Education is an area Microsoft is highly passionate about. The company strives improve the state of education using technology that actually works, technology that has proven itself in the field.
The latest of Microsoft’s efforts is a partnership with the El Paso Independent School District in El Paso, Texas. The two parties have worked closely together to determine the technological needs of the school district and the right products and services for them.
As a result, the El Paso Independent School District launched the ‘Power Up’ initiative, agreeing to acquire over 20,000 Windows 8.1-powered HP Stream laptops for both students and teachers. Additionally, every student and teacher will also get access to the Office 365 which comes with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote among other productivity tools. For a school where 80 percent of the students rely on free or reduced-price lunches, this is a big deal.
“The program started with a philosophy of transformed learning in El Paso classrooms, including project-based learning, flipped classrooms and ubiquitous collaboration. Student devices were needed to make this happen” – Microsoft
Students and teachers can now work digitally and students can start learning and getting used to technology that they will likely encounter in their future careers. Because of price concerns, the school district initially considered going with Google Chromebooks instead, only to discover that those device are difficult to manage, and that the management console costs actually make Chromebooks more expensive than Windows-based devices. That’s beside the fact that Chromebook only offer non-native Office applications that aren’t as robust as Office 365.
Now that every student will be equipped with a Windows device, the school has also opted to create and distribute cloud-based digital textbooks. This allows teachers to ensure that information in those textbooks are always up-to-date, as digital textbooks are easy to update. E-textbooks can also be translated to Spanish on the fly, which is important and immensely helpful in a city that is 90% Hispanic. The district will also be offering basic computer classes to parents so that they are better equipped to help their children with digital homework.
“The early results of El Paso’s digital transition are promising, but they go beyond the school to the community itself.”
Although we live in a digital age, many schools don’t. Initiatives like Power Up give students a foundation to build on, providing them with the basic tech literacy that will certainly help them land better jobs when they graduate. We hope to see more schools follow suit in the near future.