November 2014

Wearable Devices Can Help You Beat the Holiday Bulge

The holiday eating season is about to kick off: Thanksgiving brings us into the festive period of groaning buffet tables, cookie exchanges, and one more glass of eggnog or champagne. With the Patriots scheduled to play the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday and three Thanksgiving Day games, you may be spending a lot of Thanksgiving weekend on the couch. It’s not surprising that many people worry about gaining weight during the last weeks of the year. But help is at hand, or on your wrist: Wearable devices can help you take charge of your health and fitness during the holidays and beyond.

Wearable fitness devices have been a hot category this year, with the addition of Microsoft Band to a market already featuring a range of wristbands, compact monitors and smart watches, and previews of more that are on the way. They make great gifts, but if you’re worried about holiday weight gain you may want to get one for yourself now and let it help you keep extra pounds at bay without skipping your favorite holiday celebrations.

There are three ways wearables work to help you beat the holiday bulge:

  • Movement. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, you’re not just being tempted with fattening, once-a-year indulgence foods and gift baskets; the round of parties, tasks and informal get-togethers also strain your schedule so that you start to think seriously about passing up workouts to make time for it all. Wearable devices track movement and speed, allowing you to see how well you’re meeting your daily goals for walking or running. Microsoft Band also tracks heart rate and other biometric data, and offers guided workouts, and Microsoft Health helps you collect useful insights from Microsoft Band and other devices. Whichever wearable you choose, keeping track of your activity can prompt you to take another lap around the mall before finishing your shopping, or to hit the gym after work before dropping in at another party.
  • Nutrition. Most wearables are supported with apps and services that let you track what you eat, so you can get a clearer idea of how many calories you’ve consumed and whether you have room in your day for another mug of hot chocolate. Just making the effort to record your diet can inspire you to make healthier choices.
  • Friends. The apps and services that support wearables let you connect with your friends and peers, so you can cheer one another’s progress. Special competitive challenges let you push your friends to get in more movement during a day, workweek or weekend. And just as tracking your food makes you more conscious of the dietary choices you’re making, knowing that others are watching your activity can make you more determined to reach or even exceed your fitness goals.

So, whether you watch the Patriots or your favorite college team in the days ahead with the bowl season just around the corner, a wearable fitness device can help you keep your health and fitness goals in mind — a nice way to keep from being naughty this holiday season.

Robert Davy is the new GM of Microsoft’s Northeast District

www.thestudionouveau.comRobert Davy is the new general manager for Microsoft’s Northeast Enterprise and Partner Group. The Boston Globe profiled him in Sunday’s edition. A longtime leader within Microsoft’s East Region, Robert leads sales, marketing, and service delivery functions for large enterprise customers in the Northeast, with a special focus on banking and insurance, health and life sciences, and manufacturing and retail sectors. He’s also responsible for Microsoft’s work in the broader New England community around youth education, innovation, employment and entrepreneurship, among other areas.

Since he joined Microsoft in December 2004, Robert has held key regional leadership positions, and before that led part of the financial services business in Microsoft’s New York Metro Enterprise Sales District. He has a bachelors’ degree in business administration from American University and an MBA from Hofstra. Robert, his wife and teenage sons live in the Boston suburbs, and love to ski, travel and explore New England.

We hope you’ll watch this blog for more of Robert’s ideas about how Microsoft’s technology and services can help move Boston-area businesses forward in this new era of productivity.

Q&A with Mayor Joe Curtatone on Somerville’s Call to Green Tech Innovators

Mayor Curtatone announcing another sustainability initiative: the Orange Line T-Stop opening at Assembly Row in September, which is expected to provide sustainable transportation to 5,000 riders daily.

Mayor Curtatone announcing another sustainability initiative: the Orange Line T-Stop opening at Assembly Row in September, which is expected to provide sustainable transportation to 5,000 riders daily.

MSNE: What is the Somerville Green Tech Program?

Curtatone-3Mayor Curtatone: We’re asking green tech innovators to give the City their best product pitch. Entrepreneurs are developing services and products that could help people and organizations reduce their carbon footprint, decrease energy use and generally act kinder to the planet, but at some point they need to pilot their ideas. We want to be first in line to give those ideas a shot, so we released an official request for information asking green tech entrepreneurs to fill us in on what they’re working on.

MSNE: How can green tech companies get involved?

Mayor Curtatone: All they need to do is fill out a simple online survey at somervillema.gov/greentech: just describe the technology you’re working on, send us some links to demo or informational materials, and tell us why the City of Somerville would be a good customer or test case for the technology. Responses are due by the end of the day on Monday, Dec. 1.

MSNE: What will Somerville do with the information submitted through the survey?

Mayor Curtatone: The information we get will be used to shape a new Green Tech Program that we’ll detail early next year as part of our goal to become carbon neutral by 2050. We know our carbon neutral goal is ambitious and that it will take some smart, outside-the-box innovations to help get us there. We hope this program will help us make progress toward that goal, while also supporting emerging green tech companies. We’re interested in doing social good and creating profitable, sustainable economies—those two goals aren’t mutually exclusive, they are interdependent.

MNE: Why shoot for carbon neutrality by 2050?

Mayor Curtatone: Sustainability and environmental stewardship are deeply held values of this community, and anyone paying honest attention to climate change and the state of national politics knows three things: we don’t have time to waste, we must set ambitious goals if we truly aim to slow climate change, and cities must help lead the way if we are to succeed in these goals as a nation. We also are deeply aware of our responsibility to current and future generations in everything we do. These values are all codified in our 20-year comprehensive plan, SomerVision, which was created after two years of intensive community engagement. And in Somerville, we don’t consider community plans documents that should just gather dust. We act on them. We hope the green tech community will act with us on this effort too.

SomervilleSustainable

Looking Back: A Year of Civic Engagement in Boston

Cathy-Wissink-300x300It feels like just yesterday that I arrived in Boston, having taken on a new role for the company at Microsoft New England. The loosely-defined role of “civic engagement” was not just new to me—it was a net-new role to the company and I was the first to take on this job. Where would the job go? Where would we focus? What could we accomplish?

A year in, it’s hard to imagine not having a civic engagement team in the city. There’s a thirst in the community to determine the role that technology can play in areas like education, citizen services, as well as government transparency and efficiency. At the same point, it’s been crucial to thoughtfully consider all potential solutions to civic challenges, which may—or may not—include a technology option.

You may recall from our introductory post announcing the MIPC-NE and my role that we had three goals:

  • Connecting the region’s tech/business/academic/government stakeholders in ways that complement and extend the work of others;
  • Catalyzing important technology and public policy discussions about issues that have a direct impact on this region’s economy; and
  • Contributing more directly to the health and vitality of the local technology community and broader regional economic development opportunities.

We’ve kept busy this last year, trying to remain true to the “three C’s”, as the team calls them. To that end, here are some highlights of our work:

CodeAcross 2014 with Code for Boston

(L-R) Ken Chan (Microsoft), Sam Berg, Jared Kirschner, Fatima Sarah Khalid (Microsoft), and Andrew Arace at HubHacks!

  • We were also asked to contribute to a number of events demonstrating Microsoft’s role—and responsibilities—at the intersection of technology, business and policy, including:
  • Participating in District Hall’s Innovation and the City event as an “anchor institution”.

Our own Cathy Wissink (second from the left) spoke on a panel about anchor organizations at Innovation and the City.

TEALS helps CRLS expand CS offerings.

With all this work, we’ve been fortunate to partner with a great number of organizations, government entities and individuals during this year, all of whom share a desire to make this a great place to live, work and connect.

What’s next for the Civic Engagement team in Boston? We’ll continue to stock of what we’ve done, what worked (and didn’t); we’ll keep the conversation going with our constituents and partners to see where Microsoft can best contribute, and we’ll keep you involved as well. Thank you for your engagement and feedback—we look forward to the next year!

Teaching Computer Science With TEALS

Teaching Computer Science With TEALSAs Computer Science (CS) Education Week approaches, we are thrilled to see how far we have come in Massachusetts since last year’s CS Ed Week.  MassCAN is driving amazing professional development for teachers, organizations like Coder Dojo and CSSparks are expanding to offer more coding opportunities to students outside of school and programs like TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) are growing to help schools offer more computer science classes in MA. TEALS has been up and running in Seattle and New York City at many schools but we are just beginning to work with schools in Massachusetts with TEALS volunteers in 7 school systems this year.

Since only 1 out of 10 schools in the U.S. offer programming classes, our high schools fail to offer CS because there are not enough qualified CS teachers to meet demand.  To help schools address this gap in teachers prepared to teach CS, Microsoft is proud to support TEALS, a grassroots program that recruits, trains, mentors, and places high tech professionals from across the country who are passionate about computer science education into high school classes as volunteer teachers in a team teaching model where the school district is unable to meet their students’ CS needs on its own.

TEALS works with committed partner schools and classroom teachers to eventually hand off the CS courses to the classroom teachers. The school will then be able to maintain and grow a sustainable CS program on their own.

Last week, we sat down with a local TEALS teacher to hear how the program is impacting his class.  Josh Miranda is a physics and computer science teacher at Revere High School. Through the TEALS program, 3 software engineers are working with him to teach AP Computer Science.

Interviewer: Tell me about your background at Revere.

Josh: Josh Miranda. I’m a physics and computer science teacher at Revere High School. This is my 2nd year teaching AP computer science, and it’s an interesting process with kids who have never really taken computer science before. It’s a fun class though!

Interviewer: Why is CS important for high school students?

Josh: In our school, a lot of our kids don’t even know about computer science. So, getting them into a class and having them learn a little bit about programming, a little bit about computer science in general, [will] hopefully [get] them interested in pursuing it as a career – obviously, with all of the jobs available it would be a good thing for someone to go into. But for me, besides that, [it gives] them problem solving skills that they don’t really get in other subjects. Having them work through things that are open ended and actually require them to think is something – that’s super important.

Interviewer: How do specific concepts from CS translate into general skills?

Josh: In terms of problem-solving skills, really any kind of algorithm they have to come up with – when they’re trying to break down something really simple mathematically that they are used to doing and figuring out how to get the computer to do it, I think, that makes them think through problem solving more than they’re used to, so it should help them solve more complicated problems in the future, whether they go into computer science or anything else really.

Interviewer: What’s hard about CS for students or for you as a teacher?

Josh: For the students, CS is difficult because it’s both learning a new language and problem solving. Some of them get stuck on just the syntax and they don’t think through the problems. Some of them will do the opposite and focus on the problem solving and never get the syntax right. So it’s really that combination of two areas that are difficult and getting them to put it together in one thing.

As a teacher, it’s difficult to have them do that- to work with both sets of students and figure out how to link those two things together when they’re struggling to do that themselves.

Interviewer: What’s your experience been like in the first 2 years?

Josh: I didn’t realize how difficult it would be the first year, with getting them to understand the concepts and them being able to apply them in problem solving, so that was an interesting realization in the first year. This year, I’m a little more prepared, and with the TEALS help it’s made a huge difference with getting them prepared for that.

And also, now that students know what CS is – they’ve heard about the class – I have students who are more interested in CS and actually know what they are getting into. So that’s helpful, a lot.

Interviewer: How has TEALS impacted your class and your teaching?

Josh: The TEALS program is a really good opportunity to get professionals in to talk to students and also teach students, and it helps me with topics I’m not really familiar with. So, bringing in real-world examples from [the students], and teaching in a way that I wouldn’t even think about teaching it for some of the concepts. Besides that, when students are working on labs and programs, having extra people in to help the students and work with them and work through their problems – it’s really beneficial for the students to have that 1:1 time with multiple people – instead of me running around trying to get to 15-20 students.

Interviewer: How is the program going so far this year?

Josh: It’s almost exactly 2 months since we started early. It’s great. The kids really like it. The kids like having different people they can work with and talk to. For me, having that many people in the classroom – I view it as a mentoring thing where they’re going around working with the students once we start working on the labs. It’s that much better because instead of me trying to get to students and not being able to fully answer their questions and work with them 1:1, the students are really benefitting from having that time.

Interviewer: Suppose you’re talking to a group of students. What would you tell them about who should take CS?

Josh: In my opinion, all students should sign up for CS. Especially kids who enjoy problem solving OR math (not necessarily both of them). I think any student who likes solving problems, solving puzzles, and has never really given it a shot. More students are capable of doing it than they realize, or even we realize when we talk to students.

TEALS is part of Microsoft YouthSpark, our commitment to empower 300 million young people with opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

A Conversation on Civic Tech: Urban Infrastructures for Public Health

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In October, Microsoft was honored to host the second annual Hacking Pediatrics event. The range of innovative ideas that came out of the event was inspiring: from end-to-end childhood vaccine management to accurate, rapid fabrication of custom tracheostomy tubes for children to better ways to manage asthma and monitor use of inhalers. How can we apply the creativity, collaboration and innovation that all come together at a hackathon to public health?

While data and technology play a key role in tracking the flu and assisting collaboration among researchers and physicians, technology can also be a useful tool in driving wellness and even economic growth in Boston. Hosted by Microsoft’s Innovation & Policy Center – New England and the Venture Café Foundation at District Hall on December 3 (5:30PM – 7:30PM), this conversation on civic technology aims to explore how a city can take an innovative look at public health.

At the fourth in the series of conversations on civic tech, we plan to address the following issues:

  • What role does public health play in the innovation economy in Boston through job creation and industry innovation?
  • How can collection and analysis of data improve services for citizens and patients?
  • What technology exists today to collect, analyze or visualize public health data? And what other technologies do we need?
  • How does city infrastructure – signage and bike paths – enable public health and wellness?

We are bringing together people from various parts of the public and private communities to spark the conversation and then invite the attendees to engage in the discussion. Panelists include:

  • Maia Majumder, Engineering Systems PhD Student – MIT & Computational Epidemiology Research Fellow – HealthMap.org
  • Dr. Snehal Shah, Director of Research and Evaluation – Boston Public Health Commission & Pediatrician – Boston Medical Center
  • Ann Polaneczky, Project Engineer & Project Manager, Hopital Universitaire de Mirebalais, Haiti – Partners in Health
  • Dr. Anne Lusk, Research Scientist – Harvard School of Public Health
  • Nicole Fichera, General Manager – District Hall (moderator)

Register today!

3 Not-To-Miss Events This Week at Microsoft New England

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Photo via @carl_4As from @4As #CreateTech conference last week.

Fall is officially here! And with the changing leaves and cooler temps comes our biggest season for events here at Microsoft New England.

Here are three not to miss this week:

1) API Management in the Cloud – Boston Azure Cloud User Group
Monday, November 17, 2014, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Twitter: @BostonAzure #BostonAzure

The API Management helps protect your mission critical systems with authentication, rate limiting, quotas and caching to ease load under pressure. Rest easy knowing that only the partners, developers and applications you’ve authorized have access to your APIs and that those groups are acting in accordance with your policies. In this session Bob Familiar will show you how easy it is to get started with API Management.

2) Science Club for Girls Media Team
Wednesday, November 19, 3:30pm – 6:30pm
Twitter: @SCFG

The Science Club for Girls Media Team explores the field of science journalism. All participants are staff members of the Media Team blog, MadSciMag, and learn how to research and report on science topics through field trips and guest speakers. The team will learn how to write for the web, create infographics, and learn to record and edit photo, audio, and video.

Greater Boston Startup Culture3) Working Well: Secrets Behind FitBit, RunKeeper, Next Jump & More
Wednesday, November 19, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Twitter: @fitbit @RunKeeper @nextjump @maxwellhealth @DillanDiGi #workwell

You don’t have to be a startup to have a startup culture. Startup culture is about cohesive, high-impact, high-energy, rapidly growing teams. Many of the area’s startup cultures incorporate health and wellness and this event is the ideal place to learn about what innovative things they’re doing, so you can adopt some of these practices too! This event will feature breakout presentations lead by 5 local companies, an exposition area for companies to showcase their health and wellness initiatives, and a snacking area for everyone to sample some of the area’s healthy food and beverage startups’ goods. if you’ve been trying to improve the health and wellbeing of your workplace, are interested in meeting the leaders in this space, or looking to learn how you can personally make your workday more active and productive, this is for you!

Read more about the event and schedule of speakers via the Meetup Page!

 

Congratulations to the 2014 EdVestors “School on the Move Prize” Recipient: William Monroe Trotter Innovation School

I recently began working with a terrific and impactful organization called EdVestors.  EdVestors is a dynamic school change organization focused on increasing the number of schools in Boston that deliver dramatically improved educational outcomes for all children. EdVestors leverages private investment to provide on-the-ground support to accelerate results, and develop and share knowledge to drive improvement across schools.

EdVestors’ portfolio of work is driving results for BPS and I can’t help but be wow-ed by all of the data and metrics they collect that prove the impact of their work.  Whether it is the BPS Arts Expansion Project (see infographic below) or the 8th Grade Algebra Expansion Initiative, EdVestors carefully evaluates and adjusts programs to ensure results.  Can’t argue with success!

Read more about their strategic investments here: http://www.edvestors.org/strategic-initiatives-investments/.

BPS-AEI-Progress-Infographic-2

Click here for full infographic.

Last week, EdVestors presented their annual School on the Move Prize. The School on the Move Prize highlights those schools and leaders who have advanced their educational goals for students by implementing key practices for school improvement. The Prize comes with a $100,000 award from EdVestors, public recognition, and the opportunity for the winner to document and share replicable strategies for other urban school improvement initiatives.

Congratulations to the 2014 EdVestors School on the Move Prize Recipient: William Monroe Trotter Innovation School.

StudentsThe 400-student Trotter Innovation School has seen steady, sustainable improvement over the last four years (2009-2013) by focusing on school climate and instructional consistency across classrooms. A former Level 4 Turnaround School, the Trotter faculty voted nearly unanimously in 2013 to become an Innovation School, demonstrating their commitment to the work that led to the school’s success.

The Trotter has seen dramatic improvement in their student achievement over the past five years: tripling the number of students scoring proficient or higher in both English language arts and math.

In addition, each of the two finalist schools received an increased award of $25,000 thanks to the generosity of Liberty Mutual Insurance. Congrats to Joseph J. Hurley K-8 SchoolOrchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School.

To read more about School on the Move and this year’s winner, finalists, and sponsors, click here.

Our Takeaways from “Privacy, Surveillance, and Rebuilding #TrustInTech” with Brad Smith & Professor Jonathan Zittrain

BradSmith

The technology ecosystem is evolving at a remarkable rate, both in terms of how the technology is changing and how individuals are leveraging that technology in their personal and professional lives. With the rapid global advance of innovations like cloud-based services and increasingly powerful mobile devices, governments are grappling with how the legal and regulatory frameworks appropriately address this technical evolution in a timely fashion.

As a result, striking the balance between technology innovation and the legal implications of said innovation is challenging. Nowhere is this more evident in today’s ecosystem than in the juxtaposition of personal privacy and national security in a post-9/11 and post-Snowden world. Our General Counsel, Brad Smith, joined Professor Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society to discuss these challenges and potential ways forward, in an event entitled: “Privacy, Surveillance, and Rebuilding Trust in Tech.”

It is a complex topic, touching on international law, cultural expectations of privacy, and the distributed nature of cloud-based technology, with many other nuances in the space. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the discussion, I wanted to call out three thoughts—or rather, questions—I took away from the discussion:

  1. With the globalization and extreme interconnectedness of the internet and cloud-based services comes the need to re-think the concept of legal jurisdiction. It’s easy today for an individual to use a service that may be physically located outside of the country in which they reside. Which nation’s (or jurisdiction’s) law applies to that individual using that service, and who gets to enforce that law?
  2. How does government find a way to deliberatively make decisions regarding technology law, given the rapid rate of innovation change? How do we ensure there is time to be thoughtful and critical about potential changes to law, when technology moves so quickly?
  3. Who needs to be at the table when the intersection of law and technology is discussed? Is it policymakers? The tech industry? How are an individual’s rights represented in this discussion? How does this conversation change when technology spans international borders?

It is a fascinating time to be working at the confluence of technology, law and business, and I’m very proud that Microsoft has decided to take a leadership role in raising these crucial issues for discussion.

3 Not-To-Miss Events This Week at Microsoft New England

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Fall is officially here! And with the changing leaves and cooler temps comes our biggest season for events here at Microsoft New England.

Here are three not to miss this week:

Vboston1) The Virtualization User Group November Meeting
Tuesday, November 11, 2014, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Twitter: @nutanix

The Virtualization group meeting, providing the user community an opportunity to learn about new technologies and other virtualization topics of interest.

Presentations by vendors who provide details and background on different areas e.g. Storage with virtualization, Hyper-V, Cloud Computing etc.

learnlaunch2) Edtech Pitch Night
Wednesday, November 12, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Twitter: @LearnLaunch 

LearnLaunch Institute and YEP-Boston are excited to co-host an Edtech Pitch Night! Six early stage edtech startups will have the chance to pitch their products to a live audience. A panel of judges will offer the companies feedback and vote on the best pitch. The audience will also get to participate by voting for a crowd favorite. There will be plenty of time to mingle with the edtech community as well as the companies that are pitching.

MIT3) Path of Professorship
Friday November 14, 1:00pm – 7:30pm – Saturday November 15, 8:00am – 5:00pm
Twitter: @MIT

This workshop is for graduate and postdoctoral women at MIT who are considering a tenure-track position in the fields of science, engineering, and technology. The one-and-a-half day workshop focuses on skills, strategies, and “insider information” necessary to obtain a tenure-track position, to succeed in one, and advance to other positions of leadership. This is also an opportunity to network and meet peers.

Attendees learn:

  • Key strategies for applying and interviewing for academic positions
  • The importance of networking and how to manage networking with peers and superiors
  • Insights from deans and department chairs about what to negotiate for once you have the offer
  • Advice from faculty on things you can do now and during your hire to make your tenure-track years as smooth and successful as possible
  • Characteristics of different types of universities
  • Advice on balancing work and life in the 24/7 world of academia

Example Event Agenda from 2013: http://odge.mit.edu/development/pop/rogram/