(Cross-posted from The Microsoft Blog)
Today’s kindergartners will retire around 2075. They will likely look back at 2010 as a quaint time, the way many of us remember the time before VCRs, color television and the Internet. Now is an important time for us to think about their future: What kind of education will be meaningful to them and ensure they can adapt and succeed right up to their retirement?
It’s a question we think about a lot, and something people are talking about at education conferences around the world, including this week’s Learning and Technology World Forum and BETT 2010, two education technology shows in London.
Today’s kindergartners will be growing up in a world where there are tremendous challenges, as well as fantastic opportunities. They’ll need the best education we can give them. But in a world that is changing rapidly – remember, Facebook didn’t even exist eight years ago – what on earth should we teach them?
The question is actually not so much what, but how. We can’t possibly imagine what skills today’s kindergartners will need as they reach the middle of their careers. They will learn in a world that is diverse, globalized, social, and complex. And it will be a world with more information and data than we can possibly imagine. In 2007, computer industry analyst IDC reported that the world produced 281 exabytes of data that year. That’s nearly 30,000 times the holdings of the U.S. Library of Congress. And the growth in information created by humans will only increase – explosively.
But how students learn, and how they learn to use the knowledge they acquire is something that can – and should – be taught. What today’s students need is an education that teaches them to think critically, collaborate effectively, understand technology, and live as a student not only in their specific town or country, but as a student on the entire planet.
Today, teachers, school administrators and education leaders alike are trying to better understand what skills are critical for the future, how to teach them, and perhaps most importantly, how to measure their success at teaching those skills in the classroom. With the right assessments in place, more schools will have an incentive to embrace teaching those skills effectively.
To foster the adoption of more applicable assessment, a year ago we announced an initiative in partnership with Intel and Cisco, as well as other global assessment partners such as the OECD and the IEA. Called the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S – http://www.atc21s.org/home/), the initiative is aimed at helping schools escape an educational model from the 19th century, and adopt one that creates and assesses core curricula based on the needs of today – and tomorrow, so that students are ready for this fast-changing world. You can read a status report about the ATC21S program here.
As a first step, more than 60 worldwide researchers and academics created a framework for what skills need to be assessed, and laid the groundwork for how to assess those skills. Specifically, those skills related to ways of thinking, ways of working, and tools for working and living in the world. For the next steps, we will be working with an initial set of countries to pilot ways to assess these skills.
The first skills that we will be looking to assess in schools in our pilot countries of Australia, the United Kingdom, Finland, Singapore, and Portugal are problem solving and digital literacy.
When we’re successful, we’ll change how schools and students are evaluated. Instead of looking solely at math and reading scores to measure performance, teachers, schools, districts and governments will also examine how students are acquiring the skills to succeed in the future.
At Microsoft, we believe that every one of the planet’s 1.4 billion students deserves the best education we can give them. Our participation in the ATC21S program is an example of our efforts to help schools deliver on that belief. Please be sure to read about other ways that we are focused on transforming education over the course of this week, including: our work in connecting colleges and universities; helping youngsters grasp computer programming; and enabling students in impoverished countries to make better use of the scarce PCs available to them.
If you haven’t checked out Office 2010 by now, you really should play with it yourself to see how it can change teaching and learning and enable students and staff to be more productive and collaborative. Download the free trial here. Here is my top 5 list of what I think is cool for education.
1. In OneNote 2010, I love the changes and updates. An especially critical feature for students is the Linked Notes that makes it super easy to do research. If you dock your OneNote window to your desktop while you work side-by-side with other programs or a Web browser…as you take notes, they are automatically linked to whatever you are looking at. So imagine your notebook a year later and being able to easily find your source material.
2. For students and staff who use Excel, the increased functionality with analysis tools will help you create great new ways to visualize data. Sparklines in Excel 2010 are awesome (see picture on the left)…tiny charts in the background of a cell help you see patterns and trends in the data, not just formulas. PowerPivot allows you to quickly calculate data sets of hundreds of millions of rows from multiple sources at lightning speed which can eliminate the need to spend money on additional BI tools.
3. I love the changes and optimizations with PowerPoint 2010. There are a lot of fantastic new tools for photo and video editing (screen shot below on the right). You can now trim a video clip without leaving the application and having to re-embed the file, turn a color film into black and white, add artistic effects to photos and more without the need for expensive third party tools.
4. Office has evolved to be much more collaborative to really help drive project-based usage. Co-authoring in Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote enables simultaneous editing to reduce the administrative work that can come from team collaboration; security is not compromised since the information can be hosted on premise. What a time saver not to have to deal with multiple versions of documents and everyone’s rev marks…you can have just ONE version of the file!
5. Office Web Apps are a game changer for education as I’ve blogged about before. Documents where and when you need them and the integration with Live@edu presents tremendous opportunity. Now students don’t have to worry about whether they have Office on their PC or what version of Office is on the library kiosk they are working on…this ability to share notes and collaborate and create rich documents on the phone, browser or a traditional client provides the flexibility and the dynamic learning environment students need.
Once you have Office 2010, you can download Ribbon Hero to help you explore and learn all the new features available. For institutions, we have rolled out Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) for Academic Volume License customers who want easy access to Microsoft software, eliminating the need to acquire and distribute physical media. So take advantage of that to reduce costs, deployment and logistics hassles, and get new software into the hands of your students and teachers faster.
For more specifics on Office 2010 in education, read more on the UK team's blog here. Check out the new Office 2010 and tell us what you think…
As the Southern Hemisphere officially begins its influenza season, the CDC is reporting here in the United States that the number of people visiting doctors with flu-like symptoms is increasing and far above normal for this time of year. With the new academic year now in session, the H1N1 flu virus is top of mind as we all think about how to personally stay healthy and school officials think about how to make sure students don’t fall behind in their studies if they are absent from class or they need to close their institutions.
The U.S. Department of Education has released recommendations to schools and universities for how learning can continue in the event of an outbreak, and today Microsoft announced how it will support the administration’s efforts to minimize the impact of H1N1 in our schools. We are offering free technology resources at www.microsoft.com/education/h1n1 that will help educators stay connected with their students. The simplest thing educators can do is set up an online class workspace using Office Live Workspace where you can share assignments, handouts and documents and collaborate on projects anytime, anywhere with just an Internet connection. We’re providing how-to videos, tips and other free technologies teachers can infuse in their classroom content to make lessons more engaging.
The H1N1 pandemic highlights the need for institutions to think more holistically about blended learning environments…that these online and distance learning solutions are valuable not only when you have to respond to classroom outages or school closures, but also creates an opportunity to connect and share information between a student and teacher beyond the classroom all the time. There’s data to suggest this type of learning boosts student outcomes. The U.S. Department of Education and the Sloan Consortium have interesting analysis here and here.
We do offer more robust options for classroom continuity for those institutions looking to rollout blended learning solutions more broadly. As IT managers juggle with the need to expand services and react to potential need for H1N1 virtual learning environments with increasing limited budgets and staff…solutions like Office Live Workspace provide a great option. It’s an easy to implement and FREE solution that is hosted, managed and maintained offsite, yet has the ability to connect with school identity, passwords for single sign-on, etc. School leaders can quickly demonstrate leadership by providing tools to extend learning beyond the classroom and use the H1N1 mandate to increasingly drive the transformation of learning in and out of the classroom.
While the solution is easy to start-up-and-go because it’s connected to Microsoft identity, collaboration and messaging platforms…not only can sign-on and identity be integrated into core school district platforms, but rich messaging options built on Microsoft Exchange can be extended to students and parents for free via Live@edu. Live@edu is being used by schools and universities around the world and provides a suite of communication and collaboration services.
Microsoft also provides a comprehensive set of solutions that make up a very robust distance learning portfolio. We offer everything necessary from real time meeting and communication capabilities to online content management. Using our Unified Communications and Collaboration Platform, offering both on premise and cloud/hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Office Communications Server, schools have a rich and powerful platform on which to offer distance learning solutions.
We are honored to do what we can to support education in this country, and around the world, and look forward to continued partnership with the Department of Education and you to make technology solutions more affordable and accessible.
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.
If you haven’t heard of the Imagine Cup…or read my previous blogs about it…I really would like to share it with you. It’s one of the things I’m most proud to be involved with and one of the most exciting events around that helps to empower students to use their creativity to change the world.
The Imagine Cup is the world’s premier technology competition, challenging students to develop and implement software applications, video games and mobile solutions that help solve tough social issues like education and healthcare. Last year over 300,000 students from 124 countries and regions registered for the year-long event. Every year the competition generates new ideas and approaches to real and important global challenges. The event fosters a global community of students that are becoming tomorrow’s social innovators and business leaders. Previous participants have created diverse solutions like an educational game system that allows an entire class to access a single computer at the same time, a self-sufficient system that battles famine by breeding insects as a food source and even an environmentally friendly car that runs on vegetable oil. You can read more of their success stories here. I’m constantly impressed and awed by the quality, creativity and optimism driving the solutions submitted…it furthers a lesson I have learned long ago…if we raise expectations of what motivated students can achieve…they’ll continue to meet and exceed them.
Students 16 and over are invited rise to the challenge by registering for one of the local competitions around the world. Winners of these local challenges win a trip to compete at the worldwide finals in Warsaw, Poland this summer. In the US, there is both a fall and a spring competition that teams can compete in. Today, Microsoft announced the finalists for the fall competition. Student can still register for the spring competition by February 1 at www.imaginecup.us. The finalists from both the fall and spring competitions will attend the US finals in Washington, DC in April where the winning team will be selected to represent the nation in the worldwide finals.
Imagine Cup also provides an opportunity for educators to get involved as team mentors or to use the competition for a class project. Participating in the Imagine Cup helps students develop real-world skills, which are so important, especially in today’s struggling economy. Encouraging students to participate in programs like the Imagine Cup helps get students excited about studying technology and exploring career opportunities in the field. This website has a resource kit to help you get started.
Last year, I attend the US finals in Boston and I’m excited to see what innovative ideas young people from around the world will invent this year. You can follow the event on the Imagine Cup Blog and find out more about the competition at www.imaginecup.com.
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.
During my time in Puerto Rico, I had the opportunity to meet education leaders in both the higher education school system (read more in my previous blog post) and primary and secondary schools, as well as the very vibrant and committed partner community.
It was great to see the partners, who are often competitive with each other, recognize the need for change, the need to stimulate the value and impact of education in Puerto Rico, and the need and willingness to work with Microsoft in conjunction with our initiatives. There’s a focus on building solutions around data analytics, the student dropout issue, and then a slowly emerging need around digital resources and electronic books that's coming.
The next part of the visit was with the Department of Education where I met the new Secretary, Dr. Odette Piñeiro, who I think is very visionary. She recognizes that you have to bring a much more inclusive view to the school district in thinking about everything from the way in which the language of the school changes, to the way buildings are modernized, to the way citizens connect to education.
During the course of the conversation, Dr. Piñeiro’s focus on technology was clear…but one of the things that really speaks to her leadership is that she also recognized that as a global company, Microsoft has additional capabilities outside of merely providing software, and most of her interest was really not about technology…it was about teachers and how we can help teachers, which is great to see, and that's something we are excited about the future potential of working together with the Puerto Rican Department of Education.
As part of a Microsoft Education Alliance Agreement we signed with the government while I was there, we will help provide affordable access to technology to 200,000 K-12 students in the country so they can stay abreast with emerging technologies and meet the challenge of enriching their learning experiences. Microsoft will also help the DOE promote greener schools…one of the projects consists of creating a Hohm training. Microsoft Hohm is a free web service that will allow students to understand their energy use and how to apply energy-efficiency strategies in their schools.
The last part of the trip…which was probably the highlight…was a visit to the mountains of Puerto Rico, and Bonifacio Sanchez Jimenez High School in a town called Aibonito. The school is one of the four pilot schools for Windows MultiPoint Server around the world. I talked to teams of students who are collaborating on projects using Multipoint. Some teams are creating a blog. Another team has created this automatic system so when it rains, sensors detect the moisture and the windows automatically close.
One of the best values of Multipoint is it will help create more computing options at a lower cost for schools. So, you expand one CPU to up to eight computers and expand the value of a device (see my earlier blog post on MultiPoint solutions). Interestingly, every time the school talked about Multipoint and its impact, it was always about the fact that it was a collaborative tool that provided a centralized computing station where a project team would work together, sharing documents, talking with each other, etc. and this was the difference maker.
You can learn more about how MultiPoint and technology is used in this Puerto Rico classroom in this video here. A picture below of me and the students in Aibonito.
I attended the National Community Education Association’s (NCEA) annual conference last weekend in Phoenix, Arizona where they held the first national forum on “Revitalizing America’s Rural Communities.” Every child has the right to a quality education…and improving access and opening up opportunities for students in rural areas is a worldwide dilemma we must address.
I am a NCEA Board Member and the reason why I like this organization is they recognize the need to make education more relevant to students by helping them build job and life skills they will need for the rest of their lives. Along with that, NCEA recognizes that schools need to be much more aware of community resources and the need to connect schools to their communities and get more participation from parents and businesses. That’s why I’m on the board…I feel very strongly about what they do in terms of the connection to the community and the need for institutions to think much more broadly about the way in which their schools exist in the places that they are.
According to the Why Rural Matters 2009 report, there are more than 9 million public school students enrolled in rural schools districts in the United States alone…that’s 19% of the nation’s total public school enrollment. Rural populations suffer from bandwidth challenges; they suffer from the ability to scale projects because of the lack of teachers and resources; and they also suffer with regards to diversity of education offerings because they don’t have enough teacher specialization to support all the curriculum and learning needs students may have. This is also very true around the world.
In many ways, the challenges and the solutions collide. Technology is a valuable tool to connect to each other and other parts of the world, in addition to the ability to leverage online learning or blended learning to support curriculum gaps. But because of the lack of resources, bandwidth, etc., rural areas are often the most poorly serviced with regards to technology access even though it’s one of the areas where technology can help the most. So there’s a balance we have to address.
We need a greater focus on revitalizing rural education…making sure we have a healthy dialogue about rural challenges the way we do with urban challenges. I think one of the great opportunities in the rural environment is the ability to connect schools and students to their local community. In my keynote at the NCEA event, I talked about leveraging public and private partnerships, service-learning applications (see my earlier blog post here), to blended learning environments to make learning that much more relevant and personal to individual students which is critical. In order for education in a rural setting to be a success, community officials, state and local agencies, and local businesses need to come together to address the problems in a collaborative way to leverage each other’s resources and investments.
Through our U.S. Partners in Learning program, we committed to a 5-year partnership with the state of New Mexico to focus on schools which act as a catalyst for 21st century workforce readiness and economic vitality in rural communities to improve academic success. The purpose was to also figure out how the private and public sectors could sit side-by-side to address an education problem. This was not a case of business leaders stepping in to tell the school what they should be doing…rather, recognizing and embracing the various expertise that could be brought to the challenge.
We funded four projects, each focused on a different learning experience – running a small town newspaper, giving a facelift to a local main street, opening a storefront, and building single family homes. In Loving, they recently celebrated the completion of a new house. These examples reflect the strong local connection New Mexico communities have with education and how the schools are able to create opportunities and hope for students…which is a very powerful thing.
Australia has an interesting idea for rural revitalization…send city kids to the country. What’s your suggestion to improve rural education? What’s working or not working in your geography? How can we help?
Schools, districts and states have been collecting data for decades…but, the art of perfecting the management and analytics of data seems to be hitting a crescendo this year. I think this is largely in part due to the fact that emerging technologies are making it more affordable…and of course, the Department of Education has highlighted the need to “build data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness” as one of its four key school reforms under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and even requiring evidence of successful and innovative data systems to be in place in order to qualify for incentives and grants.
I recently sat down to talk to David Fitzgerald, the Education Practice Manager over at Mariner, about how data is transforming schools and how we’ve got to help them get past using data solely as a reporting function and really use it as a way to drive innovation. Mariner has built a solution for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on the Microsoft Education Analytics platform that’s helping the district drive academic and operational success. You can read the case study here. In the coming months, you can hear from the school leaders directly about how their digital data dashboard initiative is progressing, the successes and lessons learned by signing up for their web series here.
Here’s my conversation with David…
Anthony Salcito discusses using data to transform learning with David Fitzgerald
I have had a great time connecting with our education partners the last two weeks. Last week, we had an opportunity to talk about students and technology with a lot of our OEM partners from around the world. This week, at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, we hosted close to 200 education partners from 45 countries for our sixth annual GEPS...or the Global Education Partner Summit.
This is an opportunity for us to connect with partners who are supporting education, to not only identify ways in which we can collaborate together, but really understand the issues and trends, and how we can best support the needs of education institutions around the world. And it's interesting, because a lot of these partners are working with schools and universities in countries all over the world, and have real insight in terms of the on-the-ground transition and transformation with technology...and I think we can see some interesting trends that are true across the industry.
One of my key takeaways from conversations with partners here...its seems like the next phase of technology evolution is happening. Schools are onboard with either data analytics and using some sort of business intelligence to inform learning opportunities and improve school outcomes, but they're actually looking for a higher level connection, as opposed to just aggregating data, actually using it to drive decisions and outcomes.
Digital content, it's less about acquiring digital content, it's more about how it becomes effective. So, publishers are sharing ideas and thoughts around not only how they can get content digitally, but actually how to make that content to come more alive, to enable personalized learning experiences with students, and outcomes.
We're seeing partners who work with governments around access start to think not only about just getting access to a device to a school and supporting our Shape The Future initiative, which helps make technology possible for students and a new population of students around the world. And partners are not only working through how to get that technology into the hands of kids, but actually really drive outcomes and make sure that teachers are prepared and trained, that schools have the back-end technology to support learning, both with regards to things like security and identity, but also thinking about how they can enable experiences with the cloud, etc.
On the cloud, there's been a lot of enthusiasm for Microsoft's Live@edu solution set, and what partners can do to enable Live@edu to really come alive with schools. One of the things that was mentioned by partners is that we need to think about helping reinform our education institutions about the potential of the cloud, and the way in which they think holistically about the integration of services, support, content with cloud-based services extending that to scale. What we've been really focused on with Live@edu and certainly for Office 365 for education down the road...is thinking about how partners can extend and really provide those solution sets in real ways with customers.
I love to see the enthusiasm from our partners around the potential technology has, and the increased meaning of technology and its impact to students and educators, and thei impact that is having on conversations. What this means is...we're shifting away from discussions on why to invest in technology, or how do we fundamentally do it, to what's the impact. Getting to this next level of conversation I think will not only improve education outcomes and the value proposition for technology investments, but it's going to enable a richer set of solutions and leverage the talents of a lot of our partners to really drive effective change across the world...so I'm really excited about that.
One of the things we highlighted at GEPS is the progress we are making with getting applications on Windows Phone 7, and a lot of our partners are going to be helping us drive that next generation of change. We had a student from Gonzaga University, one of our Microsoft Student Partners, come on stage and highlight an application that was built by a team of students participating in last year's Imagine Cup. It is an application to help with malaria research using the Windows Phone 7 platform. By giving students powerful toolsets like Microsoft DreamSpark with access to software like XNA, Visual Studio, Silverlight and more, they will help us create a new distribution platform with the phone. We're going to see lots of Windows Phone 7 applications from students in the Imagine Cup this year and I hope to see some great examples in the regional finals and at the worldwide competition happening in New York City this July.
I'm excited about the potential of the phone, how students are using it, and how it will open up opportunities for schools...but it's really just about the embrace of mobility. It's not just about Windows Phone 7, it's about how they integrate with other devices. We've shown progress with the iPhone application for OneNote. It's how we think about the increased proliferation of devices, both laptops and slate devices, and how schools bring that into a language of broader change and evolution. This is what is really exciting for Microsoft, and a lot of the partners.
Keep in touch on my blog and let me know topics you'd like to learn more about. You can also join our Microsoft Education Partner Network here, and track details of our upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference happening this July in Los Angeles here.
One of the things schools are increasingly looking towards is the use of technology and data to create an opportunity for transformation and optimization of student learning opportunities. I’ve blogged previously about how schools are using data better to drive more successful student outcomes, and how partners are building new solutions to help them.
Tribal is one of our partners who is helping schools enable transformation by the use of data and integrated systems to create both business intelligent frameworks for teachers to more effectively assess student performance…but more effectively use technology to drive engaging and personalized learning opportunities for students.
I had a great conversation with Tribal recently about how they have been working with 700 schools in England to uncover pockets of excellence that is happening in some schools…and how their technology solution is helping to scale those best practices to other schools.
This week, I am in Salvador, Brazil, attending the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum. The event brings together more than 400 teachers, school leaders, government officials and other education experts from around the world to celebrate and share innovation happening in the classroom that leads to educational transformation. Best practices for integrating technology into curricula, pedagogy and classrooms are showcased and people are connected with their peers for lifelong learning opportunities.
This is the 5th year the Microsoft Partners in Learning team has put on the event, and it kicked off today with the launch of the Partners in Learning Network. The Network is the next generation of the Innovative Teachers Network that I’ve blogged about before. We expect to have more than 2 million teachers and school leaders participating by next year…making it one of the largest professional networks for educators in the world. It went live today in English and Ukrainian and within the next couple of weeks, it will be available in 39 countries, with more languages coming in the next couple of months. The new site provides educators with the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in their local region and around the globe.
Teachers cannot be successful innovators unless their school systems support inventive teaching and learning. The Innovative Schools Program is designed to help school leaders become change agents within their school communities by providing tools and resources they need to successfully envision and implement transformation. In Brazil, we are welcoming the first classes of Mentor and Pathfinder Schools. There are 42 schools and we will work together over the next year to refine their vision to change the culture of schools and bring radical transformation to the classroom. We will then help implement the ideas, infuse technology where appropriate, and broadly scale out and help replicate it in other schools.
On Friday, we will announce the 12 winners of the Innovative Teachers Awards. Right now, 250 worldwide regional finalists are competing and we will recognize the best examples of those who have creatively and effectively used technology in their curriculum to help improve the way their students learn.
More details on what’s happening in Brazil can be found here. You can also follow all the chatter on Twitter by searching for the #MS09ief hash tag.
You’re going to hear us talk a lot about the School of the Future in Philadelphia in the next year. The School of the Future is a unique partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft to create a sustainable and replicable model for improved instruction and systemic reform through the use of organizational best practices and innovations in curriculum, architecture, environmental and technology design. The school has now been open for three years and we are beginning to examine, discuss and share what we have learned publicly. We are asking the most critical education scholars and researchers to take a hard look at the school and to identify what we can learn from our efforts and make changes. We believe it is paramount to be transparent and open this part of the journey to uncover some of the real challenges schools are facing…especially now as the Federal government is poised to spend billions of dollars to improve our nation’s schools. Last week, Microsoft and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted an event in Washington, D.C. to discuss the progress of the School of the Future to date. While, eSchool News offered this summary of the event, the purpose was not to evaluate and give the School of the Future a passing or failing grade – frankly, it’s too soon to make that judgment. However, what we do know is that there are many indicators that while challenges exist, we are moving closer and closer towards true impact. The purpose of the meeting was to begin a discourse around the successes and challenges of the School of the Future and offer lessons learned in the areas of educational innovation in high school redesign, technology integration in the classroom, and how to get the maximum benefits out of public-private partnerships, so the School of the Future and other schools can improve. We can’t measure a long-term journey with a short-term yardstick. The work of true reform takes tremendous time and effort. If you are going to do this work, get ready for a long journey with many bumps in the road. How do we assess a process that is improving, adjusting so rapidly, when our current methods of reflection yield our findings obsolete by the time they are shared?
Some examples of what we are learning… • Professional Development and curriculum strategies need to be organic yet deliberate at the same time. While challenging, this tension will allow for systemic adoption over time.• Community inclusion takes time. Identifying strong pillars in the beginning to act as foundational relationships is critical.• Technology will always add an extra layer of intricacy to any work. Integration using an incremental approach will support long-term adoption.• Just as our students need real-time reflection as they progress, so do our efforts of reform. This work with AEI is one step we know will improve the School of the Future, as well as provide a bright light on truly transformational efforts at whole school reform.
Microsoft is absolutely committed to the long-term success of the School of the Future in Philadelphia. We will continue to have these honest and introspective conversations and share the constructive criticism received to help drive true school reform and change across the country. We will listen and act on feedback. We are working with Harvard Education Press and the experts who participated in the AEI event to compile their opinions, feedback and recommended actions to improve school redesign in a book that will be published this fall. And perhaps the best chapter is being written today…educators from the School of the Future are compiling their “3 years of inspiration” stories now that the school year is drawing to a close.
The School of the Future partnership is about confronting challenges…not building a model for schools in a vacuum. And we look forward to continuing the dialogue with you. If you aren’t familiar with the School of the Future, here is some more background reading…
Microsoft School of the Future resources: http://www.microsoft.com/education/schoolofthefuture/2003 partnership announcement: “Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia Team Up To Build School of the Future”2004 ground breaking announcement: “Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia Break Ground To Build School of the Future”2006 school opening announcement: “School District and Microsoft Open School of the Future”Fact sheet from SOF Summit, December 2008: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/sof/docs/SOTFFS.docSchool of the Future Green Building Design: My earlier blog entry here
MSNBC story from the first day of school, September 2006: “Microsoft-designed school opens; three years in planning, ‘school of the future’ comes to Philadelphia”Fast Company story, September 2007: “Microsoft’s Class Action”
I’ve spent some time in Los Angeles this week at Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) meeting with partners, talking about business opportunities to build on the Microsoft platform to deliver new solutions to the education market and celebrating their successes. This year, Desire2Learn won the 2011 Microsoft Public Sector Education Partner of the Year Award for delivering innovative solutions that directly address customer challenges.
Desire2Learn is recognized as a global eLearning solution provider and I'm excited about the work they are doing across the Microsoft platform. The Desire2Learn environment is a complete web-based suite of easy-to-use tools and functionality built exclusively on Microsoft Windows and SQL Server. Other Microsoft technologies integrated—or soon to be integrated—in their products include: Live@edu, Windows Phone 7, Lync, Office 365, and SharePoint Server. We see Desire2Learn really delivering a broad range of solutions that connect a range of Microsoft technologies in real ways that schools want to use them in terms of providing flexible connections to learning management applications, providing a very collaborative stack, and building it on affordable and flexible technology that scales with schools.
Earlier, I had the chance to speak with Jeremy Auger, Desire2Learn’s Chief Operating Officer. One of the things we talked about was the way in which they're using the Microsoft platform to build very custom solutions for schools, that they're taking what they've learned and feedback from schools who have used learning management systems before and filling the gaps and responding to customers’ wish lists.
On Microsoft’s On The Issues blog today, I wrote about how we, as a society, cannot accept the current and alarming rate of high school dropouts. Students need not only a high school diploma but further education to be able to compete and succeed in today’s increasingly challenging global workforce. And schools need to do a better job taking action with the student and teacher data they are collecting to drive decision making that will help optimize learning outcomes for students.
We’ve released a new white paper here, detailing how our partners are using the Microsoft’s Education Analytics Platform to build new solutions with business intelligence and predictive analytics. Choice Solutions, Mizuni and VersiFIT are working with schools across the U.S. to provide technology that turns static information into useable, actionable knowledge to improve student performance.
The idea behind this solution was really born out of conversations Microsoft had with community colleges initially. If you consider the fact that community colleges make money primarily on student enrollment fees, they are really motivated to figure out when, how and why a student chooses to drop out. When I met with ITT Technical Institute last year, they told me because they use the same curriculum every year…they know to the precise day in a course where there’s been a higher spike for dropouts, because there's a specific tough topic, module or test. So they take a hard look at the curriculum to figure where students begin to struggle and figure out what they can do to better prepare students ahead of time for the content.
Now, a lot of schools use the same standard curriculum and lesson plans year after year after year, but they don't apply data the same way to identify students who are showing signs that they are not challenged, disinterested, or not tracking the lessons and are confused. Another good example is Florida Virtual School, one of the early pioneers in online learning in the U.S. Because students are taking online courses, they can monitor a lot of things that are going on with those students. They can see when the students take courses and log into the system, how long it takes to complete a class or course, etc…and they use that data to identify when a student might need extra help with a teacher or a tutor.
These are all good uses of how schools can use data…and this cannot only be applied to the dropout problem, but it can also be done for career development, personalized learning curriculum…as well as using technology to identify the quality of the learning environment to enhance the management and environment of school systems.
In partnership with the National Dropout Prevention Center, Microsoft is hosting an online community in the U.S. Partners in Learning Network to extend the conversation on this critical topic (sign in and join the NDPC-Dropout Prevention Community). I hope you join us and share your feedback, ideas and success stories.
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?
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
I’m in Poland this week to host the 2010 Education Leaders Forum (ELF) here in Warsaw. It’s an event that for the fourth year brings together education leaders from around the globe to exchange experiences and discuss the future of post-secondary education, its role as economic driver and strategies for overcoming barriers to implementation. As I reflect back on the last couple of days of meetings, we’ve had some great discussions about education policy examples and ideas that can make significant impact on citizens, their home towns and their countries.
We’re getting to see this year’s ELF theme, ‘Engaging Student Creativity and Innovation: A Key to Global Success’, in action through interactive panel discussions, and keynote presentations that demonstrate how governments and education systems can work together to deliver an engaging, relevant and authentic education experiences.
There are three keys we’ve been talking about to reach these goals: Access, Employability & Innovation. We’re seeing amazing examples of innovation at the Imagine Cup finals… having the Education Leaders Forum at the same time as the Worldwide finals for the Imagine Cup is not a coincidence. We link these two events together because both focus on the importance of technology as key to global success…whether it is obtaining your first PC or access to cloud technologies… which leads to employability, economic stability and national competitiveness.
In today’s information age, there is little question that information communication technology (ICT) can help drive opportunity and provide a competitive edge in the world economy. World Bank data shows that worldwide, companies that use ICT have over 5% higher profitability than enterprises that do not use ICT. For every 10-percentage-point increase in the penetration of broadband services, there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage points. But this very data that can give hope also creates the digital divide. The bridge across that divide is access.
Microsoft is committed to making the world where we live and work a better place. By listening to the needs of governments and their citizens, we’re able to channel the passion of our people and the power of technology to the challenges facing the world today. Microsoft’s Shape the Future initiative is a program that helps governments reach ambitious goals by combining Microsoft products and services, years of citizenship, government and education expertise along with broad public private partnership experience. This program has provided more than 1 million European students access to new PCs in the last 12 months alone.
Over the last several years as Shape the Future has helped governments develop these partnerships, we have learned they should be designed beyond an individual school or an isolated classroom. Ideally, you should not put the entire burden on a local school, a district or a region, to fund, maintain support, and do so in the context of existing budget, or a one-time appropriation that funds the project, but then could go away. When this occurs, typically, PCs end up sitting in a closet unopened because no one knows how to use them…or the PCs may break and not be replaced because no one knows how to repair them and the school has run out of funding to buy more. The best projects are those that are foundational…like the one developed recently in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia where they are creating a sustainable program.
Dimitri Shashkini, Georgia’s Minister of Education and Science, said it well as the partnership came together last month:
“Providing every child with a PC to raise their learning opportunities is one of the top priorities of the President and the Government of Georgia. We are clear in our belief that education is the foundation of our nation’s continued growth and prosperity. By ensuring that all Georgian children can have access to the information society, we are preparing our students and our country to succeed in the global marketplace. This agreement with Microsoft represents the next step in our commitment to progress towards full digital inclusion for all our citizens.”
At Microsoft, we believe we have a responsibility to use our position as a technology leader to help work with governments, to help drive other vendors to really commit to solve this issue, and to help more and more countries get down the road to economic competitiveness.
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:
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.
As a gamer and someone who's excited about the potential for gamification in education and the way in which we can apply incentives and other features of gaming to the learning process, I am a huge fan of Kinect. I'm a fan of the opportunities it's going to open up for new user interfaces, the opportunities it has to engage students in new ways of learning, and the ways in which it can actually drive innovation in creating new experiences in the classroom and beyond.
With the 1-year anniversary of Kinect this week, we are celebrating “The Kinect Effect” – all the unexpected, innovative and exciting ways people are using the controller-free game device that we could have never imagined as the intended use. It is transforming the ways people think about technology in healthcare, education, art and many other industries.
We've already seen tremendous enthusiasm and usage of Kinect among academics and hobbyists tinkering with the Kinect for Windows SDK. And today, Microsoft announced that we will make available a commercial version of the Kinect for Windows SDK early next year. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is one of the many of educational organizations among the 200 applicants in the pilot program building applications using Kinect right now. The Kinect SDK will provide toolsets for inspiration of great ideas and great applications of this new technology, and I'm excited to see the impact.
A lot of work has been done in Microsoft Research (MSR) to extend the ways in which we think about physical reality, gesture control, as well as how it interacts with the real world. Kinect is a great example of a technology that's pushing the edge and demonstrating not only what's here today but what's possible for the future. This video below extends that type of thinking in a project called Holodesk, which uses a hologram and a transparent display to create a synthesis between the physical world and the digital world in a way in which you can manipulate objects, collaborate, as well as integrate physical objects with virtual objects in space. The potential for this in education…simulating, modeling, and looking at three-dimensional objects is exciting.
What’s next? Check out the video below for some of our ideas, but we’re hoping you’ll join us invent where Kinect goes next.
These are extremely challenging times for higher education institutions that are struggling with the balance between efficiency and cost cutting, and maintaining and improving their overall effectiveness. While $2.4 trillion is spent on education every year worldwide, effectiveness of spend can be as low as 7% according to the World Bank.
How do you assess your institution’s performance? How do you know you are successfully executing your mission and vision? Your strategic goals? Technology can track the data and help. Microsoft’s Platform for Institutional Effectiveness has been developed from an increasing understanding that greater effectiveness and efficiency is derived from a focus on bringing together people, processes, and information across the institution…not from the isolated use of individual technology products.
We have architected a unified platform approach integrating quantitative analytics, qualitative assessment and collaborative action to help institutions measure progress against their goals for administrative operations, academic outcomes and achievement, and the student and faculty experience. This approach is built on Microsoft technology most institutions already own…like SharePoint Server and SQL Server… and user interfaces that are common across the institution and applications from Microsoft partners. You can read more in our whitepaper here.
Nuventive, has an application called TracDat which drives the development of strategic plans and tracks progress against the plan. Nuventive has recently struck up a partnership with Mariner to bring this type of solution to K-12 schools. Both partners won awards at our Worldwide Partner Conference this year.
Earlier at one of our education partner summits, I spoke with David Raney, CEO, Nuventive, about trends in data optimization for institutions and how data can make campuses better. You can watch our discussion below.
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.
This week, like me, you’ve likely been watching with fascination the numerous ways technology allowed us to experience the Presidential Inauguration like never before. From streaming video live on the Internet, twittering from the National Mall, or taking and sharing digital photos, Americans had countless ways to digitally interact. If you watch CNN, you probably saw that Microsoft partnered with the cable news network to gather thousands of citizens’ phone and digital camera photos and stitched them together to create a huge 3D panorama view of when Obama took the Oath of Office.
They did this with a new Microsoft technology called Photosynth. The technology came out of Microsoft Research and is based on a collaborative research project with the University of Washington. This cool technology goes far beyond just allowing you to share your still photos with other people…it allows you to share an experience. People are put right into your shoes and can look up and down, left to right and all around the scene where you snapped pictures. (Take a look at the Great Sphinx in Egypt below.) The software analyzes each photo for similarities and magically matches them together.
Photosynth is a free Microsoft tool teachers can integrate into their curriculum and classrooms to help transform the learning environment. All you have to do is download and install Photosynth and Silverlight onto your computer. We even have a webinar to get teachers and IT staff up to speed on how to use the software. I think the ability for students and teachers to really interact with their world in three dimensions and use visualization this powerful really creates a whole new set of opportunities. What’s really great is that Photosynth uses technology…camera phones, digital cameras, the Internet…that kids are already interested in and use in real-life every day.
Just envision, on your next school field trip, you have all your students take pictures from their different vantage points. You come back to the classroom, stitch the pictures together and imagine all the stories the kids could tell.
Being a gamer myself…and someone who not only grew up with video games and seen the emergence of games mirroring the emergence of technology…I understand the culture and the environment, and certainly the potential games can have to inspire students and get kids more integrated with learning.
One of the things I hear when I talk to schools about the possibility of gaming is that everyone understands it's the potential. I see the same sort of excitement I saw with technology's emergence in the classroom 15 years ago about the potential of bringing game-like experiences to schools.
I think initially what schools think about is the concept of simulation. And we see this today with basically Web examples and science experiments that can be done with simulation. That's somewhat game-like in terms of the ability to actually create interactive experiences that students can learn from. They can see the results not only in a safe environment, but also a low-cost environment as opposed to having to buy science equipment, etc. You can dissect a virtual frog in a virtual reality space as opposed to actually having a real frog to dissect. So it saves not only money for schools, but it really creates a much more rich visual experience for students. And I think that will continue to be a main feature of gaming.
However, one of the challenges is we've got to go further with regards to the way gaming can really influence learning, and leverage the concepts and lessons learned from gaming. One example is to incorporate the language of gaming and the way in which students recognize achievements…they get compelled to move through a game based on accomplishing milestones, scoring points, etc. We do this today with report cards, but I think we can really inspire students in game-based examples.
I mentioned earlier in the blog Ribbon Hero because I think it does a good job of connecting achievements to a simple thing like learning how to use Office…which may be one of the more complex things for a teacher or student at first, but Ribbon Hero helps students progress through the concepts, rewards them for challenges they complete, tests them to go further and show off their score with others and compare their score with their friends, etc.
All of these are concepts that come from gaming, and I think schools can learn from the language of gaming as opposed to actually just trying to do the simulation approach, which is not only being done by content providers, but more expensive for a school or teacher to do on their own.
I was really excited to meet Adrian Sannier a couple weeks ago at our U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit. For the past 4+ years, Adrian’s been Arizona State’s University Technology Officer, and next month he’s leaving ASU to join Pearson eCollege. We had a great time talking about the possibilities and potential for gaming and education and the way in which schools can think today to enhance their curriculum and their approach by using game-based techniques.
Watch the video below and please share how you are thinking about incorporating gaming into your classrooms.
I’m incredibly excited about new innovations coming from Microsoft…we have listened to feedback from students and teachers and are working to provide flexible and rich resources that are simple to use. The new Windows Live Movie Maker is a great example and includes a wide variety of features that make it easy for students and teachers to create, publish and share movies online, in a matter of few clicks.
The new version of Windows Live Movie Maker is a FREE download available today here. It’s now easier than ever for students and teachers to turn videos and photos into great-looking movies and slideshows, using many popular camera types and file formats on the market today. Windows Live Movie Maker provides a great way for schools to bring the benefits of multimedia to the classroom…making learning come alive and increasing student interest, participation and visual learning opportunities.
One of the key enhancements that teachers and students will LOVE is the ability to the share videos…across a wide variety of devices. To learn more about the new Movie Maker (for Windows Vista and Windows 7) and see real movies created with Movie Maker, please visit www.moviemakerpreview.com or check out the Windows Live team blog post.