March, 2011

  • MSN Japan sees new responsibilities grow from coverage

    By Reed Price, Director, Network Programming, MSN US

    Sean Chu, the Executive Producer of MSN Japan, says the experience of responding editorially to the Magnitude 9 Earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, gave his team a sense of how they could be a powerful force to help people cope not only with the quake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster -- but with the societal aftershocks that will linger as well.

    In an interview Saturday, March 26, Chu said, “over the past few weeks, my team has worked very, very hard. Literally, we were on this 24/7. We got together for dinner [Friday] night -- the first time after the quake -- and I was glad to hear that they actually want to do even more.  We're all very tired and fatigued but they didn't want to stop.”

    The team was hard at work on the 22nd-floor of an office building in Tokyo’s Shinagawa City when the quake struck. At first, Chu said, the seriousness of the situation didn’t dawn on them. “We thought that this was a big earthquake and it's gone and -- though we were all shaken and scared we just went back to our desks and started working,” he said. “But around probably 3:30-4:00 we started getting news from the Tōhoku region and at that time we knew that the elevator had stopped and a lot of the trains had also stopped.  That was about the time that we started to understand the severity of the quake itself.”

    Many team members spent the first night together at the office building, supplied with emergency kits of blankets and water from Microsoft, and venturing up and down the 22 flights of stairs for other provisions from nearby grocery stores. By Sunday, Chu said, it was clear that they needed to reassess how they were going to respond to the crisis. The team came up with “a laundry list of all the possible information and tools that people may need,” Chu said, and agreed to create a special portal to house the information. The focus: “helping people to manage their lives, helping people to navigate their lives through the situation.”

    The team restructured itself on the fly and reached out to power companies, to the government, and other sources for life planning information. One team member worked closely to see how Microsoft as a whole was helping, and included that information in their special portal page. It was a small group—just 19 full-time employees—and they told the larger Microsoft Japan about their work. Chu said he was touched by the outreach from the 2,500 employees across divisions: “We've had the Azure team help us, we've had the Hotmail team help us, the Silverlight team help us, we've had EPG (the Enterprise and Partner Group) help us. The entire company is trying to help us program this,” Chu marvels.

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    Screen shot from MSNBC’s Photo Blog: Panoramic image: Sightseeing ship atop house in Otsuchi, Japan

    In the last week, the MSN Japan team made a conscious effort to shift the emphasis of their programming toward Recovery and Revitalization. They adopted a new “Support Japan” logo and, with help from the US Engineering deployed a new user-generated site where they are inviting the audience to upload pictures and videos. “People can share their messages and thoughts: “I'm turning out my lights,” “I'm gathering blankets to send over”, or “I'm actually going out and having a big dinner with my friends and helping the economy,” Chu said. “Anything like that is fine. I think we were one of the first portals to do that, to try to gather that information.”

    Chu said, “I know as editors we try to look at all the news and it really is depressing, it really drags you down. And somewhere down the line I felt responsible, that I needed to show our audience that this was devastating, yes … but we need to move on. We need to stay a little bit more optimistic and upbeat about it so that we can move on with our lives and help the economy get back on its feet. So I wanted to do as much as we can, as MSN, to do that.”

  • Exploring children’s creativity with technology during girls’ night out

    Last week a lively group of mothers met online for an event called “Girls’ Night Out” (#GNO). #GNO is a two hour virtual party hosted on Twitter by online parenting influential Mom It Forward (@MomItForward). This week’s theme was “Children’s problem-solving skills and creativity through the use of technology.”

    The conversational online social event included participation by Jyl Johnson Pattee of Mom it Forward, Lili Cheng of Microsoft's Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Labs, and Becky Herr-Stephenson, research fellow, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. During the two hour event, there was a lot of stimulating 140 character based discussion.

    Here is a summarized flow of the conversation with a little narrative from us @msftcitizenship.

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    Question 1: What are tips for helping kids learn, love, and get interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?

    @RobynsWorld Play with them, do science experiments together, use tech together, show math in everyday life.

    @seeryusmama Start the learning early and engage, engage, engage.

    Our own @lilich added Tips 4 helping kids learn: bring the learning to where kids are- design, creativity, gaming.

    Other tips included:

    - Always make a game out of something new.

    - Find something that engages kids & involves active learning.

    - Help them find the answers, or the start of answers, of their natural curiosity.

    - Playing games and programs online help too.

    Question 2: How are STEM subjects different in school now vs. when you were in school? What takeaways can you apply at home?

    @beccasara we had no STEM when I was in elem. school - now it's all we talk about.

    @jylMomIF My kids learn practical application 4 all STEM subjs. For me, it was all about rote memorization/no practical application.

    Other thoughts included:

    - Parents are more hands on now.

    - We truly value the time spent with kids and want to be involved in their learning.

    - I totally learned how to type with a typewriter in high school!

    - We still used the huge floppy disks when I was in school and I'm not even that old. LOL

    Question 3: “What resources are available to help kids with STEM homework? How do you help your kids with this homework?”

    @beccasara “Our school is starting to require students to have computers. They have problems to help. So cool!”

    @c2cmom “Having a Kodu Club at schools would be great!”

    @lucrecerbraxton added “we make it fun by playing games so the learning is not so stressful”

    Question 4: Do you play video games with your kids? What types of educational video games do your kids play?

    clip_image002Answers here were plentiful and ranged from “I play PC games with my kids” to “typing games” to “No games”. One of our favorite answers was as follows:

    @RobynsWorld “Yes we all play video games together. Most games can be educational in some way; Play video games yourself and figure out what skills it builds, logic, math, sequencing, etc.”

    Question 5: Tips for moderating time spent gaming? What is an appropriate amount of time for kids to spend gaming?

    @ladyozmaladyozma “I have a basket that handhelds go into during school hours/at night. We also have daily requirements of things”

    Others thought to mix technology time up with creative play so the kids get a good mix.

    Editor’s Note: Microsoft has done a lot of work in this area with an initiative called: Get Game Smart. The Get Game Smart program is designed to help families enjoy video games and online media in ways that are safer, healthier and more balanced. Visit http://www.getgamesmart.com for useful guides, advice and tools.

    Question 6: Do you feel technology changes or enhances social opportunity or relationships? What about education? Why and why not?

    The consensus here was that technology has had a very positive influence on education. Furthermore, like everything in life, there are both pluses and minuses to technology and therefore finding a balance is key.

    @MomItForward offered “Tech also offers soooo many opportunities. We had a Twitter party 2 yrs ago w/women in a remote village in Kenya. SO COOL!!!”

    @koduteam added “In 10 years we hope to have insanely great advances in the use of tech for learning- for kids, teachers, parents”

    Question 7: How are you managing parenting in the digital age? How are you dealing with constant connectedness to technology with your children?

    The answer to this question seemed to be a hard one to pinpoint as one participant pointed out “Sometimes u have 2 learn as you go along” and another offered “these questions assume I am managing. Got to make sure we take a break now and then and no tech at meals”

    Other answers included:

    - Limiting the hours per day electronics are on in the household.

    - Monitoring their social accounts to make sure discussions are appropriate

    - Parents control passwords

    Question 8: When asked “what do you want to be when you grow up” how do your kids answer? What did you want to be?

    The answers here were fun, familiar for many and some surprising as follows:

    - Dump Girl (Garbage woman)

    - Writer

    - Nurse

    - Vet

    - Video game beta tester

    @koduteam jumped in to share “for all those w/kids that want to be game designers or story tellers let us know if http://koducup.us competition helps!”

    Question 9: How do you help your kids achieve their career goals? How do you embrace their interests?

    There were a wide variety of answers which included:

    - Build a love of books and reading

    - Encourage kids to explore

    - Talk to your kids

    - Spend time with your kids

    - Listen to your kids

    - Spend time with kids – with them in person not just by location!

    Question 10: How does STEM play a role in kid’s education? How has it changed over the years?

    One tweeter quickly responds: “Not enough char in 12 tweets to cover that! LOL”

    Our challenge to you, think about this question and let us know your opinion by commenting in the blog, writing on our facebook wall, or tweeting @msftcitizenship.

    Thank you to Mom It Forward, Jyl Johnson Pattee, Lili Cheng, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Joan Ganz and all of the enthusiastic participants; without your thoughts, opinions, and actions STEM would not see the progress it has to date!

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    Supporting this Tweet up is part of our efforts to make people aware of the newly released Kodu Game Lab. A free, fun tool that enables kids from the age of six upwards to design and build exciting video games – while helping them to develop real-world skills by encouraging them to analyze a problem and develop a solution.

    We’ve also launched the U.S. Kodu Cup, a nationwide competition giving 9-17 year olds the opportunity to build their own video games and compete for great prizes.

  • Volunteers deliver laptops to support relief efforts in Japan

    NetHope, Microsoft, Dell, HP and InterConnection Partner to Deliver Laptops to Rescue Workers in Japan

    Guest post By Gisli Olafsson, NetHope Emergency Response Director

    Communication is the lifeblood of rescue operations in Japan. Without the ability to share information and collaborate in real-time, rescue workers struggle to coordinate the delivery of food, water, medicine and other aid to those in need. This is true now more than ever, as snow and frigid temperatures in northern parts of the country slow relief efforts.

    Based on initial reports, we’ve learned that communication networks have been severely hampered in the devastated areas of Japan. What is needed now is to provide satellite-based communication equipment and service, as well as hardware like laptops, satellite phones and more, by which humanitarian agencies in the region can communicate with each other and the outside world.

    Delivering this equipment to NGOs is our top priority at NetHope, and that’s why we’re teaming up with our friends at Microsoft, Dell, HP and InterConnection to prepare and deliver 250 refurbished laptops to humanitarian workers in Japan. Rescuers from several organizations including Care, ChildFund Japan, Habitat for Humanity, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Japanese Red Cross, Mercy Corps/Peace Winds, Oxfam Japan, Plan International, Relief International and Save the Children will use the laptops to share information and coordinate relief efforts across their groups.

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    For instance, at Save the Children, relief workers will use the PCs to coordinate delivery of supplies to a network of child-friendly spaces the organization is creating in evacuation centers and shelters in Japan. The spaces are aimed at providing displaced children in Japan with a safe place to play and to give parents a break from watching their children while they register for emergency assistance. Save the Children estimates that as many as 75,000 children may have been displaced because of the earthquake and tsunami.

    Yesterday, 20 volunteers came together in Seattle to prepare the laptops, donated by Dell and HP, for shipment to Japan. The volunteers installed both English and Japanese language Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 software donated by Microsoft on the machines. Experts from InterConnection, a Seattle-based nonprofit that specializes in charitable computer reuse and recycling, were on-hand to assist and host the volunteers at its Wallingford office. The volunteers came from all over the Puget Sound region and include Microsoft employees as well as others who responded to calls for volunteers on VolunteerMatch, Facebook and Craig’s List.

    NetHope would like to thank the volunteers, as well as Microsoft, Dell, HP and InterConnection for their support. Their hard work and generous donations will have a big impact on rescue operations in Japan, and our NGO member agencies are eagerly awaiting the refurbished laptops.

    A look at how the PCs are prepared for Japan.

    To learn more about InterConnection including how you can donate your old computers to support efforts like this one, visit http://www.interconnection.org/. And, to learn more about what NetHope and its members are doing in Japan, please visit www.nethope.org/japan.

    Dell is committed to being a responsible community partner and comes together in times of crisis to help those in need. To further aid in the Japan recovery efforts, Dell is contributing $1 million through corporate and employee-matched donations to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent. The company continues to stay in contact with employees, customers, partners and emergency response organizations to help rebuild the communities where damage has occurred.

    HP and its employees as well as the Hewlett-Packard Company Foundation have committed more than $2.3 million in technology products and cash donations to organizations and initiatives that are aiding the Japan relief effort. Save the Children, the American Red Cross and a partnership with Microsoft and Dell to support NetHope and Interconnection with a laptop donation, are amongst those that have thus far benefitted from our support.

    To help support ongoing relief efforts, Microsoft has made an initial commitment of $2 million, which includes $250,000 in cash as well as in-kind contributions. U.S. staff have already raised more than $700,000 through our existing employee matching program. We’re working with customers, partners, local government, and nonprofit agencies to support relief efforts. You can find out more on our disaster response page.

  • Partnering for Youth Empowerment – Youth Fund II Announced

    Today I'm in Calgary, Canada, attending the Youth for Development, Development for Youth conference hosted by Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Canadian International Development Agency, University of Calgary and Microsoft. You can watch the event live here.

     

    "Youth Fund in Bolivia - the "Tuja Digital" program"

    My primary reason for being here is to join IDB President Moreno in announcing the second phase of the Youth Fund initiative, bringing another $2.8 million (US) to organizations in Latin American and the Caribbean focused on youth empowerment.  I am proud to participate in the announcement, building on the success of the initial round of the Youth Fund, which ultimately benefitted 18 projects in 16 countries, reaching over 3,000 youth.  But what I really want to reflect on is the partnership we have built over the years with IDB. 

    Our common focus on empowering youth was the starting point and serves as the foundation for much of our partnership activities.  IDB and Microsoft are also organizations that do things at significant scale, so the ability to bring our resources together for a regional program was of utmost importance.  We have a common focus on building local capacity in existing organizations, we don't create new organizations to implement programs and the Youth Fund reflects that.  This lead us to a model that was developed over the course of many meetings and conversations, ensuring that the objectives of both organizations are met and that we are very clear on the expected programs results.  In my opinion, it is this level of transparency that defines a successful partnership.     

    The second phase of the Youth Fund is not only a significant expansion - we are hoping to double the number of grants - but it is also focused on a critical issue today; providing youth with the skills they need to get jobs and increase their economic opportunities.  As in other regions in the world, unemployment among young adults in Latin America and the Caribbean is far above the average across the broader population.  Many youth enter their working years without the skills needed to be successful in a job and these skills will be the differentiator for them.  We hope that the Youth Fund will continue to open new opportunities for thousands of individuals, positively impacting many more in their families and communities.

    I'd also like to note a recent study published by the great team at the University of Washington Center for Technology and Social Change (TASCHA) that highlights the impact of technology skills training on at-risk youth and people with disabilities in five countries in Latin America.  The policy recommendations for greater involvement of employers and models for long-term support are spot on.  The report can be downloaded here

  • Celebrating the Boys and Girls Club of America

    Editor’s Note: This week we are proud to celebrate National Boys & Girls Club Week! During this week we encourage you to take time to discover your local Boys & Girls Club and its role in the community. From homework help, open houses and parades to picnics, performances and fundraisers, there are many fun opportunities to learn more about your local Boys & Girl Club. Microsoft has partnered with BGCA since 1998, and has pledged $150 million in support to Boys & Girls Clubs and the Club Tech program. We encourage you to join and support us during National Boys & Girls Club Week. Contact your local Club and find out why great futures start at Boys & Girls Clubs!

    Guest post by Bernard Morgan, Partner Account Manager, Microsoft East Region Charlotte Campus, Carolinas Region

    clip_image002I always root for the underdog. My wife says that I’m a softy for the little guy. And frankly, she’s right. I remember the second season of American Idol and seeing Rubin Studdard for the first time. If memory serves me correctly, he walked into his Birmingham, Alabama audition with an oversized red football, slow shuffle of a walk, and a huge smile. I didn’t know what to expect from him at this time given the young girls and guys who went before him looked like models; however, I was definitely open to this big guy with the big smile blowing Simon away. Only a few notes into his song, Rubin was amazing! He finished with thunderous applause from all the American Idol judges and a standing ovation from me as I stood in my living room.

    It took me more than seven years but at the Boys & Girls Club of Charlotte’s 75th Anniversary Celebration, I had an opportunity to hear Rubin live and give him yet another standing ovation. Interestingly, there was one difference, I found myself applauding for his support of the Boys & Girls Club in locations like Charlotte, NC across the entire country. As it turns out, Rubin is an Alumnus of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Alabama and a national spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Club of America. Truly humble beginnings for a nominated Grammy Award artist but par for the course when you consider the huge smile, slow shuffle of a walk, and the oversized red football jersey he once donned on American Idol. And what’s special about Rubin today isn’t just his music, it’s his journey, and his passion to give back to help the next Boys and Girls Club alumnus with their journey. As a Microsoft employee, this is a passion that I believe we all share with Rubin.

    Microsoft was one of a number of sponsors who provided volunteers and funding to host Rubin’s Charlotte visit and offer the “Boys & Girls” a free party featuring Rubin and other artists like Chad Mackey, Damien Horne, and Marshall Crenshaw. At times, all someone could see were kids playing football, eating sweets, receiving free hats or sword balloons, being entertained by clowns and the science exhibit, and of course, hydrated by bottles of water and soda from my refreshment stand where I volunteered.

    I can’t help but think that there are a number of kids who often feel like the underdog. Fortunately, Rubin’s journey, and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte are creating opportunities for these same kids to become America’s next Entrepreneur, Entertainment, Business and/or Civic Idol!

    Good luck Rubin! Thanks for sharing your journey, and supporting the Boys & Girls Club of America!

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