STS Blog

Empowering Teachers and Students with Technology Tools to Achieve More
Empowering Teachers and Students with Technology Tools to Achieve More
Kimberly Mecham, Director of Information & Communication Technology

Microsoft Sway Team Visits STS Middle School

St. Thomas School students were delighted to work with members
of the Microsoft Sway team to brainstorm new features.

There's no question that technology is having a profound impact on how we conduct our lives. Technology-driven progress is creating new career opportunities while simultaneously eliminating others. According to a recent World Economic Forum jobs report, an estimated 65 percent of students entering school today will have jobs as adults that do not yet exist. This raises questions around how we can ensure our children are set up for success in a rapidly changing, technology-centric world.

Microsoft is committed to empowering students with the technology tools they need to thrive in and shape the world of tomorrow. At the Learn what's Next event in New York City last month, it became clear that Microsoft's commitment to education is, on many levels, deeply personal. I was one of 20 educators who had the opportunity to attend the event, where I learned about Microsoft's upcoming education products and heard personal anecdotes from leaders at the company regarding why they are passionate about education.

A Deep Commitment to Education

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opened the event with a story about his family and how his grandfather's education and career in India eventually paved the way for him to follow his own passions through education. Nadella's story made it clear that he and the broader Microsoft team understand the power of education to change the trajectory of not only an individual's life, but their future generations who follow. This resonated deeply with me because education changed my life – I am a first-generation college graduate and my education has allowed me to pursue my passions to the fullest. I have been able to drive technology innovations in education at STS, increase access to education through my work with the Rwanda Girls Initiative and give my children educational opportunities so they can pursue their own passions one day.

Democratizing Education through Technology

Microsoft's goal is to develop technology platforms that create more learning opportunities for all. They understand that the role of technology in education is to amplify the work being done by teachers and students. As such, their goal is to create tools that allow educators to better accommodate different learning styles and students with disabilities, fuel collaboration outside the classroom and spark creativity in students.

As a Microsoft Showcase School, St. Thomas School has been working with Microsoft for years to enhance learning experiences through technology. Our 1:1 laptop program allows students to work on their own Microsoft Surface devices, increasing communication between teachers and students and enabling flexible approaches to instruction. Students also use tools such as Office 365 and Skype to collaborate on projects and assignments outside the classroom.

STS students also have the opportunity to demo new Microsoft education products and learn about product design from Microsoft engineers. Most recently, the Microsoft Sway team held a hands-on workshop for STS's seventh and eighth grade students in which they helped designed part of the Sway platform in order to learn firsthand how ideas become part of the product. The students then brainstormed new Sway feature ideas to make school projects and assignments more user-friendly on mobile devices and sketched out what the interface design would look like. The workshop allowed students to think creatively while learning about the product design process.

Microsoft's New Education Tools

Microsoft unveiled several new education-focused products at the 'Learn what's Next' event that I'm very excited about. View Mixed Reality allows students to experience mixed reality without the need for a HoloLens or other special headset. The viewer is built into Windows 10 so students can see virtual 3D objects in the real world using their current PC and webcam. Visualizing objects is an important part of the learning process, particularly for visual learners, and this tool will allow teachers to bring lessons alive. Microsoft also debuted Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition, which uses a new open platform called Microsoft MakeCode in combination with learn-to-code platforms like ScratchX to allow students to write their own code for the game. Minecraft is incredibly popular, so the product will be a great way to get students excited about coding.

I'm so grateful that STS is part of Microsoft's journey to transform education through technology. Having the opportunity to attend inspiring events such as 'Learn what's Next' and influence Microsoft products that are redefining learning is incredible. I look forward to continuing our successful partnership!