Microsoft answers the President's ConnectED challenge with impressive numbers

Kareem Anderson

Image Credit: Forbes

During the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama set an ambitious agenda for education. The president wanted to make 2014 a year of action when it came to the topic of America’s commitment towards educating its youth. President Obama’s challenge, ConnectED, was a connected effort to make sure all students have access to the technology and devices to succeed. The president’s belief in educating and empowering the future working class ideally would increase prosperity and opportunity for America’s middle class.

When Microsoft answered the call in early 2014, the company did so by contributing more than $1 billion dollars in technology savings to schools across the nation. Since 2014, states, school districts, teachers and students from across North America have taken advantage of Microsoft’s unique offerings. As the White House releases the momentum data on the ConnectED Challenge, we are starting to get a clearer picture of how effective Microsoft’s contributions have been.

According to the Microsoft Education Team:

“In the little more than a year since Microsoft joined the ConnectED initiative, there has been great progress. For example, over 3 million students have received access to Office 365 in K–12 schools across the U.S. Since inadequate teacher training is one of the key reasons technology deployments fail, Microsoft has provided in-depth technology training to nearly 150,000 educators, with more training sessions scheduled for this summer. In partnership with Acer, Asus, CTL, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba, and others, Microsoft has deployed 2.9 million affordable, Windows-based devices in classrooms. With IT Academy, students and teachers have access to industry-recognized certifications, and we have enrolled 594 additional schools in the IT Academy program, reaching an estimated 60,000 students. Finally, Bing the in Classroom offers ad-free search for students, creating a safer environment for learning–and over 13,870 schools and 9.62 million students have enrolled in the program.”

Image Credit: YouthSpark

With numbers in the millions, it is clear that Microsoft’s contributions are laying a solid groundwork for the ConnectED initiative. In a blog post, the Microsoft Education Team also highlights some more specific instances of where and how the company’s contributions are affecting students in local areas.

  • Chester County Public Schools, a rural district in North Carolina with 5,526 students, is using Windows 8 devices, Office 365 and other learning tools to turn around its low-performing schools and give students the skills they’ll need in college and career. The resulting impact of the technology in the classroom goes beyond the district and into the community: The county has recently attracted the attention of GiTi Tire, which plans to open a plant there, partly due to the tech-savvy graduates entering the workforce.
  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth-largest school district in the country and has a high number of low-income and English-as-a-second-language students. As part of its multi-year strategic plan, the district trained its 11,000 teachers and brought its 350,000 students and more than 50,000 devices onto the Office 365 platform. These initiatives are already making a difference in the lives of students.

We reported on this one: “In a joint effort to best provide the students of New York City with the skills and tools to succeed, the New York City Council and the New York City Department of Education are making the Office 365 benefit available to all 1.1 million teachers and students in the city.”

In comparison, Apple pledged $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products along with content and professional development tools to enrich learning in disadvantaged schools. Other companies like Verizon and O’Reilly Media offered $100 million respectively to partner with Safari Books Online and supported multi-year educational programs.

With the additions to Widows 10, Office 365 Pro Plus, Bing in the Classroom and Microsoft IT Academy all planned for this year and next, students, teachers and schools will have even more tools to help continue the vision of ConnectED.