Fraser Public Schools in Michigan is fostering learning outside the classroom with a new suite of online messaging and collaboration services from Microsoft. The district chose Microsoft Live@edu instead of Google Apps for Education to give students experience with the tools they’ll encounter at work and college. Teachers are using Live@edu to build innovation into the curriculum, offering students a new paradigm of collaborative online learning.
Fraser Public Schools serves the needs of approximately 5,100 students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 in Macomb County, Michigan. As a “school of choice” for county residents, the district exhibits a forward-thinking approach to education in the twenty-first century, using leading-edge technology, such as Promethean Boards and student response systems, in every classroom.
Superintendent Dr. David Richards wants to focus on helping the district’s 305 teachers rethink the learning process to take advantage of digital tools. “I believe we have to change how we deliver education,” he says. “It’s not about using technology to teach the way you have always taught; it’s about redesigning what happens in the classroom to take advantage of new capabilities offered by the technology. Our focus is to create a learning environment that increases student engagement by leveraging digital resources at all grade levels.”
Fraser Public Schools wanted to offer online communication and collaboration tools to students and teachers to extend learning beyond the temporal and geographical boundaries of the traditional school day. Teachers and staff use an on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 messaging and collaboration solution, however, they were limited to one gigabyte of storage per mailbox. Student email accounts did not exist. Teacher, staff, and student files were located on internal servers with no external access, limiting their use to school hours. Also, the current solution did not include any collaboration tools.
“We wanted teachers and students to be able to communicate and share documents using the latest messaging technologies both during and after school hours,” says Kris Young, Director of Technology and Education Systems at Fraser Public Schools. “With our tight IT budget and our small IT department, it wasn’t feasible to support a larger on-premises Microsoft Exchange environment, so we had to find an alternative.”
Fraser Public Schools decided to look at hosted student/teacher collaboration solutions. For advice, Young turned to Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and National Systems Integrator DynTek Services. The company introduced Fraser Public Schools to Microsoft Live@edu, a no-cost* suite of hosted communication and collaboration services for both teachers and students. The services include Microsoft Outlook Live web-based email with 10 gigabytes (GB) of storage, which is built on Microsoft Exchange Server 2010; Windows Live SkyDrive technology, which provides 25 GB of online storage per user; and Microsoft Office Web Apps that students can use to view, create, and edit documents using a familiar Microsoft Office interface.
||Live@edu ushers in a cultural shift at Fraser Public Schools, merging the best of traditional teaching with the best of digital learning to foster connected learning and prepare kids for college and work.
||Dr. David Richards
Superintendent, Fraser Public Schools
“When DynTek told us about Microsoft Live@edu, I realized it was a rich set of collaboration and communication services that would work better for our students and our staff than the Google Apps for Education solution,” says Young. “We wanted a solution that gives students the chance to become familiar with the messaging and collaboration tools they’ll encounter at college or in the business world, and the Google solution didn’t offer that environment.”
By moving both students and staff to Live@edu, Fraser Public Schools can offer everyone the latest communication and collaboration technologies with highly secure data storage at Microsoft data centers. “With Live@edu, we can reaffirm our commitment to online security by using the bad word filter and anti-bullying features,” says Richards.
The district worked with DynTek and Microsoft during the summer of 2010 to provision teacher and student mailboxes for a pilot project that began in September 2010 at its high school. “We asked for Live@edu project proposals and selected four teachers to participate in the pilot with 120 students,” says Richards. “Later, we plan to roll out Live@edu to the entire district, including the elementary schools.”
With Live@edu, Fraser Public Schools gained a rich suite of technology tools to offer a connected educational experience to both teachers and students across the district. “We want to make sure that our students are never without access to their files and shared workspaces, while the teachers are always mindful of how they can use the technology to leverage what happens face-to-face in the classroom,” says Richards.
For instance, by using Windows Live Messenger for instant messaging and Windows Live SkyDrive for online collaborative projects, students can work together and contact teachers and peers anytime, from anywhere. “Students can use the technology to be more responsible about handing in assignments: they can set calendar reminders and drop off their work digitally,” says Young. “And with teachers using the same tools, they can share class calendars with students, highlighting class agendas, important events, or due dates to keep everyone engaged in the learning.”
“I am very excited about using Live@edu with my students,” says Stacie Yokhana, who teaches Family and Consumer Science courses at Fraser High School. “Providing students with email access and opening up an environment where they can access their files and use the collaboration tools to share documents with their peers anytime, anywhere will extend learning beyond our school walls.”
And with Live@edu, the district gains scalable online communication and collaboration technologies at considerable savings over maintaining its own messaging solution for faculty, staff, and students. “Live@edu ensures we stay on the latest messaging software while saving us on-premises upgrade and storage costs of approximately [U.S.]$600,000,” says Young. “That’s money we can allocate directly to improving learning at Fraser Public Schools.”
“Live@edu ushers in a cultural shift at Fraser Public Schools, merging the best of traditional teaching with the best of digital learning to foster connected learning and prepare kids for college and work,” concludes Richards.
*Access to and use of the Internet may require payment of a separate fee to an Internet service provider. Local and or long-distance telephone charges may apply.
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