Earlier today I had the honor of delivering one of the opening addresses here at BETT (formerly known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show) in London, along with Dr. Vincent Cable MP, whose role as the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills makes him one of the most influential education decision makers in the UK. For the last 29 years, BETT has been bringing together education innovators from around the world to explore the people, ideas and tools that are revolutionizing education. Microsoft has played a major role here throughout its history, and I have personally been involved for much of that time.
But this year is decidedly different. Sure, the latest and greatest technology innovations can be found at nearly every stand in the massive exhibit hall. And there’s a great deal of talk about the impact that technology is having – and can have – on students around the globe. However, the most meaningful conversations taking place here at BETT this week are about something much bigger than hardware and software. We’re talking about engaging students — moving them from the passive receptors of rote information required by an industrial age economy to the active instruments of change needed in the 21st century and beyond. Because technology alone doesn’t address the significant challenges facing education.
At Microsoft, we’ve learned that simply dropping technology into schools doesn’t work. As I noted in my opening keynote at the BETT show arena we’ve seen countless failed 1:1 device programs. We’ve also learned that providing connectivity to the Internet, while important, doesn’t mean that the limitless resources it affords are being used effectively. Success is happening in education technology – often in big, game-changing ways — but we now understand that it only happens when we focus on a much bigger end goal: the holistic transformation of education systems worldwide. Technology plays a critical role here, but we must expect more from it. It’s not enough to use technology to automate out-of-date paradigms. We must find new ways to harness the power of technology in education, and at the same time, completely rethink the role education plays in society.
Reinventing education from the ground up may seem like a herculean task, but I firmly believe that we’re well on our way to doing just that. After decades of trial and error, surprising victories and disheartening failures, I believe that the world’s education leaders are now armed with the knowledge, insight and the right technology to make wholesale change in education a reality. In his recent book Stratosphere, leading education thinker Michael Fullan predicts that technology in education will have a major impact in 2013, noting that the innovations that have been evolving in recent years are finally ready to remake education as we know it. And the evidence here at BETT serves to support this notion.
We at Microsoft also believe that 2013 will be a milestone year for education. From the new Windows 8 operating system that bridges all devices students use to learn at home and at school, to services like Office 365 for Education that brings the power of cloud computing to schools (at no cost to K-12 and higher education institutions), to new and ongoing Partners in Learning programs designed to support collaboration and professional development for educators, we’re focused on the big issues facing education. This week at BETT, we’ll be working hard to connect with teachers, school leaders, policy makers and other leading education thinkers to make a real difference in education. And with real-world experience going back decades, we take very seriously our role in building a new education system worldwide – one that uses the power of technology to empower teachers, engage students, and create impactful global citizens for the 21st century.