Stepping Up to Make a Difference in Education

Posted by Andrew Ko
Senior Director, U.S. Partners in Learning

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in one of three panel discussions with some of the most influential school leaders at the ‘Unite to Make a DifferenceEducation Forum, hosted by USA TODAY and the Council of Great City Schools. Superintendents from across the country gathered to discuss the state of education and to address some of the biggest issues facing education in our public schools today. You can watch the replay here.

My panel discussion focused on how businesses and the media can collaborate to improve education. I was joined by superintendents Mary Ellen Elia from Hillsborough County Schools in Tampa, Florida, Eugene White from Indianapolis Public Schools and Alberto Carvalho from Miami-Dade Public Schools, as well as business leaders Paula Prahl from Best Buy and Vin Seunath from SMART Technologies. Urban education is under tremendous pressure to improve, and while there is mounting criticism, schools are rising to the occasion.

Educators are continually looking for ways to teach students more effectively, with the intent of improving the current academic gap. We are optimistic that educational transformation is a possibility, but it will take a broad community-wide effort to ensure every student has access to a quality education. We all must embrace the same goals and work toward them – to keep students engaged and to inspire them to love learning, which in turn will build a workforce with the skills and knowledge to drive innovation and economic stability.

At Microsoft, we continue to look for ways to partner with local communities and support school metrics related to increased graduation rates. Our focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiatives will remain a priority for the company as we support schools and colleges. Working with schools to drive the curricula as it relates to workforce readiness is another way Microsoft helps make a difference. Microsoft partners with schools to identify and teach skill sets educators will need in order to become successful in the workplace after graduation.

The role of technology in education is important in preparing teachers and students with 21st century skills that will build skills for the jobs of the future. The power of information technology for education lies in its ability to provide a cost-effective platform for reaching the greatest number of students with high-quality teaching materials and learning resources that can be quickly and easily adapted to the requirements of local communities and the needs and learning styles of individual students. Technology also opens up and makes classrooms more transparent and encourages more parent and community participation.

We need to collectively do more to celebrate the great things that are happening in education every day and continue to help scale best practices. One of the ways that we do this is through our Microsoft Partners in Learning program, a 10-year, $500 million global initiative aimed at improving teaching and learning experiences through technology, with the goal of helping students realize their greatest potential. 

The Innovative Education Forum (IEF) recognizes innovative educators and schools implementing 21st-century skills in the classroom. The Innovative Education Forum showcases creative and inspiring examples of how educators and schools are using technology today. This is an opportunity to recognize the nation’s top teachers and build a community so they can share their best practices with their peers.

CareerForward is another example of an asset we built through a public-private partnership with the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan Virtual University to help students chart their own course and determine what their futures will hold. The online course helps students assess their career interests and create an education development plan.

At Microsoft we are pleased to be involved in such important discussions that address the importance and the future of education. There is no better time than the present to ask ourselves, “What more can we all do to improve education in the U.S.?” 
 

Photo caption: McLean, VA –From left: Peter Gorman/Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Carlos Garcia/San Francisco, Arlene Ackerman/Philadelphia, John Hillkirk/USA TODAY, Gerard Robinson/Virginia, Carol Johnson/Boston and Winston Brooks/Albuquerque discuss public education’s greatest challenges and how schools can address key issues at the “Unite to Make a Difference” Education Forum held at USA TODAY Headquarters on Friday, March 18, 2011. The Forum convened more than 50 of the largest urban school district superintendents, business leaders and students to explore and debate improving urban education in the United States. (Photo by Paul Morse/Microsoft Handout)

 

Photo caption: McLean, VA – From left: Andrew Ko/Microsoft, Jim Lee/Microsoft, Gerard Robinson/Virginia Secretary of Education, Sig Behrens/Microsoft and Cameron Evans/Microsoft at the “Unite to Make a Difference” Education Forum held at USA TODAY Headquarters on Friday, March 18, 2011. (Photo by Paul Morse/Microsoft Handout)

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