Back to School with Microsoft: Tampa Educators, Students to Benefit from New Digital Education Initiative with City, Hillsborough County Public Schools

Posted by Marietta Davis
General Manager, Greater Southeast District, Microsoft

This past Saturday, Tampa hosted “Back to School with Microsoft,” a successful event that trained more than 500 local educators as part of our efforts to modernize in-classroom teaching with Microsoft technologies, boost students’ technology skills, and emphasize the value of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning in preparation for 21st century careers. The Back to School event marks the kick-off of an exciting new effort between Microsoft, the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) to implement a strategic digital education initiative across the region aimed at preparing local students for the opportunities of tomorrow’s economy.

Microsoft’s Kelly Green joins Lake County School Board Member Jim Miller, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, and School Board Member Carol Kurdell at the “Back to School” event.

Local educator Stephanie Saez-Hamilton helps teachers learn how to use Kodu.

At Microsoft, we know that science and technology are enormous drivers of innovation and job creation, but too many of our students are facing an opportunity divide – a growing gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. Microsoft’s deep commitment to education and significant investments across the U.S. are aimed at closing that divide, with a focus on helping youth obtain the skills that they need while connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. We’re thrilled to be working with the City of Tampa and HCPS to bring the best technologies to area educators in support of helping students realize their full potential.

Students from The Center for Advanced Technologies, a Partners in Learning school, participated in the Saturday event and demonstrated their award winning, cutting-edge projects for Hillsborough County School attendees.

Florida’s First School District-Wide IT Academy

As part of this unique effort, HCPS is participating in Florida’s pilot implementation of the Microsoft IT Academy Program, which provides a complete IT education solution that bridges the world of education with the world of work in order to provide students with 21st century technology skills.

Together with Microsoft and the Florida Department of Education, HCPS will rollout Microsoft IT Academy across its 27 high schools and 18 middle schools as a STEM-focused elective for students in the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.

With the Microsoft IT Academy training, educators receive professional development enabling them to stay up-to-date on the latest Microsoft technologies and easily integrate these technologies into their existing curriculum and lesson plans to meet the individual learning needs of their students. What’s more, students will have access to hundreds of Web-based e-learning courses and receive hands-on experiences with the latest Microsoft software and programs, giving them an edge to gaining job-ready skills and industry credentials while still in school.

Shaping Tampa’s Future

This effort demonstrates our commitment to creating positive and lasting impacts in the communities in which we live and work. In the Tampa region, our commitment starts with helping youth realize new opportunities. Through Microsoft’s long-term work with the people and organizations of the Tampa Bay region, a number of training, education and community programs are beginning as well, including:

  • Microsoft’s DigiGirlz education program that will provide local middle and high school girls with the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. Over the past 12 years, DigiGirlz has reached 19,000 girls in more than 20 states and 17 countries.
  • A pilot program that will feature the use of Kinect consoles in a dozen HCPS classrooms which will establish the use of interactive, gesture-based learning.
  • Microsoft's Kodu programming/game-development technology will be incorporated into the HCPS curriculum, helping students to develop IT skills by creating games on the PC and Xbox using the simple, visual programming language designed for use by children.

In addition to Microsoft’s work with Tampa on these education and community outreach initiatives, Microsoft has also worked with the city on a variety of other programs aimed at making a real impact in the region. Notably, Microsoft recently teamed up with the Tampa Police Department on a jointly funded public safety initiative aimed at modernizing the department’s systems used for crime analysis, reporting and reduction, which included an investment in Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server technologies.

Microsoft has also joined the board of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a public-private organization supporting economic growth and development in the region, and recently made a $25,000 commitment to the organization and its programs.

Youth Engagement at National Political Conventions

Later this summer, Microsoft will continue its focus on youth engagement in the Tampa area through a partnership with National Journal and The Atlantic to host a “Conversations with the Next Generation” town hall as part of the activities at the Republican National Convention. The discussion, which will be mirrored at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., will convene younger Americans and students for a dialogue on the critical issues they face as the next generation of leaders. Learn more about the town hall events here.

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