Microsoft Heads Back to School

A quality education is one of the most important ways to help the youth of today succeed tomorrow. 

The world we live in is rapidly becoming more connected. Students face more challenges than ever to prepare for their future in a globally competitive workforce. Currently more than 50 percent of jobs require some technology skills, and experts say that will increase to 77 percent in the next decade.

This week, we are kicking off several back-to-school activities. We recognize the importance of education and understand that students will need 21st century skills to help them succeed in their adult lives. These skills go beyond reading, writing and arithmetic to encompass aptitudes like problem solving, digital literacy, collaboration, and communication – and these 21st century skills can be reinforced by a teacher’s use of technology and the creation of new learning experiences.

While students wrap up their Summer, parents shop for school supplies and college freshmen worry about their class schedules, there is one group that is often overlooked as we get ready for the school year: teachers. As a community, how much emphasis do we put on providing teachers with the training and tools they need to successfully engage with students?

A teacher who inspires their students to realize their full potential is invaluable. To better support them, Microsoft is helping educators get ready for the school year with new teacher-focused tools for the classroom, as well as simple “how to” guides to get the most out of the products they already use in the classroom.

Today, we released two free educational tools that integrate with Microsoft Office. The Interactive Classroom and Mathematics add-ins are designed to better engage students through collaborative technology. In addition, we have published new OneNote and Office Web Apps Teacher Guides to help teachers learn tips and tricks for using new Microsoft products with their students. These free offerings are designed to be easy-to-use and quick to learn. Office 2010 has some great new features for teachers to incorporate into their classroom and lesson plans to get their students more engaged in learning. My list of favorite features to be more productive and collaborative can be found here.

The Partners in Learning Network is an outstanding resource for teachers to develop their tech skills and to look for creative ideas from their peers to bring into their own classroom. More than 1.5 million educators belong to the network worldwide, so it’s really a great place to join a connected community of teachers looking to bring innovation into the classroom.

Students today accustomed to being connected; it stands to reason that they may be more invested in what they are learning when they are using similar tools both inside and outside the classroom. Helping teachers integrate this technology into their curriculum provides familiarity as well as skills that will be critical as students seek employment with technology-reliant companies. You can read the article, “Back to School: Are Teachers Ready?” to learn more.

In addition to providing training and resources, schools have also been looking for better ways for their students and educators to work together. For many of them, the lead-up to back-to-school season has provided an opportunity to bring 21st century communications and collaboration tools into their educational offerings. 

More than 10,000 schools in more than 130 countries around the world have enrolled in Live@Edu, Microsoft’s cloud-based e-mail, calendar and collaboration service. We provide these resources to schools at no cost using a model that does NOT rely on advertising. In addition to hosted email, 11 million people are receiving 25 GB of online storage through SkyDrive with online collaboration and document sharing via Office Web Apps.

  • The Kentucky Department of Education selected Microsoft Live@Edu to bring cloud services to more than 700,000 students, faculty and staff statewide. The move is expected to save them $6.3 million over four years in operational costs. 
  • In Iowa, the Sioux City School District selected Live@Edu for their 7,000 students in grades 6-12. One of the reasons they went with Microsoft is because we do not rely on an advertising-funded model to support our services.
  • New York City Schools chose ePals SchoolMail, powered by Live@Edu, to bring more interactive learning opportunities and better communications to almost 2 million students and parents. This collaborative learning environment will save the district an estimated $5 million annually on infrastructure and maintenance costs.
  • The University of Georgia also recently rolled out Microsoft’s Live@Edu service to 85,000 students, faculty and staff in advance of the new school year.

From entire departments of education to individual school districts in primary, secondary and higher education, school leaders are making the move to the cloud.

Over the next few months we’ll continue to keep you updated on news and helpful resources for educators, students and schools. You can find more information at Microsoft.com/education, Microsoft.com/student, and my Education Insights blog.

We are excited about the start of the school season, and look forward to doing our part to enable the education community to prepare students for the future. We all have a vested interest in the success of every student from primary school all the way through college and beyond.

Posted by Anthony Salcito
Vice President, Worldwide Education