Last week the International Labour Organization released its latest figures on global employment, and the picture was bleak, especially for young people. The report showed almost 74 million youths unemployed globally with many more facing long-term unemployment. Unfortunately this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the growing opportunity divide between young people who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful, and those who don’t.
Microsoft is a global employer and we have a stake in the future of the next generation of talent. Through programs such as YouthSpark – a company-wide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over the next three years – we’re making strides to address the global unemployment crises, but we know we can’t solve this alone.
Microsoft built its success by collaborating with partners, and our approach to improving the skills and prospects of today’s youths is no different. We’ve been working with the University of Melbourne and industry partners Intel and Cisco on an R&D project to identify and build innovative resources for teaching and assessing students on critical 21st century learning skills. The ATC21S project deliverables launched in July 2012, providing educators with an advanced system for assessing and measuring learning skills such as collaborative problem solving and ICT digital network literacy. The system is being successfully piloted in Costa Rica and Australia, and over this week we’ll be taking part in panels at the Education World Forum to discuss progress in these countries and next steps for seeding the model more broadly.
One of the success stories we’ll be highlighting at the forum will be around new mobility options that implements the learning from the ATC21S project. SolveIT, a new Windows 8 app created by Janison promotes collaborative learning by presenting students with a series of challenges that require application of knowledge and skills to solve real life problems. Collaboration is the key to finding solutions, and users can work with a partner – from any location. Upon completion, students are marked both on the results and level of collaboration demonstrated. The SolveIT app includes live language translation, the ability to select study partners to work with, live chat and worksheets to help students reach their answers –providing a learning environment that takes place entirely on a tablet.
This is just one example of the impact of the ATC21S project. Another is the assessment tasks being created for the PISA international study of student performance. It will include Collaborative Problem Solving for the first time and OECD, the organization responsible for managing PISA, is busy building a set of collaboration assessment tasks leveraging the knowledge generated by ATC21S.
We’ve been working on ATC21S since 2009, and it’s great to see the bridge being made between research and practical solutions that can help students get more out of education. It’s also exciting for apps to be developed that really tap into the potential of the Windows 8 operating system. SovleIT is available in the Windows Store now, and we recommend that you take a look for yourself.