December, 2012

  • Microsoft Adds the Cherokee Language to Windows 8

    Editor’s note: Today we’re announcing support for the Cherokee language in Windows 8 as part of the Microsoft Local Language Program. The availability is a testament to the Cherokee Nation and their continued commitment to strengthen their language and sustain their culture for future generations.

    By Carla Hurd, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Local Language Program

    When your speaker base is shrinking and your culture as you know it will be lost forever, what do you do? The Cherokee Nation is no stranger to the concept of language preservation. They have been a leader and exemplary example to all. This wasn’t always the case: a survey taken more than a decade ago found there were no Cherokees under the age of 40 considered conversational. Today, they have a speaker base of about 16,000. They knew that in order to sustain their language and culture for future generations, that’s exactly who they needed to start with – future generations.

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    When a language declines it usually starts with younger generations; they do not speak the language, then their children don’t speak the language, and so on. Before you know it, a small group of elders are the last speakers, and then the language goes extinct. This is not the case with Cherokee. The Cherokee Nation took action. As a result in 2001, they invested in Cherokee language immersion schools starting with preschool. This provided an environment for their children to be exposed to the language and culture while using it as part of their everyday activities, including technology. In the school, there is no English allowed; only Cherokee is spoken. Those children who first started in the immersion charter school are now in 7th grade, still continuing their Cherokee education and embracing their culture.

    Today technology is deeply integrated into our everyday lives – if that technology is not provided in the user’s native tongue, then they will use whatever language is accessible to them. That is why Microsoft believed it was important to work with the Cherokee Nation Language Team on creating access to our products in their language.

    The journey began over three years ago and as a result, we are pleased to provide a Language Interface Pack (LIP) for Windows in the Cherokee Language. This LIP translates and displays most of the commonly used user interface of Windows into Cherokee. Part of the process presented challenges as there were many terms which did not exist in the Cherokee language. When terminology did not exist, the translation team had to rely on elders or ancient texts for reference in order to assist in creating a new word as required for the translation. In addition, a new modern sans-serif user interface font Gadugi - the Cherokee word for “working together” - was developed to allow the localization and maintain the Windows 8 design style. This font supplements the more traditional Plantagenet Cherokee font that’s been part of Windows since Windows Vista.

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    The Windows 8 settings screen in Cherokee

     

    More about the Microsoft Local Language Program

    The Microsoft Local Language Program provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions. The program bridges the gap to technology through language and culture as well as empowers individuals in local communities to create economic opportunities, build IT skills, enhance education outcomes, and sustain their local language and culture for future generations.

    For more information on the Microsoft Local Language Program please visit http://microsoft.com/LLP.

  • Imagine Cup Grants – supporting social innovation by young entrepreneurs

    Today at the Social Innovation Summit students from Germany, Australia, Egypt, Uganda and Ukraine are taking the next step in bringing their smart ideas for addressing real social issues to market. They are winners of the second annual Imagine Cup Grants, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program that is part of our YouthSpark initiative and provides funding and support to help them transform their technology project into a business or social enterprise.

    So what problems are this year’s winners solving?

    • Team Graphmasters from Germany have created an innovative traffic navigation system called nunav which reduces vehicle carbon emissions by intelligently routing vehicles based on traffic and weather conditions, reducing congestion and fuel costs and addressing traffic jams. Team video: http://bit.ly/RWjVN6

     

    • Australian Team StethoCloud have developed a mobile-hybrid stethoscope using Windows Phone that detects childhood pneumonia at early stages. The user is able to transmit diagnostic information into a cloud service, reproducing the diagnostic capability of a trained medical doctor. Team video: http://bit.ly/PWCcKy

     

    • Team Vivid hails from Egypt and has created a mobile app that helps healthcare providers access patient electronic medical records through a secure cloud-based storage system. Team video: http://bit.ly/T4PJAt

     

    • From Uganda Team Cipher256 has built a mobile application that aids health workers as they assist expectant mothers. The algorithm analyses fetal heart sounds to determine the fetal heart rate (beats per minute) and the age and position of the fetus and then records these readings to the cloud. Team video: http://bit.ly/Us89qS

     

    • Team QuadSquad from Ukraine has produced Enable Talk which gives people with hearing difficulties a better way to communicate by transforming sign language into a form of verbal communication by creating a mobile device that continuously recognizes sign language phonemes. Team video: http://bit.ly/UIDx4E

     

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      All the grant winners were finalists in this year’s Imagine Cup, the world’s most prestigious student technology competition which brings together student innovators from all over the world. The Imagine Cup Grants program helps the winning students turn their ideas into reality by creating a business or social enterprise.

      Christian Brüggemann from Team Graphmasters explains how the Imagine Cup and the grants program work together:

      “The Imagine Cup was the catalyst for our team to create nunav…  (The Imagine Cup Grants) give us the opportunity to expand our project and bring it to market. As mobile phone adoption becomes more prevalent around the world, it presents a perfect way for nunav to help fight traffic and carbon emissions.”

      In addition to the cash awards totaling $325,000, the grant packages include software, cloud computing services, solution provider support, premium Microsoft BizSpark account benefits and access to local resources such as Microsoft Innovation Centers. We will also connect grant recipients with our network of investors, nongovernmental organization partners and business partners and will work with the grant recipients to tailor individual support as needed depending on the progress each team has made so far with its project.

      The grants winners battled against 40 other Imagine Cup teams who applied for the grants. They were chosen by a judging panel of industry experts with knowledge spanning technology, venture capitalism, software development, startup culture and the nonprofit sector ranked each team based on specific criteria, including project impact and viability and team quality and motivation. The judges included:

       

      You can follow the Social Innovation Summit on Twitter at #SIS12.

      Read more about the winning teams here.

       

       

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      Team Graphmasters nunav applications (Screenshot courtesy of Team Graphmasters)

       

      More information and resources on Microsoft YouthSpark and Imagine Cup:

      The Imagine Cup Grants are part of Microsoft YouthSpark, a global initiative that aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries during the next three years. This companywide initiative includes Citizenship and other company programs — both new and enhanced — that empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/youthspark.

      This year marks the 11th year of Imagine Cup, which will be celebrated at the worldwide finals in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 8–12, 2013. Students ages 16 and older are eligible to register and compete in Imagine Cup 2013 by visiting the Imagine Cup website at http://www.imaginecup.com. A full list of competitions and challenges are listed at http://imaginecup.com/main/compete. In the past decade, more than 1.65 million students from 190 countries have registered to compete for cash and other prizes.

      You can read about last year’s grant recipients here.

    • Microsoft and City Year Team Up to Improve Math Education

      This blog is written by Travis Holloway, Math Project Leader at City Year New York. It was originally posted on the City Year New York blog. For more information about City Year please visit www.cityyear.org. City Year is a national partner of Microsoft YouthSpark.

       

       

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      This time last year, I had the great opportunity to serve on the Microsoft sponsored team at Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens. I was able to introduce the math teaching staff at Newtown to Microsoft tools like Microsoft Mathematics and Worksheet Generator they could utilize to support their in-class instruction. This year, as the Math Project Leader for City Year New York, I’ve been partnering with Microsoft, a City Year National Leadership Sponsor and City Year New York Team Sponsor, around our educational support. From this relationship, I, along with three other members of the City Year New York community, had the privilege of attending a two-day training with Microsoft.

      The Microsoft Innovative Educator program is geared toward training teacher trainers. MIE provides “educational trainers the opportunity to deepen and expand their skills on integrating technology to positively impact teaching and learning”. Over the course of the two days of training, participants were introduced to—and explored—a variety of tools, most of which are free, that can be incorporated in the classroom.  We spent a majority of the time working with Microsoft OneNote, a digital notebook designed for creating and storing electronic notebooks. All of the training sessions were interactive and ended with some assessment of mastery—including an instructional video created by the City Year New York team, for educators, demonstrating the efficacy of OneNote. One highlight of the training was the opportunity to explore the various ways to use the Xbox Kinect in the classroom through playing a few games focused on strengthening the mind and body.

      Overall, attending the Microsoft Innovative Educator training was definitely an experience to remember. I got to spend a couple of days outside of the office, gained perspective on technology in the classroom, and received certification as a Microsoft Innovative Education Teacher Trainer. As I continue to work closely with Microsoft, I am planning a professional development workshop for the teachers at our partnerships and utilizing the skills I learned during the Microsoft Innovative Educator program.

       

      Find out more about City Year here.

      For more information on Microsoft YouthSpark visit the YouthSpark Hub

    • Guest Post: Microsoft and British Council – the odd couple

      By: Simon Gammell, Director West Coast, British Council, Los Angeles

      The closing keynote of the Microsoft PiL Global Forum, delivered Saturday night in Prague by Microsoft’s Vice President of World Wide Public Sector, Laura Ipsen, featured strongly Microsoft’s burgeoning partnership with the British Council. Since announcing our Education Alliance Agreement at last year’s forum in Washington DC, British Council and Microsoft have built and delivered the pioneering Badiliko project in Africa - which has seen 90 digital hubs built in schools, with 3000 teachers trained in how to make the best use of the equipment in the classroom. This has greatly improved the learning experience of over 100,000 African students, giving them access to ICT for the first time and helping them to acquire the 21st century skills they need. And now we are set to take the experience of that project and go to scale, in Africa and all round the world, working together with additional partners such as World Vision to transform education and create a digital future for all children. The ambition is great and the sky is the limit.

      The next stage in our partnership is Spark A Child’s Digital Future, beginning in Kenya and scaling across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond over the next five years. In collaboration with World Vision and Intel, Microsoft and British Council will link underprivileged African youth with more than one million potential donors in the United States alone to help improve digital skills development and help children succeed while securing economic growth in a global world.

      The British Council is a venerable British institution, a charity founded 80 years ago by Royal Charter with the mission to build trust and dialogue between the peoples of the world, and create opportunities for everyone to lead safer and more prosperous lives. We call this International Cultural Relations. We run programs in over 100 countries, in three verticals: Education, the Arts and English language teaching and learning . At first glance the British Council may look like a strange partner for an American high tech superbrand – Downton Abbey meets Batman perhaps - but a couple of years ago we found each other, worked out the synergy and now we get on famously.

      Microsoft and British Council share a passionate belief in the urgent need for radical innovation in education to better provide all children with the skills they need for life and employment in our 21st Century global village - both technical skills such as competence with IT and ability to speak English, and soft skills such as creative thinking, collaboration and inter-cultural awareness. This transformation will be powered by the mainstreaming of IT in schools throughout the world - not only deploying devices, but also ensuring that teachers are trained to use IT to support innovative, student-centered learning . By combining our different business cultures, knowledge sets, resources and networks, we can support this vital change at far greater pace and scale than we could if operating alone.

      We’re British, we’re actually quite cool, and we’re delighted to be working with the superheroes of Redmond to make the world a better place . It’s going to be an exhilarating ride over the next few years!

    • YouthSpark in action: Adrian Ordoñez Tostega

      By Megan West, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft

      Adrian Ordoñez Tostega spent the past few months in the Seattle area volunteering with a local nonprofit focused on helping immigrant families learn relevant technology skills to improve their employability. Adrian, who hails from Mexico, is a member of the Innovate for Good program and we had the opportunity to catch up with him last week.

      He has created Tech4Kids which aims to teach children in primary school the basics of computer programming through videogames and robotics, and builds familiarity and trust with technology at a young age. Adrian hopes that by introducing technology through these channels at a younger age, students will have more options as they look for college programs or employment later in life.

      Adrian is passionate about using his computer science skills and knowledge to make a difference in the world. This passion, paired with the help of Innovate for Good and the Sprout e-course, has taken Tech4Kids from a mere concept, to a viable venture with a business plan and funding goals. Adrian is prepping to launch Tech4Kids in his hometown of Veracruz, Mexico after he graduates from University in June.

      Supporting Adrian’s work is a great example of how Innovate for Good provides a global community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to make a difference in their communities. As part of its goal to provide members with resources and information on building and maintain a social venture, Innovate for Good offers the nine week Sprout e-course.

      Innovate for Good is part of Microsoft YouthSpark and is operated in partnership with TakingITGlobal, who through the Sprout-e course takes participants through each step of the venture development process with a high level of interaction and one-on-one mentoring.

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