Microsoft showcases technologies that will transform the classroom

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 18 November 2015
Microsoft showcases technologies that will transform the classroom

At its recent Education Underground Workshop, Microsoft showcased a number of technologies that are helping to make learning more engaging and accessible, while delivering on the company’s vision to empower every student on the planet to achieve more.

At the workshop, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussed how technology can help teachers and inspire students to learn, innovate and make a difference. “Microsoft views technology as a tool that promotes lifelong learning, makes education inclusive and creates opportunities,” he said.  

The workshop illustrated the power of Microsoft technology in education, including what’s possible with OneNote, Sway and Skype in the classroom. According to a report by Microsoft’s press office, OneNote can help teachers create organised, interactive lessons, while its reading and dictation features help learners of all abilities.

Andover Middle School teacher Andrea Friend showed how Skype in the Classroom connected her students in Kansas with Kenyan students in need of a clean water system. Her students built a filtration system, and Skype helped make the related lessons in science, maths, health and geography meaningful.

“Part of my job as a teacher is to teach kids that we’re more alike than we are different,” said Friend, who is part of Microsoft’s Skype Master Teacher programme. “It was great to watch that excitement in their eyes. They wanted to come in everyday, ready to create, ready to design, and build something that was going to help somebody else.”

The day also included a glimpse at the “science fair of the future,” with a look at projects from the company’s many hackers, makers and researchers. Projects included ChronoZoom, an open source time visualisation tool that uses the concept of zooming to express the scope of time.

Educators and students also got to jump on a giant keyboard to play music with the IoT: core piano, controlled by a Raspberry Pi 2 running Windows 10 IoT Core.

“I love what I’ve seen,” said Rafranz Davis, executive director of professional and digital learning at the Lukfin Independent School District in Texas. “I love the direction where Microsoft is going. But more than anything, I feel like listening was happening today.”

The event at Microsoft’s Redmond campus followed an earlier unveiling of a new Minecraft coding tutorial by Microsoft and Code.org. Designed to encourage more people to learn computer science, the tutorial was created especially for next month’s Hour of Code campaign during the Computer Science Education Week.

The new tutorial, now available at https://www.code.org/mc, introduces players to basic coding within the fun and popular Minecraft environment. Created by Minecraft game designers together with Code.org, the tutorial features Steve and Alex from Minecraft and Minecraft-inspired challenges that will be familiar to its more than 100 million players around the world.

“A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world,” said Nadella. “With Minecraft and Code.org, we aim to spark creativity in the next generation of innovators in a way that is natural, collaborative and fun.

“Minecraft inspires people to be imaginative designers, builders and innovators, and we’re really pleased to partner with Code.org to introduce the creativity of coding to millions of youth around the world.”

Microsoft also announced a new partnership with edX to create more courses for school leaders and provide greater access to Microsoft’s current resources for principals, superintendents and other school leaders. And the company highlighted the expansion of the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Showcase Schools programmes, welcoming nearly 2,700 more educators and nearly 400 schools from around the world.

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