Well, I made it to the MS Leadership Conference and back. The trip over was incredible; great roads, great scenery, a ferry ride (for some reason I really like ferries) and nice weather (OK, a little rain north of Bellevue but no biggie). Coming back was 7 hours on I-90, no joy there. The in between was an education. The Conference was definitely for the administration crowd but it was still a revelation to see how things sort of work at that level. There was some discussion about Microsoft’s School of the Future in Philly but not really enough to get a clear picture. The third day was a show-and-tell of useful software apps for the classroom (PhotoSynth, etc) but no real discussion on curriculum modifications, course design, teacher time commitment, or pedagogical aspects on using the software. I think Microsoft’s “build it and they will come” approach to the educational uses of the software is somewhat lacking. The energy needed to learn the software, rewrite the curriculum to make the implementation worthwhile, the hardware requirements, and getting the administration onboard with the necessary commitment to change it is way beyond what the average teacher can do on their own. What Microsoft sees for the direction of education and technology is inspiring but simply requires too much for a teacher to implement without major training that does not exist at this time. The shift and redesign in the curriculum of a public school would require years of committee meetings. Microsoft needs to implement training at the bottom of the education ladder, with the teacher, not at the top. If a teacher can see that the change would be a good thing for the students then they can sell it to the administration. I think if MS were to put their money into teacher training instead of administrator training they would get a lot more bang for the buck.
MS Leadership Conference, part 2