Microsoft Answers Call to Bridge the “Digital Divide”

REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 1, 2000 —
“Opportunity for all requires something else today — having access to a computer and knowing how to use it,”
said President Clinton in his State of the Union Address last week.
“That means we must close the digital divide between those who’ve got the tools and those who don’t.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) echoed the President’s remarks in the Republican response to the State of the Union.

As we enter the 21 st century, every young American must be educated to adapt to a changing workplace, and many in our current workforce must be provided with new skills to succeed in the new economy.”

For more than seven years, Microsoft has helped to bridge the digital divide, creating ways for young people in underserved communities to gain access to today’s technology. In the past three years, Microsoft has contributed more than $173 million to help thousands of organizations — including public libraries, colleges, and universities — provide technology access to students at all levels of education.

“The goal at Microsoft is to bring the benefit of information technology (IT) to communities where young people might not have access to even the most basic equipment,”
said Bruce Brooks, director of community affairs at Microsoft.
“We believe that if you provide students with the resources they need, they can accomplish great things.”

Microsoft recently made contributions toward teacher and student IT training through four outstanding programs.

Microsoft Supports Federal TRIO Program to Provide Technology Access for Low-Income Students

Federal TRIO Programs (Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math/Science, Veterans’ Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Educational Opportunity Centers, and the McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program) help students overcome class, social, academic, and cultural barriers to higher education. They are administered by the Council for Opportunity in Education, a nonprofit organization established in 1981 dedicated to furthering the expansion of educational opportunities throughout the United States. Through its numerous membership services, the Council works in conjunction with colleges, universities, and agencies that host TRIO Programs to help low-income Americans enter and graduate from college.

Microsoft’s donation of more than $3 million in software to TRIO Programs will be used in 49 colleges and universities across the nation to provide greater technology access to low-income and first-generation students seeking post-secondary education. The Microsoft software provides the latest in technology for the computer labs that support these programs, enabling the students to gain technology access, skills, and training.

“When people talk about the ‘digital divide,’ it certainly does not apply to our McNair scholars after they’ve completed the program here,”
said Michael Jeffries, Associate Dean of Students and director of TRIO programs at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana.
“Technology training has been an integral part of what we’ve been doing in the McNair program nationally as well as locally, and the Microsoft contribution has really been a blessing. It has enabled us to keep pace with technology without having to worry about the burden of purchasing up-to-date software.”

This donation is the latest in Microsoft’s ongoing support for TRIO Programs, which has totaled more than $24 million in software since 1996.

“The ongoing support from Microsoft has been a watershed for TRIO,” said Dr. Robert Belle, director of TRIO programs for the U.S. Department of Education. “The support provided allows TRIO projects to use technology to assist the program’s participants in gaining the needed skills that are vital to their educational success. The support also allows the projects the flexibility to direct their funds to other needed areas in their programs.”

“The technology gap closes very quickly once you provide access,”
said Jeffries.
“The partnership with Microsoft and the Department of Education has enabled hundreds of individuals at our institution — teachers and students alike — to be better prepared for the technology challenges within their disciplines.”

Working Connections Provides Grants for Technology Training at Community Colleges

“In this area of the country, students who are college-bound are well cared for,” said Lee Pickrell, Curriculum Coordinator for Computer Science at the University of New Mexico at Los Alamos. “Students who’ve made a decision not to go to college are also well-served. The population that is undecided about whether or not to go to college and may not want to commit to a four-year program but has enough skills to go into a technical field — that’s the population that needs Microsoft’s Working Connections program.”

Microsoft’s Working Connections program, administered by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), funds projects at community colleges nationwide that build and enhance information technology training programs. Over a five year period, 1998-2002, AACC and Microsoft will award $7 million in cash grants ranging from $240,000 to $300,000, plus additional software and technical assistance to more than 60 community colleges, helping them recruit and retain IT students from disadvantaged populations, and building strong ties to local community groups, business, and industry.

With the help of Working Connections, a consortium of three community colleges in New Mexico has been able to develop an IT curriculum that directly responds to the needs of nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the past, Los Alamos recruited trained technicians from out of state because there wasn’t qualified labor in the area. The consortium worked with Los Alamos to develop a curriculum that would certify students to perform IT jobs the lab most needed to fill.

Working Connections also helped the New Mexico consortium reach out to high school students from predominantly Hispanic and Native American communities to help them learn about careers in the IT field and the classes that the three community colleges offer. Hands-on sessions at “career days” with local employers allowed students to try out new technologies, including digital imaging, PowerPoint presentations, and even Web site creation.

Microsoft Announces Grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions

In January, Microsoft announced grants to 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions totaling $440,000 in cash and $1 million in software. The recipients, selected in coordination with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the United Negro College Fund, will use these grants to provide more than 150,000 students and faculty with access to the latest advancements in technology.

Each of the 11 schools will receive $40,000 in cash and additional software to provide students and faculty with benefits such as enhanced information technology curricula, distance learning opportunities, and improved access to the Internet. One of the grant recipients, the University of Texas, Pan Am, will use Microsoft’s contribution to encourage local Hispanic high school students to major in computer science, and to show them that a career in the high-tech industry is a realistic and viable goal.

“Many of the college-bound students in this area are first-generation college attendees in their families, and they often have nobody to speak with on what college is all about,” said Pearl Brazier, Chair of the Computer Science Division at the University of Texas, Pan Am. “They end up dropping out from this discipline when they don’t need to. Microsoft’s grant strengthens our computer science program and enables us to provide the kind of transitional support these students need to achieve high-level goals in the technology field. Our students use Microsoft software, essentially, for free. We don’t have to take funds — which could be put to other uses — out of department operations to pay for it, or charge students a fee.”

The university’s five-part proposal for the Microsoft grant includes ideas for a technology-focused summer camp, two different scholarship programs, distance education and a workshop focused on educating high school teachers about computer science. “Many people don’t really know what computer science is,” Brazier says. “People know it’s ‘hot,’ but they don’t know what it is to develop a career in computer science; they don’t have a real concept of what that entails. Using Microsoft’s grant, we hope to develop this program to enable teachers to become sources of knowledge for under-represented minorities in the technological field.”

Microsoft Contributes Software for Teacher Training

To help more teachers develop skills and strategies to use technology in the classroom, Microsoft last month announced a $344 million (estimated retail value) software donation — the largest in the company’s history — in support of Intel’s Teach to the Future program, a worldwide initiative to provide technology training to more than 400,000 classroom teachers.

Every classroom teacher participating will receive a free copy of Microsoft Office 2000 Professional and Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000 so that they can put their new instructional skills to use on a day-to-day basis. Microsoft is also donating software and licenses for each of the regional training sites and providing
“master teachers”
for those sites in the U.S. with a lab kit containing software and licenses for their districts.

To date, Microsoft has supported the training of more than 1 million teachers worldwide through a variety of programs and initiatives. Since 1992, Microsoft has worked with colleges of education and state departments of education to support pre-service and in-service training for teachers. This school year, more than 450,000 teachers are receiving training at 800 sites.

“I am pleased to see how the technology industry is collaborating with the education community to help our nation’s teachers be prepared to use technology to help students achieve at their highest levels,”
said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.
“It is important that we use the most modern and effective learning tools to help our young people reach the highest levels of academic achievement, which will pave the way for future success.”

“As technology becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, we learn how it can help and how it can expand our horizons. Yet, for too many people, the access to technology that some may take for granted simply is not available,” said Microsoft’s Brooks. “We are part of a creative program like Teach to the Future not only because it provides greater access, but also because it gives teachers and students around the world greater opportunities to learn and to live in the 21st century.”

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