Steve Ballmer: Germany Youth Education Event

STEVE BALLMER: It’s really great to be here today, and I’m honored to join in the exchange of ideas on how technology and education will better position students here in Germany for success long into the future. It’s a remarkable time, and it really in many senses is the perfect time for us to be together for a number of reasons.

The first is Microsoft’s renewed commitment to youth with an initiative we just launched called YouthSpark. YouthSpark is a Microsoft initiative to help create opportunities for 300 million, 300 million young people around the world in the next three years. We’re focusing this as the front and center activity in our citizenship efforts, and working around our company connecting young people with more chances for education, for employment, and for entrepreneurship.

The second reason that it’s great to have a chance to be here today is because we’re releasing a wave of incredible new products to the market including Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, our new Office product, Microsoft Surface, and many, many more. In a student’s hands these devices will prove to be, I think, invaluable. However, to really make an impact, and really help students succeed in the world at large, they’re going to need a lot more than just these tools to get their job done. To seize the opportunity, they need something from all of us, they need to really be inspired, and they need to be prepared to go out into the workforce.

In many ways inspiration comes, I think, through exploration, through looking around, through being able to satisfy curiosity. Technology essentially removes all traditional boundaries on learning, making the exploration of new subjects, new ideas, and dreams basically infinite. From one place you sit and you see and explore the whole world. Just think about what technology has brought to today’s student, with a PC and Internet connection anybody can just pick a topic and right at their fingertips is everything they want to know, and increasingly everybody who knows about it, historical accounts, data, expert opinions, video lectures. And beyond just consuming information technology, also also rings occasionally information technology also enables students to exchange ideas in a two-way discussion with their teachers and with other students. And, frankly, those students now can be located anywhere on the planet. Gone are the days when geography or language limit learning.

Small story. When my oldest son was 12, he was playing chess on the computer one day. I came in and found him. And I said, Sam, Sam, who are you playing chess with? Some boy in Italy, Dad. Well, Seattle is a long way from Italy. And I said, how did you meet him? I met him online — of course, parents have to be concerned about these things, too, but I just thought it was so wonderful learning something about places far and away, connecting, getting exposure.

Technology really has created boundless access to the world’s knowledge and people, and it is special. It really also sunk in for me during a meeting I had with the governor of the State of Alabama in the United States a few years ago. Alabama is one of the poorest states in the United States, and it has one of the lowest literacy rates, really, really a problem. But the State of Alabama had started using online education so that students in all parts of the state could take courses that might not be offered in their small towns and villages, such as calculus, or physics, or Latin. And this governor told me the story of a relatively poor boy who grew up in a very small town in the countryside who became very enthusiastic about studying Latin because of the ability to engage in an online course.

This boy became a Latin expert. He won a Latin competition, and he went to one of the finest universities in the United States all galvanized by this online learning. There was not a Latin teacher in his town. There was no other student within 100 miles even studying Latin. And yet he learned it, and he excelled. He had access to technology to explore the world, and in that process he found something that really inspired him.

Beyond inspiration, children need preparation to succeed in the knowledge economy that we live in today. Being prepared means they need to really graduate trained to think and to use modern techniques for research and collaboration. It means they need to be proficient in using information technology as a tool, and as a way of increasing productivity. The best way, the best way to start developing technical proficiency is to start when children are very young, very early in their education, and with technology that is captivating and is fun.

Our SchlauMause program is really a great example of that. Somebody is giving me a thumbs up. (Applause.) I have to tell you a secret. We started the SchlauMause program I think almost nine years ago. I was here for its introduction, too, so they spent nine years teaching me how to get close to a correct pronunciation.

It’s a great example, though, of this early child education. And I’m really thrilled to see such broad adoption and we’re really reinvigorating and renewing this program this year. When I saw a SchlauMause demo earlier today it’s really come a long ways. The little characters reminded me of a quote by a famous American cartoonist named Charles Schulz, who used to draw the Peanuts cartoons, quite well known. He said “try not to have a good time, this is supposed to be educational”. And when I saw the cartoons that are helping children learn as part of this program that’s what I thought about. SchlauMause is just that.

It teaches children language skills in ways that really do help them also start to build their technical proficiency in this information economy, tapping into the power of technology will be second-nature to these children and allow them to thrive in the world ahead. They will be able to quickly find anything and anyone online, and communicate electronically and collaboratively. They will be extremely productive in authoring documents, reports, or surfacing insights from data.

I still think there’s so much more innovation that will come in this area, just a small side story. The study of history has always been hard for me. I think I’m a relatively smart guy. I know a little bit about history. But, somehow associating all of the things that go on in the world and navigating what really was happening in China when the Romans were around. What really was the evolution of various technologies how did they come to Asia, Europe, and Africa? There is still so much technology that we can build that draws students in and lets them explore. And those kinds of technologies will help them learn more, but also help them prepare for life in this knowledge economy. We need people who are familiar, obviously, with computer programming and other advanced technology subjects, but also people who can generally use these resources to be productive.

Many schools around the world recognize the important need and if fully shifted how they engage students and prepare them for the future. They’ve moved from distributing textbooks to distributing personal computers. My children go to a school in Seattle, where you start with a PC full-time I seventh grade. And they see very little paper, and they see very little formal textbooks in their life.

You get online learning, online environments, and online resources. We can encourage digital note taking. Teachers, parents, and students e-mail each other and track their grades online. Students in these schools are getting a world-class education while getting prepared with the necessary skills, technology skills to thrive in the future.

At Microsoft we’re very deeply committed, very deeply committed to this new world of education. Our latest wave of products make this type of learning a new kind of reality. With Windows 8 we think we’ve brought together the best of worlds. The PC and the tablet, I think you really can think about that device that helps students do their homework, read their books, take their notes. The best of work and play, occasionally letting people relax and enjoy, the best of touch and writing, and the keyboard.

That makes a Windows 8 PC the best PC for any student, particularly when married with he right software, which we would tell you is our new Office 2013 product, which helps people be productive. The new Office enables students to research, to write, to publish a paper. They can take digital notes with a stylus, or with a keyboard. They can store their work in the cloud, or submit it to their teacher on SkyDrive from any place they happen to be. We improved through our SkyDrive cloud system collaboration amongst students, which is increasingly an important way for people to learn.

Students can also I’m not sure if all parents want to encourage it, listen to a catalogue of over 30 million songs for free, or take a break and play a game, not encouraged when people are supposed to do their homework, but oftentimes engaged in anyway. And students can access a world of educational applications in the new Windows store to explore new topics.

If a student is interested in space, they can use the new application from NASA called “Be A Martian”. In addition to the new Windows 8 we have a new Windows Phone 8, which just hit the store shelves at phone operators here in Germany. We think Windows Phone is the best smart phone for anybody using a Windows PC, and perfect for children and their parents, through what we’ve done with a special kid’s corner of the Windows Phone and new family room capabilities. We’ve really tailored our Windows Phones for these family settings. It looks like a Windows device, it shares the same iconic look and feel as Windows 8, and you get a chance to access all of your information that are out in the SkyDrive infrastructure.

So, a lot of new products coming to market, a lot of new products, though, that in a sense were all really motivated by delivering an experience that will allow us to put technology in the hands of students, and allow them to learn and grow and improve every day in what they do.

SchlauMause is just a small part of that designed to help some students get into the world, and get into it earlier. But we do want to have a chance for you to see a little bit of what we’re talking about. So, to show you more of this, I would like to invite on stage Dirk from our German team. Dirk is going to do a small demonstration for you. Please welcome Dirk.


DIRK: Thanks, Steve.

With your permission I’m going to switch over to the German language for that presentation.

(Demonstration in German.)

DIRK: I’ll switch back to English and hand over the stage to Steve again. Thank you very much for your attention, and Steve the stage is yours.


STEVE BALLMER: Well, thanks to Dirk, and I think you get a little bit of a sense that there really isn’t a better time to be in school than today. The technology really is here, and we’re very eager to partner with you to both inspire today’s children to make an impact in the world, and to help train those children and get them up to speed on the skills and technologies that they’re going to need. The opportunity ahead, I think, is truly remarkable, and I look forward very, very much to what we all can achieve together, not only in our own lives, but as we reach out and we promote and help children fall in love with this wonderful new world of technology.

Thank you, and we’re glad you could be here for this SchlauMause event today. Thanks.



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