April, 2012

  • Fast Five (Software) Features for Nonprofits 4/27

    This week, the Microsoft Citizenship team is kicking off a new weekly feature for our nonprofit partners around the world.

    We are calling it Fast Five Features because we want to provide you with five (hopefully) new tips and tricks for the software we’ve given to you as a donation. We know you are busy, and we know you don’t always know these features even exist. We are here to help!

    Let’s also take a moment to remind you, our readers, that we donate almost $1M in software to nonprofits every single day. If you know of a nonprofit that could use a software donation, please share this and tell them to apply today.

    OK, let’s get started!

    1) You’re a nonprofit; you are obviously trying to be frugal, so how about DIY business cards using Office 2010? Check out this Office team blog post on that very topic.   image
    2) Sometimes it’s the little things that can make the biggest impact. How do you change the default line spacing in Word?   image
    3) Who wants free online file storage? I do!   image
    4) What many people don’t know is that Windows 7 has some incredible personalization features. You can take all those great photos you shot during your event or fundraising drive and create your very own desktop background slide show.   image
    5) Don’t you wish you could try everything before making a commitment? Well, if you are a nonprofit thinking about doing your own website development, go ahead and try Microsoft Expression Studio for 30 days and then apply for that software grant to deploy it for your organization.   image

    We want to hear from you if these little tips are useful and if you have questions on how our software can make your organization run smoother. Please comment and share this list with your coworkers.

    See you next week!

  • TEALS: Helping students discover computer science

    By Gretchen Deo, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft

    Recently I sat with a group of 22 kids from Rainier Beach High School & South Shore Middle School who were on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond for the day. The kids were here as part of their involvement in Microsoft’s TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) program which places Microsoft engineers in a team teaching role with into high-need K-12 classes to teach computer science with an existing in-service teacher.

    TEALS_2
    TouchDevelop on Windows Phone

     
    The kids are enrolled in an ‘Introduction to Computer Science’ class, which teaches students the basic ideas behind computational thinking using a programming application called TouchDevelop on Windows Phone.


    “We have a software program that the students can use in their hands,” said Michael Braun, a computer science teacher at Rainier Beach who partners with Microsoft employees to teach the class. “They’re gravitating towards that in their daily lives, so it’s a way to merge the two ideas – social media and actual academic curriculum into one. The kids love it.”

    Only 27 percent of American high schools offer any type of computer science classes, so the absence of a formalized class at Rainier Beach prior to TEALS is not uncommon. Peli de Halleux is a Software Developer with Microsoft Research and teaches 29 kids at Rainier Beach every morning together with Chris Mitchell, another Software Developer with Microsoft Exchange. “A lot of those kids don’t have computers at home, so it’s hard to give them homework,” said de Halleux. “[We said], let’s be the first class that teaches exclusively on a mobile device.” Braun added, “Without having this kind of handheld technology, they would not have this opportunity to be doing computer science homework. By giving them the hardware and software, we’re basically delivering classroom technology to their home.”

    Miguel Higgins, a sophomore at Rainier Beach High School is taking the TouchDevelop class. “I thought it’d be interesting because the school doesn’t really have many technology courses, so I thought TouchDevelop might be good. I did C++ before I got to the school, so I already had an interest in programming; it’s just a cool introduction.” TouchDevelop is also being used as a “bridge class” between middle and high School. Price Jimerson is an 8th grader at South Shore and attends class at Rainier Beach High School for one hour each morning. She said, “It’s not different [from other classes] because we still do Math or Algebra, but it is different because we use… scripts and word streams.”

    On this particular day, the kids were at Microsoft to see what’s possible when applying lessons from the classroom to careers and our everyday environment. They heard from employees about college technology tracks, internships at Microsoft, and career ideas. David Hardy Jr., a parent who was chaperoning the day, said “I like that my daughter is in the program. My daughter comes home and she’s really excited and engaged. It’s really giving her a skill [programming] that will forever be with her.” I asked a number of the kids if they were interested in exploring computer science beyond high school and received enthusiastic responses across the board.

    TEALS is expanding from 13 partner schools in the Puget Sound this year to over 30 schools nationwide with a reach of over 1800 students, and it’s a good thing – as 8th grader Deja Sopher-Frazier said, “I think other people should have the opportunity to do the same thing as us.”

     

    If you’re interested in more information on the TEALs program contact Kevin Wang at Microsoft.

  • Students are creating opportunities for all of us

    By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft

    At just 26 years old, Wilson To has a plan to defeat malaria. And he’ll do it with a Windows Phone.

    It’s an unlikely device for such a feat but it can be done. A student at University of California Davis, To is the team leader for a group of students who have developed an augmented app for Windows Phone that can detect this life-threatening disease. He participated last year in Microsoft’s global student technology competition, the Imagine Cup, which encourages students to help solve the world’s toughest problems.

    Every year we see teams deciding to take their projects to market, and there was a lot of internal discussions about how Microsoft could provide teams with more support. Those discussions led to the creation of the Imagine Cup Grants program, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program designed to provide students with the resources they need to transform their project into a commercial or nonprofit organization and most importantly bring the benefit of their technology to the people who need it most.

    Students listen to a demonstration from a member of Teamname at the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals on April 23, 2012.

    Georgia State University’s Imagine Cup team demonstrates their software design project at the U.S. Imagine Cup finals earlier today

    Wilson and his fellow students in Team Lifelens were finalists at the 2011 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals where the Imagine Cup grants were announced and in January 2012 they were named as one of four initial team recipients.

    The Lifelens app has the power to transform global health. The app addresses the unacceptably high child mortality rates caused by the lack of detection and availability of treatment of malarial diseases. It has the potential to diagnose more diseases and enable the practice of care anywhere in the world. And with the grants funding, its possibilities have just begun.

    Team Lifelens is using the Imagine Cup grant to fund further development of their project and lay the groundwork to transition what was once just an idea into a real world product. The investment is going toward distribution of their devices, subsidizing the phones and field testing. They are also preparing their IP/patent applications and plan to create a company to bring the technology to market in the near future.

    image

    Team Lifelens at the Imagine Cup World Finals in New York last year

    Wilson has the small task of preparing for his college graduation in just a couple months’ time, but he’s not resting on his laurels. Today he attended the Imagine Cup U.S. Finals in Redmond as a mentor to a current U.S. Imagine Cup finalist team, New Game Plus. The team created a game design project that addresses deforestation and environmental sustainability and competed at the event today.

    Through programs and initiatives like the Imagine Cup, Microsoft is committed to creating opportunities for youth through technology, training, and experiences that empower them to imagine and realize their full potential.

    What will be the impact if we can empower more students such as these to transform imagination into reality and turn their ideas into real-world solutions with real-world benefits?

    The possibilities are endless.

     

    About the U.S. Imagine Cup U.S. finals

    Earlier today Team FlashFood won first place in the U.S. Imagine Cup Software Design competition and will travel to Sydney, Australia, to represent the U.S. in the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals this summer.

    For more information on the Imagine Cup U.S Finals visit: http://www.imaginecup.us

  • EPA names the Top 50 green power purchasers in the U.S.

    Earlier today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an updated list of the Top 50 purchasers on green power in the United States including clean, renewable electricity from solar, wind, and low-impact hydropower.

    The top ten purchasers are:

    1. Intel
    2. Kohl’s Department Stores
    3. Microsoft
    4. Wal-Mart
    5. Whole Foods Market
    6. Staples
    7. City of Houston, TX
    8. Starbucks
    9. City of Austin, TX
    10. Hilton Worldwide.
      image

    You can read more on the list on the Microsoft Software Enabled Earth blog and directly from the EPA site.

  • Donate Your Old Laptop for 20 Years|20 Ways and Earth Day

    Editor’s Note: To celebrate Earth Day we’re cross posting this from the Microsoft Learning Born to Learn blog.

    Guest post by Charles Brennick is the founder and director of InterConnection.org

    Electronic waste is the fastest growing form of municipal waste. Every year Americans throw away three to four hundred million electronic items and with new laptops or tablet models coming out each month, those numbers will continue to grow.

    Ironically, millions of people in the U.S. and around the world don't have access to computers. They aren't able to gain computer skills, access the Internet, or communicate by email. If only a small percentage of the computers we're throwing away were refurbished and reused, people in need would have the computers they need to create the futures they want.

    If you're ready to donate your old computer, here are some important guidelines:

    Donate to a Nonprofit: As a donor, you can write off the current retail value of your computer. BUT only nonprofit organizations can give donors a receipt for tax purposes.

    Donate to an organization that does reuse: Recycling is good, but reuse is better. When a computer is recycled it is broken down into its component materials (copper, steel, etc.) and used to build something new. When a computer is reused, it is used for its original purpose and there is no loss of resources.

    Use a Certified Recycler: There are two electronics recycling certifications that ensure recyclers properly handle all electronic waste and don't export it to countries that can't legally accept it. These certifications are Responsible Recycling (R2) and Estewards. Only donate equipment to organizations that hold one of these certifications.

    Make sure your data is safe: Not all organizations that accept donated computers have the technology to safely destroy data on hard drives or the coverage to protect donors from liability. Ask the recipient organization about their data destruction policies and procedures before you donate.

    I am proud to work at Interconnection, the leading charitable computer reuse organization in the U.S.. Microsoft is helping us encourage people to donate their surplus laptops as part of Microsoft Learning's 20 Years|20 Ways celebration. InterConnection is a Seattle based nonprofit that has shipped tens of thousands of computers to schools, nonprofits and community organizations in the U.S. and in forty countries. We are the first nonprofit in the U.S. to be R2 and ISO14001 certified and have strict data destruction policies.

    Whether you donate through InterConnection or another certified recycler, thank you for taking the time to donate your old computer! If you don't have an old laptop but still want to support responsible computer reuse and recycling, I invite you learn more about other ways you can get involved.

    Charles Brennick is the founder and director of InterConnection.org, a nonprofit that refurbishes and ships computers to underserved schools and communities around the world. Before starting InterConnection, he worked as a natural resource planner, an ecotourism planner in Costa Rica, and an environmental educator in the Peace Corps in Paraguay.

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