Education Insights

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

  • Education Insights

    Lessons learned from the School of the Future in Philadelphia opens dialogue on nationwide school reform


    You’re going to hear us talk a lot about the School of the Future in Philadelphia in the next year. The School of the Future is a unique partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft to create a sustainable and replicable model for improved instruction and systemic reform through the use of organizational best practices and innovations in curriculum, architecture, environmental and technology design. The school has now been open for three years and we are beginning to examine, discuss and share what we have learned publicly. We are asking the most critical education scholars and researchers to take a hard look at the school and to identify what we can learn from our efforts and make changes. We believe it is paramount to be transparent and open this part of the journey to uncover some of the real challenges schools are facing…especially now as the Federal government is poised to spend billions of dollars to improve our nation’s schools.
    Last week, Microsoft and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted an event in Washington, D.C. to discuss the progress of the School of the Future to date. While, eSchool News offered this summary of the event, the purpose was not to evaluate and give the School of the Future a passing or failing grade – frankly, it’s too soon to make that judgment. However, what we do know is that there are many indicators that while challenges exist, we are moving closer and closer towards true impact. The purpose of the meeting was to begin a discourse around the successes and challenges of the School of the Future and offer lessons learned in the areas of educational innovation in high school redesign, technology integration in the classroom, and how to get the maximum benefits out of public-private partnerships, so the School of the Future and other schools can improve.
    We can’t measure a long-term journey with a short-term yardstick. The work of true reform takes tremendous time and effort. If you are going to do this work, get ready for a long journey with many bumps in the road. How do we assess a process that is improving, adjusting so rapidly, when our current methods of reflection yield our findings obsolete by the time they are shared?

    Some examples of what we are learning…
    • Professional Development and curriculum strategies need to be organic yet deliberate at the same time. While challenging, this tension will allow for systemic adoption over time.
    • Community inclusion takes time. Identifying strong pillars in the beginning to act as foundational relationships is critical.
    • Technology will always add an extra layer of intricacy to any work. Integration using an incremental approach will support long-term adoption.
    • Just as our students need real-time reflection as they progress, so do our efforts of reform. This work with AEI is one step we know will improve the School of the Future, as well as provide a bright light on truly transformational efforts at whole school reform.

     Microsoft is absolutely committed to the long-term success of the School of the Future in Philadelphia. We will continue to have these honest and introspective conversations and share the constructive criticism received to help drive true school reform and change across the country. We will listen and act on feedback. We are working with Harvard Education Press and the experts who participated in the AEI event to compile their opinions, feedback and recommended actions to improve school redesign in a book that will be published this fall. And perhaps the best chapter is being written today…educators from the School of the Future are compiling their “3 years of inspiration” stories now that the school year is drawing to a close.

    The School of the Future partnership is about confronting challenges…not building a model for schools in a vacuum. And we look forward to continuing the dialogue with you. 
    If you aren’t familiar with the School of the Future, here is some more background reading…

    Microsoft School of the Future resources:
    2003 partnership announcement: “Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia Team Up To Build School of the Future”
    2004 ground breaking announcement: “Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia Break Ground To Build School of the Future”
    2006 school opening announcement: “School District and Microsoft Open School of the Future”
    Fact sheet from SOF Summit, December 2008:
    School of the Future Green Building Design: My earlier blog entry here

    MSNBC story from the first day of school, September 2006:  “Microsoft-designed school opens; three years in planning, ‘school of the future’ comes to Philadelphia”
    Fast Company story, September 2007: “Microsoft’s Class Action”

  • Education Insights

    My Interviews with U.S. Imagine Cup Winners


    My video interviews with some of the U.S. Imagine Cup winners are now posted (watch below!). The three brothers from Team MultiPoint Web talk about their winning project designed to let multiple students simultaneously use the same computer to learn, and why they are so excited to head to the World Finals in Egypt in July. Team Special Child shares details about their project created to provide assistance and organization to the adoption process. And Team Mango Bunnies shares their experience being the only all-girls team at Imagine Cup and the importance of getting young women and girls interested in technology.

    Reflecting back, it was amazing to see these technology solutions were designed not by CEOs or scientists, but by high school and college students across the US.  Their creativity and innovation speaks volumes about the promise of technology to really make a difference in peoples’ lives in the way we think, work, and communicate. This is just a representation of the potential and opportunity found in our classrooms and schools – a potential that if nurtured can help build a better world and sustain our future prosperity.

    If you too are inspired by the Imagine Cup, a great way to begin to get your students on track to compete in future events is to expose them to the FREE tools Microsoft provides to high school and college students via DreamSpark.  Click here for an informative discussion on the DreamSpark offering by Microsoft’s Tammara Edgin.


    Imagine Cup 2009 Winners
  • Education Insights

    IT Resources to Help You Weather Economic Climate Change


    As economic conditions continue to deteriorate, and many school districts and institutions are learning their budget downfalls are now even steeper…the pressure is on to cut costs and services. I believe information technology can play an important role in helping you respond to this rapidly changing economic environment. There are a number of technologies helping schools lower expenses and improve effectiveness and efficiency…virtualization, unified communications, video conferencing and new collaboration tools to name just a few.

    We partnered with HP and the Chronicle of Higher Education to put on our first ever virtual trade show. The free online event – “How to Keep Your Institution Ahead of the Curve” – is now archived and available in case you missed it. I encourage you to check it out. You can download white papers, watch videos, and browse through customized solutions available from Microsoft and our partners. With Lisa Baker from HP, I had the chance to answer customers’ questions, and we had a good discussion on the trends we are seeing in today’s economic climate for education and cost-saving strategies. There’s also a discussion with CIOs from Notre Dame, Wichita State and Arizona State on how they are adapting their IT operations and management. Just head into the “Auditorium” to listen to the podcasts…

    Take a look at these additional resources and case studies for inspiration on what’s possible…

    Microsoft Economy Guide for Education:
    Technology opportunities through ARRA:
    Customer Case studies:
    • School District Standardizes IT Environment, Saves More Than $100,000 in Costs
    • Operating System Upgrade Helps School District Streamline IT, Strengthen Security
    • College Uses Application Virtualization to Deliver Course Software Easily, Inexpensively

  • Education Insights

    Alabama and Michigan Students Get Ahead of the Competition with CareerForward


    Today, we announced the Alabama Department of Education plans to make CareerForward available to every student in the state as one way high school students can meet the new online learning graduation requirement there starting next year. CareerForward teaches globalization, career planning, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Readying our students for college and the workplace should be our number one priority because the competition for jobs and talent between the U.S. and other countries has never been more intense. You can read more about CareerForward and the resources available to roll it out to your schools and districts in my earlier posts here and here.

    According to the latest McKinsey report, forty years ago the U.S. was a leader in high school graduation rates. Today, we rank 18th out of 24 industrialized nations. A January National Governors Association (NGA) report states that we have 3.8 million young adults out there without a diploma, and who are not in school and not working. And as I travel across the country and talk to young people, I am amazed at the number of students who have not declared a major in college – a phenomenon, I think, is uniquely American. We need to get kids thinking about their futures much earlier in life and taking action. CareerForward is just one way students can see the relevance of their school work and how that parlays into their future economic prospects.

    Michigan was the first state to adopt an online learning graduation requirement, and the first to deploy CareerForward statewide. More than 18,000 students have committed to taking the course this year. We have a new video showing the success Michigan is having with the program. Check it out below…the students and their teacher are inspirational.


    Students and educators learn, plan for the future with CareerForward
  • Education Insights

    Digital You...Digital Me


    I blogged recently about the about the importance of identity. And after featuring my avatar in a recent discussion I had at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I thought it would be fun to share…Ants. 

    Ants is my Xbox Live avatar and a connected Windows Live identity persistent across Live experiences, collaboration platforms, instant messaging, etc.  Whether it’s through things like Xbox Live, Second Life or learning management systems like Moodle, digital avatars are increasingly a part of how we express ourselves, communicate and collaborate.  If used properly, they can be a safe alternative to photographs and help students get more personally engaged in their online learning experience and collaborations.

  • Education Insights

    Announcing the winners of the Imagine Cup 2009 - US Finals


    For me, one of the most exciting things about working with students is seeing their passion and absolute belief that they can, in fact, change the world.  At Microsoft, we want to do whatever we can to encourage that optimism, and to help students use their technical skills in ways that can help make the world a better place.  That’s the goal of our annual student technology competition, the Imagine Cup. See my earlier posts on Imagine Cup here.

    This week, I had the humbling experience of being in the presence of some of these bright, young students who are taking action to change the world at the U.S. Imagine Cup finals in Cambridge, Mass.  I just wrote a post on Microsoft On The Issues blog announcing this year's winners. Check out who will represent the U.S. in the worldwide finals happening in Egypt!


  • Education Insights

    Thank you, teachers!


    This is Teacher Appreciation Week…a good reminder that a week is never enough to recognize and express our gratitude to our true heroes…teachers. To celebrate the week, and as part of our regular Teacher Tech webcast series, Erin Gruwell, Founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation and a truly inspiring leader, will be hosting a live webcast on Wednesday 5/6 at 7:00pm EDT. Sign up here: (

    Whether you remember an inspirational leader from your childhood, a stern mentor who pushed you past perceived limitations, or a constant source of encouragement and support…I’m sure there’s been a teacher behind some of your best successes.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the teachers that have touched my life.  Greater still is my admiration and appreciation for our current teachers.  They demonstrate the very best.  They lead with passion and unwavering commitment, and dedicate themselves to helping others reach their true potential. 

    Please use this week to reach out and thank teachers.  Every day is a great day to honor and salute our teachers!

  • Education Insights

    Directing Stimulus Funds For Broadband To Schools First


    As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, $7.2 billion dollars is being allocated to expand broadband Internet access across the U.S. The dream is to make sure every home has a broadband connection, but even the Federal Communications Commission admits the $7 billion is not enough to wire everyone. Microsoft believes connecting schools, libraries and hospitals first will generate the quickest, most impactful and most equitable distribution of social benefits. Our Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, called on the FCC to take this direction. Marc Berejka, Senior Director of Technology Policy and Strategy, reinforced our company’s position in a blog post here.

    The fuel for our country’s economic recovery will be provided by innovation…and our future, in many respects, is in the hands (and minds) of students in our classrooms, universities and libraries.  Prioritizing broadband for schools and libraries will connect to the heart of our communities and help shift expectations and aspiration of the impact technology can have on reaching its potential for improving and enriching learning.

    While the majority of schools have basic Internet access, it’s often limited, slow and not capable of handling the technology applications our administrators and educators need to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century workplace and life.  As we continue to expand use of digital learning environments to deliver personal and adaptive experiences for our students, the need to ensure rich connectivity in and out of the classroom becomes paramount.  Digital natives have an expectation of an “always on” and “always connected” environment…and our commitment to deliver needs to address not only access everywhere…but access for ALL.

    Digital curriculum, virtual classrooms, etc., will create opportunities for rich collaboration and enable our teachers to serve the needs of individual students.  These experiences and opportunities will be created by careful rigor, planning and holistic thinking….but supported by integrated and flexible technology and access to broadband.

    As we embrace the Federal stimulus as a source of confidence and optimism…the need to start by resourcing our schools and libraries…to support our country’s greatest resource…our children…becomes clear.  This SETDA report provides more information on the state of broadband in our schools, key recommendations, and district, community and state models for broadband implementation.

  • Education Insights

    Everyone Can Be an Astronaut With WorldWide Telescope


    I’m not afraid to admit that I get truly excited about technology of all shapes and sizes.  The joy comes from experiencing cool design, life-changing functionality, and pure fun…but perhaps the most meaningful and powerful reactions are to technologies that fundamentally open up our world and connect people to information and other people like never before.  Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is an excellent example of the type of tool I get incredibly passionate about, and it’s something I routinely visit for inspiration.   For those unfamiliar, I urge you to stop reading and download the tool right now…

    Image of Jupiter

     The WorldWide Telescope is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope.  It brings together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes in the world for seamless exploration of the universe.  Whether you download the application (providing online and offline access) or just use the web client, the WWT provides a wealth of options and resources designed to inform, illustrate and inspire. 

     The WorldWide Telescope is supported by a breadth of satellite imagery, contributions from globally respected astronomers and even guided tours created by seven-year-old explorers.  Through a recent partnership between Microsoft and NASA, planetary images and data...including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon...will be explorable on the WorldWide Telescope. 

    Whether you use the tool in a lesson plan, leverage the guided tour capability for visual presentations or just explore the universe, I’m confident you’ll be rewarded and impacted by the journey. 

    Microsoft Research feature story:

    Webcast (Teacher Tech Tuesday) -- presented by the creator/inventor, Curtis Wong:

    Free posters for your classroom:

    Worldwide Telescope Academic Development Kit:

  • Education Insights

    Imagine Cup 2009 - Last Chance To Vote for People's Choice


    Looking for a sign of hope that our country/world will overcome our current financial challenges, and do so with ingenuity and innovation?   Don’t worry…the Lucky Tomatoes, Mango Bunnies, and others are here to help.  Take a moment to view some or all of the 15 videos submitted by our U.S. Imagine Cup finalists. 

    As part of this year’s Imagine Cup competition, students were asked to address how can technology help address some of the world’s toughest challenges paralleling the United Nations Millennium Development goals.  The Imagine Cup is one of the largest student competitions in the world…thousands of students, representing 125 U.S. schools participated in this year’s event…culminating in 15 US finalists that will be competing for an opportunity to represent the United States in the Imagine Cup 2009 Worldwide Finals in Cairo, Egypt from July 3rd to 9th. 

    The online voting for our finalists ends in just two days...on Thursday, April 30...and then our 15 finalists will meet in Cambridge, MA this weekend and next week to face off.  Visit to view videos, read more about the U.S. student teams and their innovations, and vote for your favorite. 

    The Imagine Cup is one of the things that makes me most proud to be part of Microsoft, and I’m excited to personally meet our group of finalists and root them on as they compete on the global stage.

  • Education Insights

    Identity Is Key


    Sorry about the geekiness of the joke in the title of this blog post…but it’s truly the case that a school's journey to deliver personalized and adaptive learning to students starts with building a strong and integrated foundation on identity.  As students bounce between schools, subjects, and modalities…the need to keep experiences, grades, content, collaboration seamless…and INFORMED is driven by federated identity working to connect it all.  Identity can be the bridge between on-premise and cloud systems…the catalyst to drive predictive content based on education analytics…and the gatekeeper to help keep our children safe. Solutions like Live@edu may be known for providing safe and robust email and collaboration capabilities…but the richness of the solution set starts with the ability to provide and federate identity to students, faculty and parents.

    Microsoft is working to make experiences more connected and safe via our End to End Trust vision.  Our progress was highlighted at the RSA Conference this week in San Francisco by Scott Charney, corporate vice president of our Trustworthy Computing Group.  One of the exciting areas he discussed was how people can now use technology innovations to share information about themselves while disclosing only as much of their identity as they choose.

    A beta technology, currently code-named Microsoft “Geneva,” helps to simplify this process in an open and interoperable claims-based model. By combining this new, open and interoperable identity metasystem, people can be granted access to resources while minimizing the risk of providing information that may be compromised or misused online.  During the RSA keynote he delivered, Scott also demonstrated how this technology can work when combined with in-person proofing through a limited proof of concept with the Lake Washington School District, in Redmond, Wash. Like many school districts, Lake Washington is challenged with how to provide secure and private online access to staff, students and parents. Microsoft is working with the school district to deploy the “Geneva” claims-based identity platform, including Information Cards on small notebook PCs, across its IT infrastructure. Using this model, the district will equip students with these small notebook PCs so they can more securely access learning materials developed by the district and application providers from virtually anywhere.

    As our students and schools embrace online collaboration and cloud services as important tools for learning and tracking progress, the need to keep the environment secure and protect against identity corruption is critical.

  • Education Insights

    Blogging in Rapid City


    Cool program in Rapid City Area Schools in South Dakota designed to help get students excited about reading and sharing their reaction in blogs.  Here’s a news piece which aired on a local TV station about the project.

    Rapid City Area Schools is encouraging teachers and students to blog using our their SharePoint site…the news piece tells a story of 5th grade class doing just that.  Congratulations to Rick Bates, Director of Information Technology at Rapid City Schools, and the entire leadership team for recognition of their work.  For more info on Rapid City Area Schools visit: 

  • Education Insights

    Building Better Learning Environments with Green Schools


    In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would share with you some ideas on how to “go green.” Some of you are thinking about using stimulus dollars for school modernization, renovations and repairs. You probably want to lower your maintenance and operating costs, especially in this tough economy. You want to be a good citizen and reduce your carbon footprint. Whatever your reason, “going green” can also improve student test scores, better teacher performance, reduce sick days, and provide a valuable and interesting new teaching tool.

    The School of the Future in Philadelphia is a great case study for what is possible when you design and build a green school. We’ve just posted a paper – “Building Better Learning Environments with Green Building Design” – on our website where you can read more about how the school is environmentally-friendly, results gained, and tips for what you can do today to make your school more earth-friendly.

    The School of the Future is a unique partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft to create a sustainable and replicable model for improved instruction and systemic reform through the use of organizational best practices and innovations in curriculum, architecture, environmental and technology design. We are proud the school was one of the first to receive an official LEED Gold Certification award from the U.S. Green Building Council. Photovoltaic panels in the glass windows (see below) and roof are just one green design element. They reduce heating and cooling costs by converting sunlight into direct current, contributing a percentage of electricity for the building. The panels also serve as built-in curriculum as they transmit real-time data for students to see how much energy is being generated and the positive impact it has on the environment.

     Of course, being a software company…we believe technology can also play a role in reducing energy consumption and operating costs, while helping the environmental footprint of our customers and help save them money too. See my earlier post on virtualization.

     Here are some other good Microsoft green resources…


    Microsoft and the Environment:
    Software Enabled Earth Blog:
    Microsoft's Environmental Sustainability Strategy: overview
    Top 10 Business Practices on Environmentally Sustainable Data Center: white paper

    What is your school or institution doing to “go green”? What benefits do you see?

  • Education Insights

    Check out the new Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network


    During my travels, I’m often asked for ideas of great places online for teachers to share best practices, learn from peers and get help.  There are many wonderful resources on the web for sure, and we’ve worked hard to make the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network (ITN) a destination place for sharing lesson plans, ideas and inspiration.  It’s a place where teachers can give others a peek into their classroom, seek advice on challenges their facing and show off a great new project. 

    The US ITN network is part of a worldwide effort to connect teachers and uncover best-of-breed teaching, technology and content best practices.  ITN features three types of professional learning resources: Articles of Interest, Guides and Materials, and Research Papers.  There are Communities where educators can discuss similar topics of interest, create virtual project teams, participate in the peer review of content, and much more. Additionally, one of the coolest new resources is the Virtual Classroom Tours, which allow you to experience and replicate the classroom successes of other teachers.

    If you’re already a part of the network…check out the new changes and share feedback.  If you’re not familiar with ITN…now’s a great time to join as the version of the network just went live (

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft at NECC 2009


    When you travel as much as I do, it is sometimes helpful to have tent-pole events to mark the year and help you look back on progress made and goals for next year.  For most people, holidays and birthdays fit the bill.  For me (and it’s somewhat pathetic, I know), I mark my year with Microsoft’s fiscal year calendar and our large education industry events (like Educause in the Fall and NECC in the Summer).  I am already getting excited to spend a few days at the National Education Computing Conference (NECC) happening in Washington, D.C. coming up this June. Microsoft will have a big presence at the show…but I get tremendous value from connecting with our partners and customers and getting a range of input on K12 priorities and new thinking.

    I’m really pleased with how planning for Microsoft’s participation at this year’s show is coming along…and you get great insight on our focus, the content we’ll be sharing in our booth, etc. by visiting our website here. The web page includes listings for Microsoft learning tracks and workshops, links for connecting with us via Facebook and Twitter, and much more. 

    In recognition of reduction travel budgets that are limiting the opportunity to attend NECC for many…this year, we’re offering scholarships for five K-12 teachers to attend. Find more details here.

    If you are able to make it to NECC…stop by booth #1728 to say hello.  Look forward to seeing you there!

  • Education Insights

    Sign up your school for DreamSpark


    Everywhere you look, you see the impact of the global recession. The US economy is changing, and with it must our workforce change. Gone are the days when only highly-skilled “right brained” jobs required technology skills. In fact, more than 50 percent of today’s jobs require some technology skills; workforce experts predict this will increase to 77% in the next decade. Today’s reality: jobs in every industry, and at every level, require basic proficiency with computers and other digital technologies.

    I’ve written recently about our Elevate America and Microsoft IT Academy programs that help folks increase their technical skills to better compete in the global economy. Today, I’m excited to share that Microsoft is extending the DreamSpark program to high school students worldwide. For over a year, Microsoft has offered university students worldwide access to the latest professional-level developer and designer tools for free…there has been more than 2 million downloads already.

    The goal of DreamSpark is to empower students to pursue their academic and professional goals, so they are 100% ready to take their place as the next generation of business leaders. This program eases some pressure from teachers and administrators who are balancing the need for students to gain tech skills with diminishing resources.

    High school administrators will need to register their schools to help verify their school as an accredited institution so their students can get access to all the software for free. Check out the DreamSpark website for more information on the program, how to sign up and resources for free training:

    I believe students hold the key to long-term economic stability. Mainline access to software means students will learn the skills required of a demanding workplace, which triggers greater creativity and opportunity…greater success…after they graduate. And starting today, we're lifting the cost barrier so any high school or college student anywhere can learn and succeed through technology.

  • Education Insights

    Sorting out the Stimulus...Understanding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act


    As institutions and individuals cope with the implications of the current economy, there are new obstacles to overcome and new challenges to be met.  These hurdles will require our schools and school leaders to bring new thinking to all aspects of learning and effectively embrace opportunities made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). 

    And while the stimulus efforts will help buoy hope and provide the ability to rapidly address the most critical needs across our schools…we need to balance the short-term possibilities the new funds will provide with the ongoing and long-term mission of our educators. 

    Microsoft shares this mission and envisions an exciting future for education. It’s a world where students are empowered to explore new ideas and learn to collaborate, analyze and solve problems. Teachers create and share compelling, individualized lessons that open students’ eyes to new knowledge and insights. And institutions harness the power of technology to work more efficiently, forge stronger connections with their communities, and effectively prepare students to compete in the global economy.

    The ARRA will provide broad options for schools to think holistically about addressing the needs of our educators, students, buildings, classrooms…and while only a component, Microsoft believes that software and services can be a powerful catalyst for significant transformations in the way we learn.  It can enable teachers and students to share in richer, more motivating and productive learning, wherever and whenever it suits them.

    Technology solutions can also help schools do more with less…saving schools money by improving inefficient processes, using data more effectively, respecting the environment with better energy consumption, etc. 

    There are many implications and options to consider. To help schools sort out the options and provide a perspective on Microsoft’s shared commitment, we’ve created a website to help sort through the stimulus package, identify how Microsoft can support school system efforts, and help connect with long-term holistic reform thinking and action.  It includes information on a variety of solutions available and tools you can use today to help plan and respond to tight timelines required by the ARRA.

    As I’ve traveled across the country over the last few months, I’ve been inspired by your continued commitment and passion. Our leaders are responding to real pressures with innovation and optimism... two things that have and continue to make our country great.  I'm very confident our schools and students will rise to the challenge presented by the current economy and Microsoft is prepared and eager to help you move forward.
    I sat down with Mary Cullinane, Director of Innovation and Business Development, to discuss the stimulus, share our thinking, and hopefully sort out some options. Hope you find it valuable...

    Education Stimulus Interview
  • Education Insights

    CIO Summit Chat with Debbie Karcher, Miami-Dade County Public Schools


    Microsoft's annual U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit always provides a great opportunity to connect with a broad range of education institutions as well as representatives from across the US in state and local government and Federal agencies.  This year's event was no exception and I was incredibly pleased with the feedback and leadership demonstrated by those in attendance.  Despite the mounting economic pressures and uncertainties, those joining us for a few days in Redmond, WA are embracing the mandate to improve learning outcomes with optimism…and a focus that, in many ways, has been sharpened by reduced resources. 

    Transform. Innovate. Lead.  It was the core theme for the CIO Summit and an increasingly critical imperative for our schools as we face uncertain economic times and intense global competition.  In many ways, the role of the CIO in education is rapidly evolving to optimize opportunities for innovation, leadership and drive smarter technology decisions with a balance on education outcomes, funding and long-term strategic direction.

    During the summit many key themes surfaced...most reflecting the new environment created by the services, virtualization, impact on education analytics on learning outcomes, and 21st learning.   I had an opportunity to sit and chat about many of these topics with Debbie Karcher, CIO for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), during the event and wanted to share a short video from our conversation.

    Debbie supports an ever-expanding range of solutions across America’s 4th largest school district.  I’ve worked closely with M-DCPS for the last several years, and have always been impressed with their clarity and consensus of vision and the urgency with which they approach their work.  Under Debbie’s leadership, they have been working to modernize and overhaul the district using technology and data to help raise student achievement, establish equity and support students, teachers and staff.

    In the video, Debbie shares her lessons learned from the journey to help transform Miami-Dade County Public Schools, as well as some fundamentals on USING DATA that I think reflects a lot of what I see around the country. In some ways the pivot on using education data parallels my argument on 1:1.  On the 1:1 side, we spend far too much energy/time on acquisition of the device and not nearly enough time on bringing holistic reform to the classroom, curriculum, and assessment.  With education analytics, schools spend lots of time building the robust and secure data center and developing rich visualizations of data…not nearly enough time is spent landing the data into everyday rhythm for teachers, students and parents.  Data-driven decision making is powerful when it actually helps make decisions on content, student needs, areas of specialization, etc.  As Debbie notes, overcoming teacher and parent hesitation to actively use the data M-DCPS is providing is not something to be ignored.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Debbie and the entire team at M-DCPS are doing some heroic work and their models and thinking are good resources for schools going down a similar path.  Districts looking to 1) improve learning outcomes by supporting teachers with resources to quality instruction, 2) encourage routine student use of technology to support learning, and 3) provide parents with tools and data needed to help them more actively engage in the education process…should take a look at the Miami-Dade Public Schools solution, process, and outcomes.

    More info on Miami-Dade County Public Schools work:

    School website:
    Project case study:
    Video case study:

  • Education Insights

    I Really Do HEART OneNote



    Promoting itself as a community site for people who are smart enough to love's hard not to be a fan...of the site or product.  Check out this cool new community site...find example notebooks, share the OneNote love, and more. If you're not sure what OneNote is, visit the site on  If you're a OneNote fan...or interested in becoming one, join...

  • Education Insights

    Video of the Week: AeA 21st Century Learning Symposium


    I want to thank Ed Longanecker for providing a recap of the 21st Century Learning conversation that took place in Springfield, IL last week.  Good opportunity to share perspectives on this important topic.  Special thanks to students of the Lincoln Magnet School in Springfield, IL for their participation in the event and their work on the video. Visit the site recap for more information on the event as well as links to our competency work and 6i process.  Also included is the presentation I delivered at the conference.  Feel free to ping me if you want to learn more...

  • Education Insights

    Microsoft Elevate America


    I'm in Springfield, IL this week (up far too late)...preparing for both speaking at and attending the AeA 21st Century Learning Environment Symposium. I am excited to see the increased focus on 21st century skills and the heightened recognition for  need to prepare our students for the global workforce.  This is a deep passion of mine and lifting our students expectations and career aspirations is the reason I do what I do for Microsoft.

    Certainly technology skills are an important component of the new workforce environment and preparing students with IT training and resources has long been a focus for Microsoft.  Navigating the many offerings and programs available has long been a challenge for students and education as well however...

    That's why I'm excited to share a new online resource, Elevate America, that helps individuals understand what types of technical skills they need for the jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities of today and tomorrow, and resources to help acquire these skills. The site provides access to several Microsoft online training programs, including how to use the Internet, send e-mail and create a résumé, as well as more advanced programs on using specific Microsoft applications.

    One of the things I'm most happy for is the increased exposure for Microsoft IT Academy.  I am constantly surprised by how many educators/students do not know Microsoft has had a program that provides Microsoft IT curriculum and tools for the classroom environment. All designed to connect to real world certifications and job opportunities.

    More information on Elevate America is available at

  • Education Insights

    Video of the Week: CareerForward


    I know I shared information about the CareerForward resource last week...but given the incredible interest in this course, I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit more about the offering.  The attached video provides an excellent overview of the course...with information on content, delivery models and even a discussion on global competitiveness from Yong Zhao, Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University.  I hope you find the video helpful and I'm eager to hear feedback from those of you that roll out the course to your students/institution.  Click here for CareerForward video.

    I also invite you to join an On Demand Webcast on CareerForward presented by Microsoft's Allyson Knox, Jamey Fitzpatrick, President of Michigan Virtual University and Matinga Ragatz, Global Studies, World History Teacher.

    This webcast is part of our weekly Teacher Tech Tuesday Webcast series...a great series featuring a range of tools and technologies that can help save time and improve effectiveness. Enjoy.

  • Education Insights

    It takes a community to prepare a child


    Preparing youth for the 21st century workplace is the goal of our teachers and institutions…and certainly having prepared 21st workers is a key requirement for our private industry.  It’s this point of intersection that creates an opportunity and mandate for institutions to explore and embrace public and private partnership opportunities.  As we are faced with the urgent challenge of preparing our students for an increasingly competitive global workplace, the appeal of broader, substantive partnerships has grown significantly.

    Local education agencies have historically sought out and valued partnerships mainly for the funding they offered. More recently however, educators have come to recognize the value in sharing the immense responsibility of preparing youth for the 21st century with the broader community.  We have embraced this shared responsibility with our Partners in Learning outreach in the US…part of a global Microsoft outreach to over 100 countries.  Based on collaborative agreements with governments and non-governmental organizations, Partners in Learning is notable for its engagement of every level of the education sector, from state departments of education to school and university leaders, teachers, and students.

    Partnerships of this scale have become an opportunity for Microsoft to advance beyond its typical role as grantor, into more strategic roles as a full and equal partner with education. By offering help with planning and by contributing expertise in business management, technology integration, and leadership development, Partners in Learning initiatives evolved into “true” partnerships.

    We have learned a lot from our Partners in Learning engagement - lessons that have helped us respond to education needs, improve our services/programs, and deepen our commitment to supporting the needs of institutions, teachers and students.  We have also learned lessons that have helped us understand how to deliver mutually valuable public and private partnerships…and have shared them in a resource I think you’ll find quite helpful…especially as you respond to increasing economic and workforce stimulus pressure.

    Our whitepaper,“Establishing Public/Private Partnerships,” provides insight into how to establish, monitor and extend partnerships and identifies some checkpoints to determine if a partnership is worth pursuing in the first place. Here are some of the key areas covered:

    • Degree of mutuality. Will there be equality in decision making, resource exchange, accountability, transparency and participation? Will there be mutual benefit and respect?
    • Retention of organizational identity. Do we understand the unique assets and skills each partner brings to the table? Have we considered both tangible assets, such as money and material, and intangible or soft resources, such as expertise with collaborative processes?
    • Readiness and ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. Will the partners commit to strong communication and a continual process to refine the partnership’s vision, goals and procedures?
    • Transparent partner motivations, expectations and benefits. Has each partner clearly articulated motivations and expectations for participating in the partnership? Are partner benefits explored and supported?
    • Leadership and a shared vision. Are partners represented by leaders, who can make decisions, participate in strategic planning and ensure accountability? Are they committed to a shared vision? Are they innovative thinkers?
    • Willingness to embrace change and remain flexible. Do partners expect and embrace change? Can the partnership weather turnover in personnel?
    • A clear plan with goals, objectives and accountability. Is the plan clearly understood by all and not subject to interpretation? Does it include plans for sustainability?

    Whether you’re pursuing a partnership with Microsoft or other local businesses/institutions in your geography, I think you’ll find the whitepaper enlightening and a good template for your engagement.

  • Education Insights

    Saving Money & Planet with Virtualization


    Every ChildIn addition to growing concerns over schools’ carbon footprint, our higher education and K12 institutions are facing rising electricity and gas costs - upwards of 150% increases in some institutions.  In our current economic climate, the need to optimize expenses is paramount.  However, by leveraging some of the new technology options available (hosted software, virtualization), schools can save money, add increased service and be environmentally responsible. 

    From an environmental perspective, power consumption is a good starting point to address – particularly since the rise of technology in our schools has added to power demands and cost.  Since 2002, the number of computers in a typical school has doubled, and with that more power-hungry servers have also arrived (a typical rack-mount server might have a 700 watt power supply). 

    One popular and effective option is to consider a virtualization strategy for reducing the number of physical servers you need in your server room, and giving you more flexibility in your ICT infrastructure. With virtualization solutions, you can consolidate your academic institution’s under-employed servers onto a smaller number of fully utilized machines. Owning fewer physical devices and reducing your datacenter footprint gives you a direct way to help:

    • Reduce your hardware, energy, and management overhead
    • Scale to growing demand and adapt to change
    • Enhance security and reduce risk

    Virtualization is an integral component of the Microsoft platform. This means that you will not pay extra for it and it doesn’t require custom development to use it.  When you look at your list of requirements, don’t assume that you need to buy (and integrate and deploy) a new solution for each. Consider these alternatives to buying additional software:

    Here’s a great case study that provides some insight on the state of Kentucky’s virtualization plan.

    The Kentucky Department for Education runs 900 servers on behalf of their schools – 200 in a data center, and 700 spread across their school system. They found they were each running at typical 10% of capacity, because they had dedicated servers for each task. By deploying virtualization they estimate that they’re going to reduce their physical servers by 60%, reduce data center space by 50%, and reduce power use by 25%. Their goal is to reduce any downtime by building in redundancy – ensuring there are fewer interruptions to learning across their school system. This also enhances their disaster preparedness as a result. It’s a compelling success story.

  • Education Insights

    Breaking from traditional learning models? Look to non-traditional institutions for inspiration.


    I spent the early part of the week in Indiana and Maryland…aside from the excitement of seeing the new Indianapolis airport (when you travel as much as I do these things are really important) I was again reminded of the holistic focus, pragmatic approach, and speed of execution of our community college and for-profit institutions. Those who know me recognize the affection I have for these institutions because of their importance, passion and relevance, but I was also impressed by the end-to-end “learner workflow” mapping that is inherent to their operations. With purity of focus, they help students improve their lives and thrive in the 21st century workforce. With freedom from department by department decision making, for-profit and community colleges can move quickly and make a direct and measurable impact on student outcomes. As all schools and universities struggle to respond to tightening budgets WHILE enhancing services and workforce readiness of students…the examples and best practices of non-traditional education may help inspire and provide an innovative roadmap.

    Some of the key elements of the community college/for-profit approach that map to broader education trends I witness across the US include:

    • Curricula, offerings and programs are mapped to local workforce needs.
    • There is a strong sense of community and public/private resource usage creates a sense of inclusion.
    • End to end student care is a reality…from the first website visit to the first job…community colleges monitor student experience, apply rigorous analytics to improve services, and execute triggers to identify and rescue students at risk.
    • They insist on connected systems and tools – community colleges don’t have the luxury of supporting endless platforms, yet they’ve managed to come up with innovative ways to think broadly about how everything works together and is centrally and easily supported.
    • Because of the broad populations they serve, community colleges have to address access and equity. Their creativity drives new models of tuition affordability and access to technology.
    • 21st century learning outcomes are embedded into core curriculum and assessment…students don’t wait till graduation to “enter the real world.”
    • Total cost of ownership, return on investment, and speed of deployment…the language of business is embraced by these institutions and creates urgency and efficiency.

    Many of the above elements are being explored and even mastered by institutions both in the US and worldwide. However, as you seek to identify ways to link assessment to collaboration, classroom, and curriculum, reduce costs, and address 21st century skills gaps, be sure to add community colleges and non-profit institutions to your best practice investigation.  Chances are you’ll find they have end-to-end plans in place to improve student learning and institution health that deliver on the promise of technology, and chances are they’ll also be happy to share lessons learned.

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