By Margo Day, Vice President, U.S. Education

Technology has been making inroads in classrooms around the world for years now, but there have remained significant – and stubborn -- barriers to success, especially around access, security and affordability. The good news is that, as manufacturers and vendors continue to streamline and simplify mobile and cloud-based technology, those roadblocks are beginning to fall away.

But even with the right tools and access, successful classroom technology implementations are no guarantee. Educators must be able to effectively use and manage this technology in ways that improve learning outcomes while also ensuring this technology is affordable. This is no easy feat. Technology empowers teachers to offer immersive, engaging lessons and to streamline testing, while also helping save schools space and money. But if not managed properly or provided at low cost, this same technology can take away valuable teaching time and stretch budgets.

That’s why we’re so excited to announce some incredible, game-changing solutions that our partners are announcing at this week’s ISTE 2014 conference. For educators working to manage all of the technology that supports 21st century learning activities, these tools will be transformational.

AssistX TestPolicy App 

One of these new tools is TestPolicy, a first-of-its-kind, next-generation device management app from AssistX specifically optimized for Windows 8. This AssistX TestPolicy App provides a best-in-class testing experience, and offers the easiest way for educators to effectively lock down Windows devices and administer online assessments, including Common Core State Standards assessments from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). With a single click, this app seamlessly shuts down all open applications and locks testing devices, preventing students from accessing anything but the test.

TestPolicy solves many of the testing and classroom management challenges that schools face across the U.S., and is compliant with all assessment requirements. Most important, it delivers the kind of streamlined control educators need to confidently implement digital solutions in the classroom, something competitive platforms don’t offer. And best of all, the app will be available at no cost to all Windows 7 and Windows 8 users in education for the 2014-2015 school-year. Come the start of the school year this fall, the TestPolicy app will be available to schools in the U.S. with plans to rollout around the world in the future.

See TestPolicy in action at James Madison Middle School in California.

Sebit VCloud

Also at ISTE this week, Sebit is launching the Sebit Global Education Cloud, VCloud, a complete solution designed to facilitate learning through instruction, communication, collaboration, and assessment. This single platform enables teachers and students to manage courses and personal portfolios, access content, and provide top-to-bottom analytics and reporting.

What sets Sebit VCloud apart – aside from being available only on the Windows 8 platform -- is its robust functionality. If a school has deployed tablets to all of its students, teachers can use the Sebit VCloud to manage class sessions, distribute content to student devices, manage application restriction on student devices, issue tests and quizzes, and even utilize real-time polling for instantaneous feedback. Not only does this save teachers time, it also involves students in their own learning experience – a key factor in keeping students engaged and enthusiastic.

Microsoft has led the way in education transformation for more than three decades and we know that digital technology opens up countless opportunities for students. We can confidently claim that we offer the best tools for education available today through Windows 8 and that student safety and privacy rights are at the forefront of our policies. No other company comes close to what Windows 8 offers educators in terms of security, flexibility, accessibility and affordability.

We believe that the new opportunities that technology brings require thoughtful evaluation and responsible and comprehensive approaches that allow our children to learn with technology in an engaging, safe and respectful manner. Microsoft is committed to helping schools face the challenges of digital transition head-on – from educator training to curriculum development, to resourceful devices and services that can simplify personalized learning. And by working with partners like AssistX and Sebit, our powerful education ecosystem continues to grow stronger.

Throughout the week, we will be sharing even more exciting news from ISTE 2014. Thank you to our many partners who have joined with Microsoft in building a new education system that respects the right of every child to a quality education, and provides each of those students with the best opportunity to succeed in school and in life.