Big Things Coming From Microsoft Education
When most people think of Microsoft, they think of the multinational company headed by Bill Gates, responsible for the creation of Windows and the beloved Office series among other innovations. What most don’t realize is that great things are happening with Microsoft Education.
In a nondescript building in Manhattan, Education Update had the privilege of touring LoftOne and meeting with representatives from numerous departments within Microsoft Education about their exciting innovations. Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education for Microsoft and Bronx native, described his vision for the future of the company in education: “Kids like me in the Bronx, I never really got past the couple of blocks in my neighborhood. The world was really small then but it’s actually opened up quite a bit. You see the same challenges with kids in all parts of the world who don’t get a chance to see the rest of the world and we’d like to bring a change to that.” In his 20 years at Microsoft, Salcito has gone from teaching Girl Scouts how to code to heading initiatives to utilize the technologies Microsoft has at its disposal to improve education all over the world. His motto of “expect more, do more, and be more” has proven to be immensely successful in his own life and he hopes to apply the same principles to those students Microsoft Education is trying to reach. “You have to challenge kids to go beyond what you think they can achieve. This has been a lesson that has been proven right every time. When you give kids the right foundation and you expect big things, they will always exceed your expectations,” said Salcito. When asked about his favorite teacher growing up, Salcito immediately recalled his 8th grade teacher from the Bronx, Ms. Eileen Walsh. He stated that she saw potential within her students and challenged him to go beyond what he was offered.
These principles have been reflected in Microsoft’s education related technology that focuses on the holistic transformation of educational resources that adapt to the needs of each student. From a dynamic textbook that adapts to the learning pace of a student to One Note, a notebook program that encourages collaboration amongst students, it is evident that Microsoft Education is focused on a much more inclusive and adaptable approach to education.
Most recently, Microsoft has unveiled an accessibility tool for their One Note program. This add-on will allow students with learning disabilities to break down information visually and audibly in interactive and accessible ways. Designed with simplicity in mind, this accessibility tool will allow teachers to “stop tech-ing and start teaching.” Some of the features include a way to break down complex text into syllables to allow for greater comprehension, as well as the same speech recognition software used in phones to help students who have difficulty spelling to keep up with class notes. The prize-winning product of a Microsoft Hackathon, this accessibility package is a welcome addition to those who require supplementary materials to help comprehend complex information without being stigmatized. Additionally, because One Note is a program that allows for collaborations between remote users, students with aids can have input from their paraprofessionals without having to draw attention to themselves by having an adult present at all times.
On the other end of Microsoft Education, gaming meets schooling with the newly unveiled Minecraft Education. Minecraft, an open sandbox game that draws on the creativity of its players to create new worlds using 1x1 blocks, is an immensely popular game that was purchased by Microsoft in 2014. A third-party edition of the game that was created by and intended for teachers to use as a resource in their classrooms called Minecraft EDU was acquired from Teacher Gaming and is being released by Microsoft as Minecraft Education. This resource will allow teachers to learn the basics of the game that is beloved by their students, making it easier for teachers to use the game to teach lesson plans in history, math, and numerous other subjects. Additionally, teachers and students will enjoy enhanced maps and multiplayer capacities to allow for greater growth and exploration throughout the Minecraft world. This debut truly reflects Microsoft’s desire to implement creative outlets for education. Time can only tell what else Microsoft will bring to the world of education, but clearly they are at the forefront of innovation, benefitting both students and educators alike.#