As back-to-school preparations begin in earnest, many schools are embarking on a powerful journey of their own - the transition to 1:1 device learning programs that empower educators, inspire students, and transform entire school districts. "It may sound corny, but the digital transformation will mean these students will have the world in the palm of their hands," says Patricia Lewis, Chair of the Social Studies Department at North Miami Senior High School.

At Miami-Dade County Public School District, home to more than 500,000 students from pre-K to adult, Lewis and her fellow teachers are at the forefront of 1:1 digital convergence initiatives:

"Often [school] systems embark on a digital convergence plan, buying devices first, not considering the digital content needs, and forgetting about professional development," says Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools. "This district, in partnership with Microsoft, is leading with human capital development."

When Leon County Schools in Tallahassee, Florida, set out to become a 1:1 school district, they did so with teachers as their central focus. "For us, it was about the curriculum, not the technology," says Bill Nimmons, IT Director of Leon County Schools. "Key to this approach was choosing an operating system that minimized the need for additional training for our teachers and students, allowed us to use existing curriculum and applications without limitations and minimizing the need to retrain technical staff on additional software to support our 1:1 environment -- all things that Windows 8 allows us to do." Here's a look at Leon County's innovative 1:1 mobile program:

Ease of deployment, professional development programs, and maximum flexibility in devices were all paramount in Leon County's decision to use Windows 8 for their 1:1 program. "Windows 8 allows us to do this in a cost effective manner," added Nimmons. "Whether teachers choose to use a laptop, tablet, or other device, with Windows 8, our entire district-supported curriculum is available."

In South Carolina at Chester County School District , school leaders of this rural school district wanted to give their 5,526 students an innovative learning experience with technology. By having a 1:1 learning environment, they are ensuring all students have access to the devices and tools they need to be successful in the classroom as well as prepare them for the workforce.

"Windows-based devices were selected based on our priorities of Microsoft Windows 8, a long battery life, and durability," says Dr. Agnes Slayman, Chester County School District Superintendent. "Although [selecting] the device was a key part of our 1:1 initiative, we understood that the device was merely an educational tool. What we had to rollout was a whole new approach to teaching; we needed our teachers, students, parents, and community members to embrace the use of technology in learning and applying vast amounts of instant information."

Empowered education is bigger than any particular device. What truly matters are the programs, curricula, and tools to help students prepare themselves for the futures - and for teachers, the training and professional development they need to stay ahead of the curve. Innovative education today is about putting teachers and their students first, then technology. Microsoft is committed to partnering with schools to help them embark on a 1:1 learning journey and to consider how the devices, applications including education apps and products like Office 365, Bing, Skype, OneNote, and OneDrive all work together to support learning.

"This world is moving fast and finally education is catching up," says Jessica Mouttet, 7th grade teacher at W.R. Thomas Middle School in Miami-Dade County. "It's about time."

For More Information

To learn more about how Microsoft's technology and tools can empower students, prepare them for the workforce and instill a life-long love of learning, visit Microsoft in Education, and find out more information on revolutionary learning systems - including 1:1 programs - and creating innovative schools.