Microsoft and partners unveil more affordable hardware for schools

Microsoft and hardware partners have announced new products at various price points for US public schools. The company has been working with the education system to bring Bing and safer searching to younger users. This latest move, part of the YouthSpark initiative, sees new hardware that's both lightweight and robust. The goal is to "empower youth through technology."

Students who complete Microsoft's IT Academy training will receive certification exams from Microsoft's exam delivery provider Certiport worth over $5 million. Microsoft is investing $1 billion in reaching the 2,000 highest needs schools in the US, providing the means for students to learn skills needed for today's digital age. Devices announced for schools include a variety of form factors, from tablets to laptops. Acer Travelmate, ASUS Transformer Book, Dell Venue 11 Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad to name but a few.

A case study example provided by Microsoft was Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The district recently announced the purchase of over 47,000 HP notebook computers for both students and teachers. Microsoft will also be offering digital transition training to 700 Miami-Dade teachers with additional training for a further 1,000 over the summer. Students can access and download Office 365, providing them with the tools and suites to really get stuck into learning.

It's clear Microsoft is pushing hard into the education sector in the US. It'll be interesting to see how things shape up through 2015. Check the press release below for more details.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft and partners team up to help US public schools with new hardware

Microsoft Corp. and its hardware partners on Monday unveiled a range of devices at various price points to help U.S. public school districts make the digital transition. The devices included in today's pricing announcement are lightweight enough to conduct research and take assessments, while at the same time robust enough to create rich media, develop code and build complex applications. With devices starting under $300, the effort is a part of Microsoft's global YouthSpark initiative to empower youth through technology and is further evidence of its commitment to providing a range of devices, training and services to teachers and students. Microsoft's investment is in partnership with President Obama's ConnectED initiative to advance technology and learning in the classroom.

In addition, Microsoft exam delivery provider Certiport Inc. is providing certification exams worth over $5 million following students' completion of Microsoft IT Academy training. The Microsoft IT Academy provides a complete technology and certification training solution for schools, enabling students to learn the skills needed for today's workforce, and is part of Microsoft's $1 million investment in reaching the 2,000 highest needs schools in the U.S.

"To move students into the future, they need the skills and resources that can bring learning to life and prepare them for the workforce," said Margo Day, vice president, U.S. Education, Microsoft. "Through Microsoft's commitment, we are helping bridge the technology skills gap that exists among many students today by providing tools and learning resources that give all students a world-class education and help teachers better use technology in the classroom. Working with our partners to lower costs and provide affordable devices is just one step in the process."

To fit the various needs of schools, devices from Microsoft partners include a range of form factors, from various-sized tablets to full laptops. Device options include the Acer Travelmate TMB113-E, ASUS Transformer Book T100, Dell Venue 11 Pro, FUJITSU STYLISTIC® Q704, HP 210 Notebook PC and HP ElitePad 1000, Lenovo ThinkPad 11e, Toshiba Satellite® NB15t, and a new student device from Panasonic scheduled to launch at ISTE 2014. All of the devices are Common Core testing compliant and feature Windows 8.1. This special device pricing program is delivered through technology partners that serve K–12 schools. Hardware and device manufacturers will now be able to make specially priced devices available to all U.S. public schools through this offer. Schools can determine the best device for them by visiting the ConnectED devices page,

In order to effectively use technology to bolster student learning and outcomes, teachers must be properly trained to weave technology into classroom curriculum. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is a great example of rolling out its 1:1 program effectively. The district recently announced the purchase of over 47,000 HP notebook PCs and tablets for students and teachers. In addition, Microsoft will be offering digital transition training to 700 Miami-Dade teachers in the coming weeks with additional training for 1,000 more teachers over the summer. Across the district, over 350,000 students can download Office 365 via the Student Advantage benefit, which allows Office 365 school customers to access Office 365 ProPlus for all its students at no additional cost. This will support a consistent experience between classroom and home, and supports the district's bring-your-own-device (BYOD) efforts. In addition, the district is providing Internet access and laptops through EveryoneOn for over 1,000 high-need homes and it is about to begin implementing Microsoft IT Academy in select elementary, middle and high schools.

"Our No. 1 priority is to help students graduate from high school, well prepared to succeed in college or the career of their choosing. That is no simple undertaking with more than 350,000 students," said Alberto Carvahlo, superintendent, Miami-Dade County Public Schools. "Through our work with Microsoft, we're providing the technology, services and training support our teachers and students need to gain the skills that will ultimately help accomplish our goal, but on top of that, Microsoft IT Academy will give students the certifications that will help get them the jobs of their dreams."

Schools using Microsoft solutions to improve student outcomes include Clear Creek School District, Fresno Unified School District and the Kentucky Department of Education.

This latest announcement of devices and skills training services demonstrates Microsoft's progress against President Obama's ConnectED goals of connecting U.S. schools to the digital age within five years by providing cost-efficient devices and services. In February of this year, Microsoft committed to offering the following elements:

  • Communication and collaboration tools with Office 365 Education
  • Teacher training and resources through the Microsoft Educator Network, formerly Partners in Learning Network
  • Ad-free search with Bing in the Classroom
  • Student training and skills development via Microsoft IT Academy
  • A powerful and flexible operating system with Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Broadband as a critical component to connected learning through Microsoft's nonprofit partner EveryoneOn
Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.