Posted by Sig BehrensGeneral Manager, U.S. EducationOn March 18th, Microsoft will come together with top superintendents from America’s largest urban K-12 school districts and industry representatives to tackle some of the biggest issues facing education today. The ‘Unite to Make a Difference’ Education Forum, hosted by USA TODAY and the Council of Great City Schools, and presented by Microsoft Partners in Learning, will take place in McLean, Va., and offer a day-long exchange of ideas aimed at improving education in the United States.Many people see Microsoft simply as a technology company, but we also invest a tremendous amount in education. Education is core to our mission as a company to help individuals reach their potential and the most important work we do. We believe it is important to be part of the ongoing discussion around advancements in education and the successes and challenges that schools face today, to create a sustainable economy and future for the U.S.Today, 6,000 students each day drop out of school across the U.S. Students say classes are uninteresting and they call for more real-world learning opportunities so they can figure out how to bridge what they learn in school to real life. Physical classrooms and the basics of teaching may have not changed much in the last several decades, but the technology and environment is rapidly evolving. At the USA TODAY event, one of the things I will talk about is student success and student engagement such as how Microsoft is trying new ways to help students be engaged learners through real-world projects and gaming. Ninety-seven percent of youth play video games, and we can turn their love of gaming into powerful learning tools with academic rigor. A quality education is a social and workforce imperative. To make sure students are college and career ready, Microsoft is also committed to helping students improve skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that will help them build a brighter future and positive economic impact. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that by 2014, the U.S. will have more than 2 million job openings in STEM-related fields. We will showcase what Microsoft does to get students more excited about these subjects and how we help with teachers’ professional development.In addition to our discussion on bringing learning to life and getting kids more engaged in the classroom, there will be healthy debate and panels focused on public education’s greatest challenges, how to support the changing student population and measure success, as well as how business and education can work together to meet these goals.For those who would like to be part of the discussion on Friday but are unable to participate in-person, the event is being webcast to the public via Microsoft Town Hall technology. You can go to the Town Hall now to submit questions and post ideas to be answered and discussed at the forum. Join the dialogue by visiting: http://forum.usatoday.com/. You can also follow what’s happening on Twitter by tracking the #uniteforum hashtag.I hope that you will be able to join the conversation, share your stories, and learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to education at the event.