We’ve just announced that Miami Dade County Public Schools in the USA will be providing 100,000 Windows 8 devices for their students by August 2015, starting this term with HP and Lenovo computers for 13,000 primary and 15,000 middle school students. It is part of the bigger programme of technology initiatives in partnership with Microsoft, which includes their 350,000 students getting to Microsoft Office for use on their personal computers at home or school, and the use of the IT Academy programme to provide a new job training programme.
A recent IDC Study, which scanned more than 14 million job postings, found that the most in-demand skills for the top jobs through 2020 are the modern skills such as communication, problem solving and teamwork, coupled with the technical skills of Microsoft Office. In fact, Microsoft Office is the No. 2 skill employers are looking for in the highest-paying jobs, and No. 3 skill in all jobs.
Although in these announcements people (and journalists) often focus on the ‘new things’ like software and devices, what is underpinning the whole initiative is a clear focus on improving teaching and learning. As Margo Day, from Microsoft in the US, says in the announcement:
Now, make no mistake — we know technology on its own will not close this education gap; it alone won’t improve test scores. Yet, it is powerful when used effectively. The empowered teacher and flexible technology combination can be a magical mix.
We applaud (Miami-Dade County Public Schools) for carefully looking at the needs of its teachers and students before making the decision of which technology solution to implement. Microsoft is committed to helping teachers at Miami Dade learn new ways to teach with technology. It’s critical to help teachers reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks such as grading homework. With the use of tools such as shared OneNote Notebooks, this is finally possible. Ultimately we want to help teachers spend the most time doing what they do best and love to do most: teach.
For the students, it was wonderful to see Miami-Dade deeply consider the diverse needs of its student population and avoid a one-size-fits-all technology solution.
Miami Dade is the 4th largest US school district, so this is a significant programme, and it follows on just two days after our announcement of a partnership to support wider access to technology for US public schools. That initiative includes a partnership with device manufacturers to lower the cost of Windows devices for schools, as well as teacher and student training resources, and even the provision of advertising-free internet search through Bing for Schools.