I had the privilege and opportunity this morning to attend Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s bi-weekly press conference where he announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to bring increased technology access, education and training to students, residents and small businesses of D.C.  This unique public-private alliance will deliver technology training to unemployed residents, business development resources to local D.C. firms, the latest education technology to D.C. public schools, and technology exposure opportunities to local high schools students. 

Living here and working in the education technology industry, I’m particularly excited about how we will be working with D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) to provide teachers with increased access to technology resources and professional development to bolster their ability to teach vital technological skills to students to ensure they are ready for the workforce. Today, 50% of jobs require technology skills or digital literacy. This is expected to increase to 77% in the next 10 years, so we need to encourage and arm teachers with expertise to bring math and science alive in a way that stimulates students’ interest in STEM careers.

Effective teachers are one big predictor of a student’s success. We want to help equip every teacher with tools and resources to meet that challenge. As part of the D.C. “Digital Alliance,” we will work with DCPS to implement and host the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Program, a two-day seminar for educators focused on the integration of technology into classroom teaching and learning scenarios. Part of our Partners in Learning initiative, the MIE program provides the opportunity to participate in hands-on, project-based learning sessions, during which teachers will learn about the latest uses and features of a variety of Microsoft tools, such as the Microsoft Office Suite, OneNote, and free teaching resources like Windows Live Movie Maker and other multimedia, productivity and cloud services and programs. So far, across the U.S., we have trained hundreds of thousands of teachers, and we continue to present these trainings in our regional offices across the country, so there is opportunity for teachers and school leaders to engage with us in this capacity outside of D.C.

Microsoft will also work in partnership with District and school-level leadership to emphasize the building of STEM skills among D.C. students.  Yohance Maqubela, a leader from Howard University Middle School in the District, shared at today’s event that even by Middle school age, many young people -- particularly those from impoverished families --often do not have exposure to STEM career opportunities, so they have very limited understanding about the promising paths that could open up their futures. To broaden that necessary exposure, we will begin by hosting technology career exposure events at our Innovation and Policy Center downtown.   These events will include two DigiGirlz days that are designed to expose high school girls to potential technology careers, connect them with Microsoft employees and offer them hands-on digital and computing workshops. Additionally, our Minority Student Day will do the same for local minority students.   We hope these programs give kids exposure to new possibilities and spark their imaginations.

Addressing the tough challenges facing our schools requires hard work and commitment from parents, local communities, and businesses. This is just one way Microsoft hopes it can strengthen the community where many Microsoft employees live, work and play, and do something to help government, citizens and schools in the area.  While Washington, D.C. is the first city to partner with Microsoft in this way, we hope they are the first of many.