Microsoft Links Classrooms Coast-to-Coast

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 6, 2000 — In a dramatic demonstration of how technology can enhance a child’s learning experience, Microsoft will equip two classrooms on opposite coasts with in-class technology and a digital classroom for collaborative learning and exploration.



Microsoft’s Bill Gates met with students at the SEED public charter school in Washington, D.C. to talk about Washington2Washington, a program that will link two classrooms on opposite coasts for a year of interactive, technology-enabled learning.

Sequoia Junior High School in Kent, Wash., will be paired with the SEED Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., over the course of the 2000/2001 school year. The two classrooms will use technology tools to share information and conduct peer-to-peer instruction, focusing on the subject areas represented in their geographic regions.

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates announced the launch of the Washington2Washington project at the site of the SEED School’s new facility in southeast D.C.
“One of our goals at Microsoft is to work with educators and schools to create a truly connected learning community,”
Gates said.
“Washington2Washington offers a small-scale look at how we can enrich curricula with new technology tools, and help educators tap into the powerful convergence of software, Web services and new devices.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams joined Gates at the ceremony, along with several officials from the participating schools.

Microsoft has developed a dedicated Web site ( http://www.microsoft.com/w2w/ ) to allow students to share data and collaborate on projects using a number of online technologies. Through the use of computers, Pocket PCs, digital cameras and video digital cameras, students will be able communicate and share information seamlessly. Dell Computer will support the program with donations of OptiPlex desktop PCs and Latitude notebooks for use in the classrooms.

In addition, the Web site will be a portal for teachers and students across the country to view what is happening in the classroom and gather curriculum and project ideas. Students in other regions also will be able to participate in online chats when the classrooms hosts distinguished visitors.

The Sequoia students will focus on environmental science and natural resources, while the SEED School students will take the lead in exploring U.S. government and history, with a special focus on the upcoming presidential election and inauguration. In addition, the two classes may track the course of explorers Lewis and Clark, and involve other schools at key points along the historic route to celebrate the expedition’s upcoming bicentennial.

In July, the two teachers will spend two weeks at Microsoft working with the company’s Education Group and independent curriculum consultants to develop a set of courses that takes advantage of the technology and each region’s assets.

“Our goal in bringing the two teachers to Microsoft is to show them how they can use Microsoft technology to bring their instruction alive,”
said John Litten, Microsoft’s program manager for youth and learning who is a former educator himself.
“They’ll build a framework for their shared curriculum, and hopefully they’ll dream up something bigger, something grander, something larger than what they’re already doing for their students.”

The Schools and the Teachers

Sequoia Junior High School serves students from grades 7, 8 and 9 who reside in the suburban East Hills area of Kent, Wash., a few miles south of Seattle. The student population is multi-ethnic, reflecting the diverse cultural groups who have immigrated to the Puget Sound area.

Sequoia’s principal, Dr. Ursula Hermann, encourages her students to appreciate their differences and use their varied experiences to gain insight into how different backgrounds can influence performance. She wants to use Microsoft’s Washington2Washington program to show her students that global citizenship requires looking beyond their own communities to examine national and world issues.

Science Teacher Paul Neff will head up the Washington2Washington program at Sequoia. Hermann calls Neff the
“perfect person for the project, who does whatever he can do to enrich his classes and provide a great educational experience for the kids in his environmental science classes.”

Neff hopes that the Washington2Washington program will allow his kids to give the D.C. students a sense of what Washington state is all about.
“I want to have the kids show off the quality of life we have out here and the great opportunities we have to get outdoors. I also want them to demonstrate how our community is growing and how we need to protect our air and water supply, especially our streams.”

In turn, Neff hopes that his pupils will learn about the federal government and how it affects their lives.
“My goal is for the kids to get a fantastic experience with technology, the environment and the government.”

Neff plans field trips that combine technology and the environment. He wants to use technology when he takes the kids to different environments in Washington state where they will use monitoring equipment that is compatible with Microsoft programs. This will enable them to take raw data and analyze it using computers.

The SEED School is the first of its kind in the nation-an urban public boarding school where children from diverse backgrounds enjoy a secure and nurturing learning environment 24 hours a day. Established by the SEED Foundation (Schools for Educational Evolution and Development), the SEED Public Charter School, a grade 7 – 12 boarding school, serves primarily African American children from Washington, D.C.

“One of the reasons I thought that Microsoft’s Washington2Washington program would work here is that the SEED School is committed to an innovative curriculum,”
said Martha Webb, director of development at the SEED School.
“Our Social Studies teacher, Brandon Lloyd, is especially dedicated to innovation.”

Lloyd, who will be in charge of the Washington2Washington program at the SEED School, believes that the Microsoft program will help his eighth graders learn about life on the other side of the country.
“I’m hoping that their world will be expanded not just in terms of understanding science, but in understanding cultures and understanding what other people care about and what other people think about.”

As part of the Washington2Washington program, Lloyd would like to continue a successful course of study he used with his own students last year. His
“Armageddon Experiment”
presupposes that the world has come to an end and the only survivors are the students in his class. Each student must form his or her own country to survive in the new world. They study government to develop a Bill of Rights and a Constitution. They write legislation, develop executive branch agencies, and even become the first president of their new countries. As they campaign for the office of president, they discuss the political parties in their countries, and they write and deliver inauguration speeches.

Lloyd would like to involve the students from Washington state in the Armageddon Experiment.
“I see a lot of interaction in terms of email and other electronic communication. Our kids will be posing questions to the other kids about science, and the other kids might have questions about government, which my kids would have to research,”
he said.

Throughout the year, students will explore subject areas through field trip experiences and, using digital cameras and streaming video capability, broadcast these field trips over the Web. In Washington, D.C., field trips may take the students to inaugural events, meetings with legislators, or visits to the White House, the U.S. Capitol and other important institutions. In Washington state, students may visit Mount St. Helens and discuss environmental protection with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

“Children here in Washington state may have just read about the inauguration or the Capitol or Mt.Vernon,”
Litten said.
“The young people in D.C. are in that environment every day. If we can send out the D.C. kids with some digital video cameras and let them do some reporting or interviewing, then they can enrich the instruction for kids here in Washington state around those topics in a way that can’t be done with textbooks. Likewise, the kids at Sequoia will be posting video of the recovery of Mount St. Helens or salmon rearing, which will be completely foreign to the D.C. students.”

As the program develops, the students themselves will come up with new ways to use the technology. In this way, Microsoft and its partners in this learning adventure will demonstrate to the world the new dimensions available to today’s classrooms.

“We’re very dedicated to having our kids see the world,”
Webb said.
“Many of our kids have seen very little outside of Washington, D.C. This experience will give them a wider view of the world and of people.”

Microsoft’s Educational Programs

“The Washington2Washington program is a way for us to demonstrate that computers and software are simply tools, which can be used to enhance instruction,”
Litten said.
“The program is about more than just computers and technology. What we’re demonstrating with these teachers and their classrooms is how to take technology and push what they’re already doing for students a little bit further.”

Through products, programs and partnerships, Microsoft is committed to building a modern learning infrastructure, providing any time, any place access to learning, and integrating technology into all aspects of classroom activities and school administration.

According to Litten, one example of this is Microsoft’s Connected Learning Community (CLC) Grants, which provide significant cash and software donations on a local level with the goal of using information technology to enhance learning and communication for disadvantaged communities. The SEED Foundation was named as a spring 2000 CLC grant recipient, in addition to the SEED School’s involvement in the Washington2Washington program. The Foundation will receive $15,000 in cash and nearly $200,000 in software to support the school’s technology infrastructure at its new facility.

“Through the Washington2Washington program, we’re actually expanding on our connected learning community vision,”
Litten said.
“We often talk about connected learning communities within the context of a single city or neighborhood. This connected learning community will be coast-to-coast.”

Technology training programs such as the Microsoft Classroom Teacher Network and teacher.training@microsoft.com as well as rich learning resources such as the Encarta Africana 2000 encyclopedia, enable Microsoft to work with teachers, educational organizations, community groups and businesses to make learning tools and educational content widely available. The Microsoft Lesson Connection, a collaboration with Tudor Publishing and Classroom Connect, gives teachers and curriculum administrators the ability to search thousands of lesson plans on the Internet to find those that meet their curriculum needs.

To help more teachers develop skills and strategies to use technology in the classroom, Microsoft in January 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.

“If this is a beneficial means of enhancing education, then we’ll take the results of the Washington2Washington program and share it with other teachers and education associations around the country,”
said Litten.
“Hopefully, what will happen is that they’ll see the power of this particular use of technology and then use it in their existing curriculum to help students.”

Access is also a key factor in the effort to assist in the success of today’s students. As a technology leader, Microsoft has established various corporate support programs to help make technology and the Internet accessible for all children and youth. Microsoft has contributed more than $23 million in cash and software over the past year to community programs aimed at supporting youth and education.

As a young and passionate teacher, the SEED School’s Lloyd is tremendously enthusiastic about the Microsoft Washington2Washington program.
“Given the resources that will be involved, from having the computers in the classroom to having another teacher across the country, the project is bound to be exciting. You just know that something is going to be different-what it is remains to be seen, but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think there’s too much more that you can ask for than the unexpected.”

Related Posts