I am so excited to be in San Antonio this week for the annual International Society for Technology in Education 2013 Conference talking to teachers about how they use technology. The U.S. education system is undergoing a tremendous transformation, one that holds great potential in changing the way our students learn and increasing their readiness for college and careers. A critical element of this transformation involves leveraging technology in the classroom to make student learning environments more interactive, immersive and personalized.
Learning is no longer linear. More than ever, students need to be able to collaborate in teams, present before peers from cross-country or international sister schools, creatively problem solve, analyze data sets, and write papers. These projects require an all-in-one learning environment that mirrors the real-life challenges they will face after graduation. And these skills are those employers seek.
Technologies to Best Engage Students
Teachers need technology solutions that can translate their lesson plans to those real-life tasks and skill sets, plain and simple. We’re pleased to report we hear again and again from K-12 schools using Windows 8 that this OS is turning their learning environment into an exciting, engaging world that provides collaboration and productivity opportunities that weren’t available before. Today, we announced 34 more schools and districts that chose Windows 8 to help prepare students for the future.
Somers Central School District in New York tells us their Windows 8 tablets with Office 365 Education allow their students to be content producers from point A to Z. Their students aren’t just writing the script for a film project; they are designing the storyboard, shooting the video, and editing it all on the same device. And because Windows 8 enables more interactive learning environments, Somers says it’s found their students are helping drive the education technology revolution alongside their teachers. And suddenly in their community of learners, students have become teachers and leaders in their own right.
Supporting Education’s Most Important Role Player: The Teacher
Let’s talk a bit more about supporting students’ lifelines—our teachers. We all know teachers are strapped for time and resources.
At Springfield Public Schools, Massachusetts’ second largest district, administrators needed all-in-one devices to complete teacher evaluations. They told us they decided to deploy Surface Pro tablets with Windows 8 because they give their teachers a way to work equally efficient, whether on the go or at their desks. And don’t get them started (or do?!) about their excitement for increased productivity due to seamless network connectivity, familiar applications and the choice to plug in either stylus or keyboard. Or both.
We know teachers are networkers and regard their own peers as ideal sources of best practices. Our Partners in Learning program connects teachers around the world, gives them a forum to share and brainstorm each classroom’s best, and ensures they get the support they need in successfully implementing technology in their classroom. Part of the program is what we call the Microsoft Innovative Educator Program, our flagship teacher professional development program designed for K-12 teacher trainers that we’re proud to say has trained nearly 300,000 teachers across the country.
Announcing ad-free Bing for Schools
But, we’re not stopping there. Today, Bing announced a new initiative that will help our nation’s schools and teachers with teaching digital literacy skills to their students. Starting this fall, Bing for Schools will offer schools in the U.S. the option to tailor the Bing search experience for K-12 students. Bing for Schools will remove all advertisements from search results, enhance privacy protections, filter adult content, and add specialized learning features to enhance digital literacy.
The program is completely voluntary. Schools have the choice of participating or keeping the normal Bing experience. For those who opt-in, Bing enables the new experience across all searches on Bing.com from within the school’s network, without any need for special software or a different search address. Bing for Schools is free for any school or district wishing to participate and we will have more details about the program over the summer.
At this critical juncture in U.S. education, when schools are more cash-strapped than ever, Microsoft is reaffirmed in its mission in education—to help schools, students and educators realize their full potential. Part of that mission is investing in them through software, hardware and services at affordable prices. You may have heard we’re distributing free Surface RT tablets to up to 10,000 educators attending this week’s ISTE 2013 conference through our Windows in the Classroom Surface Experience Project. And you may have heard we’re offering Surface RT at special prices to schools in the States and in 26 other markets through August 31.
Here at Microsoft, we’re committed for the long haul and excited to take this journey with schools to help increase graduation rates. By providing technology tools and professional development programs, we’re arming educators and students what they need to succeed.