I’m on the West coast this week, and in San Francisco yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Corporation for National and Community Service organization’s 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. We announced at the event that Microsoft and the Corporation are partnering to build a virtual, student-driven technical support helpdesk for US educators and non-profits. Over the next three years, we’ll create this program together which aligns to President Obama’s United We Serve initiative. We think this will be a great service-learning opportunity to better connect our nation’s students technical knowledge and enthusiasm with the needs of our nation’s teachers.
I am a huge advocate for infusing service-learning into K12 education. Service-learning is an approach to teaching and learning that combines classroom academic instruction with civic duty in the community and reflection. I think service-learning is a key vehicle for students to gain 21st century skills, to better prepare them for the workforce and to keep them excited about learning. I’ve always had a passion for service. Early in my career at Microsoft, I worked with the Girl Scouts to help them use technology to more efficiently sell their cookies, and later I helped create EduConnect, a Microsoft program where employees volunteer and become education evangelists in their local schools and/or at their alma maters. The goal is to get kids to look at technology as much more than just social networking, but to realize the impact it can have on the world around them. The pervasiveness of community service and service-learning in schools is not widespread yet. According to the Corporation’s research, only 24% of K12 schools offer service-learning and the benefits are positive -- young people are more likely to be committed to volunteerism in adulthood that will last a lifetime, and it has positive impact on their social behavior, habits and attitudes.
In New Mexico, our US Partners in Learning team is partnering with the Office of the Governor and New Mexico Public Education Department to develop innovative education and technology solutions that not only help students define college and career goals, but also help catalyze local economic development. In the town of Loving, high school students are learning construction trades and business and computer skills, and putting those skills to work to build affordable housing to help rejuvenate their community. This hands-on learning experience is putting renewed classroom focus on science, technology, math and entrepreneurship that will help prepare the students for today’s workplace. Along with the hard labor, students work with an architect on the house plans and with local bankers on financing. (Check out some pictures on the right.) The kids are so committed to this project…even the graduating seniors are sacrificing a portion of their summer to help complete construction of the house which should be ready for new homeowners later this summer.
We are also working with the National Career and Technical Education Foundation (NCTEF) to identify other high schools across the country that are providing a rigorous academic programs and hands-on, careers-based learning experiences. We are developing best practice guides to document the success of the high schools. These guides titled, “Redesigning the High School Experience for College and Career Readiness,” present a clear picture of the steps involved in implementing this type of service-learning high school experience. You can read more about the New Mexico project here and learn more about the importance of partnerships, ongoing community buy-in and support, and most importantly the service-learning benefits to students.
I would like your feedback on the usefulness of these guides, and I’d be interested to learn more about what your schools are doing to incorporate volunteering and service-learning into curriculum.
I’ve talked a lot about the value of Live@edu in higher education on this blog, and that’s not to say there’s isn’t demand in the K-12 space…in fact, we are seeing huge spikes of interest from school districts and Ministries of Education around the world. The Kentucky Department of Education just announced they are moving the entire commonwealth of students, teachers and staff…more than 700,000 people…to Live@edu that will help them save more than $6.3 million over the next four years. It is the biggest deployment in the U.S. and one of the fastest migrations ever, moving more than half a million people over a single weekend. Check out their video story here.
I think the cloud still has mythical properties and qualities that not everyone understands, but fundamentally it's about sharing computer resources and capacity to enable new experiences, simplified access to technology, and lower costs. Microsoft has a broad and comprehensive approach to the cloud, and we really recognize the value of both connecting cloud experiences and services to existing products, but also ensuring there's an overall environment schools can manage and control so they have the flexibility, robust enterprise features and security and compliance capabilities.
Live@edu allows schools to get out of the email business and adds even more value with collaboration tools so that schools can focus on what they need to do to manage the school effectively, to create an environment for learning that can even extend beyond the classroom, and extend services to students and teachers at scale for free.
Probably one of the most popular features of Live@edu is SkyDrive, which provides 25 gigabytes of storage (sort of a USB stick in the cloud), and schools and teachers love this because they can store their homework, documents, and projects. They can share documents with other people, create folders and assign permissions to their project teams, etc. It not only provides rich collaboration, but really storage on any device, so you don't have to worry about having the right folders on the right device, you can have a virtual, cloud-based storage environment with SkyDrive.
We’ve also just made publicly available the final versions of the Office Web Apps on SkyDrive in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland. These free versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote really extend the environment to provide not only rich messaging, collaboration, and storage, but the ability to create and edit Office documents within a Web browser without having to have Office installed locally.
As with any new technology, you just can’t throw it over the fence to users with confidence it will stick and they will know how to use it. You can see some of Kentucky’s training videos online here and we have more on our new K-12 website here.
Hoover City Schools in Alabama is also another good case study. I talked to Keith Price, CTO for Hoover City Schools, about their Live@edu deployment and how they involved their instructional technology folks and curriculum team in the professional development trainings for Live@edu so they are really using the product to its fullest potential. You can watch our conversation here.
We have exciting innovations coming in the future for Live@edu and always welcome and encourage your feedback on what we can add to the product to increase the value for education.
When we talk to schools, we often talk about the value of data. We think about data as really being holistically used across the learning environment to transform the classroom…from the way in which you create identity, help with curriculum and create personalized learning experiences. A lot of districts have provided increased access to data to provide clarity to teachers on students’ progress and transparency to parents. In these scenarios, schools mostly use data as a reporting function, not as a way to drive true innovation. The School of One in New York City is an example of administrators radically transforming the way they use data to create authentic personalized learning experiences for students. I got the chance to visit the School of One last month and it was exciting to see a vision we share with NYC schools about using data to do more…to deliver a transformative learning experience…and actually see it come to fruition. This week, my team and I sat down with Joel Rose, the lead of the School of One project, to get a report on the results of the pilot. What we learned really affirms what we believed all along…using data to drive action is critical for schools. In order to drive a personalized learning roadmap…you must use the data to optimize curriculum and teacher resources effectively to affect individual student results. At this summer school math class, they take data from the students’ performance that day and use it to predict and plan the next day’s lessons and the method in which they are going to learn…how are they going to collaborate, whether they will work in a small team, participate in project-based activities, etc. Teachers get a daily report on how each individual student is progressing…they can track which students are falling behind, which students are moving ahead…and they get a unique schedule and curriculum plan for the next day based on the data analysis.
The School of One uses the Renzulli framework from the University of Connecticut that allows students to assess what kind of learner they think they are, what kind of learning style is most attractive to them, etc. Teachers at the School of One want to know where and how the students think they learn best and whether that is truly the most optimal way they should learn. For example, a student may think they soak up knowledge best with game-based learning in small groups, but they actually work better in collaborative groups with large projects. They take the Renzulli work, students’ performance and how they are making headway against the curriculum on a daily basis…then run all this information through algorithms a Microsoft consultant has built with Microsoft Access and Excel and other partner tools to generate a class schedule. They’ve really created unique learning environments for students that put a teacher where he or she is best skilled. They want to create the most optimal teaching experience for teachers too. In some circumstances, student teachers from the university system help with group collaboration projects, and they use teachers with more experience for specific coaching moments in a 1:1 capacity. So they are optimizing their human capital resources just as much as they are optimizing the student learning opportunities. It’s a real holistic view of the environment – they think about the actual physical structure of the classroom and they think about optimizing for the teacher to create a personalized learning experience. The challenges School of One will face are something schools face every day. Innovation like this is not easy…it requires a commitment from the leadership and it requires a commitment to change. You also have to focus on scale. School of One is a great project but to get that to be a district-wide initiative on other subjects requires a tremendous amount of work. The School of One has already seen some return on investment…they have really speeded up time to market in terms of getting data back to teachers. It used to take 3 hours to compile the algorithms and get the data back to teachers – now it is less than an hour. They are seeing economies of scale and they think they can scale out. The last thing I think is important…and this is where products like Microsoft Semblio will come in…when you drive to truly personalize learning, there’s a need for content. If you are really going to commit to personalized learning and commit to a student who likes project-based learning with game design for learning algebra, you need a specific type of content for that. The richness of content in terms of what’s available and how teachers can augment existing content to adapt for the student is precisely what Semblio does…provides teachers tools to update and tweak their core content with access to rich digital resources. I'm excited to see the School of One concept grow. We’ll continue to see how Microsoft can support the School of One as it expands to three more schools next January. The technology used in this first school pilot was minimal because the focus was on the process of understanding how the students performed each day and what unique content and activities would be needed for each student on the next day to maximize their learning experience. The school district expects the focus of technology to increase as the project expands to more schools and greater levels of personalized learning over the next months and years…and we hope we can help.
Microsoft's annual U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit always provides a great opportunity to connect with a broad range of education institutions as well as representatives from across the US in state and local government and Federal agencies. This year's event was no exception and I was incredibly pleased with the feedback and leadership demonstrated by those in attendance. Despite the mounting economic pressures and uncertainties, those joining us for a few days in Redmond, WA are embracing the mandate to improve learning outcomes with optimism…and a focus that, in many ways, has been sharpened by reduced resources.
Transform. Innovate. Lead. It was the core theme for the CIO Summit and an increasingly critical imperative for our schools as we face uncertain economic times and intense global competition. In many ways, the role of the CIO in education is rapidly evolving to optimize opportunities for innovation, leadership and drive smarter technology decisions with a balance on education outcomes, funding and long-term strategic direction.
During the summit many key themes surfaced...most reflecting the new environment created by the economy...cloud services, virtualization, impact on education analytics on learning outcomes, and 21st learning. I had an opportunity to sit and chat about many of these topics with Debbie Karcher, CIO for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), during the event and wanted to share a short video from our conversation.
Debbie supports an ever-expanding range of solutions across America’s 4th largest school district. I’ve worked closely with M-DCPS for the last several years, and have always been impressed with their clarity and consensus of vision and the urgency with which they approach their work. Under Debbie’s leadership, they have been working to modernize and overhaul the district using technology and data to help raise student achievement, establish equity and support students, teachers and staff.
In the video, Debbie shares her lessons learned from the journey to help transform Miami-Dade County Public Schools, as well as some fundamentals on USING DATA that I think reflects a lot of what I see around the country. In some ways the pivot on using education data parallels my argument on 1:1. On the 1:1 side, we spend far too much energy/time on acquisition of the device and not nearly enough time on bringing holistic reform to the classroom, curriculum, and assessment. With education analytics, schools spend lots of time building the robust and secure data center and developing rich visualizations of data…not nearly enough time is spent landing the data into everyday rhythm for teachers, students and parents. Data-driven decision making is powerful when it actually helps make decisions on content, student needs, areas of specialization, etc. As Debbie notes, overcoming teacher and parent hesitation to actively use the data M-DCPS is providing is not something to be ignored.
Debbie and the entire team at M-DCPS are doing some heroic work and their models and thinking are good resources for schools going down a similar path. Districts looking to 1) improve learning outcomes by supporting teachers with resources to quality instruction, 2) encourage routine student use of technology to support learning, and 3) provide parents with tools and data needed to help them more actively engage in the education process…should take a look at the Miami-Dade Public Schools solution, process, and outcomes.
More info on Miami-Dade County Public Schools work:
School website: http://www.dadeschools.net/Project case study: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/casestudy.aspx?casestudyid=4000002944 Video case study:
The thing I think is exciting about Bing is that it’s becoming more than just a place to find information and search…it’s really about how to apply search to experiences and productivity scenarios you would use inside a classroom. So not only being able to search on information but the ability to apply new learning constructs and create new learning experiences that weren’t possible before.
Today, Bing Maps released the Worldwide Telescope (WWT) application that was first previewed at the recent TED conference. The application allows students to literally look up at the virtual sky in Bing Maps and see constellations and stars as they exist in real-life. You can even adjust the time of the day to see what the sky looks like anywhere in the world at different hours in real-time. You can download the new WWT app here (scroll down and click on “Maps Apps”) and read more about WWT and its uses in the classroom in one of my earlier blog posts here. You need to have Silverlight installed and it only works on the U.S. version Bing Maps right now, but the team is looking to expand the WWT application to other countries in the future.
The WWT integration with Bing Maps is just one great example of visualization tools teachers can use in the classroom. I think visualization and technology’s role to enhance visualization is a game changer as we work with publishers and content providers around the world. When you think about what students are reading for example…most students are reading more words on a digital screen format than they are in an analog book...and that creates huge potential for content providers to do great things.
A couple weeks ago, I keynoted at the NCCE 2010 conference in Seattle and showed off several free visualization tools from Microsoft that allow teachers and students to get creative about teaching and learning. The video below shows a demo of Deep Zoom in Silverlight Web pages (more info here), Photosynth (my previous blog post here) and work we’ve done with the British Library to digitize books.
Check these visualization techniques out and see how you can bring inanimate objects to life and transport faraway places closer to make a personal connection and a real experience. I would love to hear your feedback and see your examples!
I know the day will come when I read about the growing numbers of students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instead of always seeing stories about the current education crisis. There are many ideas out there for how education leaders worldwide can make sure their students are prepared to compete in the global economy and pursue careers in information technology where there is a growing need for workers.
At Microsoft, we are very focused on making a difference in this area – from our involvement with organizations in the United States like the Boys and Girls Club to bring technology access to underserved youth -- to ways we are tapping young people’s imagination and curiosity with technology and encouraging them to get involved through our Imagine Cup and DreamSpark programs.
Exploring the universe we live in is just one way…a fun way, I might add…to get students excited about science and help them build STEM expertise and other 21st century skills like problem solving and teamwork. Today, at our Professional Developers Conference (PDC), Microsoft and NASA announced the “Be a Martian” web site…an interactive destination built on the Windows Azure platform that allows visitors to pan, zoom and explore Mars. Based upon data collected by NASA’s Mars missions, and stored on Microsoft’s cloud services technologies, “citizen scientists” can help create a complete and accurate map of the Red Planet using simple online tools and take part in research tasks.
As part of the project, NASA and Microsoft are also cosponsoring the Pathfinder Innovation Challenge. The challenge beckons software developers at all levels of proficiency, and as young as 14-years old, to win prizes for creating tools that provide simplified access to, and analysis of, hundreds of thousands of Mars images for online, classroom, and even Mars mission team use.
We hope this can be another tool in a teacher’s arsenal to inspire students to become life-long learners in science.
One of my favorite new learning tools for teachers and kids on the Web this week is Interrobang. It’s a great example of not only connecting service learning and social responsibility to education but a way to connect students in project-based, team-based, and game-like environments.
Interrobang is a socially networked, mission-based game where students learn the art of problem solving by taking part in missions or deeds to learn about history, world culture, the environment, and the universe and then get recognition to share their stories. Kids are doing many great things…from starting recycling programs at their school to communicating with someone living in a foreign country who speaks a different language using technology.
More than 10,000 students around the world…45 states in the U.S. and thirteen countries…are taking part in these challenges, sharing their thoughts, and earning points based on what they're doing. It's an opportunity for them to connect activity, collaboration, team project-based work with real context in learning. It really connects to the belief we have that service learning can be a powerful driver in getting kids more relevant experience for their education environment…and get kids excited about school and learning, and raise their social consciousness and application of volunteerism. Our Microsoft U.S. Partners in Learning program is sponsoring this in collaboration with the Smithsonian and Corporation for National and Community Service - Learn and Serve America, and Nuvana.
There’s still a week left to compete for fun prizes like Zunes, Xboxes and netbooks. For teachers with class still to teach…this might be a great way to keep students focused and engaged during the last few days of school.
Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference is always a great opportunity to connect with people who are supporting Microsoft's efforts in education. There was truly a global representation of partners from all over the world that gathered in Washington, D.C. last month who have been working with universities and schools and supporting Microsoft technology. The theme of this year's event was clearly the optimization of what the cloud can offer, both with regards to cost savings, a simplification of IT environments, and really creating new experiences for our schools and universities.
We have a lot of partners who are really excited about building off of the platform of free solutions we provide with Live@edu. What's interesting is that they're providing not only context for Live@edu and the education scenarios by providing it, integrating it in with learning management solutions, ERP and student information system solutions…but they're helping to work on activation and deployment to make sure that schools are up and running quickly, integrating in with single sign-on and identity management, etc.
Partners like Full Armor showcased not only the work they did to get all the schools in the Commonwealth of Kentucky deployed on Live@edu, but really shared the kind of services they can provide not only to our schools and universities to help deploy Live@edu, but working with other partners to make sure there's a comprehensive solution involved.
it's learning from Norway…who previously had been using a Google platform for their mail solution…are excited about the potential Live@edu provides, not only with regards to enterprise connectivity, but the roadmap that Microsoft is providing to build on Live@edu in the future, and it's learning will be moving their platform to Live@edu. One of the things they remarked on was that not only is Live@edu more attractive with regards to the enterprise nature of the solution, but the fact that there were Microsoft people around the world committed to education…that was a differentiator for them.
Every year we recognize a partner that's been doing innovative work and providing value. Gestar won the 2010 Public Sector Education Partner of the Year award. This partner from Brazil is using Microsoft Dynamics to provide a comprehensive student information and data gathering system for schools, and they've recognized the problem that many schools have in that data that's collected but not acted upon really is wasted data. They've optimized their Dynamics back-end solution with a front-end built around Microsoft Silverlight that allows a very simple to use touch interface for teachers to extract data, to act on data, and to have a comprehensive record of students and group of students work. It's a great example of a partner recognizing the reality of what's going on in the classroom because of their local connection, and the Gestar solution both provides a rich back-end solution for data collection with Microsoft Dynamics, but a very easy to use front-end solution for the future.
But perhaps the biggest highlight of the show was seeing representatives from the Microsoft Students to Business program walking the floor with “Hire Me!” t-shirts throughout the conference. The program allows students who are connected to Microsoft certification and training via things like Microsoft IT Academy and DreamSpark, or who have competed in things like the Imagine Cup competition, the opportunity to join Students to Business where they receive career coaching and career development tools. They also have an opportunity to get placed with Microsoft companies and partners that are doing business with Microsoft…and many of them were not only interviewing and connecting with partners at the show, but really promoting the value of Students to Business for partners to reach back to find talent. They taped a conversation with me about technical careers and getting students engaged…you can watch that below. These students were really a great example of the connection that education and our schools have with the work that's going on and the innovations that are happening with Microsoft partners around the world.
It’s been duly noted that to succeed in the 21st century, people need technology skills and training to become full global citizens. Everyone should be able to participate without having to give up their local language.
In support of UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day 2010, Microsoft is announcing it will offer dozens of new languages for the new releases of Windows, Office, and for the first time, Visual Studio. I wrote about the importance of language and the role technology can play to help keep indigenous languages relevant over on the Microsoft On the Issues blog.
The work is part of Microsoft’s Local Language Program where the goal is to find new ways to create economic opportunities, build IT skills, and preserve local languages, traditions and ancient knowledge. From an education perspective…not only does it help students realize the power of technology, but it can start to build a culture in a community around technology’s usage, and how it can change not only classroom environments, but also employable workers who have ICT skills.
In the rainforests of Peru, for example, more than 7 million people honor their Incan ancestry by speaking the ancient language. Software programs in Quechua make it easier for people who might find language one more barrier to cross in the seemingly insurmountable digital divide. By having something in the language that they speak…instead of having to learn Spanish…they are able to only need to learn the technology, not another language at the same time.
You might be surprised to learn that a language dies out every 2 weeks. If you are interested in learning more…check out this video on how the Inuktitut language in Northern Canada is also being saved…and what experts have to say about how educating children on their native language can help bring it forward to the modern world.
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.
When we think about access to technology, you have to think about it holistically. It's not just access to a device, it's really access for all types of students…particularly students with learning difficulties or physical disabilities…to make sure they have equal access to learning with technology.
Microsoft is very committed and serious about accessibility within our software. We build accessibility options into our products to help enable everyone to personalize their PC to make it safer and easier to see, hear and use. Accessibility options are particularly useful for people with vision or hearing loss, mobile and dexterity impairments, or language and learning impairments.
We’ve released an updated accessibility guide for educators. The guide provides really good insight for schools on the things they need to think about, questions they should be asking, Microsoft technology available to help with students with disabilities, and how to successful and more simply bring it into the classroom. The guide provides an overview of accessibility features in Windows 7, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer.
Windows 7 has very strong voice navigation and voice recognition, so for blind students it's actually very good. In addition to being compatible with a wide variety of assistive technology products, there’s also an On-Screen Magnifier, On-Screen Keyboard, and Narrator in Windows 7. For those who want to listen to the details versus reading them, here is a recording with Kelly Ford, who is blind and involved in product management for Windows 7.
Tutorials for these features and other products can be found here. We are also making accessibility investments in Office 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Office Web Apps that will be available in the coming months.
I was in Ocala, Florida recently to talk to about 500 teachers and administrators about how they can incorporate technology into their classrooms as they prepare for the upcoming school year and learn about new technology the district is rolling out. This Technology Day for Marion County Public Schools happened to take place at the first U.S. high school to deploy Live@edu...Lake Weir High School.
It was very interesting to see how Live@edu fits into not only Principal Saunders vision for the school, but how Scott Hansen, who is the IT director, is really taking technology and thinking holistically about how Live@edu integrates with a broader transformation that's undergoing in Marion County. This video really does a good job of highlighting some of the things that Live@edu is being used for and some of the benefits that they've already seen from their Live@edu deployment.
After keynoting, I attended a couple of sessions, including one on how the district is deploying a Microsoft SharePoint site with Chancery to provide a learning management system to allow parents to see their kids’ grades, homework assignments, deadlines, etc.
I sat in a workshop with teachers, and it was great to see and hear the questions they were asking. The teachers wanted to learn more about provisioning rights…all the details, like who's the primary caregiver, how do the rights extend, how does the person get the rights, if there's a parent who's taking care of a kid in a school for a time or parents are on leave or something, how do you transfer the rights…all these different questions about the implementation and you quickly come to realize there's a whole range of considerations around privacy concerns and issues that schools have to deal with.
It was really good for me to get a chance to see not only the way in which Marion County is addressing those concerns and providing guidance and training for teachers, but understanding the range of issues and questions that come from teachers.
What new technology are you rolling out in this school year and how do you think it will make impact?
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.
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:
As a technology vendor and industry leader, we take very seriously the responsibility of helping make the Internet safer for everyone. For schools, Microsoft supports mandatory online safety education…which safety experts say is the top way to reduce the risks children face on the Internet…and we provide resources for public officials, teachers and others. Over the past 20 years, the volume of child pornography traded online has exploded. To help combat the problem, Microsoft Research partnered with Dartmouth to develop a new technology called PhotoDNA that will help fight it. This week, Microsoft announced the donation of the PhotoDNA technology to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to assist in finding and removing images of child sexual exploitation from the Internet. PhotoDNA helps calculate the distinct characteristics…the “DNA”…of a digital image in order to match it to others, helping online service providers and others to better identify and stop the distribution of known images of child sexual exploitation online. Together, Microsoft and NCMEC hope to raise awareness about the global problem of child sexual exploitation and activate a larger movement on a solution by providing some new ways for consumers, online service providers, policymakers and others to get involved. We hope this will have a tremendous impact both in the United States and around the world. The technology is currently based on images that NCMEC has identified from their CyberTipline and their role as a clearinghouse for U.S. service providers to report such images…so while many of the images are from cases in the U.S., some may be from other countries as well. Also, we anticipate that any implementation of PhotoDNA in online services from Microsoft or other service providers would likely apply wherever those services are available around the world. You can read more about PhotoDNA here and here. The video below explains how the technology works and will be used, and more from the Dartmouth computer scientist and digital forensics expert who worked with Microsoft researchers. If you’d like to get more involved in the fight for these kids, make a donation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or if you have information about a child being abused, please go to http://www.cybertipline.com/.
I had the pleasure of attending the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in DC earlier this month...and as I’ve said before…these big signature education events are a good occasion for me to connect with our customers and partners in one place. It’s also an opportunity to see broader industry trends and how they've evolved year over year. I like to review those trends and gauge how we are aligning and providing technology solutions to meet the needs and challenges of our schools.
This year’s NECC was no different in many ways…the sheer amount of enthusiasm for technology was evident. The real change I felt this year is that schools, administrators, teachers, etc. are starting to take much deeper action in terms of true transformation around how to use data more aggressively. As opposed to just building data repositories, the focus and shift of this year’s show was much more about how that data is going to drive a change in teaching and the way in which we assess students.
I also saw transformation in the way in which schools are trying to use curriculum and content. There were lots of different models on the show floor around new learning resources, as well as learning repositories. Digital learning is becoming much more of a reality in schools as seen with the recent decision in California to scrap traditional textbooks. Schools and vendors are thinking hard about how to create more immersive learning environments using technology.
The reality of the down economy was a broad theme at the show that was both a source of concern and hope. In many ways, schools have used the economy shift to reset thinking, to reprioritize and to focus on the things that are most important and that will truly drive differentiation in their classrooms. We are all thinking more about how we can build and grow better teachers, how we can create rich and immersive learning environments for students, and how we can use school resources more effectively. The stimulus is giving schools hope, not just from a monetary perspective, but from a leadership and focus perspective. Combined with the commitment in our country and from leaders as high as the President of the United States…people are optimistic change will happen.
With these trends in mind, I see four areas for schools to focus on in the next year. First, acquiring rich data transparency and education analytics solutions around student achievement, test scores, curriculum needs that will help educators map to state standards and students’ career aspirations. Having that repository and toolset is going to be the #1 priority for schools.
Second, this new analytics technology will require schools to have an all-inclusive, secure student identification system. So many schools have student IDs and unified student records…but that unified student record is just an ID...schools are not using that ID to the fullest potential to log into everything…to connect the experiences across communication and collaboration content.
Third, there is a need to create true digital learning environments to capture the hearts and minds of our students. Whether you have a traditional online school where students are taking classes electronically, a blended environment with digital curriculum that supplements classroom instruction, or just an environment where learning is enhanced by using electronic textbooks and/or collaboration tools via new technology…incorporating new ways of teaching to transform the learning experience and outcomes of our students is super important. From a technology perspective, we certainly see a proliferation of a wider range of devices…natural language devices, touch devices, smaller computer form factors, Netbooks, etc…that drive new experiences in classroom. And looking at the bigger picture, we will see a shift to cloud services and how schools balance between on-premise and off-premise technology solutions.
Finally, as the assessment debate goes on, schools will continue to be laser-focused on how to prepare students and how to arm them with 21st century skills to make sure they are ready for the workforce.
We have a lot of homework to do this summer while our kids are out on break. What change do you want to implement this next school year?
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.
I spent two days this week in Redmond at our 8th annual U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit. I like these annual events because they provide us with the opportunity to deeply connect with customers. I also love them because the event serves as an annual reflection point, so we can see year-over-year what things have changes, how perceptions have changed, and learn what we can improve. I really enjoyed talking to our K12 and Higher Education Advisory Councils. These groups are great because we have consistent conversations and they give us honest feedback on where things are going, where we need to do a better job, what’s working, what’s not working, etc.…their feedback is always great, refreshing and redoubles our commitment to education.
One thing we heard consistently in meetings with higher education customers is that there are real concerns around financial setbacks. Institutions are facing tremendous challenges with budget and staff cuts, while at the same time meeting increasing expectations from students and faculty…so doing more with less has never been more true in higher education. I think one of the things that is resonating is the focus on real practical solutions…so give me solutions that I can deploy in my existing environment, solutions that can be added at low, incremental cost, and provide the flexibility to provide a modern infrastructure and support environment for schools.
One of things that link the higher education conversations with K12 is this focus on learning management systems. There’s a great need for innovation as well as leverage of learning management environments. So, as we think about content repositories and the way in which assessment is evolving, institutions are looking for great opportunities to exercise that with learning management systems…and there were a lot of conversations at the event about different options, as well as the way in which people are thinking about building off the Microsoft platform.
For the K12 audience, I think the conversation has really been focused on a number of core things. One, how schools are continuing to push on the usage of data to drive effective decisions. Two, thinking about how we can increase the language on employability in schools about how we can make learning more relevant and connected to students. And three, the other topic of discussion was the gap between where we are and where we need to be with regards to 1:1 access in the US. We really need to think differently about new models, new concepts with regards to PC acquisition…we need to start having a better dialogue about it in the United States. We’ve got to move from an acquisition or device-centric world to one that is much more holistic and more focused on learning…but we also have to be much more creative with regards to funding structures and tax structures. We need to take the PC procurement burden away from a school and put it on a state, city or federal level to think about tax breaks and funding options for making technology acquisition easier for poor families, thereby returning the focus of schools back to improving learning and creating rich technology environments for students.
I also spoke to a lot of customers about things like Xbox and game-based learning to get kids more excited about learning. We see some early examples with the integration of Kodu into curriculum and the classroom, but folks are also looking at things like Project Natal and other innovations happening in the game world and are pushing on and are curious about the potential to impact classrooms and make learning more exciting and interactive for students…that was a good side conversation.
Like I said, these meetings are a great opportunity to reflect on where we need to go and we got some good feedback on creating programs and providing resources. We heard that we’ve got to simplify and make sure people are aware of the things we are doing. We’ve got a lot of things going on, lots of programs that provide tremendous value in education, but people often remark they wished they knew about them earlier. So clearly, we have to do a better job of making resources easier to find, to better connect with schools, students and teachers…and that’s something we’re working on to simplify and scale the impact we can have in education.
I was able to catch a couple of my conversations with customers on video…and I will be sharing those over the next week.
As some institutions around the world prepare to embark on a new school year, there is chatter in both K-12 and higher education about the reality of the challenges of managing computer labs. Schools are looking to optimize costs or optimize budget and save costs…tools to manage labs more effectively are becoming increasingly needed as well.
Despite many of the 1:1 laptop/netbook trends that are happening around the world, I think computer laps still have a viable place in schools. In fact, many universities find that their lab usage increases as students get access to devices, because they grow dependent on having instant access in a flexible way. One of the things I think will happen more in schools is that students will bring their own managed device, their personal device to schools, and leverage the school labs for communication and classroom use. With this added complexity, schools need ways to manage all these different devices more effectively and save money.
Microsoft MultiPoint Server is a great example of where you can not only reduce the complexity of management…because as opposed to managing multiple PCs, you can have one PC connected to 10-15 units, but also save money on power consumption, as well as the CPUs used to run the technology. Other solutions like virtualization and Hyper-V become hugely valuable, and then obviously leveraging the cloud for storage (i.e. Live@edu and SkyDrive).
How are you getting creative to keep your computer labs open and loaded with the most current software?
I will try not to date myself too much, but I started my career at Microsoft when Windows 3.1 was released. With every operating system since, we’ve been not only driving innovation on the software side, but also hardware. We’ve been pushing the envelope as Moore’s Law has occurred, as processing power and memory capacity has accelerated.
I think Windows 7 is unique because it’s not only pushing innovation with things like 64-bit and multi-touch…but the new OS also embraces older technology, both with the optimization of Windows XP via the virtualized desktop and the ability to run on older generation hardware. This is really valuable for schools because they don’t have to replace their existing systems or Windows XP systems to take advantage of Windows 7.
We are really excited to announce that Windows 7 has been released to manufacturing today. This means our partners can now start loading new PCs for retail sales and software developers can test their new Windows 7 applications and get them ready to go to market. For our customers with volume licensing agreements, you can get your hands on the final Windows 7 code starting August 7th and work to upgrade your systems potentially before students are back in class.
The reactions I hear from most people who have tried Windows 7 say it runs smoothly; it’s more responsive; the user interface is more intuitive; it’s a logical layout in terms of the way the OS works; and it just simplifies things for teachers, students and staff. We built Windows 7 to make everyday tasks easier and to make students, teachers and staff more productive no matter where they are located or what device they are using. Windows 7 is a much more reliable and secure environment… your machine will boot faster and your battery life will be longer.
One of my favorite new features is BitLocker To Go. Teachers and students take data home from school on USB thumb drives all the time, and sometimes it’s sensitive data like grades. BitLocker was a great way to secure devices in Vista, and we’ve taken it a step further in Windows 7. With BitLocker To Go, USB keys can be provisioned with security measures and users will be prompted for a password in order to access the content on the USB.
We know schools are often downloading large videos from the web for classroom discussions or documents from a district office. BranchCache will increase network responsiveness of applications, so downloads will happen more quickly and even schools with low bandwidth can take advantage. These features will be very powerful and will help school IT departments not only make people more productive, but also enhance security and control to control risk and streamline PC manageability to reduce costs. Check out this website here for demos on these features and more. The Windows Team blog and the Springboard Series blog are also good resources for IT professionals. If you want to evaluate Windows 7 for yourself, be sure to download the Release Candidate (RC) by August 20th here.
In the months to come, we’ll share more about how our customers in K12 and higher education are deploying Windows 7 and the benefits they are realizing. In the meantime, check out the video below where our own Scott Thompson shows you the new client features in Windows 7 that will bring new experiences to your schools.
At our US Public Sector CIO Summit event recently, I had to opportunity to catch up with Susan Johnson, the CIO at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina. I always love talking to Susan. She not only has passionate energy for her work, but she has tremendous insights on the progress that she's making with Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and some of the challenges that they're facing.
The district is working hard to rollout a data dashboard not just to be more transparent to the public, but to also empower teachers to learn more about their students so they can develop personalized learning plans. You can read more in their case study here. And earlier this year, I spoke to Mariner, the partner who is working on the project. That conversation is here.
One of the things that she and I have discussed in the past and we talked about in this conversation…is the need for technology companies like Microsoft to make IT invisible. In order for technology to be a success tool as part of the learning and process, it needs to be seamless and not add friction or complexity to the tough environments teachers and schools already face every day. So, it challenges us and inspires us to think differently on how we can simplify our usage of technology in the schools and improve the efficiency of the way in which we deliver products and technologies…and certainly be sensitive to the realities of budget and time.
Take a listen and let us know what you think…
I spent the early part of the week in Indiana and Maryland…aside from the excitement of seeing the new Indianapolis airport (when you travel as much as I do these things are really important) I was again reminded of the holistic focus, pragmatic approach, and speed of execution of our community college and for-profit institutions. Those who know me recognize the affection I have for these institutions because of their importance, passion and relevance, but I was also impressed by the end-to-end “learner workflow” mapping that is inherent to their operations. With purity of focus, they help students improve their lives and thrive in the 21st century workforce. With freedom from department by department decision making, for-profit and community colleges can move quickly and make a direct and measurable impact on student outcomes. As all schools and universities struggle to respond to tightening budgets WHILE enhancing services and workforce readiness of students…the examples and best practices of non-traditional education may help inspire and provide an innovative roadmap.
Some of the key elements of the community college/for-profit approach that map to broader education trends I witness across the US include:
Many of the above elements are being explored and even mastered by institutions both in the US and worldwide. However, as you seek to identify ways to link assessment to collaboration, classroom, and curriculum, reduce costs, and address 21st century skills gaps, be sure to add community colleges and non-profit institutions to your best practice investigation. Chances are you’ll find they have end-to-end plans in place to improve student learning and institution health that deliver on the promise of technology, and chances are they’ll also be happy to share lessons learned.
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.
Earlier this year, I blogged about the value of identity and the work Microsoft is doing with the Lake Washington School District to deploy the “Geneva” platform to provide students, parents, teachers and staff easier access to education materials and information. Since then, “Geneva”…now officially called Windows Identity Foundation (WIF)…is out of beta and has been released broadly for download to everyone. For those who don’t know, Windows Identity Foundation is a new extension to the Microsoft .NET Framework that helps developers build claims-aware applications that externalize user authentication from the application, improving developer productivity, enhancing application security, and enabling interoperability.
The video here is a good case study and shows tremendous progress with where we’ve come and a real practical example of how a school is using identity with different role types, how it integrates with its netbook strategy, and the way in which they’ve connected to joint synchronized calendaring across the district. I think it is a good primer for schools to think about with regards to building an identity strategy on extendable platforms like SharePoint that they can integrate with. It also highlights a partner solution from Intand, which provides a seamless integration with SharePoint and the backend experience on the WIF platform to help with calendaring across the school district.
This solution is just not only appropriate for K12, but higher education too, because the identity environment, the need for shared presence and the number of role types have actually increased in higher education because you’ve got faculty, administrators, students, facilities people, security on campus, as well as even alumni…so in many cases the role-based provisioning and security of Windows Identity Foundation will enable scenarios in higher education.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of combining my personal passion with my profession on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting to announce that Microsoft will bring digital access to one million students from low-income families. The video of our announcement can be found here. (Photo courtesy of Clinton Global Initiative)
Microsoft is extending its global Shape the Future program to the United States. Shape the Future has already provided digital access to 10 million students around the world, and is a continuation of Bill Gates’ original vision of a PC for every desktop and home. Now, through Shape the Future, Microsoft is working with public and private partners to ensure access to technology for youth from low-income households through broadband Internet access at a reduced cost and discounted hardware, software and educational training software.
Joining me in making this commitment to Shape the Future at CGI’s Annual Meeting were some of the public and private partners that work with us to make this vision a reality: the FCC as a public-sector supporter and the National Federation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and One Economy as our non-profit commitment supporters.
In speaking with school leaders, there’s one thing I’ve heard time and time again: Students without Internet access at home face an uphill battle in school that affects their academic progress as well as their opportunities to graduate and get good jobs. Below is an infographic that helps illustrate this challenge.
This can end up being a challenge for the community as a whole. As I’ve said before, access to technology should be a right for every student – not a privilege – and correcting this inequity is something I feel strongly about. Never has this been more true, when technology is increasingly becoming a requirement of many jobs (50 percent of today’s jobs require technology skills or digital literacy. This is expected to increase to 77 percent in the next 10 years) and the number of Americans in poverty has hit a record high.
The impact of 9.5 million U.S. students not having digital access at home not only impacts that individual student, but has lasting economic and social consequences. In school, these digitally excluded students experience a graduation rate 6 percent to 8 percent behind their connected peers. A recent report from The Arnold Group calculates that this disparity costs the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion over the working life of these students. Society carries this burden in terms of lost earning potential, lost tax revenues, poorer access to preventative health information and reduced efficiencies of social programs.
Digital inclusion not only empowers our students, but represents a real opportunity for cities and states to create local jobs, improve economic growth and increase their region’s competitiveness. This is at the core of Microsoft’s belief that an excellent education is a socioeconomic and workforce imperative.
Shape the Future is one of the initiatives that I’m most proud to work on, and this announcement represents why. Putting technology in the hands of a student who did not have access is a powerful step on the path leading to employability, economic opportunity and a better future.
To read more about Microsoft’s commitment to Shape the Future, and what we’re doing with our partners to address the issue of digitally excluded students and their families, please see Tuesday’s press release.