O365 LogoWhen we first launched Office 365 for education back in June, we did so with an eye to helping transform education. Teachers were asking for a holistic collaboration platform that would allow them – and their students – to easily and safely access the knowledge and tools required for 21st century learning. They needed a way to communicate, not just with each other and within their communities, but with other teachers and students around the world. And they needed to do all of this with shrinking budgets and increasing demands on their time.

Changes in teaching and learning are happening at break-neck speed. Students are coming into the classroom with new ideas about communication and collaboration and the role of technology in their lives. We knew then that Office 365 could do even more to transform education. Today, I’m thrilled to announce that the newest release of Office 365 Education will help bring educators and students together to embrace the ever-increasing opportunities of this new era of digital learning.
What has changed? These days, educators expect to be architects of their own classroom experience. They understand that technology must integrate seamlessly with pedagogy and that it must deliver measurable outcomes in terms of student experience and teacher efficiency. The new Office 365 Education enables all of that and more. Here’s just some of what the new Office 365 Education will do:

Your classroom on any screen. Whatever devices and interfaces you use in your classroom – PCs, tablets or smartphones; touch, pen, mouse or keyboard – Office 365 for Education will make the experience faster and more fluid. And while Office 365 is optimized for Windows (watch here as I demonstrate the amazing things it does on Windows 8), it also supports non-Windows devices. Whether your students work on shared PCs in a lab, have access to their own laptops or tablets in a 1:1 environment, or use their own devices in class, Office 365 will remember each user and their work, enabling students to instantly access projects or research wherever they are.

Office on-demand. With cloud-enabled storage and accessibility, Office 365 is a cloud service that follows you and your students wherever you go – it’s a personalized experience that roams with you, and when you sign in your settings, custom dictionaries, and where you left off in your documents, is right there with you. All of your Office tools are available on-demand, and on every device you use – at school, at home or when you’re mobile. The cloud, with SkyDrive Pro, also ensures you always have the latest versions of every application and that you can access your work both online and off.

Integrated, responsible social. We know that social networking is revolutionizing society, and with it the way we teach and learn. The new Office 365 for Education brings social into the classroom, supporting newsfeeds, microblogging and multi-party HD video and Skype communication. It allows students and teachers to easily follow people, documents and sites. Social runs seamlessly throughout Office 365 applications, and enables educators to explore the many benefits of social in encouraging 21st century skills – especially collaboration, which we know advances both student learning and educators’ professional development.

Comprehensive control and management. As we know, ensuring safety and privacy is a must in schools. Without these safeguards, even the best technology tools have little value. Office 365 Education features improved data loss prevention, allowing schools to set policy so that users are flagged when sensitive information is included in an e-mail. We’ve also unified our eDiscovery tools so that administrators can search across SharePoint, Lync Exchange and file shares, helping to ensure policy compliance and investigate potential issues. And administrators will benefit from a streamlined admin console, bringing Exchange, SharePoint and Lync into a single user interface. Simply put, with Office 365 Education, data loss protection, data retention, deployment and day-to-day management become more effective and cost-efficient. And all of this is welcome news given today’s increasingly uncertain education funding environment.

Office 365 also opens up a world of new possibilities through our partner ecosystem. With the addition of partner apps and solutions, Office 365 Education becomes a powerful platform for teaching innovation.  To learn more about this exciting capability, check out Max’s Toolbox for Microsoft Office, which has been described as “training wheels for Microsoft Office” – a great way to introduce kids to tools they’ll use throughout their school, work and home lives.

But here’s the best news: As part of Microsoft’s commitment to education, Office 365 Education is available for free. Schools can access all of the features and benefits of Microsoft Office – apps and services – simply by signing up at www.office365.com/education. With free access to the transformative innovations built in to Office 365, teachers are unleashed to fully embrace the possibilities offered by technology. Educators who once felt boxed in by the rigid demands of their curriculum can now explore new ways to engage and motivate their students. And perhaps most important, young people can have at their fingertips the tools they need to become productive global citizens, using a platform that has already been embraced by universities, businesses and governments around the world.

On my Daily Edventures blog, I’ve been sharing stories about the amazing things teachers everywhere are doing with Office 365, and the impressive outcomes they’ve achieved. With new features that unlock new scenarios in the latest release of Office 365, I can’t wait to see those inspiring educators take their innovation to the next level.

- Anthony Salcito