In this second decade of the 21st century, the power of technology to connect, collaborate, and create is undeniable. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference this weekend. In this era of anytime, anywhere access, the power of presence and in-person conversations are still of utmost importance.
We showcased our devices and cloud services like Office 365, highlighted new apps like TestPolicy and new programs like Office Mix, but more importantly, we taught hundreds of teachers how to use these tools to propel their teaching. We know, as schools make this digital transition to technology in the classroom, the success of those initiatives depend on the teacher and meaningful professional development.
Within and Beyond the Microsoft Booth
We are committed to empowering teachers with skills and resources to prepare students for success in their next opportunity. I was thrilled to see the demand—lines out the door and standing room only classes—for an interactive training session led by our Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE).
In our booth, we hosted additional training sessions and presentations on many of our solutions. There were showcases on Office 365 for cloud-powered teacher and student collaboration. Matt Wallaert showed the power of Bing in the Classroom for ad-free, safe search. Isaac Harris introduced the new Office Mix for PowerPoint super-powered creation and curation of interactive learning content. Finally, Bob Chung, CEO of AssistX debuted the newly announced secure device management for assessment app—TestPolicy. We explained the solutions and talked with educators about the goals they are trying to accomplish with technology to better prepare students for college and career readiness. Throughout each of our engagements, it was evident that the right technology can make a difference in shaping learning experiences – both now and in the future.
As I look back at all of the great conversations I had throughout the conference, I see a couple of top themes rising to the surface:
Impact is dependent on the teacher . Technology itself will not solve the issues facing education. It won’t decrease unemployment rates or increase test scores, graduation rates, or mastery of skills. Technology solutions, when robust and used appropriately can encourage teachers to think differently, be creative, and engage students in ways beyond imagination.
True personalized and targeted learning can happen with the right analytics. An age old question asked by teachers is, “who read last night’s assignment?” A variation would be “who completed the homework?” With Office Mix, teachers know which students attempted and completed the work through data stored in a secure, private Office Mix cloud service. This enables classroom conversations to be more productive by focusing on areas of interests and challenge for each student.
We must redefine and advance the locus of learning for students and teachers. Today, when many of our students rely on the device in their hand and a Wi-Fi connection to learn, we must ensure students get value out of being in the classroom with the teacher, our schools cannot become mere Wi-Fi hotspots for web-based curriculum content. Schools must transform into “learning hotspots” with people, activities, and resources that serve competency development and mastery.
These are topics and discussions that we will continue to explore as we work to ensure this “digital transition” is truly transformational for improving student success. We must ensure learning is evolving and engaging as we must work to solve the number one problem in our country—we must graduate more students not just prepared for the jobs of the future, but also able to fill the vacant jobs of today.
ISTE Sweepstake Winner
As part of our effort to get the right technology tools in the hands of teachers to empower their creativity, we ran a special sweepstake designed for ISTE 2014 attendees. Yesterday, we announced that Allyson Hensley from Farmington R-7 School District Farmington R-7 Public Schools (“Go Knights!”) in Farmington, Missouri will receive 200 Dell Venue 11 tablets, 200 Pearson Online Learning Exchange (OLE) Licenses, and 2 Ergotron Charging carts. Approximately worth $126,000 USD, the sweepstake package is expected to help the teachers and students in Farmington use the power of mobile technology to inspire creativity, curiosity, and collaboration within the classroom and beyond. By merging the devices with Pearson’s mobile-learning environment, the Farmington teachers will be able to easily use quality K-12 teaching resources and create customized lessons.
Above all, ISTE 2014 reminds me of Microsoft’s enduring role and value in enabling teachers and students to navigate through some of today’s toughest challenges. Technology can have a significant impact in transforming education, but the solutions and programs must support long-term goals for greater learning and success. I often challenge educators to ask themselves “what world am I preparing my students to succeed and thrive? Consider that the graduating high school class of 2025 is entering the second grade this fall. They graduate in the middle of the third decade of the 21st Century. Can you imagine the college, career, and creative opportunities of the next decade? I hope so! The learners of the next decade aren’t coming—they are already here. At Microsoft, our focus remains on empowering educators with the capacity and support they require to ready students for their next opportunity.