Insights and observations from the CTO of Microsoft Education in the U.S.
I had the good fortune of attending an event described as a “Conversation With The Future” at the recent Campus Technology 2011 Conference. There were three of these special sessions offered, each with a senior leader from a different major player in the technology industry. Attendees were encouraged to participate in the dialogue, and each seat had a microphone available to facilitate this.
The session I attended was hosted by National Technology Officer and Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft Education, Cameron Evans, who is responsible for shaping and executing Microsoft Corp.’s technology and policy strategy in U.S. Education.
Insights & Observations
During this dialogue, a number of concepts and revelations came up that I wanted to share here. Following is an assortment of selected ideas and insights about today's and tomorrow's technology environment (please note that I have taken the liberty of expanding on some of Mr. Evans' comments, these statements are not verbatim). Below that is a summary of some of the projects Microsoft has in place to help students become tomorrow's technologically-enabled leaders.
- Mobile Applications & Devices: Evans made the observation that it's really not about the device being mobile, it's about people being mobile. The devices will keep changing, while the desire for increased and enhanced mobile functionality will persist. It's important that we keep that in mind as we strive to plan for future applications and device requirements.
- Microsoft is partnering with chip vendors to expand on the “system on a chip”, enabling the running of windows on any device that has the chip in it, and this really could be any device – household appliances, toys, your car, and so on.
- The next version of Microsoft Office will run on multiple devices, including iPads.
- A big area of research and development right now is with natural user interface – speech and gestures as part of the User Interface. Pixels in screens are becoming motion aware, avatars will be reflecting your facial expressions, and more (this sounds like a natural extension of the technology shown in the “Project Natal” demo we looked at in this post).
- Visual and Audio Search will be coming before long – search engines that can search based on visual or audio input.
- Current versions of windows are touch screen enabled – it's just the screens that aren't. This took me by surprise, I simply had no idea that this was the case.
- The ‘Consumerization' of IT: We were reminded that people will find their own way if IT doesn't provide the tools and data needed. This is a key take away for CIOs and CTOs – when we limit what users can do with the tools and systems we provide, they will often find a way to circumvent those restrictions, which may result in increased security issues and other challenges. IT leaders would do well to try to get ahead of that curve by striving to incorporate these expectations in their planning efforts.
- During a discussion about the importance and challenges of ‘data hygiene' (keeping data clean, precise, and highly useful), Evans suggested that a key way to address this can be making sure there is a connection between job descriptions and responsibilities, and assessment. If data accuracy and thoroughness is measured, it can help to facilitate better data entry and maintenance.
Innovative Microsoft Programs for Students & Educators
How can technology break down economic walls so education can be more available and affordable? How can technology inspire students to get involved in the world around them, and position them to succeed in our technology rich world? Microsoft has a number of great programs and competitions in place focused on those goals (such as those below) and continues to increase investment in engaging students and teachers and impacting the future of education. I just wish they did a better job of marketing these effort (I'm willing to bet that most readers have not heard of most of these programs).
- Imagine Cup. Billing itself as “the world’s premier student technology competition”, the Imagine Cup provides an opportunity for students to “use their creativity, passion, and knowledge of technology to help solve global challenges and make a difference in the world. While competing for cash and prizes, students gain real-life experiences, make new friends, and change the world.” The Imagine Cup is now in its 10th year. Click here to learn more.
- DreamSpark: DreamSpark provides professional-level developer and design tools to students and educators around the world at no charge.
- Shape the future program: “Shape the Future helps governments to imagine and attain universal technology access for all their citizens. We help build the Public/Private Partnerships that lead to greater employability, economic recovery and a better future.” This program challenges government leaders across the world to help shape their countries' futures by leveraging technology in their children's education.
- Kodu: “Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input.” Microsoft has held and sponsored a Kodu Cup challenge for students.
- Microsoft often runs other competitions focused on specific products, such as the Certiport 2011 Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office.
I want to thank Campus Technology for making interactive sessions like this available, and thank Cameron Evans for his time and for sharing all of this great information.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Michael Wesch: New Learning Environments for New Media Environments
8 Great TED Talks About The Future Of Education And Teaching
5 Emerging Tech Trends for K-12 Education, from The Journal