Education Insights

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

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  • Education Insights

    Trip notes & thoughts on education from the United Arab Emirates

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    Earlier this month, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates and spent time in Dubai and Sharjah. I was impressed with the region’s beauty and magnificent architecture. With regards to education, the emirates are looking at worldwide examples from the U.S. to Victoria, Australia where they are building six model schools in order to push the envelope with regards to learning styles, assessment, and using technology. 

    I found an overall general appreciation for the arts.  When I met the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, he stressed the importance of building community and really using education as a cornerstone for not only creating arts, but as a way to build a connection to the community and the culture in the area.  And, certainly, there's a focus on employability and getting students prepared for careers like engineering and medicine, etc., but I think education is recognized as a differentiator for quality of life. 

    I think it’s an important concept because the folks I met with referred to education as sort of a foundation of the arts…that if you don't have a good education system, you don't really have a good arts environment or culture that's created from it.  So it becomes a foundation for creating culture as well as quality of life for the citizens. 

    I saw the University of Sharjah and had the opportunity to go through the student union at the American University of Sharjah and sit in a computer lab. Like many other institutions I've visited…students are excited and there's a dynamic atmosphere with students huddling around computers, getting access to the Internet, sharing, squeezing each other off the printers, etc.  I think there is huge opportunity here for creating a one-to-one access program for students, and really think about some of the employability tools and ways to create access through programs like DreamSpark and IT Academy, which the American University of Sharjah is using already. They’ve done a great job focusing on teaching and learning, now they are recognizing they need to make the full picture work more efficiently and effectively as well across their very large campuses.

    In the picture below from left to right: Dr. Amr Abdel-Hamid, Special Advisor to the Ruler of Sharjah for Higher Education; the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi; Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Worldwide Education; Azza El Shinnawy, Microsoft Education Lead for the Gulf.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Education Insights

    Conversation about integrating gaming into learning

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    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.

  • Education Insights

    Challenges with optimizing curriculum for state assessments, grades and competencies

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    I always enjoy talking to Kurt Madden, and learning more about his progress and vision for Fresno Unified School District. They're making significant strides with regards to the use of technology and its potential impact on student achievement in the classroom.

    I met up with Kurt at our recent U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit (see my blog about the event here). We got into a conversation around how we think the district can use their advantage and their thinking with regards to data on the students to really optimize the curriculum model for students beyond just grades.

    I think Kurt recognizes that education has the responsibility to focus on core employability, workforce readiness and preparedness, and it's something that doesn't start in college. It has to start in the K-12 environment where skills-based assessment and context can be incorporated to the learning environment very early on, so students can not only build a portfolio of skills that they'll expand and grow lifelong, but they'll start to see more relevant connection between the skills that they're building for life and the education environment that they're dealing with today.

    In many ways you're able to get there with better use of data, better use of current curriculum and modules to really make sure that you can not only refine assessment and pinpoint areas of focus for student achievement, but really identify skills that can be enhanced over time and their reflection on the overall curriculum progress. At this point in time, it's not necessarily an either/or environment in terms of moving from traditional content and assessment to skills-based competency assessment…it’s both.

    In the video below, Kurt and I talk about what you can do with a more efficient management system and use of data, and how Fresno is working towards all these goals.

  • Education Insights

    Good discussions at the U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit

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    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.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft provides access to technology to 1 billion speakers of endangered languages

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    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.

  • Education Insights

    New Microsoft MultiPoint solutions enabling technology access for more schools worldwide

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

  • Education Insights

    Measuring the impact of technology in the classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    Students take a new role in the teaching and learning process

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

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

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

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

  • Education Insights

    Ribbon Hero: Game-based learning for Office

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    I love this new add-in for Office 2007 and Office 2010! This week Microsoft released a new concept test prototype for Office called Ribbon Hero.  Ribbon Hero explores a new approach to Office training that’s designed to deliver a fun, engaging experience to help people explore the features available in Office…whether it’s to help you learn how to do things faster, or uncover features you never knew existed. Unlike traditional training, Ribbon Hero presents a game-like environment for learning and lets people compare their scores and feature usage on Facebook. It currently works with Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Download it here.

    I think this is tremendously useful to schools and the gaming context will surely resonate with students and teachers. I love the achievement system.  There are two ways to “play.” You can either earn points by just working and using features in the applications…or you can take random challenges to learn new features or fine tune areas where you might be rusty…and then you are rewarded later with more points when you use the features you’ve learned. There are some great how-to videos on the Office Labs site here that show you how Ribbon Hero works. And check out the early reviews of what others are saying here.

    We certainly recognize the need to make our products easier to use and more user-friendly…and we are also continuously leveraging our experience with things like our work on the Xbox and partnerships with NYU and the Games for Learning Institute to recognize that understanding the way in which gaming plays into curriculum is very important.

    And that means much more than what often most people think about, which is just building a game-based kind of experience or a simulation of the Civil War in a game as an example. It is really about taking the constructs and the language of gaming into education.  And things like achievements and the way in which we structure learning with regards to recognition and points, etc…those things are incredibly important and potentially powerful in the experience.  And that's exactly what's happening in this scenario where we're exposing making Office easier to use, much more friendly for users, we're bringing some concepts that students and educators may be familiar with in the gaming world to get them more interested in learning.

    Check out Ribbon Hero and let me know what you think…

  • Education Insights

    Today’s kindergartners, tomorrow’s workforce

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    (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.

  • Education Insights

    Observations of education systems in India and Japan

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    Before the holidays, I spent a week in India and Japan where I had the opportunity to meet with many education leaders and partners in higher education and K12, including some students. I continue to see common themes around the globe, and wanted to share with you my experience and thoughts from the Eastern Hemisphere.

    In India, they certainly see the value with regards to technology's impact, and the connection with regards to ICT and workforce readiness and creating new economies. I was impressed that India is starting to think about broader subjects and getting teachers trained more broadly…meaning India had a surge around technology with core ICT-based skills, so the population of students who most benefitted were those interested in going into computer science, engineering, etc…now you’re starting to see innovation and expertise around technology and transformation of those subjects bleed into core subjects like arts and history.

    I think innovation has been happening in pockets and primarily focused on modernizing computer science, but they're trying to scale it out to core subjects as opposed to just the technology side, which I think is a good trend. With 1.2 billion people in the country, there are obviously huge scale and infrastructure challenges. We see this happening in other schools where one subject is advanced…like a 6th grade science class is modernized, and then you go into a social studies class and it’s completely unchanged.  What India is starting to look at is what has propelled its’ success in one area and start to figure out what the root cause is so they can broaden best practices into other curriculum. I think that’s a good takeaway for folks -- it’s okay to innovate in one area, but then you need to break it down. That’s why you go to the critical question model…it’s not about the specific technology, it’s about what was the driver, what are you impacting, how did it connect, what was the change…and you can scale that…you can’t scale a 6th grade lesson for science, but you can scale the core thinking and what was being done in the classroom – a collaborative environment, the assessment methodology, etc. It’s about learning with technology as opposed to learning technology.

    One highlight of mine while I was in India was participating in a student forum as part of the launch of Live@edu at Delhi Public Schools. The kids put a colleague of mine and me on the hot seat and asked us really good, smart questions…some on the environment, some on the features they like in Live@edu, etc…and had some thoughtful ideas on Live@edu, where it could go, what's going on, etc. Students were very focused on learning Live@edu features to help them collaborate better with other students and they were excited about the live video chat capabilities. They were very thoughtful about Live@edu integration with Office…the Web Apps functionality is very exciting for them as they have a lot of computer labs where they have machines without Office installed, but they want to be able to access and work with documents in Office…so this new technology will definitely be an enabler for them.

    My experience in Japan was completely different.
    One of the things I saw in Japan was they are definitely looking to the U.S. for successful education models. Similar to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) here in the States, they have something called the New Deal.

    Japan has a huge challenge with regards to the birth rate declining due to the fact that more women have careers, fewer people are getting married and having kids. The higher education institutions kept saying, you know, because of the birth rate we have to be more competitive for students.  So, this notion of competing for students is certainly something that's real in Japan because of the lack of quantity of students. 

    As part of the New Deal, parents get an allowance of $300 per student per month for supporting education and their kids to foster both the quality of the kids in the education system, as well as to encourage parents to have more kids. But one of the things from a technology perspective the New Deal is doing is outfitting classrooms and teachers. Every teacher is going to have a laptop and a projector in their classroom in Japan.  So, they're betting on teachers first, which is really interesting…but the embrace of technology in Japan is still far behind other countries as the classroom environment is still very traditional.

    I met with the superintendent of the Shinjuku-Ku Board of Education and talked about innovation happening in their schools, which is fairly progressive for Japan. What they are starting to do in Shinjuku-Ku is integrating that laptop and projector into a much more transformative curriculum approach. Most of what they are going to do with this equipment is to prepare the teacher to do the exact same thing that they’ve been doing for hundreds of years in Japan. And Shinjuku-Ku is looking to push it a little further and start to get into curriculum, design, insert it into more collaborative environments, more active classroom kind of work, which are very common things that we do in the US, but in Japan it is a bigger deal.

    While in Japan, we also had good forum with university CIOs who are looking at a lot of the core trends that we see all over the world, such as virtualization to help save money and the environment. They're thinking about the potential of CRM to do a better job with regards to managing data, supporting alumni, student workflow and more…and they're increasingly using technologies like Silverlight to improve the look and feel of their systems, portals and other platforms.

    Finally, I was able to help announce the first Education Alliance Agreement in Japan with the Institute of National Colleges of Technology, an organization called “KOSEN.” KOSEN is comprised of about 50 technical colleges with more than 60,000 students, faculty and staff. Microsoft Education Alliance technology programs and initiatives provide schools and teachers with affordable access to the best educational technologies and content. Our goal with these agreements is to enable students to benefit from the very best tools and content, support teacher planning, provide learning materials and professional development opportunities. It will be exciting to see how the colleges roll out programs such as DreamSpark, IT Academy and Imagine Cup…and I can’t wait to see how the students will grow and succeed.

  • Education Insights

    Students rise to the challenge at the Imagine Cup

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    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.

  • Education Insights

    Education trends to watch for in 2010

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    As I reflect on 2009…what did and did not come to full fruition since I wrote this post last year…and what lies ahead for the year 2010, many different trends and topics come to mind. I’ll try to distill my list down to a handful of key themes and thoughts I’ve developed from being on the road this year talking to school leaders, teachers and students….areas where I am encouraged we will see big impact.

    Over the last 12 months, the economy has created a new paradigm for the way in which we think not only about technology, but resourcing in general. Schools will continue to feel pressure from the down economy worldwide to drive the connection between school and work in terms of making sure students are prepared for the workplace and that new job opportunities are being created. There is belief the economic stimulus efforts will fuel innovation in the industry, and many countries are betting on education to drive change and hope for the future.

    And despite this challenge and need to reduce budgets and lower expenses…the expectations of faculty, staff and students continues to rise in terms of wanting IT to deliver now…and the ability to use technology to serve this demand is increasing. Certainly, cloud computing and virtualization options provide huge opportunities to extend and enable technology much more broadly, and I think we’ll see software plus services become more prevalent and real in the coming year.

    The significance of using analytics to drive decisions will mount. It’s crucial to identify where impact is happening and how can we deliver personalized learning through assessments and customized content, as well as using education analytics to drive decision making across institutions in a broad way. I think we will see a shift from the search for display to the search for answers with regards to data.

    I am excited about the possibilities of getting more people access to PCs on a variety of devices…from netbooks and other low-cost devices…to finding a way to allow access to the devices both at school and in the home. I think there will be increased flexibility and innovation with regards to funding and acquisition strategies.  I definitely see governments moving away from traditional school purchase plans to much more broad tax structures, as well as support of Telco models to create acquisition strategies or access without having to go through the school.  And the ways in which we will interact with a PC via non-traditional form factors such as touch, speech and pen-based computing will become more of the norm.

    Blended learning is a buzzword now, but I think over the next year you'll see increased experimentation with these models where you have students inside a traditional school taking online classes, and vice versa…online students getting much more support and instruction via traditional teachers or traditional learning models.  I think there will be increased usage of content customization tools to personalize and augment content to support specific learning needs.

    The concept of lifelong learners is creating vast opportunities to expand the way in which we think about delivering content...increased utilization of the mobile infrastructure is one area. There are more and more mobile devices and smarter mobile devices in the hands of students, educators and learners of all types.  For the most part they've had very little connection to the traditional learning environment or content delivery environment.  With the proliferation of devices, I think we’ll see more and more online reading taking place on traditional mobile devices, as well as new education applications.  In the short term, I think a lot of it will be reference based, like online dictionaries, online translators, etc., via phones, but increasingly it will be more content based.

    Lots of potential…however, I think for the most part 2010 will bring a much more pragmatic application of the technology infrastructure that exists and much more accountability with regards to the results.  I think the economic strain is going to create a situation where schools are going to have to do more with less in a real way.  They're going to have to derive more impact under the technology investment they've already made.  They're going to have to do a better job of managing educators' time to be more effective with learning outcomes, and they're going to have to deliver more value with regards to the quality of the education in terms of impact on job opportunities and workforce readiness.

    I’m still optimistic about the headway we can make in 2010 in realizing true transformation in education. What do you think will make the most impact?

  • Education Insights

    Good example of building an identity strategy

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    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.

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft donates PhotoDNA technology to make the Internet safer for kids

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    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/.

     

  • Education Insights

    Shining a national spotlight on computer science education

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    Earlier this year, the United States Congress voted to celebrate Computer Science Education Week to promote computer science education in the US. This week (6-12 December) is the inaugural year and schools and teachers can find a lot of great resources at the official CSEdWeek web site here: http://www.csedweek.org/. Microsoft is a proud sponsor and to help celebrate we’ve compiled a rich set of information, videos and links for educators and students, featuring software, opportunities and success stories here: http://research.microsoft.com/csew/.

    With the current tough economic climate, the importance of education is taking front stage around the world. It has become part of the global agenda, not only because of the need to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, but the need to encourage optimism in countries by creating opportunities for jobs and re-skilling of workers to enable innovation and new businesses in the countries. So the need for quality education has never been more important…and the opportunities for using technology to enhance learning and to enable opportunities for personalized learning experiences has never been greater. An interesting op-ed in the Huffington Post this morning from our own Rick Rashid, Marie Klawe and others about how kids need to know how to do more than simply turn on a computer and play video games, how curriculum needs to change, and how we can share our best practices and progress.

    It’s timely and appropriate that we celebrate National Computer Science Education Week this week to showcase the value of technology and creating job opportunities with technology. This is an area Microsoft believes deeply in. And programs like DreamSpark, Students 2 Business and the Imagine Cup are all great examples of venues Microsoft provides to enable students to get access to curriculum, technology and support to explore careers and IT. For educators, our Expressions Web site here is a good resource for tutorials and lesson plans for web design.

    A recent offering Microsoft is really proud of is BizSpark which enables students, and really anybody, to start and launch businesses using Microsoft technology provided at no cost 3 years. This has created huge opportunity to excite new entrepreneurs. Increasingly technology is a component of every business so we’ve seen this as an acceleration path for the beginnings of new businesses and that will help revitalize the economies around the world.

    What more can we be doing to excite kids about careers and learning more about computer science? What support can we lend to teachers, administrators and schools?

  • Education Insights

    The need to prioritize rural education

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    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?

  • Education Insights

    Make science fun by becoming a Martian

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    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.

     

  • Education Insights

    How will you bring innovation to the classroom?

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    Even before the Department of Education released the final rules for how to apply to the Race to the Top funds last week, schools around the United States and the world have been pushing the envelope and testing new methods for how to raise student performance with innovative new teaching practices. It’s exciting to see even the current issue of TIME Magazine call out The School of One in New York City as one of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2009.” (Read my earlier blog post on School of One for how Microsoft is partnering on the project.)

    I talked to Neil Richards with HunterStone recently about trends in education and how new learning styles and form factors play into the transformation of schools. HunterStone is one of our partners and provides e-learning and IT tools for Microsoft environments. Take a look and listen to the video below and let me know what you think.

    How are you bringing change to your schools and classrooms? Are stimulus funds making an impact?


    Anthony Salcito discusses transforming education with Neil Richards, HunterStone
  • Education Insights

    Microsoft recognizes the most innovative teachers and schools worldwide

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    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.

  • Education Insights

    More Universities Choose Microsoft Cloud Computing Solutions

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    The U.S. Education team is in Denver this week at the 2009 Annual Educause Conference. We are excited to talk to and listen to higher education institutions about how we can work together to bring new, innovative technology to lecture halls around the world to create personalized learning experiences. Cloud computing is a hot topic in these tight economic times when school leaders are wondering how they are going to financially make it…and we are excited to share the success stories of our customers who are succeeding by deploying Microsoft’s range of software plus service product offerings.

    Live@edu adoption continues to grow

    We continue to gain huge traction with Microsoft Live@edu, our hosted email, communications and collaboration solution for students. In the past four months more than 5,000 schools have enrolled with Live@edu, joining the thousands of other institutions in more than 100 countries already providing Live@edu to tens of millions of students worldwide. Our growth in universities and colleges includes recent wins at the University of Washington and the University of Missouri, as well as:

    • Seton Hall. The university chose Live@edu over Google Apps for Education to provide email and collaboration features for its 10,000 students and is currently rolling it out to 70,000 alumni. Read their case study here.
    • University of Cincinnati (UC). UC has an extensive 55,000 Live@edu deployment, including user identity management and password synchronization with ILM, a single sign-on portal and more. Students can launch any of the Live@edu applications directly from their Blackboard home page and synchronize with their class schedules.
    • Ohio University. Ohio is almost done activating more than 140,000 Live@edu accounts for current students and alumni. While the school is looking to reduce costs and improve communications with alumni, students cite the modern web interface, increased mailbox capacity and powerful search capabilities as top features.
    • Colorado Community College System (CCCS). CCCS is comprised of 13 colleges, serving more than 115,000 students annually, and assigns all students Live@edu email accounts to use as a primary point of contact and to ensure timely communications.

    New collaboration opportunities

    We are also announcing new SharePoint Online-based collaboration and productivity services will be available for students as part of the Live@edu next year. These new SharePoint-based services will offer IT departments more flexibility and control to set up and manage their school’s collaboration and productivity tools in a security-enhanced environment…as well as the ability to access and manage permissions to sites, documents and content (pictures, videos) with enterprise-class control.

    For students, these new services give them access to similar types of functionality that has made SharePoint the fastest growing server product in Microsoft history. It will enable them to create, edit and securely access content from their school’s site anywhere, whether at home, at the school library or even while on the road for holiday. It will allow them to organize, track and easily share classroom information, interests, expertise and easily find colleagues. By leveraging Office Web Apps that are currently in technical preview, students will have a new online space where they can securely upload, easily share, and collaborate on documents, including in-place editing. We believe this will better prepare them for the workforce through use of functionality and technology used every day in the workplace.

    Microsoft’s software plus services model—which spans mission-critical datacenter availability and security, Live@edu, Microsoft Online Services collaboration and communication offerings, and Windows Azure—combines the reach and flexibility of the cloud with the power of on-premises software applications. Today, we see that people want to access information on the PC, in the browser and on a mobile device…and I think this the real value in moving to the cloud…having the flexibility and choice to run your solutions either in the cloud, on premises, or a mix of the two.

    Schools adopting Microsoft Online Services

    Universities are beginning to embrace the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite on campus, which is comprised of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting. These products have been traditionally on premise, but are now available in a paid-for, hosted environment in the cloud that Microsoft manages for you that you can buy through partners.  These online services offer streamlined communication, simplified management and business-class security and reliability…and new this quarter, we are increasing the mailbox size five-fold to 25 GB for every user.  Recent customer wins include:

    • University System of Ohio. The state of Ohio has signed an Education Alliance Agreement with Microsoft that will bring a cloud computing approach to the entire state. Exchange Online is one of many products that will provide significant cost savings, increased productivity and improved performance while minimizing environmental impact.
    • Hofstra University. Hofstra is moving its faculty and staff to Exchange Online. By using Microsoft’s security, spam filtering and archiving capabilities, the technical staff will be able to concentrate on providing other high-valued academic services to the University.
    • Belmont University. Belmont is using Exchange Online to serve approximately 1,400 faculty and staff email accounts. The Exchange Online implementation supports the school’s green initiatives by saving space and energy costs. They anticipate saving about $30,000 a year by not having to hire additional IT staff to support.

    We will be talking about our software plus services solutions and more at Educause. I hope you stop by our booth (#608) to engage in dialogue and give us feedback on what you need technology to deliver to make your institution more efficient and effective. Our event session schedule can be found here.

    And if you are unable to be in Denver this week, be sure to check out our education webcasts on these topics and more here.

     

  • Education Insights

    Education spurs economic revitalization in Mexico

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    I had the pleasure of visiting Mexico recently and had the opportunity to speak with institutions, educators, principals and other leaders about the potential for education to revitalize local economies. Like many countries, Mexico is excited about technology’s role in transforming learning, creating new options for teachers and students, and forming a much tighter connection to improve the knowledge economy inside the country. Education leaders here recognize technology’s role as a way to provide new content, new resources, and a vehicle for students to grow new skills to prepare for new jobs and new industries in Mexico.

    I was very happy to see the level of passion and enthusiasm from the institutions about technology. My trip coincided with Windows 7 consumer availability, so I had the chance to witness launch activities. I also had the chance to participate in the signing of a Microsoft Education Alliance Agreement with Universidad ICEL to promote academic achievement through the latest technology tools (see picture to the bottom left). If you read Spanish, check out the news coverage here and here.

    The Microsoft education team in Mexico is doing a great job partnering with the country to help students take advantage of Microsoft programs like Imagine Cup, Students to Business, DreamSpark and BizSpark. I’m inspired about the country’s optimism and what we might be able to do together in the future. There’s a very practical recognition that if students leverage Microsoft tools to connect to resources they need to prepare for the future, it will help them connect to jobs.

    One of the things that are becoming clearer to me is that fundamental principles really translate across countries. Teachers really need to think more holistically about education by focusing on the fundamentals…how do they help students learn, how can they create personal learning opportunities, and how can they use technology as a catalyst. The teachers I met in Mexico share a belief in technology’s role, but certainly see the challenges that are apparent around the world…the need for training, the need to minimize distraction from core content, and the need to connect assessments to students.

    During my trip, I also had the opportunity to meet with leaders at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the largest university in Latin America, and Tecnológico de Monterrey. I was excited to see the wide range of resources (like virtual learning models) and connections to research and to industry at both universities. I walked through the health research lab at Tecnológico de Monterrey which was especially fascinating because they had students doing the gene splicing to help create the H1N1 vaccine for Mexico.

    One of the highlights of the visit…in addition to the tremendous hospitality I received…was not just the real connection the institutions have with economic revitalization…but also the sense of responsibility the schools take on. The country and its education system are committed to helping its citizens, specifically, helping poor families get access to resources they need, facilitating job connections at the community centers, and providing opportunities to those who might not otherwise be able to afford the chance…this goes beyond any specific education agenda or initiative.

    When I spoke to about 250 secondary school principals in Mexico, it was the first time I had done a presentation with a translator. My jokes are usually hit or miss, but it was hard to know which jokes were landing and making an impact because of the delay with the translation…people would always laugh a few seconds later. My travels take me to Brazil this week for the Innovative Education Forum, which you will hear more about soon…I wonder if my jokes will be funnier in Portuguese?

  • Education Insights

    What the IT Department will love about Windows 7

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    No doubt you have seen the hype today surrounding the worldwide Windows 7 launch and availability to consumers. I’ve enjoyed reading the reviews from the tech pundits and our customers. Beyond the whiz-bang features that will get your students and faculty excited about using their computers for day-to-day tasks like Snap, Shake and Windows Touch…there are three new features I think are most relevant for the IT side of the house that will help make everyone more productive…BranchCache, BitLocker To Go, and Windows XP Mode. I introduced some of these features in an earlier blog post.

    Today, I’ll focus on BranchCache because I think this is a huge feature that could have big impact. So imagine this scenario – when you download a video to your laptop from YouTube or a document from the district office -- in a traditional environment in a school, you download the file, I download the file, everyone downloads it. You are making a server request to YouTube or the district’s intranet site, and it may take 20 minutes or 10 seconds to download the video or file depending on what your bandwidth is.

    The way Windows 7 works is if we are on the same network inside a school, you download the video, it is cached on your machine…then when the next person goes to download the same file, it opens up instantly because it’s been cached on your machine already. For a BranchCache overview, videos, demos and deployment information, check out this site.

    With Windows 7, we have worked hard to improve the operating system’s security, reliability and performance while improving PC management and introducing compelling new experiences for the classroom and making it easier to connect with all the devices people use today. For a complete product overview, go here, check out our monthly education newsletter here, and read my blog post here that includes a customer case study.

    Be sure to sign up for our own virtual launch event dedicated to education where you can learn more about the Windows 7 benefits for schools and hear from K12 and university IT professionals that are deploying Windows 7.

  • Education Insights

    Illinois Software Donation Helps Students Gain Career Skills

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    Some level of technology skills is required in almost every profession and job these days. A recent IDC report commissioned by Microsoft showed that global spending on IT will create 5.8 million new jobs by 2013…so what are we doing to make sure our students are prepared?

    Today, we announced the donation of more than $4 million worth of Microsoft software to high schools in the State of Illinois to help students build technology skills and prepare for the workforce or college. To spur creativity, we are partnering with the Illinois State Board of Education to encourage kids to compete in a Web design contest called “bliink” to create a Web site that drives them to engage in their communities to protect the local environment.

    Illinois, like many other states and countries, has recognized the value in investing in education to connect learning to workforce needs that will drive innovation, new industries and optimism for economic recovery. This challenge is part of Illinois’ Innovation Talent education program, a pilot project designed to connect schools with industry, government and community partners.  They are pushing students to develop their analytical abilities by working on interdisciplinary teams to solve real-world problems using leading-edge information technology tools.

    The software donation is made possible through our Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDNAA) program. With a complimentary subscription to MSDNAA, accredited high schools get licenses to use Expression Web and Visual Studio 2008 software. High school teachers and administrators can request a free subscription by emailing us: ew4hs@innovativeteachers.us. We also offer free tutorials and curriculum units that have been designed by teachers and tested by students in more than 350 high schools. The lessons have been mapped to national standards and include project-based learning experiences for students and assessment tools for teachers. 

    In the past 16 months, more than 1 million U.S. high school students have benefitted from Microsoft’s MSDNAA donations. You can see some of the students’ outstanding work here. We are really encouraged by the great feedback we are hearing about this program -- ”more students are talking about working in engineering or technology after high school”…”the software really got me interested in technology, and interested in taking a more difficult technical course.” And that’s really the goal here…providing kids the foundation, the tools they need to imagine a new future, to connect to real opportunities in the workplace and to realize the power of technology.

  • Education Insights

    Using data to inform instruction

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    I am catching up on sharing some video interviews with you from a recent partner event. Today’s conversation is with Alvin Crawford from Schoolnet.

    Schoolnet solutions take a platform approach using Microsoft technologies, primarily SharePoint Server, to build an end-to-end experience for all different user types and schools. They understand that parents, teachers, administrators and students have different needs in terms of the types of information they need to see, as well as access rights, and they create an experience that is seamless. They’ve also given a lot of thought behind the design and learned a lot from social networking and community sites so the environment is much friendlier to the audience type…if a teacher is accessing a data dashboard, they see tools and resources that are for a teacher.  Schoolnet also does a good job connecting data and content together to offer students collaboration opportunities.

    Alvin and I had a good conversation about trends in education…in particular how to use data dashboards to drive action and improve and inform instruction.

    Let me know what you think...


    Anthony Salcito discusses education trends with Alvin Crawford, Schoolnet
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