Transforming education, improving lives

December 10th is the United Nations 2015 Human Rights Day and an ideal time to reflect on the UN's Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education. Microsoft in Education is committed to closing school access gaps with resources that build school, leader and teacher capacity and with programs and resources that advance student learning. One example of our commitment is our partnership with Millennium EDU.

Anthony Salcito, Vice-President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft says of the partnership, "The mission of the Millennium@Edu program is to contribute to the advancement in the Millennium Development Goals through the use of Information, Communication and Scientific Technologies (ICSTs) in learning and education while fostering key 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity, among others."

Salcito continues, "The objectives of the Millennium@Edu program are aligned with Microsoft's vision and programs for Education. When governments invest in education technology, it enables the creation of jobs, drives economic growth and increases the country's competitiveness. In the past three years, through its Shape the Future program, Microsoft helped 50 countries bring technology access to over 10 million students, educators and families. "

To empower all students to reach their potential, schools everywhere are looking at ways to close access gaps and transform their approaches. Finland is an example of a country using educational transformation to make education more relevant for students today, in part by thoughtfully and innovatively leveraging digital learning experiences.

"Learning transformation should not be about digitalizing existing learning paradigms and methods," says Pasi Silander, Director of eCampus, City of Helsinki. "We have to use technology to develop new learning opportunities and approaches — ways to learn that are not possible with pencil and paper. Learning digitalization can bring significant pedagogical value and increase education systems' effectiveness and productivity."

Finland and many other education systems have learned that technology is not the answer to school transformation, but is a key to effective, meaningful learning experiences in the 21st century. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) 2015 report echoes the view that successful education transformation with technology requires a holistic approach.

According to the OECD's Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection report, "The successful integration of technology in education is not so much a matter of choosing the right device, the right amount of time to spend with it, the best software or the right digital textbook. The key elements for success are the teachers, school leaders, and other decision makers who have the vision, and the ability, to make the connection between students, computers and learning."

How can schools and education systems transform to empower all students to reach their potential? A new symbol of Microsoft's commitment to the human right to education is this week's release of the Education Transformation Framework that provides education leaders with the research, resources, guidelines and examples they need to plan a transformation initiative.

To scale the transformation process, Microsoft has worked with leading academics to develop a suite of executive overviews and whitepapers under two broad areas: Leadership and policy and 21st century pedagogy.

These provide evidence and examples of successful transformation and show how technology can enable progress. The posters, brochures, and papers provide starting points in 10 key areas of transformation that successful education systems include in their holistic planning. Use them to define your scope and open discussion with stakeholders.

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