Schools, districts and states have been collecting data for decades…but, the art of perfecting the management and analytics of data seems to be hitting a crescendo this year. I think this is largely in part due to the fact that emerging technologies are making it more affordable…and of course, the Department of Education has highlighted the need to “build data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness” as one of its four key school reforms under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and even requiring evidence of successful and innovative data systems to be in place in order to qualify for incentives and grants.
I recently sat down to talk to David Fitzgerald, the Education Practice Manager over at Mariner, about how data is transforming schools and how we’ve got to help them get past using data solely as a reporting function and really use it as a way to drive innovation. Mariner has built a solution for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on the Microsoft Education Analytics platform that’s helping the district drive academic and operational success. You can read the case study here. In the coming months, you can hear from the school leaders directly about how their digital data dashboard initiative is progressing, the successes and lessons learned by signing up for their web series here.
Here’s my conversation with David…
Anthony Salcito discusses using data to transform learning with David Fitzgerald
Help celebrate World Teachers’ Day…there is still time left in the day to express your appreciation or admiration and give thanks to a teacher. UNESCO designated October 5th annually as World Teachers' Day 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.
Whether you are a student, a parent, an administrator or a community member, you probably have reason to be grateful for a teacher that has impacted your life. When I think about the biggest influences in my life, teachers are the first to come to mind. Teachers inspire us to become life-long learners and challenge us to solve tough problems. They provide us with guidance when we need help and enable us to achieve our goals.
There are 59 million teachers providing instruction to 1.4 billion students around the world. Here at Microsoft, we work hard to listen to the needs and understand the challenges educators and schools face, and hope that we can provide technology, training and support to best assist you in shaping the future of our society. Technology is becoming an increasingly central tool to help educators create exciting class projects, personalize learning scenarios, and share best practices and lesson plans with peers around the world. That is why we work diligently every day to create solutions to empower teachers and faculty to reach their students in effective and engaging ways. We are committed to helping advance the teaching profession in the 21st century. Let us know what we can do to make you successful…and in the meantime, thank you!
I had the pleasure of meeting recently with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, around exploring options to invest in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is an emerging country with a very young labor force…and like many countries around the world, looking to explore opportunities for emerging technologies and how technology’s role can drive impact in education as part of their Digital Bangladesh initiative. It’s exciting to see hope for a nation that’s growing with an economy that’s being built on driving innovation and new industries and rooted in the foundation of education transformation.
There are more than a 150 million people in Bangladesh, the 7th largest population, which I was surprised by. The average age of the labor force is 23-years old, which is one of the youngest workforces in the world. They are well positioned with regards to economic expansion as noted by its listing as one of the “Next Eleven” potential largest economies of the 21st century.
Bangladesh has a female Prime Minister and a progressive government which has wide support, and they’ve been very good about working with the U.S. and building relationships with companies and the administration. With the Digital Bangladesh initiative, the Prime Minister is working to improve core infrastructure in the country like roads and transportation, but also recognizes the value in education. Like a lot of countries, they’re exploring individual technology devices for each student, looking for opportunities to train people in new skills, and extend digital content. There are some interesting write-ups here and here on how the country is trying to meet the challenge.
I am inspired to explore future partnerships with Bangladesh and help in their efforts to modernize and transform education, and help students in the country realize their potential.
It’s going to be an exciting year here at Microsoft as we are introducing a wave of new innovative software. This fall, we are helping institutions and IT professionals optimize PC environments, increase productivity and expand innovation in the classroom with Windows 7, consolidate servers with Windows Server 2008 R2 and unify communications with Exchange Server 2010.
By now you’ve probably seen “The New Efficiency” – it’s both the theme for the product launches and it is the powerful concept behind a new way of thinking about IT…cost savings, innovation and productivity can come together to deliver operational improvements while amplifying the impact of your people. For education, this new efficiency requires some reinvention in many ways. The expectations of schools and its constituents are growing. What schools really have to do is prioritize investments and shift the ways they use existing resources as opposed to just doing more with the same resources. Basically, schools need to make different bets on how they serve content, and how they invest more in education, etc. as opposed to just squeezing more out of the same exact investment and strategy. Be sure to check out our virtual launch events here and here.
Since Windows 7 was first released to schools with academic licensing agreements in August, many K12 and high education schools around the globe are in the process of deploying the next generation operating system and experiencing the benefits. Check out my earlier blog post here introducing Windows 7 to schools.
As part of its Digital Education Revolution initiative, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training is in the process of rolling out tens of thousands of netbooks to students and teachers to bring innovation to teaching and learning, and to equip students with the necessary tools they need to further their education and prepare them for the digital workforce. Check out their video below.
West Hatch High School, in Essex, England was the first school in Europe to fully deploy Windows 7. And here in the United States, San Diego Unified School District, Catherine Cook School in Chicago, Hoover City Schools in Alabama, Kentucky Community and Technical College System and many more are investing in Windows 7.
I’m excited to share their stories with you and more in the coming months. Please share how Windows 7 and the other new products are allowing you to transform the teaching and learning experience in your schools. If you haven't started exploring yet, you can download free trial software for Windows 7 here, Windows Server 2008 R2 here and Exchange Server 2010 here.
Access to education is certainly one of the world’s most pressing problems. This week at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City, we are making a number of commitments to partner with industry leaders and governments to provide access to technology to drive change in local communities by enhancing teaching and learning methods, thereby improving skills needed by students to thrive in the 21st century. We are partnering with Intel, Cisco, USAID and the Kenyan Government to improve the quality of primary and secondary education in Kenya by launching the Accelerating 21st Century Education (ACE) project and develop a best-in-class model for deploying ICT in education. This is a combined commitment valued at more than US$9 million and centers on creating “one-to-one e-learning” classrooms in 60 focus schools across Kenya. We will help deploy more than 6,000 networked computers for student and teacher use; train teachers to effectively integrate technology in the classroom; train technical support staff at each school; install a wireless infrastructure inside the schools and Internet connectivity; provide access to digital educational content; and help develop the local IT industry in Kenya to promote economic development and sustainability.
Additionally, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft will work together to establish a School Technology Innovation Center (STIC) in Nairobi. The center will be dedicated to research on innovative emerging technology solutions and serve as a repository and showcase for best-known methods of teaching, learning and educational technology. The Microsoft Worldwide Partners in Learning team runs School Technology Innovation Centers in a number of cities around the world – Brussels, Belgium; Johannesburg, South Africa, Prague, Czech Republic; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Amman, Jordan; Sao Paolo, Brazil.
There are a number of curricula that we offer through Partners in Learning that will be made available for teachers in Kenya. One such example is Peer Coaching, which trains teachers to help other teachers in their school and area more effectively use technology for 21st Century teaching and learning. It has been very effective in Brazil and Thailand. Other curricula that will be made available includes Security Day Curriculum, Live@edu, Leading Change for school leaders and basic digital literacy.
According to UNESCO, since 1990, the Kenyan government has renewed its commitment to improving education. And although, it is still a developing country and many schools still lack electricity or suitable classrooms for learning, Kenya is becoming a strong regional and worldwide advocate for the effective use of ICTs in teaching and learning. With the 1:1 initiative, Kenya has a tremendous opportunity to realize a dramatic transformation of its education system…access to a device opens up a new world in terms of access to information, different technologies, resources and learning opportunities. The computers will transform the classroom experience by giving school leaders and educators the ability to drive student achievement, performance, development and career aspirations overall.
As education is increasingly looked upon by countries all over the world to help respond to economic challenges as a source for innovation and incubation of new ideas, businesses and industries…one thing that schools equally recognize is that transferrable competency skills are as critical if not more critical than the core content that has traditionally been taught behind school walls. As the connection between school and the workplace become more transparent, schools need to embrace the value of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, etc. And access to a computer provides a way to build these necessarily skills needed to compete and succeed in the 21st century.
I am proud we are able to scale some of our programs and bring them to Kenya to help invest in 21st century learning, stimulate the local economy and help the government fast track its education reform efforts. Over the course of three years, this project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 39,000 students and 7,000 teachers through improved educational infrastructure and training. Kenya’s Ministry of Education estimates than an additional 300,000 people will benefit indirectly from the STIC and other aspects of knowledge sharing.
We are also happy to report out on the success of the Global Give Back Circle, a Microsoft supported initiative helping disadvantaged girls in Kenya to successfully transition from high school to university. You can read more about our efforts here and here.
Today, Microsoft officially opened the technical preview program for the much anticipated Office Web Apps to a limited number of invitation-only participants. We have a few schools in this private preview who will be testing Excel, PowerPoint and Word Web Apps through Windows Live SkyDrive (OneNote coming soon). Take a look at the new screen shots on the right. The rest of us will be able to get a sneak peak when the Office 2010 beta is released later this year…you can sign up here for early notification of when it's coming so you can try it out.
I’m really excited about the potential Office Web Apps have for education. We’ve seen schools, and students in particular, embrace a wide variety of collaborative and online environments to do work in an ad-hoc fashion and move beyond the classroom and even their PC as a core computing device. Office Web Apps will allow students to collaborate in real-time across a wide variety of experience types, whether it’s editing assignments in Word at a library computer or the ability to embrace a much more collaborative approach to sharing projects with teammates. Doing work anytime, anyplace without the restriction of the PC they’re using or the software that’s loaded on it will be a tremendous opportunity. With Office Web Apps, you can view, create, edit and share documents anyplace, on any device (phone, PC, MAC) and across popular browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox).
Office Webs Apps will be a great companion to Office, so students can take the documents they’ve worked on and open them up for feedback and collaboration with others whether or not they have Office software on their machines…and a student won’t have to worry about whether their friend has the same version of Office either. This will open up the world of computing across campus and across different learning modalities which certainly opens up collaboration opportunities.
I think Web Apps are great examples of Microsoft’s commitment to not only create new experiences that connect to the needs our educators and students and what they are asking for, but our commitment to software plus services.
I’m excited to show you more about the features and functionality of the Web Apps in the coming year and how they will play with Live@edu, but in the meantime, learn more about them in the Windows Live and Office 2010 Engineering blog posts, as well as this new demo video and fact sheet.
As the Southern Hemisphere officially begins its influenza season, the CDC is reporting here in the United States that the number of people visiting doctors with flu-like symptoms is increasing and far above normal for this time of year. With the new academic year now in session, the H1N1 flu virus is top of mind as we all think about how to personally stay healthy and school officials think about how to make sure students don’t fall behind in their studies if they are absent from class or they need to close their institutions.
The U.S. Department of Education has released recommendations to schools and universities for how learning can continue in the event of an outbreak, and today Microsoft announced how it will support the administration’s efforts to minimize the impact of H1N1 in our schools. We are offering free technology resources at www.microsoft.com/education/h1n1 that will help educators stay connected with their students. The simplest thing educators can do is set up an online class workspace using Office Live Workspace where you can share assignments, handouts and documents and collaborate on projects anytime, anywhere with just an Internet connection. We’re providing how-to videos, tips and other free technologies teachers can infuse in their classroom content to make lessons more engaging.
The H1N1 pandemic highlights the need for institutions to think more holistically about blended learning environments…that these online and distance learning solutions are valuable not only when you have to respond to classroom outages or school closures, but also creates an opportunity to connect and share information between a student and teacher beyond the classroom all the time. There’s data to suggest this type of learning boosts student outcomes. The U.S. Department of Education and the Sloan Consortium have interesting analysis here and here.
We do offer more robust options for classroom continuity for those institutions looking to rollout blended learning solutions more broadly. As IT managers juggle with the need to expand services and react to potential need for H1N1 virtual learning environments with increasing limited budgets and staff…solutions like Office Live Workspace provide a great option. It’s an easy to implement and FREE solution that is hosted, managed and maintained offsite, yet has the ability to connect with school identity, passwords for single sign-on, etc. School leaders can quickly demonstrate leadership by providing tools to extend learning beyond the classroom and use the H1N1 mandate to increasingly drive the transformation of learning in and out of the classroom.
While the solution is easy to start-up-and-go because it’s connected to Microsoft identity, collaboration and messaging platforms…not only can sign-on and identity be integrated into core school district platforms, but rich messaging options built on Microsoft Exchange can be extended to students and parents for free via Live@edu. Live@edu is being used by schools and universities around the world and provides a suite of communication and collaboration services.
Microsoft also provides a comprehensive set of solutions that make up a very robust distance learning portfolio. We offer everything necessary from real time meeting and communication capabilities to online content management. Using our Unified Communications and Collaboration Platform, offering both on premise and cloud/hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Office Communications Server, schools have a rich and powerful platform on which to offer distance learning solutions.
We are honored to do what we can to support education in this country, and around the world, and look forward to continued partnership with the Department of Education and you to make technology solutions more affordable and accessible.
During my first week on the job in the international role for Microsoft Education, I had the opportunity to meet with a true leader and visionary in higher education, David Lammy. He is the Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property for the United Kingdom. He is most passionate about expanding access to higher education for all and becoming a world leader in e-learning. We had the chance to talk about the state of education and higher education in the UK, and about the trends we see consistent across the world.
Like most countries, the UK has recognized the value of education and is investing in education as a way to fuel the local economy to help the country get out of its own recession. The notion of education helping to prepare its students for the workforce of tomorrow is also vibrant and strong as the UK is investing in science, technology, engineering, and math to stimulate students’ thinking and fuel new industries that will propel the prosperity of places like the UK. We hope to help the UK on the workforce challenge as demonstrated by the launch of the Britain Works program this week where we will partner to provide people access to IT skills that can help them find employment...500,000 people by 2012. It's a unique program to meet local needs, but it shares the same philosophy of Elevate America here in the US that I've blogged about before.
David and the UK also recognize the value and importance of a blended learning experience and the need of students’ individual learning needs. But they also recognize there’s a balance between the physical classroom experience and the online learning experience...It’s not an either/or approach. We both see a comprehensive look of how students learn, and how they learn in and around technology as a critical part of the discussion.
I am looking forward to partnering on a number of initiatives with the UK and seeing what becomes of the future of higher education in the country.
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.
Change is fairly common this time of year…new students and teachers enter classrooms and embrace new challenges as they prepare for the future. Institutions put new plans and innovations in place to improve services and impact learning. It’s an incredibly challenging, yet wonderful time of year. This resonates with me personally more than ever this year as I embark on a new venture within Microsoft. Starting this week, I’ll be shifting my focus on education within Microsoft…instead of just supporting K-12 and higher education in the United States, I will now also oversee Microsoft’s worldwide efforts in education. I’ll work with institutions and partners globally to embrace technology to optimize learning environments and student achievement. I will oversee the worldwide execution of Microsoft’s vision for education and Microsoft’s partnership and technology outreach efforts through the Worldwide Partners in Learning, Partners for Technology Access, and Public and Private Alliances programs and more.
Like students entering a new school or grade, this change brings with it tremendous excitement and enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to the new challenge and I’m eager to learn about global innovations and obstacles in education. I have been astonished by the commitment and passion educators in the United States demonstrate every day. I know this is something shared by educators around the world…and while we all face some very unique issues, many of the struggles and aspirations remain consistent no matter where in the world you teach. Identifying common issues and fine tuning how Microsoft can step up as a leader and partner with schools will be my goal. We need to continue to listen and observe the hurdles in the path of our educators, students and institutions and share our resources, people and innovations at Microsoft to help impact learning and allow everyone to truly realize their potential.
I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve our society’s true heroes…our teachers…and will continue to advocate inside and outside of Microsoft for the needs of schools and students. Technology’s role will continue to increase and if we apply the right thinking and process we can deliver true breakthroughs and transformation. It is a humbling task all of us face in increasingly tough economic conditions and environments of tremendous uncertainty. Education will be the key to continued economic prosperity and workforce preparedness around the world. The global imperative to look to our classrooms as change agents to help build a better future is clear and universally shared.
I have learned a lot from my visits around the United States and have been inspired by incredibly hardworking leaders. I’ll continue to relish the opportunity to learn from you…and now others around the world. In many ways, I’ll help export lessons learned from the U.S. and import good ideas from country to country. As I travel to new countries and visit classroom of all shapes and sizes, I’ll use this blog as a bit of a travel log…you’ll learn as I learn, and hopefully I’ll be able to share insights that can help provide new ideas or shared perspective.
I welcome your input and support as I “go back to school” and try to learn something new every day.
I’m incredibly excited about new innovations coming from Microsoft…we have listened to feedback from students and teachers and are working to provide flexible and rich resources that are simple to use. The new Windows Live Movie Maker is a great example and includes a wide variety of features that make it easy for students and teachers to create, publish and share movies online, in a matter of few clicks.
The new version of Windows Live Movie Maker is a FREE download available today here. It’s now easier than ever for students and teachers to turn videos and photos into great-looking movies and slideshows, using many popular camera types and file formats on the market today. Windows Live Movie Maker provides a great way for schools to bring the benefits of multimedia to the classroom…making learning come alive and increasing student interest, participation and visual learning opportunities.
One of the key enhancements that teachers and students will LOVE is the ability to the share videos…across a wide variety of devices. To learn more about the new Movie Maker (for Windows Vista and Windows 7) and see real movies created with Movie Maker, please visit www.moviemakerpreview.com or check out the Windows Live team blog post.
I’ve always relished the opportunity to talk to students to get perspective on their needs of technology and the way in which they respond in classroom environments. Tuesday, I had the chance to meet with dozens of high school students at the Summer Search Career Discovery Days in New York. This was especially rewarding because I got the chance to talk to students about their careers and lead them in a discussion on career exploration.
If you haven’t heard about Summer Search, it is a leadership development program providing ongoing and long-term support for low-income high school students with some pretty outstanding results – 100% of Summer Search seniors graduate from high school; 97% go on to college; and 72% are involved with community service. (Photo on the right: courtesy of Summer Search.)
My talk focused on how to find a personal brand, and how students should connect their passions, values and interests with potential career options. As our workforce evolves and gets more specialized, many of the jobs students will be going into don’t even exist yet, so it’s increasingly important for students to reflect on how their individual skills and competencies align with their personal passions and values. Skills and interests like working with others, writing, applying creativity, problem solving, etc. In connecting with the kids, I was surprised that this was a conversation they haven’t had. This notion of finding a personal brand was a very new concept for them.
We really need to strive to do this with all students...have them start to connect their skills and their values in terms of what they want to accomplish in their lives and map those to career choices, as opposed to identifying a couple of iconic jobs then working backwards. We can have kids really take control of their careers by focusing on their skill sets and their interests. And I think this is very empowering, especially for these inner city kids who may not feel like they have all the opportunities that are afforded to students from other backgrounds. All the kids were from the Bronx where I am from, so it was personally rewarding to see them get excited about their career aspirations and potential. It made me think back to when I started at Microsoft very young, as a student, and the competencies and values I brought to the company…passion and a commitment to hard work. I presented to the kids our Education Competency Wheel. It’s a competency-based framework we use at Microsoft to hire new employees and develop professional skills. The wheel focuses on these broad sets of skills that are transferrable to any career. It’s a good resource for teachers to have this conversation around transferrable skills with their students and it will help them make an action plan to maximize students’ strengths. We train educators on how to use this at their institutions as part of our Microsoft Institute series and other events. The Education Competency Wheel can be shared with administrators, principals, teachers and students to have a common language around competency development. Currently, the tool is only available in English, but it can certainly be used globally. The competencies are being leveraged worldwide in countries like Finland where they are looking at it and asking, how can we take this work and apply it at a country level, as opposed to just a classroom or school level.
Check out the website for more on how to leverage this resource at your school…and let us know what you think.
Both K12 and higher education institutions are increasingly looking to virtualization as an opportunity to save money, to save the environment and to deliver more value to their constituents. We believe that Microsoft technology supported by Windows Server provides a tremendous option for schools thinking about virtualization across applications, desktops and servers. See my earlier blog post for more on the benefits for schools. And it’s only going to get better with new features that will be delivered in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V and available to customers in the next month.
I am excited about our ongoing partnership with the University of Miami…their work on virtualization is really a showcase for schools who are having conversations and thinking about deploying virtualization solutions. I wanted to share this recent video on how the University of Miami is using an integrated Microsoft virtualization solution to drastically cut costs, improve server performance and management, and plan for more robust disaster recovery.
Dr. Lewis Temares, Vice President and CIO of Information Technology, and Walter Bechtel, Assistant Vice President, Academic and Research Systems, are two people I am most happy to work with as part of my day job. They get it. They are straight-shooters. They are pragmatic in their approach, but they want to continue to innovate on behalf of their institution.
Read their case study here and watch the video below to understand how they were able to withstand budget cuts, yet perform the same IT services with virtualization.
I thought I would share with you some fun commercials that were created at the University of Kentucky and the University of Colorado at Boulder this summer. They build on the concept our highly successful Laptop Hunter ads where people are looking for a computer that fits their lifestyle and their budgets. In the commercials, they figure out which PC is perfect for them based on their needs and priorities…whether it is gaming, travel, entertainment, media creation, or family computing.
These university ads run with the theme “PC Hookup” and are a documentary of sorts, showing how the students choose a PC that meets their criteria and then how they spend the rest of the night using their new laptop as part of their regular life in everything they do. These ads underscore how students think their PC is such an important piece of their life...playing a critical role in their academic life and a centerpiece during their playtime. I’ll assume these videos were shot on a Friday night and that is why we don’t see the students doing any homework! Check out the Windows Laptop Scout website that has interactive tools to help you find the Windows laptop that fits your life.
Check out the student videos here.
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.
When I meet with customers and speak at events, I am frequently asked, “What do you think is the secret to Microsoft’s success? And what has enabled the company to keep growing over the years?” While a lot of Microsoft employees contribute to how we scale our products (product development, marketing, sales, etc.)…a source of differentiation is our ecosystem of partners. There are more than 640,000 partners worldwide who build, support and enhance technologies on the Microsoft platform. They are driving innovation, adding value, building local businesses, and growing local economies. These partners are a source of strength and they play a critical role in meeting the IT needs of our customers.
I just got home from New Orleans where the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) took place this week. It’s a great opportunity to meet with our partners who are working to solve the challenges we see in the classroom every day. They are helping technology work more effectively and more seamlessly, and really focusing on making magic happen in the classroom.
Datatel won our Education Partner of the Year award this year. Datatel’s ActiveCampus Portal solution is built on SharePoint technology and the company describes its technology as a powerful enterprise work environment and collaborative social learning platform that serves as a personalized one-stop service center for all college and university constituents. Students, faculty, staff and alumni can easily find information, access learning management systems, registration, calendaring, newsfeeds and virtually any other resource.
We are seeing lots of traction with our partners building solutions for Microsoft Live@edu. Because Live@edu is built around enterprise APIs, partners can easily integrate Live@edu into their offerings and solutions. It’s a great way to extend more value to customers who are already taking advantage of the free resources in Live@edu (email, storage, collaboration, document sharing, etc.) and deliver more options like workflow solutions, integration of security profiles, etc.
Many partners are very much focused on helping schools understand how to use data. Nuventive is one that is leveraging our data analytics platform and business intelligence framework to help schools interpret data, make decisions and drive change. They also have a digital portfolio solution for students to help students assess their progress in school and identify what competencies they need to grow, etc. The technology delivers the data in a much more actionable way instead of just providing charts and graphs.
Infusion is doing great work around Microsoft Surface and building applications to transform learning in the classroom, in particular making Surface a great information gathering place for complex data sets. Check out their blog to see examples of the cool applications they are building. We also announced this week a new Microsoft Surface Partner Program to accelerate the number of partners bringing multi-touch and multi-user solutions to market.
I also met with Neudesic and they are doing great work creating student information systems and incorporating SharePoint into the foundation of how schools use data, connect alumni and students information, etc. Speaktech also does great work taking the Microsoft technology stack, in particular, Live@edu and SharePoint, and make it really resonate with teachers and students from a design and social networking perspective. They get that students require content and experiences that are visually appealing and dynamic, and they use Silverlight and other technologies in innovative ways to enhance the experience.
We have hundreds of partners delivering education solutions. You can find more at the Microsoft Public Sector Partner Solution MarketPlace. And if you are one of our partners and weren’t able to travel to New Orleans this week, be sure to read more about our redesigned Microsoft Education Partner Network website. We listened to your feedback and are now supporting a “community” component which supports sharing and discussion between education partners, as well as directly with Microsoft, for product information, sales materials, education research and best practices.
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?
I wanted to give a special shout out to our US students who won prizes this week at the Worldwide Imagine Cup finals competition in Cairo, Egypt. Like I’ve said before, students can do amazing things if given the tools and resources to inspire them to push the boundaries of their imagination. The Imagine Cup is one way Microsoft encourages young people to apply their passion and creativity to technology innovations that can make a difference in the world…and in the process gain valuable life and career skills to set them on a path for future success.
This year, 300,000 students from 142 countries registered and competed, creating technology solutions that mapped to the theme “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems” built around the eight UN Millennium Development Goals. Here’s a quick look at the four winning US teams…
• Team CURIOUS – Marc-Antoine Pare and Kathy Pham from the Georgia Institute of Technology won FIRST PLACE in the “Mashup” category (picture on the right). They used Popfly and other software to build a website that uses sentiment analysis algorithms to make content and data more meaningful to people so there is a personal connection.• Team Epsylon Games – E McNeill from Dartmouth College is an aspiring game designer who won SECOND PLACE in the “Game Development” category. He created an educational game called “Alternex” that allows players to research and deploy alternative energy solutions…and, of course, have fun.• Team eXchangeFun – Feixing Tuang and Yujia Zhao from Indiana University, Bloomington wanted to encourage sustainable consumption with their project that won SECOND PLACE in the “Design” category. eXchangeFun is a platform for people in their communities to trade and exchange used household items so they don’t go to waste. Additionally, the young women from Bloomington were also presented the Accessible Design Award because their technology solution best addressed accessible needs.• Team Auratech – Ryan Gentner and Casey Williams, university students from Buffalo, NY, won FIRST PLACE and collected the Tablet Accessibility Award. They created “Mirage,” a teaching and learning environment geared towards teaching physically and mentally challenged individuals with the ability to personalize the experience.
Next year’s Imagine Cup 2010 finals will be held in Poland. The registration process just opened this week. As education leaders, administrators, IT staff and teachers…it is our responsibility to nurture a passion for learning in our students, and I challenge you to encourage your kids to sign-up, think big, and compete on behalf of the US.
Being a gamer myself, I’ve always been attuned to the potential for gaming to become more than just an entertainment device. I think leveraging video games in the classroom can not only stimulate thinking and help develop problem solving and logic skills, but also inspire and excite kids about learning. That’s why I’m thrilled Kodu is now officially available on the Xbox Live Community Games channel. Created in Microsoft Research (MSR), Kodu is a new visual programming tool that allows you to create video games on the Xbox 360, but it’s also a really interesting way to help young children learn the basics of computer programming through a visual and familiar interface.
If you are with a school or an educator interested in using Kodu in your curriculum, you can sign up here to get involved in the academic beta program on the PC. Space is limited, and it requires an Xbox 360 controller for Windows and a reasonable graphics card. You can read more about Kodu’s potential use in the classroom here, and how kids at a Michigan elementary school took Kodu for an early test drive during the development phase here. Also, check out the demo video below from Alfred Thompson, one of our K-12 Computer Science Academic Relations Managers here at Microsoft. The Kodu forum also has lots of chatter if you need programming tips, want to talk to the community building games and keep up on product developments.
The potential for Kodu in the classroom is huge. There are three core elements schools should think about in terms of how to maximize the potential of gaming from a learning perspective. Most schools think about gaming in relation to creating simulation-based experiences in a visual or interactive way that enable collaboration (think Second Life). I blogged earlier about how avatars can help get students more engaged in their learning experiences.
Gaming is a great way to inspire kids to get exposed to and to understand core skills. Kodu can help kids understand the fundamentals and principals of software development. We can make learning experiences more relevant. If we can get kids interested in gaming concepts early, then hopefully they will think about their potential career aspirations and develop skills early.
I think there is also potential for incorporating gaming into the way we do assessments. Kids respond to the gaming culture. There’s this notion of achievement and winning in games that incent players to accomplish certain tasks in order to get recognition. Wouldn’t it be great if we could leverage those core concepts for learning? Using elements of games to have rich interactive learning management systems where kids are incented, rewarded and recognized to complete quizzes, to do lesson plans, or to share information and collaborate on a subject.
I’d be curious to hear if your school is receptive to incorporating gaming in the classroom, and what innovative projects you are assigning your students…
Kodu demonstration for schools
As part of the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) this week in Washington, D.C., I attended the Global Education Competitiveness Summit (GECS). The purpose of the event was to start a dialogue about international assessments, to discuss how to get students in the US to perform better on benchmark tests to ensure they are prepared to compete globally, and to look at some of the models of best practices around the world like Finland and Singapore. The meeting was sponsored by Microsoft, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the Education Commission of the States (ECS), and dozens of education, policy and business leaders from the states of Tennessee, Michigan, Missouri, Louisiana and more contributed to the discussion.
After listening and participating, I see a couple of urgent actions for our country to take in order to reform education in the US.
Need for softer skills. We have to start with embracing 21st century competencies. We’ve been so focused on standardized tests and assessments that we’ve undervalued that broader development of competencies. For example, in Singapore, when they think about education transformation, the language they use is that want to build more confident learners, they want to build more creative thinkers. This generation of high school students will supposedly have 10 or more jobs in their lifetime. The workforce is rapidly changing, so this notion about being much more nimble on competencies is important. I think other countries have come to this realization faster than the US has in terms of understanding and taking action. I think development of these softer skills are important in terms of how we can set aspirations for students and make school much more relevant to work and the skills kids need to compete over their lifetime.
Teachers as icons. Where do we start change in our education system? There’s a lot of focus on teachers…how do we better prepare teachers and how can we get the best teachers? In other countries, like Finland, the role of a teacher is universally respected, and the best and the brightest become teachers. In the US, we need to show much more effort on making the role of a teacher something we look up to, like we do with doctors, lawyers, policemen, etc. We need to think about the teaching profession as the backbone of our country and better embrace teachers in our culture. In other countries, citizens think the role of a teacher is something to aspire to, that’s not always true here in the US.
IT assessments for systems, not teachers. When we talk about education transformation and the role of technology in that, I think colleges of teaching are being thrown under the bus when people say teachers aren’t trained to embrace technology. I don’t think that’s true. If you go to any college of teaching, you’re going to see next generation learning students. They’re going to be taking e-courses, collaborating online, etc. I think when we talk about technology or IT assessment, we shouldn’t be measuring teachers’ skills on whether they can use a browser or Word document…we should be thinking about IT assessment and asking if the school is IT-ready. Do they support digital curriculum? Are they personalizing learning? Are they assessing students and progress more regularly than once a year when kids take assessment tests? Daily reflection, change and adjustments are needed. We should put more focus and rigor on IT assessments for systems and schools, not for our teachers specifically. From a learning context, schools should be assessed on the ability to serve curriculum, to do personalized learning, etc.
We have to take action now. The US used to be the world’s leader in education and our students at the top of assessment tests. We’ve witnessed other countries change and forge ahead of us. We can’t lose a generation of students to transform. We have to transform more aggressively and more holistically.
Michael Golden also posted on the GECS event and gives details on our collaboration with Cisco and Intel to transform global assessments.
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 travel constantly and while I have the privilege of visiting and getting inspired by institutions all across the US every day…it makes the year pass by very quickly. That’s one of the reasons I really appreciate big education industry events, and NECC is certainly one of my favorites. In addition to embracing the opportunity to connect with innovators, leaders, and industry partners…the event provides me with an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’re making as an education team here at Microsoft. Are we adding value? Have we simplified the way institutions get value from our programs and technology? Have we evolved our relevance in education and teaching and learning? I use NECC as a point in the year to evaluate our past and get feedback on where we should be focusing our future. As always, I welcome your input and guidance…
NECC is also a great opportunity for us to share our resources, programs and technology solutions that positively impact students and their learning. For this year’s show, we have identified offerings, partners, and products that meet the specific needs of K-12 education. We’re hopeful people attending the show can benefit from the many assets available...from new devices to professional development resources to software solutions...to help create 21st century digital learning environments that prepare students for the real world.
Visit us at Microsoft’s booth #1728. We will be hosting presentations throughout the conference and chances to win cool prizes.
Collaborate and Educate:Join our 12 workshops as part of NECC’s official conference program. These three-hour workshops will be focused on the integration of technology and curriculum, using Microsoft tools, and delivered through instructional education trainers. Register for our classes today: http://www.microsoft.com/education/necc2009/workshops.aspx
Twitter Treasure Hunt:Do you Twitter? If so, follow the Microsoft Twitter account at www.twitter.com/teachtec to participate in our virtual treasure hunt leading up to NECC. Throughout June we will be posting clues on this Twitter account and educators can answer the clues to be entered to win amazing prizes, such as HP laptops, Microsoft Office software, wireless keyboards and mice, and more.
Helping Engage Students More Effectively Using Technology:Join Microsoft and HP to learn how we are creating powerful student engagement tools and effective teacher development through technology usage, with examples from today’s most innovative teachers. Come join us at our session on Wednesday, July 1 from 10:30am–11:30am in WWCC 206.
Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers Foundation Closing Keynote:Wednesday's (July 1st) keynote wraps up your conference experience with an inspirational look into the 10+ years worth of technology-supported projects initiated by Freedom Writers founder Erin Gruwell, compliments of HP and Microsoft. Don’t miss this inspirational discussion: http://center.uoregon.edu/ISTE/NECC2009/program/keynotes.php
For those unable to attend the show in person, many of the resources will be available via www.microsoft.com/education and stay tuned for future webcast sessions that will highlight many of the things we’ll just touch on at NECC.
Looking forward to meeting you in D.C.!
Institutions have long realized technology’s promise for impact in education is only fulfilled by a connection and integration to the core teaching and learning process….or at least that’s the hope. Here’s just one example of a thoughtful approach to bring technology solutions into the learning continuum and put control in the hands of the students to help collaborate and guide learning.
The approach from Washington State University introduces students and faculty to technology and the effective application of it with the help of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, and provides a student-centered learning environment where they can connect and collaborate beyond the classroom.
Microsoft’s announcement of Bing (www.bing.com) has certainly garnered some attention and excitement. There’s a lot of investment and focus on improving the core search experience for Internet users, and we do have a long way to go to make search results more personal, concise, predictive, and accessible. Bing is a big step in the right direction.
For our schools, I’m most excited about the efforts Microsoft is taking to make search a part of productivity applications and collaboration. Microsoft Research is working on several initiatives to make the way we find and use information via web searches a core part of the way students collaborate and learn. One example is SearchTogether, a free Internet Explorer plug-in (download here), that allows groups of people to collaborate on web searches. SearchTogether can benefit any group of people who are interested in investigating a topic together, such as students working on a group report or joint project, or friends planning a shared vacation or other social activities. SearchTogether supports both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration styles. SearchTogether's collaboration features include group query histories, split searching, page-level rating and commenting, automatically-generated shared summaries, peek-and-follow browsing, and integrated chat. SearchTogether also allows each group member to customize their search preferences; choices include Bing (formerly Windows Live Search), Yahoo!, and Google. More background information can be found here. Screen shot on the right.
Microsoft Research has also articulated the vision of the Research Desktop. This project integrates web search into the core of the computing experience with concepts and designs that enable new ways of working and managing resources. It provides support in four key areas: Activities, Tools, Library and Notes.
Other explorations like Microsoft Tafiti work to incorporate visualization elements into search while adding the ability to create visual search histories that can be shared and edited by project teams. Tafiti is rooted in the notion that students use a search engine for research…and we need to enhance the experience in the context of learning.
I am incredibly excited about the holistic thinking around the way students and teachers find, use, share, and collaborate with information. Bing is a one example, but there are many other innovations on the way.