Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs
As the needs of communities expand exponentially around the world and technology advancements accelerate with increasing speed, we’re taking a new step forward to help nonprofits more easily harness the power of technology to do more good.
Starting today, Microsoft is significantly widening the scope of its Technology for Good program by donating Office 365 to nonprofits worldwide. We’re launching the offer in 41 countries today, and we’ll roll it out in up to 90 countries by July 2014. There’s no cap on the number of nonprofit employees who can get on board, whether the organization has 10 employees or thousands.
Access to the cloud and simplified IT administration have proven essential for the Delaware chapter of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a Microsoft YouthSpark nonprofit partner. George Krupanski, chief executive officer of the Delaware chapter, wanted to free his staff to focus on youth instead of servers and technical issues. “For many of our kids, Boys & Girls Club is a home away from home. Office 365 allows us to spend more time and resources helping our young people because we are spending less time trying to manage our systems. It also frees up space on our servers, so we can spend our resources on programs for kids instead of on additional technology equipment.”
For nonprofits with offices in multiple locations, Office 365 simplifies collaboration. Staff can view their colleagues’ calendars to find ideal meeting times, share documents without worrying about version control, and hold group meetings with high definition video conferencing. The added benefit of a cloud-based product is the ability to access documents from anywhere.
“Office 365 has been vital to the work we do, which by its nature is cross-organizational and spans the globe,” said Erik Arnold, chief information officer of PATH, an international nonprofit that transforms global health through innovation. “For example, now our Malaria Vaccine Initiative team can collaborate across geographies, accessing their files no matter where they are in the world. Office 365 is the ideal solution for our technology needs. Our whole staff has found value in the many features that help them efficiently stay connected to each other and their work, such as calendar overlays, desktop sharing, and group video conferencing.”
“I am hugely impressed with Office 365. Within days we were seeing real benefits,” said Peter Davitt, chief executive officer of Fastrack to IT, an Irish nonprofit that provides technology training and career development opportunities for the unemployed. “We have offices in Dublin, Cork and Belfast, and we can meet and collaborate very effectively using SharePoint within Office 365. We can upload files that everyone can share and work on during these meetings, regardless of their location.”
If you work at a nonprofit, now is a great time to apply for a donation of Office 365 for Nonprofits. If you have a favorite nonprofit, please help us spread the news by sharing the video below. Technology is more than bits and bytes – it’s about how people are using technology to make the world a better place. We can’t wait to hear your story.
By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs
When it comes to social change, launching entrepreneurial ventures, and coming up with the next generation of big ideas, we know that nothing matches the creativity and passion of youth. That’s the driving force behind Microsoft YouthSpark, our company-wide commitment to create education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for 300 million young people over three years.
Today we’re launching YouthSpark Challenge for Change, a contest for U.S. residents aged 18 to 25 who have an idea for sparking change in their communities or around the world for the chance to win* amazing prizes, including a volunteer trip to Kenya this summer and the latest Microsoft products. Entering the contest is easy. Simply answer a few questions about your social good project and how Windows and Office could help bring it to life.
Microsoft wants to help young people change the world, and because we believe all good deeds should be rewarded, everyone who enters the contest will win!
If you’re wondering how to incorporate Windows and Office into your entry, click over to the Windows blog and Office.com for tips and tricks. And if you’re looking for inspiration for your own change-sparking project, watch Rebecca and Christina share stories about their projects, Plus Ultra and the Do Good Bus.
Enter the challenge now.
After all of the contest entries have been received, our judges will narrow the entries to 20 finalists, who will be revealed on June 17. Then the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite project once a day until June 24. We’ll announce our five grand prize winners on July 1, which will mark the end of the contest but the beginning of another journey. We’re excited to bring you the stories of our five winners and future YouthSpark Stars as they volunteer in Kenya this summer and launch their social good projects in the following months. And who knows… maybe one of them will be you.
*No purchase necessary. Entry deadline May 24, 2013. See website for full Official Rules.
By William Jansen, CSS Community Program Manager, EMEA, Microsoft
In 2008, Freena Eijffinger’s brother was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, a form of autism. It had taken more than seven years for the doctors to diagnose him, and that left Freena curious as to why it had taken so long. She did a bit of research and discovered that all diagnostics were still being carried out manually and without any computerization. This was mainly because regular vertical monitors interfere with direct communication, and the limited motor skills of Asperger sufferers make the computer mouse a poor tool for any diagnostic activities. When she first became acquainted with the Surface technology, which requires neither a monitor nor a mouse, she knew exactly what she had to do—raise funds to develop software on the Surface platform to change the lives of children with autism worldwide.
Her Surface activities soon got the attention of Microsoft Netherlands, who named her a “Surface-evangelist.” Freena has since been a frequently invited speaker at conferences such as DevDays, TechEd EMEA, DotNed, HealthValley, TEDxWomen, and CodeCamp as well as at other industry-specific healthcare and educational conventions. Together with Dennis Vroegop she taught Surface development at a university college in the Netherlands.
In early 2010 Freena entered a program for entrepreneurs sponsored by the Dutch government and TNO – The leading independent research organization in the Netherlands, known as SBIR (Small Business Innovation & Research). She was awarded €25,000 to do an attainability analysis and to develop four demo-applications that could be used to prove the value of her project to the autism branch of healthcare. When the Microsoft Surface team heard about her project, they donated a Surface developer unit. Following a review of the results from Freena’s research, TNO invested an additional €300,000 in her and her company Autitouch to develop applications to support diagnostics and treatment of autism worldwide.
In 2009, Dennis Vroegop, a Microsoft Surface Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and DotNed chairman, learned of Freena’s progress with Surface as well as her thoughts on its possible applications, and he asked to lend a hand.
“Developing for Surface is just like any other piece of software,” according to Dennis. “You have to have a design, skilled developers and designers, and of course a lot of passion.” Building on Freena’s design, Dennis drew up the functional specifications for the Surface applications. “When that was done, we set up a Team Foundation Server to hold all the project resources and then started working on the actual software,” Dennis added. (Pictured above left: Dennis Vroegop, Surface MVP from the Netherlands, and Freena Eiffinger, CEO of Autitouch)
The actual development has been completed in about 150 hoursand the applications will be released later this month, then a six-month scientific research project will begin in collaboration with the psychology department of the VU University Amsterdam for validation. A group of 60 kids – 30 diagnosed with autism and 30 without autism – will be tested using the applications. The goal is to show that with the help of the Autitouch applications, pre-diagnostics can be made possible, which will considerably shorten the diagnosis time for children with disorders such as autism. Other benefits will be improved and faster data mining and reporting, better quality observation and increased objectivity on the part of the diagnosing professional. All data will be unlocked through Microsoft’s Azure platform and Microsoft HealthVault, enabling autism experts around the world to gain better insight into autism as a disorder.
During the validation phase, experts will start to test the systems functionality and ease of use. So far the trial runs have gone extremely well-the patients have responded very well to the system.
We are extremely positive about the rest of the project. When the validation is done and we are ready to deliver to the actual intended users we won't sit back and relax: there is so much more to be done in this field and we're looking forward to the next phases!
For more information on Autitouch – visit www.autitouch.com
For more information on Microsoft’s Citizenship effort please visit: Microsoft.com/Citizenship
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Editor’s Note: Today we announced the full availability of Microsoft Kodu Game Lab for the PC and the launch of a nationwide Kodu Cup competition. We’re inviting students, aged nine to 17 to design, build and submit their own video games.
The following is a guest blog post about the educational benefits of video games and video game design from Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges, Research Fellow, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, which specializes in advancing children’s learning in the digital age.
There's a growing body of evidence that both playing video games and making video games have promise as educational tools. In fact, it may be one of the most effective ways to engage today's youth as they learn the critical skills they will need to succeed. As the Federation of American Scientists concluded from its 2006 Summit on Educational Games:
“The success of complex video games demonstrates that games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change. These are the skills U.S. employers increasingly seek in workers and new workforce entrants. These are the skills more Americans must have to compete with lower cost knowledge workers in other nations.”
In fact, game-based learning has emerged as one of the most promising areas of innovation in making Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) topics more engaging for kids today. The report Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children’s Learning and Health , demonstrates that video games can be used to learn not only content, but also STEM skills and systems thinking, which are essential for preparing youth for STEM careers.
Additionally, real-time 3-D action video games have been proven to improve cognitive skills such as attention and other executive functioning. These skills enhance learning in a wide array of areas and are also tied to number sense, a skill critical for early math learning in and out of school.
Researchers are finding that making games fosters the development of critical STEM skills. Our colleagues at E-line Media have shown that a well-designed game is a well-designed system with a delicate balance of goals, constraints, challenges and rewards. Learning how to create and edit such a system is learning critical analytic skills including systems thinking, problem solving, iterative design and digital media literacies.
This is not to say that we advocate children playing all video games and without restriction. Many games obviously have violent themes that are not age-appropriate. And some genres of games have proven more beneficial than others. For example, the cognitive skills that are enhanced with 3D action game play are not enhanced by other game genres, such as simulation games. We also know that some games are better for “transfer” than others (for example, playing many hours of Tetris will make you very quick at rotating Tetris shapes, but no better at any other mental rotations). There is still a lot of research to be done in this area, so we encourage parents to look critically and wisely at the games their children are playing. If something looks inappropriate, be cautious, but also keep an open mind while exploring redeeming qualities.
This past winter in the U.S., the Cooney Center and E-line Media launched the National STEM Video Game Challenge, in partnership with sponsors AMD Foundation, Entertainment Software Association and Microsoft. The goals were: (1) encouraging children to create video games and (2) encouraging game developers to make games that can truly educate and inspire children in STEM subjects. This effort was a huge success, with over 550 applications. Fourteen Youth winners (grades 5-8) were recently named and the Developer winners will be named on March 30th in Washington, D.C. Our Youth submissions came from programs designed to teach kids how to make games (such as Kodu and Gamestar Mechanic) as well as open platforms such as Flash that are frequently used by adult game developers. Developer finalists submitted games in many platforms--from SMS to Flash to Unity--and over many content areas, from biology to number sense to systems thinking.
For a sneak peek at some games that were entered into the challenge, take a look at our Popular Vote Award contestants and the winner, Ko’s Journey, which is a promising example of mathematics being integrated into the storyline of a game.
Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges is a Research Fellow at The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
Download Microsoft Kodu Game Lab today.
For information about entering Microsoft’s new video game design competition for kids ages 9-17 in the U.S., visit Kodu Cup, visit www.koducup.us. Happy Gaming!
By: Molly Bull, Senior Communications Manager, Microsoft Disaster Response
The devastating tornados that recently tore through communities in Texas and Oklahoma reinforce the importance of both preparedness and aiding in relief efforts during times of natural disaster. Today also marks the start of Hurricane Preparedness Week in the U.S., as hurricane seasons starts the first of June. The NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, predicts 13 to 20 named storms total, between seven and 11 of which will be hurricanes, and three to six of which will become major hurricanes for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. The potential for damage is high, and the need for preparation is even more important.
So how should you respond? Planning ahead is critical, and technology can play a role in helping people and communities prepare for, and respond to, natural disasters. Following is some helpful guidance about the technology tools available from Microsoft along with how the company is supporting relief organizations that can help communities and responders effectively plan, prepare and provide support during a natural disaster.
· Social media and texting is a quick and effective way to communicate to friends and family during times of natural disaster. Today, one in five Americans have used an emergency mobile app in times of a natural disaster.
Over the past several years, apps have been created to support a specific disaster or needs of a specific organization. This past January, Microsoft launched HelpBridge, an app designed to help people connect with one another, and with giving and donation opportunities, during any type of disaster. HelpBridge is a free cross-platform mobile application (Windows, Android, iOS) that provides you with the ability to send out status updates to pre-selected contact groups via email, SMS, and Facebook. Through your phone’s GPS capabilities you can also choose whether to share your location in your alerts.
· Accessing the latest information about what is happening on the ground is critical to staying informed, both for responders and the general public. Through the ReadyReach Preparedness Portal you can access the latest information regarding a disaster (maps, areas of concern, how to provide aid) as well as support nonprofit relief agencies. The site helps to make communities more resilient in disaster prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.
· During a natural disaster, communication networks can be overwhelmed and access to a computer can be difficult. In times of disaster, Skype can help you stay connected via the internet or a mobile device, providing another way to connect when networks get overloaded.
Safeguarding Your Information
· Developing a family emergency plan and keeping it in a safe, secure place is an important part of preparedness. This Microsoft Excel template walks you through the process of creating a comprehensive plan. This plan can be accessed during a disaster by saving it to a cloud drive, like SkyDrive, so you can get to your plan on any computer or smartphone – and even when Internet connectivity fails.
· Create a backup for all your most important documents. You can scan documents – insurance information, birth certificate, passport, medical records and other essential documents – and organize them in a digital notebook, like OneNote, so they can be quickly searched to find information you need. Store this notebook in the cloud so it’s available from anywhere in the event that you lose your devices.
· Quick and reliable access to your health and medical information is important to ensure the appropriate medical aid during a natural disaster. HealthVault helps you gather, store, use, and share important health information for you and your family by creating an emergency profile. Here you can manage and track your family’s medical contacts, allergies, medication, immunizations, and health conditions. Through the site your medical providers can securely log in and see a full picture of your history and medical needs.
Working Together to Help Those Before and After a Disaster Occurs
Microsoft is committed to partnering with humanitarian relief and disaster response organizations to keep communities safe, informed, and connected before, during and following natural disasters.
· Esri provides thousands of organizations with software designed to help during disaster response management. The software and mapping technology provides first responders and people on the ground with immediate information regarding natural disaster zones, thus allowing citizens and organizations to make informed decisions quickly.
· Aidmatrix provides relief organizations with the ability to broadcast stories and highlight needs during times of disaster through their Local Impact Map and NeedsFeed tools. The NeedsFeed shows communities where the most help is needed and how they can assist those who have been impacted.
· Having a response plan is critical in mitigating the outcome of a natural disaster. The American Red Cross provides extensive preparation guidance and real time status information for various types of natural disasters, including hurricanes. The American Red Cross’s Tornado App provides up to date information about tornadoes, what to do immediately afterwards, and location-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alerts, allowing citizens to stay informed with the most up to date status information.
· FEMA has several resources and tools to help prepare for a natural disaster including the ability to get access to real-time hurricane preparedness information through their text-enabled alert system by texting “hurricane” to 43362.
· Skype has partnered with the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) to create a low-bandwidth Skype client that helps relief workers connect with their families when stationed overseas in hardship locations like Darfur or Pakistan. Luxembourg has employed a similar approach for the disaster relief teams that it deploys to major disasters. The teams are armed with an inflatable satellite that, when paired with Skype, can provide Wi-Fi, instant messaging voice and video chat to aid workers on location during natural disasters.
Visit Microsoft Disaster Response site to learn more about the Microsoft Disaster Response program.
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