students who are interested can still register and participate.

    While for me and my work in education, the biggest take away from the State of the Union speech is that we need to do more to support our educators and our students...I hope the entire country and our citizens take it just as seriously. As we look to the future and the year 2035…Microsoft is committed to working with the broader education community to be part of the solution.

  • Education Insights

    Create a Montage of your classroom...from FUSE Labs

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    In my blog, I like to share and reflect on technologies that I think represent exciting new potential for the future, are relevant to education ICT integration, or provide tangible examples of larger trends.  Montage, a tech preview from Microsoft’s Fuse Labs…does all three. 

    Certainly, the way in which teachers and students use the web is changing…as such the way in which we search, share and present information should also evolve.  Montage provides an incredibly easy to use web-based service that makes it fun to create and share a visual album of the web on the topics you care about.

    Imagine a teacher who could easily create a Montage around a class topic and share it in advance with students in preparation for the day’s lecture...or students that could use Montage to create a navigation for their school report. Students and teachers can use Montage to add content from a variety of sources, including RSS feeds, Twitter, Bing News, and YouTube.  The creation then can be easily edited and shared out for review. Check out this video here for inspiration.

    I think the potential here is exciting and it hints at the way in which not only web-based content and search is evolving, but the ways in which content providers need to think about the future for digital books and the integration with online content. It’s a great example of having a dynamic and easy to modify topic-based view of the web. Imagine this dynamically integrating publisher content, or providing active appendices to traditional digital books. The Montage is constantly evolving as you create and arrange each area with the content of your choice…even after it’s published, your Montage keeps itself up-to-date by automatically pulling in new tweets, news, pictures and more.

    Digital books should not be static “electronic texts”…this technology provides an option for the future and is something fun to try today.  Check out http://fuse.microsoft.com/project/Montage.aspx for more info and stay tuned for updates by following @getmontage on Twitter.

    Example screen shot:

  • Education Insights

    Rapid technology change and the technology transition generation

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft employee helps build girls school and safe haven in Kenya

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    I’m incredibly thankful for the work I get to do and humbled by the importance of our company's focus in education. I am also proud of the impact Microsoft is making.  Most notably I’m proud of the commitment of our people...employees, who on their personal time, are making a huge difference.

    This story here is a great example of the compassion of Microsoft employees to the issues in education...and the need for focus on supporting girls specifically.  Margo Day is the West regional vice president of U.S. Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners at Microsoft. During a trip last fall to Kenya, she spent some time doing volunteer work with World Vision and was greatly moved and inspired to do something after visiting a primary school and rescue center for girls who had fled their homes to avoid the traditional practice of female genital mutilation.

    The work Margo Day has done in Kenya is a shining example of the impact that a group of individuals can make. It also shines light on the need to push for gender equality and education opportunities for all.  Every child deserves access to a great education and we need to work locally and globally to ensure inequalities are fought against, the oppression of low expectation is lifted, and every student is empowered to reach their potential.

  • Education Insights

    Accessibility in Education: Real Examples…Real Impact

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    I know I’ve written on the importance of accessibility in education before, but I wanted to share this video below which does an excellent job of featuring some real examples on how technology can make a difference.  It features some ways in which Microsoft is incorporating an accessibility focus into our design for Windows 7 and other products like Microsoft OneNote. 

    There's also some new how-to articles on our website to help educators make the PC easier to use for students to see, hear and use...even how Microsoft OneNote can help students with dyslexia stay organized. For more information on Microsoft accessibility technologies, resources and tools for enabling access for everyone, please visit this website and tell us what you think and what you'd like to see more of. www.microsoft.com/education/enable

  • Education Insights

    Helping Haiti Schools Rebuild through the Cloud

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    Updated 7:07 p.m. PST.

    This week’s anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti is a somber reminder of the enormous task ahead.  With over one million still homeless, a cholera epidemic, and much of the country still reduced to rubble, the dream of “building back better” seems distant.  And yet, as I blogged this past October, helping Haiti build a strong education infrastructure is one of the most promising areas where technology can help and give people hope for a brighter and more prosperous future. 

    Ninety percent of the schools in Haiti were destroyed in the earthquake, including L'Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haïti (ESIH), Haiti’s leading technical school…it is one of the first schools to be rebuilt and is a great example of progress.  ESIH is on a path to grow to 2,000+ students during the next five years, and the school views the capacity improvements realized through the cloud as a vehicle to help expedite growth. They are deploying Microsoft Live@edu (www.liveatedu.com) and Windows MultiPoint Server as a big part of the technology solution. By using Live@edu and MultiPoint Server, ESIH now has a credible online identity, a robust student information management system, 25 GB of personal storage per student, as well as a brand new computer lab that provides a gateway to the cloud. The ESIH Live@Edu website is live and has been customized by ESIH into French.

    Even before the earthquake, the school struggled to manage communications with students and faculty.  Meanwhile, the vast majority of students used alternative email sources…if they had access to a PC at all…which offered them no connection or online identity with their academic institution.  As with many institutions in Haiti, ESIH sees student information management systems as a top priority after infrastructure enablement.  On January 17, Live@Edu will be deployed to the entire 700 ESIH population of students, faculty and administrative staff. Additionally, MultiPoint Server, which allows multiple students to simultaneously share one computer, is not only providing more students access, but it is also helping schools save on power consumption because they don’t have to run so many computers. By comparison with the US, energy costs are 14X higher in Haiti…so this is a tremendous added benefit.

    Prior to the deadly earthquake, only about half of the school-age children were enrolled in school and only half of Haitians over the age of 15 could read… a key contributor to the extreme poverty in Haiti.  As we work together with the community to help rebuild Haiti’s schools, we have an opportunity to give students new learning tools and IT skills they never had access to before.  The video below shows how IT skills enablement is critical for Haiti to achieve 21st-century education and how technology is opening doors and providing new opportunities for schools and students. For more on how Microsoft and our partners are helping Haiti rebuild, check out the stories here.

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  • Education Insights

    Preparing Today’s Students for the Jobs of Tomorrow

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    Sharing my blog post published today on the Microsoft On The Issues blog here...

    This week, people from around the world will gather at two education events in London – the Education World Forum (EWF) and the BETT trade show – to discuss how technology can help improve the state of education in the United Kingdom and globally. The role of technology in education has been a hot topic of late, sparked in large part by the Waiting for Superman documentary in October, the New York Times article on technology and attention spans in November and the Newsweek interview with Bill Gates about seniority-based pay.

    In the midst of all this debate, I believe one thing is clear – successful economies rely on an innovative and well-prepared workforce. This requires that students are equipped with 21st century skills such as collaboration, communications, creative thinking, problem solving, digital literacy and citizenship. And to engage and prepare our students, we need high-quality teachers who are, themselves, adept at future-ready skills. Underlying all of that, we need to make sure that the teachers and students have access to the technology that will help each of them learn and grow.

    This week at EWF and BETT, Microsoft will look at the critical issue of how 21st century skills are taught and acquired, and roll out new ways to provide access to great technology at a low cost – all so that students can be best prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow. To help advance the teaching and acquisition of 21st century skills, this week we are announcing:

    • New findings from a global, multi-year Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research study, which looks at which teaching practices are successful at equipping students with 21st century skills. Unfortunately, the study shows that most students are not offered the opportunities to develop the skills needed for today’s organizations and national economies. Schools interested in measuring and evaluating their own teaching practices can access the free Partners in Learning School Research (PILSR) tool at www.pilsr.com.
    • Additional information from the recent release of the Future Workforce Student Survey, which has revealed that the majority of students in the UK feel they are not being taught the necessary skills to effectively prepare them for future employment. ‘Generation Five’ (16 to 18 year olds currently in education) question the approach taken by schools in teaching them about technology and are becoming self-taught on home computers.

    Microsoft has also been helping students, educators and schools get access to technology at low costs in a number of ways through ‘Shape the Future’ agreements – which have helped 42 countries bring technology access to more than 6 million students, educators and citizens – and with great technologies such as Live@edu and Windows Multipoint Server. To further improve technology access in schools, this week we are also announcing:

    • Live@edu. The leading cloud suite for education is currently used by more than 15 million students worldwide, up from 11 million just three months ago.  This number includes new customers at Western Kentucky University, Augusta State University, Beijing Open University, University of Bologna, Copenhagen Business Schools, Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia and Lodge Park Technical College.
    • Office 365 for education. The next generation of Live@edu, Office 365 for education (to launch this year) will bring the power of Microsoft's world-class enterprise applications to classrooms of all sizes – including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Office Web Apps – and will be free for students for e-mail, calendaring, collaboration, communications and Web-based productivity services. E-mail and calendaring will also be free for faculty and staff. For more information on Office 365 for education, check out this feature story on the Microsoft News Center.
    • The upcoming availability of Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, which helps educational institutions with budget constraints to implement a Shared Resource Computing (SRC) strategy whereby multiple students, either in the classroom or in a lab setting, can simultaneously share one computer. This new version of  Windows MultiPoint Server introduces capabilities that help lower technology costs, enhance the computing experience for teachers and students and simplifies management for school IT administrators.

    The tough reality is that there isn’t a magic bullet for solving the complex challenges involved in equipping students with the skills they need for the jobs of the future – but I believe that this week’s news shows we continue to make steady progress in understanding the issues involved, and providing real solutions.

  • Education Insights

    Japan’s progress on infusing technology into the classroom

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    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

    IE9 as a reading platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What do you think?

  • Education Insights

    Helping Reform Los Angeles Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    A Tale of Two Schools – Cape Town, South Africa

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    When I was in Cape Town, South Africa for the Worldwide Innovation Education Forum (IEF), I had the opportunity, along with the other 550 teachers and education leaders who participated in the event, to visit two South African schools and to hear about the challenges and successes of the education system there. We got to visit two very different examples of schools…one private school and one well-resourced government schools.

    St Cyprian’s School is an Anglican school founded in 1871 and widely recognized as Cape Town’s leading independent girls’ school. It is a very modern facility that serves 805 learners ranging in age from 3-years old to 18-years old, as well as about 80 students who stay in the boarding quarters. The school is a founding member of Round Square Conference of Schools, a prestigious association of 80 international schools which provide students with exceptional opportunities for personal development, leadership and internationalism.

    This Catholic school is sort of idyllic.  They have many different buildings of newer construction, computer labs…and even a telescope on campus. St Cyprian’s School has a strong emphasis on community partnerships and outreach, as well as a long tradition of teaching for life and students are encouraged and empowered to make a different. This year, St Cyprian School has been selected to become one of our Pathfinder Schools as part of Microsoft’s Innovative Schools Program.

    We kicked off our Shout partnership at St Cyprian’s with a tree banding ceremony to learn more about deforestation. We replicated the tree band exercise at Hout Bay High School where the conditions are completely opposite. Hout Bay was built in the apartheid era and was designed to accommodate 250 students, but currently there are 462 students enrolled. There are 15 teachers, 2 groundskeepers and an administrator at the school. Hout Bay serves a disadvantaged community and the school facilities are limited. There is one computer lab primarily used for teaching computer literacy with little ICT integration taking place.

    The headmaster at Hout Bay High School has a very positive outlook and tries to instill a cult of hope and enthusiasm at the school. They have an extramural environmental group focused on trying to reduce electricity consumption at the school in addition to helping other environmental issues in the community. They are also working to raise more funding to purchase more computers to provide sufficient access for students and teachers to use in their lessons.

    The reality…both schools are amazing. Great people, great students, and great excitement about their education…but they definitely show and prove that it goes back to some core basics in that regardless of the way a school looks like on the outside, it's the inside that matters.  It's the people…it's the great committed teachers and students that make the difference.

    The other reality is that regardless of how much physical infrastructure that the schools had, and we saw tremendous facilities and computer labs in one, and a school that didn't have a tremendous lab, but could make great things happen. The educators and the dynamic that goes on in the classroom make the core connection to learning.

    I definitely speak for myself, but I think the people who visited both schools from the IEF event related more to Hout Bay High School and appreciated the visit because it represented much more of a realistic environment for a lot of these teachers and the realities they face every day.  We all have to overcome obstacles, think through how to do more with less, and how to really make a meaningful difference for the students. It was a school that I felt more comfortable in.  I felt like it's a place that I understand, that I get what the educators are trying to do.

  • Education Insights

    Visiting one of Singapore’s most innovative schools

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    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

    New for 2011 - Imagine Cup Solve This

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    I am really excited about the Imagine Cup 2011 competition…not only because the worldwide finals will be held in my hometown of New York City…but because we are launching a new program called Imagine Cup Solve This to provide students with a marketplace of real-world problems that global inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and non-profit organizations need help solving. Students will be able to search through a library of problems to find project ideas that will inspire them to create solutions that matter to them most.

    The initial set of organizations who have submitted problems include NetHope, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Programme on Youth (UNPY), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Robin Hood Foundation.

    By providing students with real problems to solve in areas such as disaster relief, literacy, education, environmental sustainability and global healthcare…we hope to create a unique learning scenario. We have seen interest and excitement increase when students see how their work can make a difference in the world. Students who want to compete don’t have to choose a project from this list, the only real requirement Imagine Cup projects must adhere to is to create technology that helps solve the world’s toughest problems.

    As I’ve blogged about many times before, there is tremendous potential with programs like Imagine Cup to help students not only make a difference, but get real-world experience and build marketable skills that can help them get a job and sustain a career. It's not just about programming in C++ or Visual Studio. Participating in Imagine Cup builds some very fundamental core skills that I think students will take away from the contest, regardless of the technology back-end…skills such as learning how to build a business, develop a marketing plan, and how to better collaborate and work on a team-based project.

    Kids typically get excited about technology as a social tool or gaming tool, but I think we need to do a better job of actually exposing kids to the power of technology…to get them interested in technology as an entry point to become an entrepreneur so they can form career options and choices down the road. Imagine Cup is a great platform for exposing the possibilities of the future to students in high school and college. I think it inspires and motivates students…and shows our faith in students to deliver big ideas for the world.

  • Education Insights

    Enabling Students of All Abilities to Realize Their Potential

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    Sharing my blog post on accessibility published today on the Microsoft On The Issues blog here...

    Thirty-five years ago this week, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law, and the U.S. government  committed to “ensuring that children with disabilities have opportunities to develop their talents, share their gifts and contribute to their communities.” For more than 20 years, Microsoft has focused on making computers easier to use for individuals disabilities. During that time, we’ve seen many students with disabilities integrated into general classrooms and technology has become an essential part of learning for students of all abilities.
     
    Today, educators are trying new ways of integrating technology into the classroom and looking for ways to help students of all learning styles and abilities. Microsoft’s education mission is to help students and educators throughout the world realize their full potential. We recognize that nearly every classroom has a student who has difficulty seeing the board, concentrating on their homework, or expressing their ideas. Those are some of the reasons that Microsoft builds accessibility features into our products, ensuring that all students have access to the best learning available and that can be enhanced through technology.
     
    I have long believed in the power of technology to make a profound impact in education and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some amazing examples around the world where teachers are truly making magic happen for their students.  The examples that often most standout and illustrate the transformative potential of technology are those that use accessibility technology integration to empower and enrich the world of students that otherwise might have had an extremely difficult time communicating, collaborating or socializing with their peers.  Early in my career at Microsoft I supported work in hospitals and schools and saw the potential of this work first hand and it has long fueled my passion and recognition of this importance of this work.
     
    All students benefit from being able to personalize the PC to suit their own learning styles and special needs. And, all students want to fit in and use the same technology their peers use.  Today’s PCs have accessibility features built in that enable students to use technology to enhance their learning but still fit in with their peers.  At Microsoft we published Accessibility: A Guide for Educators, which explains how students with disabilities can adjust the PC to enhance or enable learning. For those new to accessibility and working with a student with a disability, it can seem overwhelming. The guide explains types of disabilities and shows how to use the accessibility features in Microsoft Windows or how to find the right specialty assistive technology for a student with special needs.
     
    Consider a student who has a great story idea but struggles to type – that student can tell their short story and have it captured in text using Speech Recognition. Or, a student who struggles to see their PC can magnify the screen with Magnifier or zoom in on a Web page when working on a research project.
     
    I’m inspired when I see educators throughout the world using technology in innovative ways to enhance learning for students with disabilities.  For example, a school in Thailand for students who are deaf is using a technology called Mouse Mischief, which lets the teacher share files with a group of students who each have their own personalized computing account. The students can interact with the presentation the teacher is showing, share files with one another, and collaborate in a whole new way. We are also seeing students with learning impairments and dyslexia who have found that OneNote helps them stay organized, take audio and text notes and check their spelling and grammar.
     
    At Microsoft we understand our role and responsibility in helping ensure students of all abilities have equal access to learning. Too few people know how to use the accessibility features on their Windows PCs. In the spirit of the anniversary of the IDEA, I encourage you to help a student or educator you know by sharing information about accessibility. After all, every classroom has students of different abilities who can benefit from personalizing their PC to making it easier to see, hear, and learn.
     

  • Education Insights

    New Shout partnership focusing on education technology and the environment

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    Sharing my blog post published on The Official Microsoft Blog about our new partnership with the Smithsonian and TakingITGlobal....

    Sawubona!

    This week I’m in Cape Town, South Africa and lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the most innovative education leaders, teachers and administrators in the world. We’re all gathered here for the sixth annual Worldwide Innovation Education Forum (IEF), the first time for the event ever to be held on African soil. Attendees of this event include more than 500 educators, school leaders and government officials representing over 60 countries that continue to creatively and effectively use technology in their curriculum to help improve the way students learn. This is the worldwide finale of a year’s worth of country and regional events, during which 200,000 participants were whittled down to 125 teacher finalists presenting at IEF this week.

    It’s this kind of caliber of education leaders that inspired the new partnership announced today: Microsoft Partners in Learning, the Smithsonian and TakingITGlobal have formed a three year, $1 million strategic partnership to help students and teachers connect with one another using technology, break down cultural and language barriers and drive positive social change.

    This program is called “Shout” and it looks like this:

    • The Shout program will make use of technology to help students explore, connect and act to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, while gaining important 21st-century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and social responsibility.
    • Beginning in November, at http://www.shoutlearning.org the Shout program will issue a new challenge every two months to educators around the world through a webcast with Smithsonian experts and Innovative Teachers. Educators will then have access to curriculum and content on our Partners in Learning Network to help them unleash students’ creativity as they collaborate and connect with other students around the world.
    • Every Shout project will provide students with a systematic approach to identifying a global challenge, collaborating with peers and mentors around the globe, launching an action plan, and carrying it through to create the change they envisioned.
    • The first year of Shout will focus on issues related to the land; future years will focus on water and air.
    • One project already in motion, called “DeforestAction,” started as a Shout pilot project connecting students across multiple countries including the Philippines, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Australia. These students have put actions into motion that support the protection of rainforests in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Check out a short video about their efforts here.

  • Education Insights

    Celebrating best practices of Latin American teachers

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    I am in Cape Town, South Africa this week for the 6th annual Worldwide Innovative Education Forum (IEF) to celebrate and learn from hundreds of school leaders who use technology creatively and effectively in their curriculum. This year, we had 200,000 participants around the world compete in regional events, and now just 125 teachers are competing this week.

    I had the opportunity to attend the European regional event in Berlin back in April...see my earlier blog post here. I also attended the Latin America regional event in Panama at the end of August and wanted to share my experiences there.

    At the IEF event in Panama, I was very impressed with the teachers…they have a lot of pride for their profession and the ways they are making impact, but they also are not hesitant to recognize that they're behind in some areas and trying to catch up. Panama is an interesting place because of the economic prosperity, and the business opportunities around the canal, the tolls and the port to create positive scenarios. So, their view on education is a little bit different. There's a division of the Smithsonian that's focused and based in Panama and focused on the implications on forestation and the environment.  They're doing work on coral life in the oceans, as well as thinking about the implications on the environment. 

    One of the big priorities of President Ricardo Martinelli is to make sure the old part of Panama is restored and preserved to its historic value.  The country had a good infrastructure when the U.S. occupation existed, and they kind of let it run down, and now they are building it back up…and they are on a trajectory that reflects more of affluence. ..Panama looks kind of like Miami now.

    From an education perspective, Panama is trying to get devices in the hands of students and teachers.  The Minister of Education is Lucy Molinar…she's a former journalist and she was picked by the President specifically, because he wanted to bring outsiders into his cabinet to bring in different perspectives…and she has been very pragmatic about what’s needs to happen before they buy PCs. The government is looking to buy a million PCs for the students of Panama, but Molinar insists that they’ve got to get teachers trained first.

    Through our Partners in Learning program, we’ve committed to train 40,000 teachers in Panama.  In August, we put 273 teachers through intense training on how to use technology in the classroom, how do they keep kids safe online, how do they find and build lesson plans, etc. Now they're going out to train the rest of the population of teachers in Panama.

    I was impressed by the teachers’ enthusiasm.  In many ways, Latin America has been one of the leading regions to try to address technology access, and the early phases of that look very much like Portugal, which is buying computers for students in bold strokes from the government.  And while good, we have quickly seen that they're thinking much more about the broader foundational changes…making sure teachers are prepared, working through training and curriculum, and using data more aggressively.  And I saw this reflected in the teacher projects that were submitted…a much more holistic thinking around the need for preparedness, connection to employability, and the holistic framing of the broader context for technology's use.

  • Education Insights

    The cloud without compromise…introducing Office 365 for education

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    I'm excited about the announcement of Office365 for education, which represents the evolution of Live@edu, and provides a game-changing opportunity for education in cloud computing. Office 365 for education builds off of the great platform we've established with Live@edu to provide a better experience for communication, collaboration, and productivity tools for education institutions of all types…while saving costs and delivering a great connected experience for students and educators.

    In addition to providing an Exchange Online, Outlook and Office Web Apps solution, we will be expanding the portfolio to include SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and Office Professional Plus. Office 365 for education will include the same services available in Office 365 for enterprises…but specifically tailored to meet the needs of educators, students, and education partners. It will have the same uptime commitment, backed up by a service level agreement, as enterprises. You can learn more about the new offering here.

    Office 365 works with the Office family of products that you're already familiar with and it also enables new experiences on the Web.  It creates an opportunity for schools to deploy technology more cost-effectively, more quickly, and manage technology advancements more easily. Why is this important?  The answer is twofold. 

    First, we can move beyond a lot of the challenges that schools have struggled with…with regards to managing and paying for and optimizing around licenses… to create a broad, safe, and secure cloud environment for students and educators. But more importantly, Office 365 becomes a building block so schools can build a foundation that takes care of messaging, communication, collaboration, even storage, as well as provide richness with regards to productivity apps, their own resources, and partner applications…all tied together with identity that is managed centrally and cohesively across the experience…to create a holistic environment for students and educators to do real learning, not just use the cloud.

    Secondly, one of the great things about this evolution with Live@edu is it increases the opportunity for partners who have already invested in core Microsoft technologies like Office, SharePoint, and Exchange, to deepen their connection to those products, as well as extend out the services they can provide for institutions at a low cost. Existing partners that build around applications for SharePoint for communication and collaboration, learning management systems, and even student information systems, can now extend the value of their solutions by integrating closely with Office 365 for education.

    We also know that safety and security matters significantly in education, and it's something we take very seriously.  One of the reasons why we're excited about this product announcement is it reflects a need we recognized early on to evolve Live@edu from a consumer-based foundation on Hotmail to an enterprise foundation with Exchange.  This provides really two things.  One, we have increased management control and security for schools, and this will extend across the collaboration storage component of Office 365 so institutions can have regulate and secure documents and collaboration experiences students have. And two, we have an established pipeline for innovation that will be supported by our enterprise customers and with some of the most demanding and diverse business requirements throughout the world.

    I'm excited about the present opportunities schools have with Live@edu and what Office 365 for education will provide schools in the future…but even more excited about the potential for partners and education leaders to create innovative uses on this to really take the experience to the next level for the more than 11 million students, faculty and staff worldwide that are using Live@edu today. We've enabled a rich experience across three screens…the phone, the browser and the Web…and created a flexible environment to really enable transformation and learning to happen.

    The cloud is not compromise… we recognize the evolving needs of schools to consume resources in the cloud…and this will continue to expand as institutions want to create more integrated learning solutions. Live@edu’s evolution to Office 365 for education is cloud without compromise and in addition to offering a great set of resources for students and educators to stay connected and productive…it offers institutions a building block for broader innovation and transformation of learning environments with technology. 

  • Education Insights

    Helping rebuild Haiti by bringing broadband to schools

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    At Microsoft, we just recently kicked off our companywide Giving Campaign in the United States, which is a great opportunity for employees to donate their time and money to help support a wide range of charities that they personally believe in and are passionate about. One of the charities that I've pledged to support is NetHope.

    NetHope is a unique collaboration of the world's leading international humanitarian organizations – working together to solve common problems in the developing world through smarter use of technology. NetHope’s 32 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) represent more than $33 billion dollars of humanitarian development, emergency response, and conservation programs in 180 countries. Since 2005, Microsoft has partnered with NetHope to help transform the way the world’s largest humanitarian agencies work…and since the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti back in January, Microsoft and its employees have donated more than US$2 million year to date, to enable communications and equip humanitarian staff for relief and recovery efforts. (The picture above is of the destruction at L'Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haiti.)

    We also realize that Microsoft’s investment must go far beyond essential relief and recovery efforts. We must help provide local schools digital access so learning can continue. As I’ve blogged a lot about recently, everyone…child, teenager and adult…has the right to a quality education…and that is so important as Haiti rebuilds and the people there look toward a brighter and more prosperous future.

    At the Clinton Global Initiative 2010 Annual Meeting this month, Microsoft, along with Inveneo and the EKTA Foundation, committed to invest US$1.5M in communications, technology and capacity building for schools and NGOs.  This commitment represents anticipated impact that includes:  

    • 60+ entrepreneurs in the IT sector will gain access to new clients and the ability to deliver relevant ICT services through training and mentoring;
    • 200+ NGOs will gain improved communications and IT capabilities to improve their service delivery;
    • 40+ schools and 24,000 students will gain access to improved education through technology;
    • 100,000+ people will gain basic computer literacy skills; and
    • 400,000+ people’s lives will be improved through access to Information and Communications Technologies they never had before.

    You can read more on Inveneo's blog here. I’m excited to see this work kick off this month.  On October 25, in partnership with NetHope, Microsoft is installing its first “lighthouse” lab in Haiti to help bring the country's leading computer science college back online– a local center of excellence in collaboration with nonprofits and for-profit partners from around the globe.  We hope this work we will inspire our other partners to get involved to help transform education and to build a better future for our children – one school at a time. 

  • Education Insights

    Will “Waiting for ‘Superman’” provoke the change we need?

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    There’s certainly lots of controversy surrounding the movie "Waiting for ‘Superman’"… some debate around the value of charter schools, the impact of unions and criticism of teachers. However, some things no one can deny… one, we have to celebrate and encourage great teachers, and do what we can to cherish and praise and support the value and prestige that teachers have in our society; and two, we have to continue to work together to drive change, not only for our schools, but for our kids. 

    There are no easy answers.  We have to look at the models and the innovative practices of charter schools that are featured in the film like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the KIPP Schools, but also great public schools and districts in our society and all over the world, and take those great examples and find ways to make not only opportunities available for all kids, but really work to increase the role and the importance teachers have in our society.

    For me, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” was a very personal reflection, because I grew up near a lot of the neighborhoods featured in the movie, and I could see a little bit of myself growing up. As someone who won the lottery because of great teachers and parents who made sure that I stayed out of trouble… I feel we have to honor that work in our daily lives every day to support great education and great teacher opportunities.

    One of the things that the movie talks about is the role or the rate of success the U.S. has had versus other countries as it relates to math and science performance, and the U.S. being ranked 24th in those areas, and significantly behind in some areas compared to other countries. (You can learn more about the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) here.) I think it’s important to consider that if you look at technology penetration, broadband access, devices in schools, etc., the U.S. would rank #1 compared to other countries…so, it's clear technology is not the answer alone. We've got to think differently around the role of technology, the role of schools, the role of a teacher and the role of education. That's why we're focused on initiatives like Partners in Learning, and the work we do with individual schools to drive and scale successful models holistic reform.

    One of the things that’s certainly clear is successful models need to scale, and scale is often difficult, because models are often not rooted in sound methodology and growth. I would encourage every education leader to look at our scale toolkit. We’ve been working with Chris Dede from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education to develop a tutorial to help schools create a foundation for driving change in schools. You can learn more about it in this video and article on Edutopia.

    One of the reasons why I think the KIPP schools have been successful is because they are built from a process focus from the start, and they've been able to scale because they replicate the process in other schools.  It's not tied into the individual leaders that often drive change in our schools. It is the amazing teachers and amazing principals that often define a good school.  We've got to put a process and plan in place, and the scale toolkit does this.

    We held a screening of  “Waiting for ‘Superman’” on Microsoft’s corporate campus in Redmond last week…and before the film I had the opportunity to talk with the director, Davis Guggenheim. I talked a lot about the work that Microsoft does, and the thing that he reacted to most was the scale toolkit. After researching and shooting the movie, Guggenheim saw that when you find a best practice or success, as in the KIPP schools, you need to find a way to replicate it…you need to build a foundation upfront before you apply innovation and thinking.

    I encourage you to see the film…and regardless of your opinion…it shines a spotlight on the need for us to explore and look at these hard issues. If anything, the movie is a moment in time for us to reflect on the quality of education in the United States and ask ourselves what more can we do to improve education…and not accept anything but the best for our kids.

    For some ideas on how to get involved and more on how we are trying to help...read my earlier blog post here.

  • Education Insights

    Celebrate World Teachers' Day 2010

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    If you think back and reminisce about your own early education experience, it is hard not to forget the teachers that made a difference in your life.  The teachers you can still recall 10, 20, 30 years later because of how they inspired you in the classroom probably made a lasting impression and helped shape you into the person you’ve become.  Today is the day we can express our appreciation and admiration by celebrating World Teachers' Day.  This special recognition was designated by UNESCO back in 1994 to mark the anniversary of the 1966 signing of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers which addresses teacher policies, rights and responsibilities.

    Partners in Learning is our ten year, $500 million global investment that since 2003 has reached nearly 8 million teachers in 115 countries. The program is aimed at improving teaching and learning through access to IT, localized curricula, professional development resources and training, and support for the Partners in Learning Network…which is now active in 59 countries, making it one of the world’s largest social networks for teachers. Engaging teachers are the number one predictor of student success…and we want to help equip teachers with the skills they need to build lasting impressions.  

    Educators aren’t often celebrated enough and Microsoft is proud to recognize their work and accomplishments at the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum at the end of the month in Cape Town, South Africa. There will be about 500 amazing educators that have competed at their country and regional levels to attend the worldwide event…and I’m excited to get the chance to meet some of the best and most creative teachers that are making a difference in their classrooms.

    There are great examples all around the world of teachers making a difference and preparing today’s children to be college and career ready. The video below provides just a glimpse of the great work happening in Australia, Austria, Thailand and Nigeria.

    Be sure to thank and express your appreciation to a teacher today…for the great work they do and in advance of that student who will assuredly remember their efforts 10, 20, 30 years down the road.

     

  • Education Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    REDU: What can you do to improve education?

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    Microsoft’s commitment to education, here in the U.S. and around the world, spans almost three decades. Education is core to our mission as a company…to help individuals realize their potential…and we believe that an excellent education is a basic right and social imperative.  I believe our focus on education is the most important work that we do across the company.

    As the national discussion on the quality of U.S. public education and workforce development heats up, the Bing team has launched an initiative and website called REDU located at www.bing.com/redu. REDU stands for rethinking, reforming and rebuilding U.S. education. It’s designed to expand and encourage the national conversation around education reform by providing information and resources to learn, a community platform to connect, and tools and initiatives to act.
     
    What I like the most about REDU is that the focus is really on getting people involved…supporting teachers, encouraging folks to donate and volunteer to schools, find jobs, and help place new teachers. It’s a great resource that provides an opportunity to learn about what’s going on across the U.S., to extend the dialogue, and to demonstrate the urgency of the need for change in the U.S. and around the world.

    Please check out www.bing.com/redu, join the conversation and see what you can do to improve America’s education system…whether you have kids or not.
           

  • Education Insights

    Partnering with UNESCO to connect global literacy experts through technology

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    Microsoft is a huge proponent of improving literacy skills around the world, partnering with UNESCO and supporting UNESCO as it leads the United Nations Literacy Decade with the goal of increasing literacy rates by 50% by 2015. I had the opportunity to attend the International Literacy Day conference and celebration hosted by former First Lady Laura Bush and UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova… and it was great to see the outpour of a focus on literacy.

    Interestingly, the conversation immediately turned towards technology's role, and there was some debate whether technology is at the center of what we need to do in terms of getting people digital literacy skills, which Microsoft is certainly in support of…but I think it quickly reflected the need to have a holistic framework, which is very much what we say with regards to thinking beyond technology, and embracing soft skills. So, when we think about literacy, just like we think about technology's impact, we need to think about it holistically…thinking about literacy, social literacy, health literacy, and certainly technology literacy.

    Microsoft is proud to be aligned with UNESCO to support these efforts around the world to help people get access to information, get access to training and tools, to help them live in our society, grow and prepare for the future. That’s why we are helping support the creation of a global online network to bring together literacy researchers, experts and other stakeholders. The Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) portal will allow practitioners all over the world to connect, collaborate, share information and best practices. The portal is being built on SharePoint Server by Microsoft partner Infusion and will be available beginning November 1st, 2010.

    Microsoft has a long-standing commitment in providing digital literacy training to families, parents, students around the world. Our digital literacy resources help with things like access to online safety tools, helping communities get an understanding, basic or intermediate understanding of how to use technology, both as a tool, as well as the basic understanding of technology. 

  • Education Insights

    Learning new skills at Kodu Kamp

    • 3 Comments

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

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

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

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

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