Originally posted on the U.S Microsoft in Education Blog April 2014

Technology opens a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities for our nation's students. However, as more schools begin a digital transition to incorporate the latest technology devices and services into the classroom, we see two issues arise. The first problem, schools across the U.S. are trying to solve, is access. Schools and students need access to low-cost devices, enterprise-class software, and wireless broadband for the campus and at home. The second problem is implementation. Once schools have the technology they desire, implementation is happening without specific plans or roadmaps for successful transitions to digital environments.

As a company, Microsoft is taking steps to overcome the issues and work toward a solution. To solve the issue of access, today, together, with our partners, we unveiled a range of low-cost, high-powered devices starting below $300. We also announced an additional investment from exam delivery provider Certiport Inc. to provide digital curriculum and IT certifications as part of our IT Academy to students, faculty, and staff that help them gain fundamental technology skills needed in the workplace. This investment, first announced in February, is part of Microsoft's global YouthSpark initiative to empower youth through technology and is further evidence of our commitment to providing a range of devices, training and services to teachers and students. This effort is in line with President Obama's ConnectED initiative to advance technology and learning in the classroom.

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To solve the issue of implementation, we work directly with schools through the process. We know for technology to have real impact, we must do something fundamentally different. Yes, we provide valuable devices and services, yet the broad solution to solving the implementation problem is more complex and will take time. We believe there are three components to a successful digital transition; low-cost, not low-bar devices, transformative teacher training and appropriate content.

Devices and Services

With device access as a first step in any digital transition, today's announcement with our partners offers students the ideal learning device with the features and capabilities they need from a full-functioning PC, without limitations. We're able to offer these fully loaded devices at the same price point as some of our competitor's devices that are little more than a web browser. With our offering, schools don't need to sacrifice or compromise their needs due to cost. Our Windows 8 tablets and laptops are made with student and teacher needs in mind, providing the full power of a PC, while protecting student data with enterprise-class technology which is important for parents who don't want businesses mining their kids' data for advertising purposes.

Transformative Teacher Training

Features and devices alone won't impact education in a way that significantly impacts student performance. To accomplish our goals and truly help students be prepared for college and a career, we need make sure technology is being used to do transformational work in classrooms. If you can do the same thing on a computer as you can with paper that is not taking advantage of the digital transition. Schools need to think differently. This is where teachers play a monumental role.

Content

As technology transforms the classroom, teachers must also transform the way they teach. Bound by assessment and rubric requirements, our solutions ensure teachers don't have to sacrifice creativity to meet certain standards. This can often be tough for teachers - teaching students the knowledge they need for assessments and the skills they need long-term for success is a tall ask. The Microsoft Educator Network (formerly the Partners in Learning Network) is a great teacher resource to help, educators collaborate and access a wealth of lesson plans that keep students engaged and also align to the standards they must learn and prepare them with the skills most valued in the workforce.

We know the workforce, fuelled by technology, is evolving quickly - jobs not being replaced by software technology or outsourced are those that require creative thinking and modern skills. Those are the same skills a recent IDC study we commissioned found to be most valued for high growth/high wage jobs: good written and oral communication skills, detail orientation, problem solving skills, and Microsoft Office proficiency.

Let's Solve this Together

We won't solve these problems overnight, and we won't solve them alone. We know technology has a wealth of potential for education and at Microsoft we think broadly about what can be done with all kinds of technology. We think about incorporating gaming into the classroom. We think about ambient data being used to assess student learning. We think about using student assessment data to improve personalized learning to each students' abilities.

Private companies have the resources schools don't and schools have the expertise, experience and practice that companies don't - in partnership we can deliver amazing impact. We don't want technology investments to be this century's largest failure of private companies. We want to work together to solve both the access challenge and the implementation challenges of the digital transition. By doing this we are expanding on the world of opportunities available to students, and also helping them open new possibilities that don't exist today.

By guest blogger Cameron Evans, chief technology officer, U.S. Education, Microsoft Corporation