Microsoft Demonstrates Its Vision for the Future of Education

2001: A LEARNING ODYSSEY — Microsoft unveils its vision of the 21st Century classroom on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2001, in New York, just in time for “back to school.” Standing in front of a model of a volcano are Bill Nye, right, TV’s “Science Guy,” and New York City school students, left to right, Estefania Peralta, 11, Alex de Leon, 12, and Anthony Moore, 11. Click on photo for high-resolution version.

NEW YORK, Aug. 23, 2001 — Remember what your grandparents said? How they walked five miles to school … in the snow … uphill both ways. Once they braved all this adversity and got to their destination, the school was a single classroom where children of various ages were taught mathematics, science, literature. Your forebearers had never heard of a computer, and even if they had, wouldn’t be able to fathom why anyone would need one.

If the vision Microsoft shared here today comes true, your own experience of the classroom may someday soon seem as remote to the next generation of students as your grandparents’ tales once sounded to you.

Microsoft this morning kicked off a 30-city tour by sharing its vision of the
“21st Century Classroom”
with an event at New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

Four vignettes — depicting a school classroom, an active volcano, a diner and a home — demonstrated Microsoft’s vision for learning any time, any place, on any device. Collectively, the scenarios portray what the learning experience will be like for students in the 21st century: interacting with teachers and peers using multimedia-rich collaboration; getting hands-on experience with a research field trip to an active volcano; doing homework in a diner or other location outside the home, and sharing their learning at home with their parents.

This vision takes teaching and learning to an entirely new level. Now, educators have rich tools to engage their students and encourage collaboration on projects both in and out of the classroom. Students learn better when they are able to actively participate in the learning process, and in the 21st Century Classroom, educators will have the latest technologies on hand to create a motivating, interactive learning environment.

“Our vision is about creating a learning environment where all students, educators and parents have access to the technologies, tools and skills to support seamless, interactive learning at any time and any place,” says Anthony Salcito, Microsoft director of East Region, Education Solutions Group. “At Microsoft, we call this vision the Connected Learning Community.”

Working with educators, administrators and industry partners, Microsoft helps schools and campuses build these Connected Learning Communities — modern learning infrastructures that integrate technology into classroom instruction and school administration, and provide students, educators, administrators and parents with any time, any place access to learning.

Compaq provided the notebook computers and Pocket PCs used in the demonstration. Bill Nye, television’s “The Science Guy,” and students from District 6 in Harlem and local colleges joined Microsoft for the demonstrations.

“It’s not just about learning things in a classroom, it’s about learning everywhere you go,” says Alex DeLeon, an eighth-grader who participated in today’s events.

“Technology makes learning fun,” adds Olga Buzovetsky, also in eighth grade. “And it makes what you study easier to understand.”

Both students attend schools that are part of Microsoft’s Anytime Anywhere Learning (AAL) initiative, as do more than 125,000 other students nationwide. The program is for schools that want to facilitate one-to-one access to technology, where every student has his or her own notebook computer, so that learning can take place independent of time or place. Both DeLeon and Buzovetsky have their own notebook computers at school, as do their classmates.

“The vignettes happening at Grand Central today show what’s possible when kids are put into a collaborative environment where they have access to technology and can share, create and develop critical thinking skills,” explains Mary Cullinane, manager of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Program at Microsoft. “It’s important that people understand how technology expands learning and teaching and increases parents’ involvement in their children’s education.”

Bill Nye, host of the syndicated television series “Bill Nye, Science Guy,” was the natural choice to join Microsoft in the activities that coincide with many school districts’ back-to-school periods, Salcito says. “Bill is a high-tech specialist who likes to use software and a variety of gadgets as part of his many experiments. He has tremendous passion for technology’s role in learning and shares Microsoft’s Connected Learning Community vision. He really gets kids — and their parents — excited about learning.”

Cullinane agrees. “I think Bill Nye gives a great flavor to the event, as he is thoroughly supportive of interactive learning for kids. He believes learning should be interactive, and technology helps achieve this end.”

Using the latest innovative technologies such as Microsoft Office XP, the upcoming Windows XP operating system and Encarta Class Server, students and teachers will be able to enjoy a “classroom” experience unlike any other. With sophisticated collaboration tools, students of the 21st Century Classroom can work with and learn from students down the hall or across the country.

  • Microsoft Office XP provides a multitude of ways that students and educators can collaborate, including a new Send-for-Review feature and Reviewing Tools in Word, Excel, and the PowerPoint presentation and graphics program; SharePoint Team Services Web-based collaborative environment, and MSN Messenger integration into the Outlook messaging and collaboration client. In addition, MSN Web Communities make it easy for students with similar interests to connect any where in the world.

  • Microsoft also demonstrated Office XP smart tags customized for the education community. The smart tags, developed by Thomson Learning and Scientific American, serve as additional resources for students and educators, enabling them to seamlessly access the Web-based information they need from the Office applications they work with everyday.

  • Microsoft Windows XP will offer Windows Messenger, a real-time communications tool that enables students to communicate with one another using text, voice and video. Students can present what they’ve learned through rich digital media, enabled by the Windows Media Player for Windows XP and Windows Movie Maker in Microsoft Windows XP. Windows XP will also make it easier for teachers to set up a small network within the classroom, allowing students on multiple computers to share printers, devices, pictures and other files. Schools will even be able to take the connected classroom a step further, with classrooms within the school connecting to one another, school districts sharing the same network, and even schools around the world networking together.

Educators are invited to learn more about the tools that power the 21st Century Classroom with free half-day seminars in 30 cities through a series of interactive day-in-the-life scenarios for administrators, teachers, faculty and professional IT staff in schools and universities.

The 21st Century Classroom isn’t just for teachers and their students: Parents will also benefit from the new technologies. Using Encarta Class Server, they can keep informed of how and what their children are doing in school. They will have access to their children’s assignments, allowing them to see what their kids have done, what needs to be completed and any teacher feedback on work already finished.

“Parents tell us that these new technologies enrich the learning experience for their children,” says John Litten, director of Microsoft Youth and Learning initiative, who spoke with a number of parents at today’s events. “We know when parents become partners in their child’s education, learning is enhanced. These technologies will enable parents to help their children realize their full potential.”

For the students of the 21st century and beyond, the world is truly their classroom.

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