Microsoft Helps Schools Embrace 21st-Century Opportunities and Challenges
Jan. 14, 2009
Microsoft extends reach of Partners in Learning Innovative Schools program to more than 72,000 schools across 100 nations.

LONDON — Jan. 14, 2009 — Microsoft Corp. today announced landmark expansions to its 10-year, nearly $500-million Partners in Learning program, including a massive increase in the scale of its Innovative Schools program, which enables schools worldwide to harness the power of technology to gear up for the educational challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Microsoft kicked off the expanded Innovative Schools program in London today with a workshop for senior European education officials, the first in a series of workshops for global education leaders it will hold across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

The Innovative Schools program will apply and refine lessons learned from the two-year, 12-school Innovative Schools Pilot Program launched last year by Microsoft to study efforts to use technology to help drive change across diverse educational settings. The pilot study spans urban, suburban and rural schools — economically challenged and wealthy alike — ranging in size from 70 to 1,500 students across 12 nations. Microsoft announced the release today of a report and two white papers detailing the latest findings from the pilot project and outlining essential action steps schools can take to ensure that students receive the education they need to succeed in the 21st-century knowledge economy.

Today’s announcements build on Microsoft’s long-standing track record, as part of the Partners in Learning program, of working closely with international educational leaders to advance information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled school change that supports the emerging needs of 21st-century learning.

“Our three-year partnership with Microsoft provided us with new opportunities to have a positive impact on schools in the U.K. and abroad,” said Tim Tarrant, head of ICT at the U.K.’s Training and Development Agency (TDA). “Microsoft’s support for our jointly funded projects has been a tremendous asset, as has the ICT expertise it has contributed. Work between the TDA and Microsoft on Partners in Learning will continue as part of the memo of understanding signed with the Department for Children, Schools and Families in October 2008.”

The Innovative Schools program is a key component of the Partners in Learning program. With this investment, Microsoft is making a long-term commitment to working with governments, education officials, development organizations, teachers, students and parents globally to increase schools’ access to technology and improve its use in the classroom to empower teachers, enrich instruction and enhance learning outcomes for students. Partners in Learning is an integral part of the Microsoft Unlimited Potential program, the company’s commitment to bringing the benefits of technology to people around the world.

Since its inception in 2003, Partners in Learning has positively impacted the lives of more than 121 million students and more than 5.5 million educators, and these numbers continue to grow. In March 2008, the company announced $235 million of additional support to the initiative to bring its total investment over 10 years to nearly $500 million.

“With Partners in Learning, we’re taking a realistic approach to education transformation that encompasses all of the key stakeholders and moves beyond abstract theory by putting innovative ideas into practice,” said Ralph Young, vice president of Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft. “Through the Innovative Schools program, we’re implementing technology and tools in live education settings to identify what works and what doesn’t in an effort to help enhance learning outcomes around the world.”

Also today, Microsoft announced a partnership between the Microsoft Schools Technology Center Brussels and the Lumiar Institute, a groundbreaking educational nonprofit started by Brazilian industrialist and best-selling management thinker Ricardo Semler, and participant in the Innovative Schools Pilot Program. Lumiar seeks to apply Semler’s groundbreaking approach to management to the field of education to reinvent schooling. Under the research collaborative, Microsoft and Lumiar will work closely with educators, school leaders, government officials and private partners to identify the key skills and competencies students need in the 21st century and how schools can be transformed to support them.

“We’re delighted to be joining forces with Microsoft on this important pioneering initiative,” said Semler, president of Semco SA and author of the international business bestsellers “Maverick” and “The Seven-Day Weekend.” “Aligning education with the needs of the emerging global knowledge economy is one of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. Microsoft brings invaluable vision, expertise, passion and entrepreneurial flair to the table in helping advance this objective.”

The Innovative Schools program will bring participating schools together through a global digital forum, enabling them to discuss innovation models, disseminate best practices, exchange smart ideas with their peers worldwide, support one other and access professional development resources. The digital network will be part of the next version of Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers Network, which today connects more than 1.6 million teachers worldwide. It will be supplemented by a roster of global symposia and workshops that will spotlight individual school initiatives and tackle specific reform issues affecting individual schools.

In addition to the expansion of the program to 72,000 schools, Microsoft will select a group of 345 “developer schools” to work closely with the company, which includes 45 “mentor schools” that will help guide clusters of other innovative schools in their regions.

The Innovative Schools program seeks to foster improved global understanding of how schools can help students acquire the skills required for success in the global knowledge economy. To this end, Microsoft works with schools to examine how they can marshal technology to meet the educational imperatives of the 21st century and how technological innovation can underpin a comprehensive “whole school” approach to reform, spanning instruction, assessment, curricula, teacher training, school leadership and learning-space design.

“Participating schools benefit from Microsoft’s long-term commitment to education and exposure to insights captured from thousands of learning environments worldwide,” Young said. “It’s tremendous to see the bold, fresh thinking by local schools and, in turn, offer them the help and support of Microsoft and our partner network to design and deploy great technology that creates opportunities for their students, educators and communities.”

By design, the 12 schools taking part in the Innovative Schools Pilot Program constitute a representative cross-section of the diversity found in schools worldwide, which helps identify the universal challenges schools face plus those specific to particular countries. The ultimate goal is to generate viable, benchmarked and proven learning models for 21st-century education that can be cost-effectively replicated across entire school systems and easily adapted to local conditions, to underpin wide-scale education transformation.

The report being issued today will distill key insights gleaned from the first year of the Innovative Schools Pilot Program, including the following:

  • The importance of strong school leadership and a collaborative professional teacher community as part of a common commitment to goal-setting and innovation

  • The value of technology in support of innovative teaching practices, which involve students in higher-level thinking and regulating of their own learning

The separate white papers walk schools through the 6i process, a road map for envisioning, implementing and managing ICT-driven change, and the School Innovation Framework, which gives school leaders a guide to effecting educational change based on proven approaches, respectively.

In addition, this week Microsoft is hosting a two-day Innovative Schools Conference on Jan. 14–15 in London that will enable schools participating in the Innovative Schools Pilot Program to compare notes, evaluate their progress and hear from leading thinkers. The event will also feature an opportunity to view the state-of-the-art New Line Learning Academy in Maidstone, Kent, an example of the cutting-edge use of technology to enable new, more interactive and personalized forms of pedagogy. Microsoft served as a technology advisor to the academy under Partners in Learning.

“Technology allows us to rethink how we educate children by opening up possibilities that simply didn’t exist before,” said Chris Gerry, executive principal of New Line Learning, UK. “But to truly realize its potential, technology needs to be accompanied by a comprehensive vision for change. In working with Microsoft, we’ve been impressed with how the company understands the big picture and that technology by itself is not a panacea. It has brought to bear a refreshingly holistic approach to educational transformation, and we’ve valued its strategic counsel every step of the way.”

More Information

Additional background on the events occurring this week, including case studies, fact sheets, executive biographies and other materials supporting Microsoft’s goal of enabling access to high-quality educational experiences, is available at http://www.microsoft.com/emea/presscentre/EducationVPR/default.mspx.

About Unlimited Potential

Microsoft, through its Unlimited Potential vision, is committed to making technology more affordable, relevant and accessible for the 5 billion people around the world who do not yet enjoy its benefits. The company aims to do so by helping to transform education and foster a culture of innovation, and through these means enable better jobs and opportunities. By working with governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and industry partners, Microsoft hopes to reach its first major milestone — to reach the next 1 billion people who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology — by 2015.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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