April 2016

Towards a taxonomy of civic technology


What is civic technology?

It’s a question we’re asked often. As Microsoft’s team behind Technology and Civic Engagement, there’s no one “real” answer. We take care of a broad spectrum of civic issues — from education to employment to government and more — and we want to make sure that the term “civic tech” becomes part of the public lexicon.

This week, Matt Stempeck, Director of Civic Technology, is in Barcelona at TICTeC to help spread the word of civic tech and explain what it is exactly that we do. With peers from around the globe, this team is tackling issues with civic tech, defining it, and putting it to good use.

Read more about civic tech — and Matt’s work in Barcelona — at Microsoft on the Issues.

Recap — Machine Eatable with Warren Reed

Last week, we continued our monthly Machine Eatable series with DataKind, a lunchtime talk that focuses on central issues and growth in the tech community. This month, we were honored to host Warren Reed, Data Scientist at the Office of Financial Research, DataKind volunteer, and team member of the Dangerous Speech Project, who discussed his inspiring path into the data science field and the fascinating way he’s used machine learning to help counter harmful speech online.

Here are some of the top tweets from last week’s event:


Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’

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At Microsoft, we’re all in on education!

Our company mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In education, it’s to empower every student. Today, we’re proud to share the latest on what’s coming to New York for Back-to-School 2016/2017.

Introducing Microsoft Classroom and Microsoft Forms, OneNote Class Notebook now with Learning Management System (LMS) integration, new experiences for Windows 10 and the dawn of “Minecraft: Education Edition” – Get ready!

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First, we are announcing all new education features coming in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, features specifically inspired by teachers and focused on students.   

Faster, easier set-up:

Shared devices in the classroom are the norm – in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of schools report using shared devices. We also know that nearly 50 percent of teachers serve as their own tech support in their classroom. Until now, setting these devices up has been complex and getting students productive often takes too long.  

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update we are introducing a ”Set Up School PCs” app that allows teachers to set up a device themselves in a simple three-step process in minutes. We’ve also made significant performance improvements for affordable devices. We expect the average first login to take 26 seconds, with subsequent logins of 6 seconds when the student uses that machine again.   

Secure assessments:

Testing is going digital — teachers consistently tell us they want a simple way to set up quizzes or standardized tests digitally. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a new ‘Take a Test’ app – simple and more secure standardized testing for the whole classroom or the whole school, where teachers or IT can lock down the testing environment, or enable simple quizzing.

Education-ready Windows Store:

Nearly 60 percent of teachers purchase and load apps themselves. With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Windows Store will enable teachers to access thousands of apps, and schools can purchase and deploy them in bulk.

Free upgrade and affordable devices:

More and more, educators are asking us about affordable devices. We have a great portfolio of affordable, durable and innovative Windows 10 devices starting at $199, designed for the demands of education.  

So you can see, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a huge range of education-specific features that teachers and students are going to love. Learn even more about these new updates, and more, over on the Windows blog!

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Second, we are announcing some big improvements to Office 365 Education. 

Today we are announcing Microsoft Classroom a new experience in Office 365 Education. Microsoft Classroom is designed to be the one place students and teachers come to manage their day from Class Notebooks, assignments and grades to conversations, calendars and to announcements!

We’re piloting this with Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska. Let me just share with you what they had to say . . .

“It simplifies our digital classroom management and frees up our teachers so they can spend more time with students and less time managing administrative access to class materials.” Rob Dickson, Executive Director, Information Management Services of Omaha Public Schools.

A key piece of Microsoft Classroom is OneNote, a tool currently used in classrooms around the world to provide students with an immersive and inclusive learning experience. Visit here to learn how OneNote is transforming a special education classroom at Holly Springs Elementary School in Georgia.

Today we are also announcing Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) – a powerful complement for Microsoft Classroom. SDS connects Microsoft Classroom to a School Information System (SIS), so teacher, student and classes information is automatically populated in Microsoft Classroom and OneNote Class Notebooks. School Data Sync will be included in Office 365 Education.  Think of it as a super simple process that quickly provisions a set of classes and rosters from many School Information Systems already used.

Also being announced: Microsoft Forms – a simple way to quickly assess student progress and get feedback with easy-to-create surveys and quizzes. It’s in public preview starting today for Office 365 Education here.

OneNote Class Notebooks are the heart of our education experience and they just keep getting better and better. We have seen incredible momentum – with millions of student notebooks created just this school year – and currently running over 10,000 a day!

To hear one educator describe it: “It’s your whole classroom (lesson plans, materials, assignments and student work) in a digital binder with tools for communication and collaboration!” 

We’re also announcing Class Notebook assignment and grading integration is now available with more than 25 Learning Management System partners – including leaders like Canvas, Edmodo, Schoology, Brightspace and Moodle. Learn more here.

We’re really excited about all of these improvements for Office 365 Education coming for the new school year! Learn more about all of the updates to Office happening for education – check out the Office blog here.

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Finally, we’ve got some great news about “Minecraft: Education Edition! June begins an early access program of “Minecraft: Education Edition.” It will be available for any educator to download and try for free on Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan.    

This program is a great way for educators and administrators who are interested in “Minecraft: Education Edition” to give it a test run in the summer months and give us more feedback and suggestions.  

If you are new to “Minecraft” in the classroom, check out education.minecraft.net for resources to help prepare, including lesson plans and a new “Minecraft” mentors program to connect with amazing teachers already using “Minecraft.”

What’s the next step? Upgrade your devices to Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan, and sign up for an Office 365 Education account.

To learn more about “Minecraft: Education Edition” and the upcoming early access program, check out our blog.

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The culture at Microsoft is customer-obsessed and we’ve been hard at work listening to teachers and students. We hope you love what’s coming this summer and we look forward to your continued feedback and hearing about the amazing things happening in your classroom. Let me know what you think on Twitter – @microsoft_edu @tony_prophet #MSFTEDU.

DigiGirlz Make What’s Next in NYC

DigiGirlz on Minecraft

On Friday, April 8, hundreds of STEM-leading students headed to Microsoft’s Times Square office for a DigiGirlz day. This program highlights diversity, empowerment, and more in tech, bringing girls (and boys!) together for a day filled with programming, tech skills training, and exciting demos.

We started off the day with an inspiring video from our International Women’s Day Campaign #MAKEWHATSNEXT GIRLSDOSCIENCE.  The video’s goal is to inspire young women around the globe to get interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), and Computer Science in particular, as a path for advancing their education and as a way to empower them to achieve more.

Here are some of our favorite tweets from the day:

Empowering Youth at New York City Computer Science Opportunity Fair

The 2016 CS Fair held at the The Armory on Thursday March 7, 2016 in New York. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for WE/Microsoft

On April 7, Microsoft and CSNYC co-sponsored the New York City Computer Science Opportunity Fair – the city’s largest annual college and career exploration event for public high schools students.  We joined CSNYC to bring booths, schools and speakers to the fair that aims to educate and inspire students about career opportunities in the field of computer science. There were 2000 students from over 65 schools from all five boroughs.

The 2016 CS Fair held at the The Armory on Thursday March 7, 2016 in New York. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for WE/MicrosoftOver 100 companies, colleges and extra-curricular programs were represented.  Companies and organizations like AOL, Facebook, the New York city council, Two Sigma, New York City Economic Development Corporation, The Armory and the NYC Department of Education contributed, sponsored and helped organize the Fair. The 2016 CS Fair featured hands-on activities, exhibits and short presentations all aimed at demystifying computer science, computing careers and non-technical pathways in tech for young people.

One of the many highlights of the day was the participation of legendary audio engineer, educator and DJ, Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton, who has collaborated with performers such as Jay-Z, Beyonce and Alicia Keys. Guru spun twice for delighted students, as well as presented one of the event’s Tech Talks, entitled “How Technology Has Transformed Creativity,” while interacting with students from the Academy for Software Engineering, who use his audio engineering software, EarSketch, to learn coding.

The 2016 CS Fair held at the The Armory on Thursday March 7, 2016 in New York. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for WE/MicrosoftThe event also included several Maker Space booths where students were able to build electronics and put their new-found skills to work.  The Maker Space activities included:

  • Building paper circuitry into an origami project with copper tape, LEDs and coin cell batteries.
  • Building a small paper helicopter including a parallel circuit to light them up with a small LED.
  • A soldering activity where students got to assemble their own “solder badge” (a small printed circuit board with a blinking RGB LED) featuring the logo of the conference.
  • Programming a pattern (including their own names) onto the face of an LED cube.
  • Drawing a working circuit with a conductive ink pen.
  • Making a robot arc reactor

The 2016 CS Fair held at the The Armory on Thursday March 7, 2016 in New York. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for WE/Microsoft

Microsoft is a strong believer in computer science education for many reasons.  We want a robust pool of the next generation of innovators to contribute to our work force and our community.  For students, the world of computer science opens up a wealth of opportunities and we want all young minds to be familiar with all of the possibilities.  During the event, the speakers, booths, “maker space” sessions were all designed to help inspire these students about everything that the world of computer science has to offer.  This is a field that presents its entrants with the chance to be creative, collaborative and fulfilled in their future careers.

Microsoft is involved with the NYC CS Fair through its TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program.  TEALS helps high schools build sustainable computer science programs by pairing trained computer science professionals from across the tech industry with classroom teachers to co-teach a computer science class in high schools across the US.  After two years, the classroom teacher is prepared to teach the course without volunteer support and allows the volunteer to help another school.  We believe that by increasing access to computer science education for all youth, we can help them prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow.  This gives them the opportunity to become creators of technology and the world’s future innovators.  

We are always in need of new volunteers to help make this program a success.  If you are, or someone you know is a computer science practitioner who is looking for a way to give back to the community, the TEALS program offers the perfect opportunity.  Visit us at https://www.tealsk12.org/volunteers to find out more.  

Civic Tech Spring in NYC this April

NY April

Home openers, temperatures flirting with summer, and plenty of interesting people coming through New York. It’s the Spring Civic Tech roundup!

April 11th — April 2016 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty

Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York, followed by a networking afterparty.

April 12th — BetaTalk – Introducing FOIA mapper

Do you regularly make FOIA requests? Or are interested in making the process easier and more transparent?

Please join one of BetaNYC’s members and Knight Prototype Fund Winners, Max Galka, as he demos his FOIA Mapper. For this BetaTalk, Max will talk about the importance of the freedom of information law, the law’s digital connectivity, and introduce us to FOIA Mapper. A majority of the event will focus on feedback and your reactions to guide the next stage of the development.

April 13th — Dutch Innovation: A Look at the Future of Smart Cities

Hear from the successful implementations of 4 Dutch companies and how they are paving the way for a smarter and cleaner future! We’ll also learn how Dutch innovations are making their way to the US.

April 13th — Workshop Wednesdays: David Moore Presents NYC Councilmatic

David Moore will be presenting NYC Councilmatic, Civic Hall’s very own local engagement app. NYC Councilmatic is the latest step in a long line of nonprofit work, which has been in development for the last 4 years. It all started with the Participatory Politics Foundation, founded in 2006, which does open source work, incorporated as a nonprofit. There have been several projects that led to the development of Councilmatic.

April 13th — A Conversation With the Next Candidates for UN Secretary General

The post of United Nations Secretary-General is said to be the world’s most impossible job. But it is also one of the most important.
For the first time in UN history, candidates will openly compete in two hustings to be the next UN Secretary-General, publicly outlining their vision for the future of the UN.

From climate change to armed conflict, extremism to pandemics, many of the world’ most defining problems transcend borders and require global solutions. In an increasingly polarized world facing multiple threats, only the UN can step up to meet these complex challenges. A Secretary-General can save lives. We need the best possible person for the job: a highly-qualified and visionary leader, equipped to deal with crises the world over.

Join New America, in partnership with UNA-UK and The Guardian, for the first of two historic debates with the candidates for the next Secretary-General.

April 15th – Brown Bag with SWITxBOARD / IPA USA

Kilian Kleinschmidt, humanitarian expert and chairman of IPA, will discuss current approaches and shortcomings in the humanitarian relief system and refugee and migration management with a focus on the opportunity of decentralized approaches to relief.

April 22nd – Civic Hall and NY Tech Meetup Present The Innovation Breakfast Series

This series offers New Yorkers working in the fields of technology, civic and social innovation an opportunity to hear from leaders in government and industry, and gives professionals the chance to meet and network around common interests. #CivicBKFST

April 22nd will be our next Machine Eatable lunch (#MachineEatable) at Civic Hall. Speaker and RSVP to be announced!

April 27th — Inside Meetup HQ!

The fantastic tech team at Meetup HQ has kindly invited CUNY Tech Meetup members to visit their NYC office on the evening of Wednesday April 27th at 6:30pm. We will have the opportunity to see Meetup’s cool NYC office space and hear from their Chief Technology Officer, Yvette Pasqua, about what it’s like to lead Meetup’s dev team and run the technology that helps people build meaningful communities that connect people to each other. We’ll also hear from some of her engineers and from the head of Meetup’s Talent & Culture team as well.

April 27-28 (In Barcelona) — MySociety’s Impacts of Civic Tech Conference, where I’ll be sharing a taxonomy of civic tech with Micah Sifry and Erin Simpson of Civic Hall

Recap: 2016 Microsoft Build Developer Conference


Every year, our development team meets with other developers worldwide for the Microsoft Build Developer Conference. Over three days, we explore new technologies, new ideas, and ways we can make our communities better through product and software development.

This year, we were thrilled to host Build in San Francisco, where partners, friends, and employees came together to celebrate Microsoft technology and move forward as developers. With plenty of exciting announcements throughout the conference, be sure to catch up via video here.

Here are some of our favorite Build moments, told via tweet:

Join Silicon Harlem and Microsoft Pulse for a 13th Congressional District Debate


Who will represent the NY 13th Congressional District in Washington? Tonight, we’re thrilled to join Silicon Harlem in a live debate featuring candidates for U.S. Representative in NY’s 13th Congressional District. These candidates will be exploring “Technology and Innovation as an Economic Growth Strategy,” bridging the worlds of government, civic change, and technology.

We’re inviting our audience — both in person and online — to take part in this debate through Microsoft Pulse. You’ll be able to respond in real-time, whether you agree or disagree, to what the candidates are saying. You can also take part in live polls through @SiliconHarlem on Twitter and on our Pulse polls.

Not able to attend? Watch the livestream here starting at 6pm EST. Follow the debate live through Microsoft Pulse, @SiliconHarlem, @MicrosoftNY, and #SHDebate.

Read more on the Microsoft Pulse Blog.

Silicon Harlem is a social venture that has been designed to transform Harlem in to a technology and innovation hub. This includes establishing co-working spaces, gigabit infrastructure, securing investment capital, and hosting monthly meetups.