Today, I had the pleasure of sitting on a Microsoft YouthSpark Connection panel in Miami with local education, business and city leaders, to discuss a problem facing the city of Miami, and this nation — the unfortunate divide between students who have access to technology, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. While sitting next to Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, we made an exciting announcement that is one step closer to bridging this divide for local students. M-DCPS is moving forward with its 1:1 device initiative, rolling out a total of 100,000 Windows 8 devices by August 2015. This spring, 13,000 elementary school students will get laptops and about 15,000 7th grade civics students and 9th grade world history students will get Windows 8 devices.
This is a big step forward for the students of M-DCPS. It is made even more significant by the fact that since M-DCPS’s more than 350,000 students will receive Office Pro Plus for free as part of Microsoft Student Advantage, once they are connected to enterprise-quality Windows 8 devices, students will literally have the tools in their hands to gain the skills proven to be most valuable for success in college and career. A recent IDC Study, which scanned more than 14 million job postings, found that the most in-demand skills for the top jobs through 2020 are the modern skills such as communication, problem solving and teamwork, coupled with the technical skills of Microsoft Office. In fact, Microsoft Office is the No. 2 skill employers are looking for in the highest-paying jobs, and No. 3 skill in all jobs.
Now, make no mistake — we know technology on its own will not close this education gap; it alone won’t improve test scores. Yet, it is powerful when used effectively. The empowered teacher and flexible technology combination can be a magical mix.
We applaud M-DCPS for carefully looking at the needs of its teachers and students before making the decision of which technology solution to implement. Microsoft is committed to helping teachers at Miami Dade learn new ways to teach with technology. It’s critical to help teachers reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks such as grading homework. With the use of tools such as shared OneNote Notebooks, this is finally possible. Ultimately we want to help teachers spend the most time doing what they do best and love to do most: teach.
For the students, it was wonderful to see Miami-Dade deeply consider the diverse needs of its student population and avoid a one-size-fits-all technology solution. We believe that choice in devices is critical and we support the variety of our hardware partners with their diverse Windows 8 offerings. It may be that 4thgraders will benefit from a more ruggedized laptop, whereas Middle- and High schoolers need the flexibility of tablet devices. Yet even with a diversity of devices, all students will have the consistent, secure, privacy-respecting experience of one platform.
At Microsoft, we place special emphasis on our commitment to teachers and student success over the long haul. We know the hard problems don’t stop surfacing after initial deployment. We want schools to be confident in their potential from the moment these devices are turned on and placed in every students’ hand until the day the device is replaced with a diploma.
Education is going through an incredible transformation. It is fitting that Miami-Dade County Public Schools put a stake in the ground this week, as just two days ago, President Obama himself focused the nation’s attention on the importance of ensuring all our nation’s kids reap the benefit of what technology can do to enhance their learning experience. We were proud to stand with the President and do our part towards closing the gap of schools who have access to the best devices and education services.
With the technology available and innovation happening now, there is indeed no better time to be a student.