Microsoft announces $15M R&D focus on next-generation learning models, plus resources for students & teachers

UPDATED July 18th at 8:00 a.m. PT with URL to White House press release.

Recognizing it will take all of us…schools, parents, guardians, foundations, governments and corporate partners to meet the challenges facing our kids today…we are honored to be invited to meet with President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senior White House Advisors, and industry leaders,  for a roundtable discussion on education reform on Monday.  We are hopeful that gatherings such as this will continue to elevate the conversation and remind us all that providing every child a quality educational experience must be a right of this country, not a privilege. Continued investment in education is the key ingredient in creating a skilled workforce that will grow and sustain our national economy. (See White House press release here and Wall Street Journal story here.)
At Microsoft, we believe we must continue to create more engaging and effective learning environments that result in improved student performance, and reflect the digital nature of students’ lives. However, all too often we have seen schools implement technology for the sake of technology. So today, we are announcing a $15M investment in 3 key areas of innovation – increasing engagement, managing information, and supporting educators.
Around the world, every day, students are engaged in playing games. These digital exercises provide us insight into their motivations and passions. And yet, our classrooms and content take little advantage of this information. With this new investment, Microsoft will support research and development in understanding and creating learning environments that integrate the characteristics of gaming that kids are passionate about. Just imagine…every day a child will fail at a game, and yet keep coming back to try again. But in our classrooms, for most, once a child experiences failure, they shut down. We need to bring the same passion they bring to their digital lives into our classrooms. This investment will help our partners and educators do just that.
Microsoft also recognizes that with the growth of both informal and formal learning opportunities, we must do a better job capturing and sharing our learning artifacts and achievements. To support this need, Microsoft will invest in the development of a digital learning archive. This will allow kids the ability to capture their learning artifacts, achievements, and various other types of data in a secure repository, allowing them to gather in one place their lifelong learning record, and share this information with those they choose.
While we believe technology can be the accelerator to make schools more productive and more effective, it is no silver bullet. We recognize that every day, teachers are challenged to bring the right tools and resources into their classrooms, and so we are not only investing in technology and the platform, but in the innovation of human capital as well. Therefore, over the next 3 years, Microsoft is committing to train more than 150 thousand educators in the U.S. to elevate their skills so they can benefit from these new technologies. We will also provide access to new professional learning communities, best practices and training to every teacher in the United States through a new Partners in Learning Network.
For more than 25 years, Microsoft has worked with teachers and schools worldwide to improve education by using technology to engage, explore and create. Today’s $15M investment builds on the company’s recent education commitments to help increase the number of Washington State students earning bachelor’s degrees in high-demand STEM fields, investments to improve access to technology in Los Angeles and San Francisco, our annual investment in U.S. Partners in Learning and many more totaling over $90M.

Comments (5)
  1. Myra Deister says:

    There also needs to be support for software and hardware.  I recently was a member of an accreditation team that reviewed a high school in Los Angeles.  The students were very motivated, the principal was doing all she could but they had a lack of resources because they were such a small high school.  The team met with just the students.  Their only request was an updated site license of Microsoft Office.  Isn't there someone at Microsoft that could provide that for them?

  2. Michelle Zimmerman says:

    This is great new! I'm a doctoral candidate at University of Washington in the College of Education, and also a middle school teacher in a 1:1 laptop setting. I'm currently working on a proposal for the American Educational Research Association for research on gaming in the classroom that I began last spring and will continue into this school year. It would be great to connect with others with similar interests. I'm also part of the 2011 US IEF.

  3. Pete Monfre says:

    Amen. We are doing this now (albeit on a smaller scale) creating STEM curriculum that is an incredible adventure utilizing video and eventually gaming. Our program, Exploration Nation, features a peer host in Discovery Channel style adventure documentaries traveling the country doing science with universities, government agencies and private companies. From tracking giant garter snakes in California and visiting wind farms in Wyoming to exploring caverns in Texas and doing fossil research in New Mexico – we are making science fun again. – We sure could use some help.

  4. Anthony Salcito says:

    Thank you all for your comments and enthusiasm around this announcement. We will continue to update you on new resources and ways to engage in upcoming months!

  5. Linda Hindi says:

    Education, which should be at the forefront in preparing students for the future, is sorely lacking in the area of technology innovation and use. Outdated equipment, software and ideology still prevails today. Too many administrators, teachers, parents and community leaders falsely believe that students already "know" technology because of cell phones, IPads and ITouch. Too many times I have heard that kids are already connected and know more than their parents generation. Too many adults in charge think a simple class in application and keyboarding is all that is needed to prepare our future leaders, innovators and workers. preparing students for tomorrow is more than application and keyboarding (this is ever changing); it is about  preparing students in understanding the concepts behind the technology scene; evaluating what is good, bad, necessary, safe, unsafe and the implications of technology; to think , to become innovative, problem solve; look from a different perspective. And yes, to effectively use the tools that are there now and in the future.

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