A quick update from on the road…

I've been traveling a lot recently to both help Microsoft plan for our upcoming fiscal year, as well as meeting with customers as the school year winds down in parts of the world. I just had a very interesting visit in three countries that all have very different education systems based on where the economy stands…so it's interesting to see how it's changing thinking and prioritization of education in countries.

I'll start out with the country that I visited which had the worst economic current conditions, and that was Greece. Greece's problem with regards to education is really one about creating job opportunities in the country to keep and retain students.  One of the challenges the country is facing is students are migrating away from the country because economic conditions are creating a population decrease for families, and we want to help continue to create opportunities. The economic conditions are creating urgency with regard to changing the education system and actually creating opportunity for not only new entrepreneurs and new growth but creating new imperatives inside the school system to prepare students for the future.

It's interesting to see the vitality that the government in Greece is putting towards education as a priority, and really shifting investment to make sure that education helps the country get out of the current economic environment that they're facing. After visiting Greece, I had an opportunity to go to France, and things in France are actually economically a little bit better but also the way in which they're thinking about technology is starting to advance.

France is one of the countries that has a very specific education philosophy and education practice and methodology. Other countries like Japan and Russia, who have rich academic traditions and pedagogy, have been often the slowest to change and have been the most resistant of technology integrating into the classroom and actually shifting the way learning is done.

And that's starting to change in all of those countries, and certainly that was what I got from France, both meeting with the education ministry as well as individual schools and universities.  There's not only an embrace of technology's role and importance in the classroom, but a recognition that it's a part of everyday life. Not only technology in the classroom, but empowering teachers to think differently about their education models and how they think about content and assessment with technology is something that we're starting to see more and more of.

One of the things we talked during a meeting with the ministry in France was the way in which they're starting to think about celebrating and embracing innovation and looking at innovative teaching models that are happening around the country is very much aligned to what we do with innovative teachers and innovative school projects via Partners in Learning.  It's often the way in which many countries start, by looking at the models that exist in their country, and celebrating those examples for others so they can get inspired by how they can transform with technology.

France's universities are also very active in looking at the cloud solutions, and I had an opportunity to meet with a number of CIOs throughout France, and they're certainly excited about the potential the cloud provides to save costs but also to scale out the services across the board.

The last country I met with, Sweden, is actually facing economic prosperity, and certainly it's interesting to see how that dynamic plays in terms of the way in which they think about technology.  They're the most aggressive on making sure 1:1 is a priority around the country and providing devices to students.

In some respects it's interesting, because of the economic conditions, that the focus tends to be a little bit too much on device than I would like to see. One of the things I tried to caution the school leaders I met with in Sweden was to think much more about holistic transformation broadly and resist the temptation to focus on devices specifically, but that's an area that they're growing in and certainly looking to make sure that every student in Sweden has access to a device in the next few years. There is a huge opportunity for them to change the way in which they think about content and the way they think about schools 24/7, anywhere, anytime going forward.  So, a huge opportunity to look at Sweden as a benchmark for how 1:1 evolves.

So, very interesting models in all of the countries…it really reflects a lot of what we're starting to see in education. There's not only a reality with regards to economic conditions that drive decisions, but the economic conditions around employability, jobs, and economic prosperity is often driving the urgency for education reform and change in countries. This connection is often not only an important thing to embrace but an opportunity for us to really create and ground the change in a lasting and meaningful way in the classroom, with parents, and with students.