OK so it is already all over the blogosphere that Bill Gates announced a new program called DreamSpark to give software to students. (The official press release is here BTW) So I'm kind of late to the party already. Channel 8 is going to be a key source for developing news on this project so you may want to keep looking over there. (The main DreamSpark site is here.)
So what is being offered? Glad you asked!
Microsoft developer tools.
- Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition
- Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
- XNA Game Studio 2.0
- 12-month free membership in the XNA Creators Club
Microsoft designer tools. Expression Studio, including:
- Expression Web
- Expression Blend
- Expression Design
- Expression Media
Microsoft platform resources.
- SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition
- Windows Server, Standard Edition (Yes, Windows Server Edition!!)
There are two key FAQs.
- FAQ for students interested in DreamSpark
- FAQ for university administrators who want to know what this all means for them.
A couple of questions have come after that. They are probably in the FAQs but maybe you can't wait or maybe they are not. Yeah, that's why I was waiting to blog so I could answer more questions. No really! OK maybe not but it works out well that way.
What about high school?
It's coming. It has a high priority as the next step. Bill Gates says it will happen and that commitment appears several times in the press release and in other official statements. I'll have more information about this as things get settled and information becomes available.
How do students learn how to use this stuff once they have it?
I've got a few resources listed here and I am working on getting more listed. So return often. And if you have some to recommend please leave them in the comments.
- Beginning Developer Learning Center - a great place to start with videos, tutorials, and projects for learners of all ages.
- Coding 4 Fun - Lots of fun projects most with step by step instructions and many with videos.
- MSDN Forums - These are the forums the professionals use but beginners are welcome and there are lots of people willing to help with technical questions. A lot of students and faculty members are already there asking the tough technical questions.
- XNA Forums - If you want to learn how to develop video games with XNA this is the place to ask questions.
- Channel 8 and the Channel 8 Student Union - lots of information in the videos there and lots of good discussion in the forums of the Student Union.
What about faculty? What about classroom/course use?
Microsoft is retaining their existing programs for getting software into the classroom and for course/faculty use. The MSDN Academic Alliance program (MSDN AA) is great for getting software for teaching labs, including a lot more than DreamSpark offers students, into the hands of faculty. Also there is the IT Academy program. If you are a faculty member who teaches IT/CS or related topics you really want to check those programs out. MSDN AA and IT Academy are both programs that already include high schools in case you were not aware of that.
Faculty can also get access to software though the Faculty Connection sites.