Microsoft is keen to entice people to use its products and services, and a new initiative for television aims to do just that. The Bing team announced via their blog that Surface, Skype, and Bing are working together to tap into the education sector. To that end, they’ve partnered with ABC’s Born to Explore with Richard Wiese, an educational television show that highlights various cultures and environments around the world.
On May 16, the show will be airing an episode (watch a preview here) featuring a New York school classroom. They begin by playing what they call “Mystery Skype”, in which the students ask Wiese, the host, questions to determine his location in the world – the Florida Everglades. Afterward, they watch as he talks about the alligators that live there, even showing a feeding session in real time. Back in New York, the classroom is chock full of Surface Pro devices, on which the students joyfully use Bing to find answers to his questions. It’s a fanciful alternate reality that almost brings a tear to my eye.
Certainly, Microsoft has had a foothold in the education sector for a long time. However, that foothold is gradually being eroded due to the proliferation of Google’s Chromebooks, which are cheap, easy to maintain, and simple to manage. This is a problem for Microsoft, and not a trivial one. The students that currently use Chromebooks, Gmail, and Google Docs are the same ones that grow up to shape the world, and they’ll use what they’re already comfortable with. Microsoft has several education-oriented programs, including Skype in the Classroom and Bing in the Classroom, and Office Mix and Sway are often featured with examples that would attract educators. Together, these programs illustrate an array of Microsoft technologies that, when utilized together, can create an engaging — and ostensibly better — experience for educators and students.