Guest Post by Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lillian M. Lowery: Technology Gives Maryland Students an Advantage

Maryland is committed to increasing access to the latest tools for learning and preparing all of its public school students for in-demand careers. Today we are taking a big step forward in the tools we offer to students statewide. No matter where students attend school or what their economic situation may be, all now have free access at school and at home to Microsoft Office 365, the latest applications for collaborating and creating. In addition, we're also unveiling 25 new IT Academy Programs for schools across the state that will bring industry recognized technology certifications and skills to the students of Maryland.

Lowery (second from left) with students in Maryland

In Maryland, it is our commitment to prepare our world-class students with more rigorous standards, meaningful assessment, and continuous support for educators. At the core, our goal is to prepare our students for college and careers and attract and develop great educators.

Technology is key to supporting our goals for the direction of K-12 education in the state. Technology is no longer a luxury, it's an important set of tools and skills and we want every child to benefit from greater access and training. Our teachers, students and families are collaborating in new and exciting ways, and we see companies such as Microsoft in the private sector as vital partners in education. Software and devices supported by high-speed networks serve as portals to a world of online learning, and interactive content that can strengthen classroom instruction and personalize education to match the students' needs and interests.

Near the end of 2014, we held a statewide conversation about the need to take computer science education to scale and give every student an opportunity to pursue these cutting-edge careers. The Microsoft Office 365 tools and IT Academy programs provide Maryland students with new opportunities to learn marketable skills and acquire an edge as they prepare to compete for careers in a global marketplace. We chose Microsoft tools because their programs enable every student access to the tools for learning, collaboration and creativity in school and also at home.

One area especially important to us, is that every child have access to a world-class education regardless of their economic background or where they live. Digital inclusion is a priority for us, no matter if students live in high-poverty inner city areas or rural communities, we believe they can have the same opportunities to succeed as anyone else if given appropriate support. Initiatives like ConnectED and the Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus Benefit help to level the playing field by putting the tools for learning in the hands of teachers, students and their families to use at school and at home. In today's cutting-edge career and technical education (CTE), the 25 Microsoft IT Academies generously provided to Maryland public schools will help to expand computer science education to all corners of our state. We have some excellent programs in CTE throughout the state, but we are committed to expanding CTE and computer science. We want every student to have the opportunity to graduate high school with in-demand career skills that lead to jobs or postsecondary education. Our students should be prepared to succeed on whichever path they choose.

When President Obama announced the ConnectED initiative to increase connectivity in our schools to transform education and accelerate learning, private-sector companies stepped up by committing to provide the latest technology in our nation's classrooms. I wanted Maryland students to be first in line to receive the benefits of these investments. As a state agency, it's important to us to provide opportunities to all public schools in our state, so rather than making technology updates school by school, we created a ground breaking system that every school across the state can easily tap into so that no school misses the chance to increase learning simply because they did not know about the available opportunities. We also want to remove any barriers and streamline the process for our schools to acquire the technology and training that has been offered.

We are excited to be able to provide Maryland students with high-tech tools statewide and high-level information technology programs in 25 new locations. This is an investment that will pay off in our classrooms, communities and throughout our economy. Job growth is estimated at a rate of 6 percent until 2022 in Maryland, and 22.5 percent of this growth will occur in professional, scientific, and technical services, which includes computer science. Our students need these skills to enter the workforce and to better understand the world in which they live – a world that thrives on technology.

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Comments (3)

  1. Evan Grace says:

    Hi, I am a student in Loudoun County. I want to be able to do my homework typed on Microsoft, which is expected of me at my school. I do not have Microsoft Office, is there any way I can also get this program for free? I want to be able to complete my
    assignments to the best of my ability and get good grades. Please help me, Microsoft!

  2. Mr Science says:

    Hi Evan, click on link in the article about the free Microsoft software to see if you and your school are eligible to receive the free office 365. Talk to your parents or teachers at school to further research any benefits you guys may have. Good luck

  3. Anonymous says:

    When President Obama issued his ConnectED Challenge to make sure all students have access to the technology and devices they need to succeed, Microsoft took action. Read about progress since Microsoft joined the ConnectED initiative including the over

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