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What to do with millions of dollars for education technology


Businesses meet with Obama, school, to talk how to invest millions of dollars into education technology

money-dollars-educationIn what could be considered a belated holiday gift to education, two of the biggest technology companies with well-documented commitments to education announced on Feb. 4th that not only will the price of critical software and professional development (PD) courses be drastically reduced, millions of dollars will be invested into innovative STEM education programs.

The announcement came at a White House-sponsored event with President Obama and students and teachers at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Md.

The Verizon Foundation announced a  multi-year program to drive student achievement in STEM subjects. Over the next three years, the foundation will invest up to 100 million dollars in cash and in-kind contributions in current and new initiatives, which will accelerate PD for teachers on how to effectively use technology to boost student achievement in STEM.

(Next page: Verizon’s new STEM programs)

Current Verizon Foundation programs that integrate technology into the classroom have produced impressive results, said the Foundation, including 59 percent of participating teachers reporting improved ability to individualize their instruction; 52 percent of participating students showing increased technology proficiency; 40 percent of participating students demonstrating increased ability in problem solving; and 37 percent showing increased academic achievement.

“If you work alongside teachers and show them exactly how to integrate technology into the classroom in a consistent and meaningful manner with [PD], the results can be very profound,” said Rose Stuckey Kirk, vice president-global corporate citizenship and president of the Verizon Foundation.

Verizon already supports a number of STEM educational initiatives, including the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program and the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

“Not only are these programs providing teachers and students with the technology and learning skills they can put to immediate use, we are measuring the initiatives’ results to see if they’re making a difference,” said Kirk. “Based on teacher feedback and some real-world examples, that’s happening.”

For example, one Innovative Learning School in Massachusetts saw striking results, reported the Foundation. A number of its students had consistently failed a state standardized test in biology prior to the VILS program, preventing them from graduating and increasing the likelihood that they would drop out. After one year in the program, all the biology students passed.

A survey of students in the inaugural Verizon Innovative App Challenge found that 86 percent of winners were interested in taking future computer programming classes, and 60 percent of winners were likely to pursue a STEM-related career.

Given the initial impact of its programs on thousands of teachers and students, Verizon is expanding its efforts to spur student and teacher innovation in STEM in under-served schools and communities.

These new efforts include a nationwide challenge with software developers to create new applications to enhance math and science education; a virtual teacher training initiative to reach thousands of educators with new ways to integrate science and math technologies in the classroom; an internship program to help students learn critical 21st century skills while solving business problems in their local communities; and student-mentoring programs with Verizon employee volunteers and business partners.

(Next page: Microsoft’s billion in savings for BYOD and PD)

Microsoft and over 1 billion dollars in saving for BYOD, PD

Microsoft Corp. also announced a new educational offer to increase access to—and lower the cost of—Windows-based devices for U.S. public school classrooms nationwide.

By injecting more than 1 billion dollars in savings into the system over the course of 2014, Microsoft hopes to help solve issues of access and affordability as most K–12 schools seek to transition to more technology-enabled, data-driven academic environments.

Through this program, access to offerings that before were only available to financial need-based institutions will now be available for all public schools. This includes hardware, collaboration software and teacher training resources. The offer includes access to the latest Windows 8.1 devices and also includes software and services necessary to create personalized learning environments (PLEs).

The offer also encompasses a variety of device offerings at significantly reduced prices, as well as an array of popular software and services tailored for education, including Bing for Schools, Office 365 Education and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning teacher training resources.

For the roughly 2,000 high-needs schools in the U.S., Microsoft will give away Microsoft IT Academy (ITA) program and training, to provide the schools and their educators, students and staff with digital curriculum and certifications. Microsoft will also donate $1 million to cover certification exams for students from these schools.

Microsoft’s education offer will be available immediately to all U.S. K–12 public schools and available through Microsoft original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners Dell, Lenovo and others.

While Microsoft has provided more than 750 million dollars in programs for education, this latest offer specifically supports President Obama’s ConnectED goals of connecting U.S. schools to the digital age within five years by providing cost-efficient devices and services. Read more about the specifics of the offer here.

More information on the offer can also be found here.

Editor’s note: Material from multiple press releases was used in this story.

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