June, 2013

  • Good Read: Why STEM Education & Blended Learning Matter

    By Kristin Lee, Microsoft Senior Public Relations Manager

    Our friends at the Microsoft on the Issues blog are featuring a post about the most recent event from the @Microsoft series focused on education. In Washington, D.C., the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center hosted a panel on “Preparing the Next Generation for 21st Century Jobs: Why STEM Education & Blended Learning Matter.”


    The lively and robust conversation examined what types of STEM skills 21st century jobs require and explored critical design elements of successful and innovative education programs.

    The discussion focused on how education innovators can design responsive, engaging and academically rigorous programs to prepare students to meet the STEM workforce demands of the 21st century. This event also followed our recent announcement of Microsoft’s $1 million, three-year grant to support the CityBridge-NewSchools Education Innovation Fellowship.

    Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN-4) and Bill Kamela, Senior Director of Education and Workforce, Microsoft kicked off the event, which also featured Katherine Bradley, President, CityBridge Foundation; Ed Dieterle, Ed. D., Senior Program Officer for Research, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Jonathan Rothwell, Senior Research Associate and Associate Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program Brookings Institution, and Dr. Linda Rosen, Chief Executive Officer, Change the Equation. 

    You can follow the conversation at @MicrosoftIPC and @MSFTissues on Twitter.

  • Steve Ballmer honored as a top 100 “STEM CEO”

    By Karen Bergin, Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs

    A new list of the top 100 “STEM CEOs” includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The list was published by STEMconnector, which helps its members design, implement and measure STEM strategies, and presented today as part of the 2013 U.S. News STEM Solutions summit.

    According to a Washington STEM news release: “Washington state ranks number one in the nation in the concentration of STEM jobs due to inspiring business leaders like Steve Ballmer,” said Patrick D’Amelio, CEO of Washington STEM. “The time is now to invest in STEM education and ensure our students have a strong foundation in these fields which are critical to our state’s economic prosperity.”


    The news release also notes that the list profiles CEOs who actively advance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education with this quote from Ballmer: “Inspiring a passion for STEM is one of the most important things we can do to help young people make an impact in the world.”

    Microsoft is engaged in a variety of activities to promote STEM education, including last year’s launch of YouthSpark, an initiative to connect millions of youth with opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship in STEM fields and beyond. Click to learn more about Microsoft YouthSpark.

  • Challenge for Change: Meet 20 Finalists and Vote for Your Favorite

    By Yvonne Thomas, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft YouthSpark

    After reviewing hundreds of inspiring entries, our judging panel for the YouthSpark Challenge for Change contest has finished the tough job of selecting 20 finalists. Each of the 20 finalists created a video sharing more about themselves and their projects.

    Now we’re putting the power back in your hands. Starting today through June 24, you can vote once a day for the project that inspires you the most to help send five deserving youth on a volunteer trip in Kenya this summer. Watch the videos and cast your vote today!

    “Volunteering in Kenya would allow me to learn more about the communities I aim to help,” contestant Megan Shea shares. “I hope this will add a level of credibility to my program by proving that any student with an idea and imagination can work to fight global issues.”

    The 20 Finalists

    Many of the finalists believe in the power of education. As finalist Zach Lax put it, “Access to quality education is the cornerstone of every other social issue.” 

    • Zach Lax (Ringoes, New Jersey), a schoolteacher in Philadelphia, aims to expand his Teaching Is Power platform to develop a teacher training curriculum.
    • Odunola Ojewumi (Beltsville, Maryland) dreams of providing women in sub-Saharan Africa with access to education through her nonprofit Project ASCEND.
    • Brian Hickey (Loudonville, New York) founded Engeye Teen Connection to support education in Uganda and hopes to build an Education, Business and Training Center to offer technology training.

    From left to right: Zach Lax, Odunola Ojewumi, Brian Hickey.

    Others focus on inspiring young people, especially girls, to pursue STEM education. “As an engineering student in college,” finalist Jaleesa Trapp shared, “there weren’t many people who looked like me in my classes.”

    • Jaleesa Trapp (Tacoma, WA) plans to launch Girls’ Day, a program dedicated to introducing girls to the possibility of a STEM career.
    • Ximena Prugue (Miami, FL) wants to build a mentorship program encouraging minority girls to pursue STEM careers.
    • Temiloluwa Adeniyi (Cincinnati, Ohio) plans to create a multimedia story of a woman in STEM that can be shared with local schools to enable children to envision their futures.
    • Meghan Shea (West Chester, Pennsylvania) developed her Minds (to) Matter program to foster students’ love of scientific research.
    • Karen Mok (San Francisco, California) strives to close the digital gender gap with a pilot program focused on Roma communities in Greece and Macedonia.
    • Misikir Mentose (La Mesa, California) founded StartingX to organize and curate technology self-learning courses for youth.

      From left to right: Jaleesa Trapp, Ximena Prugue, Temiloluwa Adeniyi.

      From left to right: Meghan Shea, Karen Mok, Misikir Mentose.

      Two of our finalists aim to empower youth by combining art and design with technology.

      • De Andrea Nichols (Memphis, Tennessee) founded Design Serves to help organizations, individuals and communities use graphic design methodology to address social challenges.
      • Claire Mongeau (Somerville, Massachusetts) dreams of building a Computer Creativity Lab in Hyderabad, India to teach digital art techniques to disadvantaged students.


      From left to right: De Andrea Nichols, Claire Mongeau.

      It’s also clear that our finalists believe wholeheartedly in their own generation’s ability and promise to make the world a better place. Finalist Jessica Lynn Lane stated, “Today, more than ever, we need to inspire and empower rising generations to make a positive change.”

      • Jessica Lynn Lane (Pullman, Washington) aims to teach leadership development to high school students through her Project I/E.
      • Adam Dunn (Apex, North Carolina) co-founded Triangle Youth Leadership Services to create workshops for high school students to develop solutions to community issues.
      • Christina Ong (Sacramento, California) cares deeply about creating a global peace curriculum that can inspire youth to improve their communities.
      • Sneha Jayaprakash (Fremont, California) hopes to inspire people to do good deeds through a reality-based mobile game.

      From left to right: Jessica Lynn Lane, Adam Dunn.


      From left to right: Christina Ong, Sneha Jayaprakash.

      Several projects focus on the health care sector. “Factors such as distance, money and connections should never be a hindrance,” explained contestant Gin Cheng. “Everyone deserves to live a healthy life.”

      • Gin Cheng (Brooklyn, New York) developed a concept for a mobile app that improves accessibility to health care in impoverished communities.
      • Audrey Scagnelli (Washington D.C.) launched College & Cook, a magazine for college-students dedicated to global food security.
      • Bryan Ngo (Newport Beach, California) founded the Red Beanie Society to promote education and advocacy for adolescents and young adults with cancer.
      • Swetha Pasala (Herndon, Virginia) created MEDScheme, a medical equipment donation concept that ensures impoverished communities have the devices they sorely need.
      • Morgan Brand (Washington D.C.) designed the 100 Hours of Action program to combat childhood obesity.

        From left to right: Gin Cheng, Audrey Scagnelli, Bryan Ngo.


        From left to right: Swetha Pasala, Morgan Brand.

        We’ll announce the winners in the first week of July, so check back then to see if your favorite project won.

      • “To a better life” with $1,000

        By: Jane Meseck, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft

        It’s been ten years, and the view doesn’t look that much different. Domineisha, a 24-year-old former high school dropout now headed to college and with an impressive internship offer at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, can’t see the path over the opportunity divide.

        “I had to turn down the internship,” she says quietly, adjusting her bright orange apron in between customers at the cash register of Home Depot. Like many low-income youth, she lives with her family with its own financial struggles. Her single mother is struggling to find work, and her sister, age 19, is a single mom of a toddler who also lives under the same roof. They all depend on Domineisha’s income. She couldn’t give up a weekly paycheck to participate in a 5-week internship that only pays a small stipend at the end of the program.


        Domineisha, 24, is a Los Angeles youth who just finished a decade-long journey to obtain her high school degree, and is headed to college in the fall.

        We met Domineisha through LA Conservation Corps, a 27-year-old local nonprofit that helps inner-city LA youth like Domineisha gain on-the-job training and paid work experience. She came to the program on a friend’s recommendation.

        “My first day there, we had to restore an alley. It was the kind of alley where the LAPD had to come and remove the people living in the alley just so we could clean it,” Domineisha balks a little, then laughs. “It was a good experience.”

        Domineisha is like many youth on the other side of the opportunity divide who lack the resources and the help they need to pursue opportunities to improve their lives. This is why Microsoft created Give for Youth, an online micro-giving portal in partnership with GlobalGiving, designed for anyone to help fund and follow the dreams of young people around the world. Nonprofits such as LA Conservation Corps can upload youth stories and projects, so that you can discover stories like Domineisha’s. Today, you can help Domineisha by donating to a $1,000 fund, the equivalent of her cashier income for the period of the five week internship -- the only barrier that prevents her from taking this life-changing opportunity.

        Starting today until June 18, we are also increasing your ability to make an impact. We’re giving away $150,000 in matching funds, at a 50% match to every dollar. You can see all the eligible microprojects here and learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to empower 300 million young people around the world by providing opportunities in education, employment and entrepreneurship, through Microsoft YouthSpark.

        We asked Domineisha where the road was headed for her, if she was able to complete the internship and college. She wants to earn enough money so that her family can move. Right now they live in South Central LA. “It has its moments,” she says. “But I’d move us somewhere better, safer. To a better life."

      • Microsoft grants $1 million to support blended learning and STEM education in D.C. classrooms

        By Margaret Angell, Director of the Education Innovation Fellowship, CityBridge Foundation

        As the sun sets behind the Santa Monica Pier, we get on the bus for the final time to head to the airport and fly home to Washington, D.C. Matt Kennedy, a tenth grade teacher at Eastern Senior High School, turns to me and says, “After what I have seen this week, I’m never going back. I just can’t go back to the way I was doing things before.” The others in our group nod and laugh in agreement. I do too. This is the moment I have been working towards since the CityBridge Foundation launched the Education Innovation Fellowship last fall.

        Matt is one of our twelve Fellows, a group of D.C. teachers with a track record of leadership and an entrepreneurial streak. They have committed to a year of exploring and driving innovations in blended learning models that integrate online and face-to-face instruction to personalize learning and drive student achievement. When Matt expressed his desire to change, we had just completed an intense week-long tour of Bay Area and Los Angeles schools that are experimenting with a variety of blended models We spent a full day at the Stanford Design School, talking about the applications of design thinking to education—and specifically, to the process of redesigning classrooms to meet the needs of students more effectively. We engaged in product demos with entrepreneurs who are developing the platforms and content to support blended instruction.


        The first cohort of the Education Innovation Fellowship completes a design thinking workshop at the Stanford Design School.

        The whole week was the culmination of four months of experiences we had developed for our Fellows to get them to start thinking differently about education. Fundamentally, we are asking them through this Fellowship to answer one big question: how can you personalize and accelerate student achievement through breakthrough uses of education technology?

        The Fellowship, which was created by CityBridge Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund, launched in January 2013 to empower teachers to lead instructional innovation in their schools. Rather than tell teachers ‘what to do’ in a traditional approach to professional development, the program exposes them to new models and challenges them to design new instructional practices themselves. In selecting the 2013 cohort, we sought out innovators who not only think outside the box, but want to throw away the box entirely. The twelve 2013 Fellows, who represent a cross-section of grade levels, subject areas and experiences, have exceeded our expectations in this regard.


        Fellows engage in a conversation with Jason Singer, education technology entrepreneur and founder of Gobstopper, a new online tool for Humanities teachers.

        In May, we announced a three-year, million-dollar partnership with Microsoft to expand the Education Innovation Fellowship in D.C. Our partnership is an investment in our collective belief that excellent teachers innovating in their classrooms have incredible potential to build the classrooms and schools of the future. Microsoft’s grant will allow us to double the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers in the program and push our Fellows to develop models that prepare students for the careers of tomorrow.


        Fellows Shane Donovan and Matthew Kennedy facilitate a discussion during a workshop by Education Elements on designing blended models for classrooms.

        In the weeks since our return from California, the Fellows have been designing blended learning pilots that they will implement in district and D.C. public charter schools across the summer. We are excited to see them launch their pilots and channel their learning to identify new high-potential practices for classroom instruction.

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