The stores are chock-full of school supplies, buses are back on their routes, and anticipation is in the air: it’s back-to-school time again. And while parents and students are doing their part to be school-ready, teachers have been working behind-the-scenes to prepare for perhaps the most important job there is: educating our next generation.
I’ve had the great privilege to work with teachers and schools around the world for years, and I’ve seen a lot – continually evolving education systems, the “sure-fire” ways to improve learning, new trends in teaching and even those that cycle back through. Yet, no matter the trend in education, the constant force that has been hard at work to transform learning for decades, are teachers.
At Microsoft, we create products with teachers in mind and they tell us that products like OneNote, Sway, Minecraft and Skype help them bring new creativity and engagement to the classroom. We are inspired by what’s possible when teachers meet students where they’re at, help them to learn at their own pace, and then propel them to reach new heights in their learning. There’s no better place to use technology – and its promise to change lives – than in the hands of great teachers!
Individualized teaching and learning in action.
With the right technology platform in place and training, teachers around the world are finding inspiring new ways to use personalized approaches to impart 21st century skills.
Today, we announced 8 new resources to help enable individualized teaching and learning:
- New and no-cost features to Office 365 Education, along with the recent launch of Windows 10, are offering huge improvements for educators and students. With today’s update, we are simplifying our education lineup, moving to a single, free plan for all academic institutions and adding several new features to help schools meet their security and compliance requirements. We’ve also made it easier for teachers and students to sign up and start using free Office tools. Starting today in the U.S. and later this week everywhere else, anyone with a valid school email address can sign up.
- OneNote Class Notebook & Staff Notebook are now available globally for all Office 365 Education customers. In a recent IDC research study, OneNote has been shown to address the top 10 activities teachers describe as “time sinks.”
- New Skype in the classroom field trips are ready this year. Teachers can take their students on an adventure in their own classroom by signing up for a virtual field trip with Skype.
- Sway – a digital storytelling app in the Office portfolio – recently moved from preview to general availability just in time for the new school year. Teachers have been using Sway to reimagine class lessons, recap class projects, provide supplemental material for parents, provide new accessible storytelling tools to their students, and more. Sway has also helped students breathe new life into school projects, class reports, and even personal portfolios.
- Snip is a new screen capture tool that lets you tell your story in your own voice while you ink on an image, a photo that you take with your webcam, or a digital whiteboard. And you can share that story by copying your snip to the clipboard, sending it in an email, and embedding it on a website. Educators are using Snip to provide personalized feedback to students and students are using Snip to express their creativity and to collaborate with teachers and classmates.
- In addition to learning how to use technology, we see the growing interest from students to learn how to create technology. Teachers can help their students understand and learn more about creating technology with these new resources:
- Microsoft YouthSpark Hub has various resources and programs to learn digital skills and computer science, for students to prepare for the jobs of the future or even to start their own business.
- Microsoft Imagine tools and resources are available to teachers at no cost to help their students learn the fundamentals of coding while engaging in fun projects. Take it to the next level by leveraging contests through the Imagine Cup competition hub to help your students use those fundamentals to become creators of technology. New for this school year, Imagine Cup Earth leverages a partnership with NASA that teaches earth sciences and programming at the same time. Inspire your students to build their skills and bring their ideas to life and possibly win prizes! And, if you are interested in creating a coding club, our Coding Club Starter Kit will help get you started.
- Microsoft Virtual Academy is offering even more no cost computer science courses for students at all levels, coupled with resources to help teachers better integrate technology into their curriculum.
- Creative Coding Through Games And Apps, a new computer science curriculum designed to spark interest in teens for computer programming and for teachers with little or no background in the field, launched today and is free to teachers.
- With Angela Maiers and Choose2Matter, Inc. we’re providing teachers with a free, customizable and interactive e-book: “Liberating Genius, The First 20 Days.” This free e-book guides teachers through the introduction of Genius Hour.
- Even more free training, designed specifically for educators, is now available online and at your local Microsoft stores.
Supporting the best and the brightest.
The best technology will never be a substitute for great teachers. That’s why Microsoft supports teachers through learning communities that offer resources and peer connections. Programs like the Microsoft Innovative Educators enable teachers to connect, share best practices, and help break down barriers together. Applications for this year’s cohort of Microsoft Innovative Educators are accepted until Oct. 30, 2015.
Together, we’re off to a good start of the new school year and I’m looking forward to more to come … Teachers, we celebrate your superhero status!