Over the last month, we’ve joined Parade Magazine on the road from Salt Lake City to St. Louis and Boston to start a smart discussion around technology and education and the different ways technologies and services are being used to improve the learning experience across the U.S.
These conversations have sparked a great dialogue with impressive ideas and incredible potential for the future of education. For years, technology has only been viewed as a tool to produce a desired outcome, but with only a 72 percent nationwide high school graduate rate, we desperately need new thinking in how to use those tools for improving student outcomes. We see that wave of change gathering momentum.
We’re in the midst of a digital learning transition that is reshaping education – everything from where learning takes place to how students and teachers connect and what constitutes a lesson. We have the opportunity to innovate around every facet of our children’s education, turning our schools into destinations for immersive learning experiences — not merely hotspots for mobile devices.
With this transition in motion, we must consider two important facets for bringing true change to education
Innovative and immersive lessons
Technology has made it possible for students to experience learning in ways that were never before possible. Today, teachers can connect directly with subject-matter experts in virtually any field, whether in the next town or half a world away, expanding the minds of our students to the numerous career paths that they could take. In addition, technology has reinvented how students experience science, technology and math. For example, we can re-create the events of the earthquake that caused the tsunami, leading to a nuclear reactor incident — all from the science lab thousands of miles from Japan. We can build the Pyramids of Giza in Minecraft, then bring them to life with math equations estimating the cost and time for construction in real life before resurrecting them with a 3D printer.
Imaginations can truly run wild with the tools available today, and now is the moment when the technology can transform lessons to expand minds and prepare them for our digital world. Through YouthSpark, Microsoft’s company-wide global initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth via programs such as Bing in the Classroom, Office 365 Education and Skype and partnerships with nonprofits, we’re helping schools accomplish this today.
Smart and secure use of data
Data is the Holy Grail promise of personalized instruction, becoming more important in our efforts to improve student outcomes. However, we must ensure students’ data is safe and protected. As I have said many times, our students are not products. Companies should not use student data for advertising or corporate gains.
Today, schools have immense amounts of data on student performance that can be used to assess and identify where students excel and struggle. Data can also illuminate trends and predict student performance; imagine, based on how a student performs on a set of skills and levels of proficiency, if we could estimate how that student will do on a standardized test now and find out what interventions could help to improve that student’s skill and proficiency.
There is no better time than today to have these conversations and take the steps toward a more digital education experience for all of our students. Next year’s second graders will graduate from high school in the middle of the third decade of the 21st century, and the expectations they face will continue to rise as the pace and breadth of technological innovation permeates society. We need to help our children develop skills that are relevant for the present day, while enabling them to adapt and flourish in the year 2025 and beyond.