Tag Archives: celebration

Connect with NYT best-selling authors Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver, and hundreds of writers for Skype in the Classroom’s Literacy Month |

Today is World Read Aloud Day, signaling the start of Skype in the Classroom’s month-long celebration of reading, writing and storytelling. We are proud to work with LitWorld and our global publishing partners, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Arbordale, Andersen Press, Candlewick and others to offer hundreds of free virtual visits from authors to classrooms. You can look up guest author information easily for Skype in the Classroom by checking our literacy collection.

To cap our month-long celebration this year, Microsoft is teaming up with Penguin Young Readers for a free broadcast event in which classrooms and families can meet actor, producer and author Henry Winkler, as well as his co-author, Lin Oliver. Together, they’re creators of the NYT best-selling book series, Here’s Hank, featuring the quick-witted and ingenious character, Hank Zipzer.

Henry and Lin will discuss their books and what makes every kid a hero while answering questions live on Twitter. The broadcast and live Twitter chat will on Wednesday February 28th at 9 a.m. EST and 1 p.m. EST.

Henry and Lin created their character, Hank Zipzer, based on Henry’s own real-life struggles with dyslexia. Hank is smart and resourceful, always finding ways to overcome challenges through friendships, determination, and a whole lot of humor. His story has resonated with kids around the world, providing some kinship and advice for those tougher times in school. Henry’s main message in the books, “Every one of you has greatness in you,” comes from his personal life experience. He proves that having learning challenges can’t keep you from greatness!

Teachers and their students, or parents with their children at home, are invited to register here and submit questions in advance or during the event for Henry and Lin to answer. We’ll be using the @skypeclassroom Twitter account and the #Skype2Learn hashtag to organize the conversation.

That’s not all for this celebratory month of reading and writing: Teachers around the world will also share their own Skype Collaborations related to literacy. Your class can join with others – across borders or close to home – to work on a writing project, share stories, and read aloud to one another. Cultivate World Literacy is just one example of many lessons devised by teachers.

This month we also celebrate the educators around the world who are using experiences like Skype in the Classroom and technologies like Microsoft Learning Tools to support literacy development. We will share and learn from their creativity and experience advancing the literacy skills of their students on the Microsoft Education Blog throughout the month.

One more thing: Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge has returned for 2018. Today, the search for five golden ticket winners begins. Students across the U.S. ,aged five to 12, are invited to submit 100-word stories for the chance to win prizes related to creative storytelling. Entries will be open for three months until 1st May 2018.

One golden ticket winner will see their story idea transformed into a Minecraft world, in partnership with Minecraft Education. They will be flown to Seattle with their parent or guardian and work with a team of Minecraft builders and Youtube creator Stacyplays, transforming their story idea into a playable Minecraft experience for anyone in the world to download and play.

Another golden ticket winner will be flown to Los Angeles and get to work with actor, producer, director and author Henry Winkler and his writing partner, Lin Oliver, to transform their story idea into their very own published short story. To enter, students simply submit their 100-word story idea at imaginormouschallenge.com.

We hope you’ll join us for this celebration of all the new and innovative ways children are being inspired to read and write. If you haven’t tried Skype to add inspiration and additional relevancy to your classroom’s curriculum, Literacy Month is a great time to start. With the hundreds of authors available to talk with your students and your Skype connections, you may just be witness to the next Hank Zipzer!

A full list of Penguin authors who visit classrooms virtually, for free over Skype, is available online.

OK, I’m in! How do I participate in Skype in the Classroom’s Literacy Month?


  • Register now, for free, to have your children/students to join NYT Best Selling Authors Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver on February 28th, as they discuss the uplifting messages from the Hank Zipzer book series, Here’s Hank. Get a head start by submitting your student questions now through #Skype2Learn. Some of your student questions may be included during the broadcast by Henry and Lin, or answered on Twitter immediately following the event on Feb 28th at 9 a.m. EST and 1 p.m. EST.
  • You can find the Hank Zipzer and Here’s Hank book collection at the Microsoft Store.
  • If you haven’t tried Microsoft Learning Tools yet, take a look and see how it can make a difference for your students.

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  • Don’t imagine small, Imaginormous! Join the Roald Dahl Estate in the annual Imaginormous contest by submitting a 100-word story idea at imaginormouschallenge.com before      May 1.

Challenge the status quo and reinvent the future of disability employment

By Jessica Rafuse, NGO Program Manager, Microsoft 

In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Microsoft recently invited Seattle-area businesses, agencies, and NGO representatives for transparent conversations on the benefits, challenges and potential solutions regarding disability employment. The goal of the gathering was to bring together the community of people with disabilities and employers to challenge the status quo and reinvent the future of disability employment. Together, we have the power to make a difference to an unemployment rate that hasn’t materially changed in nearly 30 years.

Woman speaking to crowd

Jenny Lay-Flurrie, chief accessibility officer at Microsoft, welcomes the audience.

As an employment attorney by trade and former administrative judge, I have seen the worst of employment discrimination. As a person who uses a wheelchair, I have experienced the same biases, stigma, and misconceptions that feed the national epidemic of disability unemployment and underemployment. Yet, this often inaccessible world has made people with disabilities determined, adaptable, diverse, and excited to collaborate with employers to reinvent the future of disability employment. What if we all make a conscious effort to view disability as a strength that makes us the very best candidates for the job?

Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, kicked off the day with a high-energy account of our own journey at the company. Jenny candidly shared the history of disability inclusion and accessibility at Microsoft, including our stumbles along the way, as well as the successes that make us proud. Many of those moments are now captured in the Microsoft Disability Inclusion Journey, a Sway presentation outlining our programmatic approach to disability inclusion. 

Drive, determination, empathy and adaptability

The opening panel, comprised of business leaders with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities, highlighted the drive, determination, empathy, and adaptability that each panelist has developed because of their disabilities. The conversation was a celebration of disability as a strength and a sharing of individual experiences in the workplace. As Katherine Schomer, VP Research of Edelman Intelligence clearly articulated, “My disability has taught me to succeed.”

Woman in wheelchair speaking to audience

Katherine Schomer, VP Research of Edelman Intelligence, shares her thoughts during the opening panel.

The panelists concluded the conversation with a challenge to the employers, that they discuss with their employees early and often on how and when to support. Relevant advice for both employees with and without disabilities. The panelists remind us that managers of people with disabilities often develop the leadership skills that make them better managers to every employee.

Recruitment, Accommodations, and Employee Resource Groups

At the heart of the symposium, we responded to the need for more knowledge on how organizations are moving the needle in disability employment. As such, the breakout sessions proved to be a rich learning opportunity in Recruitment, Accommodations, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

The key learnings we want to share with those looking to hire and retain people with disabilities are broken down by category below.


  • Partner with the community. If you’re unsure where to start, the best first step we can advise is to ask. There are nonprofits and agencies who can help you begin to find talent to build a pipeline of candidates. Another excellent resource is the team you already have: encourage people to reach out to their network and alert them to your company’s recruiting efforts.
  • Train your Talent Acquisition Team. Having a process in place and a list of resources will make the interview and onboarding processes for potential candidates go much more smoothly. But how about preparing your talent acquisition team? By providing the team with the resources, training and other relevant guidance, they will be able to offer accommodations and excellent customer service to candidates with disabilities.
  • Branding matters. Including people with disabilities in your marketing efforts will attract talent with disabilities. From words to images to how accessible your website is, including people of all abilities will attract a wider spectrum of candidates.


  • Ask the experts. Employers should tap into the expertise of employees with disabilities when evaluating the onboarding process, benefits, facilities, and corporate culture.
  • Be loud. Companies should share their policies and practices often, so that employees know where to go for accommodations and feel welcome disclosing their disabilities.
  • Design inclusively. Go beyond thinking about accommodations as programmatic solutions for an individual. Design your businesses inclusively from the start to benefit every person.

Employee Resource Groups

  • Align your strategy. Supporting the business in achieving its goals through the lens of disability inclusion will solidify the ERG’s role as a value-added partner to the business.
  • Build Accessibility Ambassadors. Encourage ERG members across the spectrum of disability to share best practices for disability inclusion, including physical and digital accessibility for all.
  • Gather the Community. Celebrate successes and explore solutions for challenges through meetings, webinars, and events.
Three woman speaking on panel

Liz Taub (center), Executive Vice President of USBLN, speaks on a panel.

Liz Taub of USBLN summarized, “When people feel valued and can bring their whole selves to work, they have permission to innovate. Some of the most popular and lucrative inventions have been started by people with disabilities.”

A man in a suit speaks to audience

Kenneth Price, Director of Aircraft Valuation at Boeing, shares his personal journey with a disability.

Our day of learning wrapped with a keynote speech from Kenneth Price, Director of Aircraft Valuation at Boeing, who shared his personal experience with both an apparent and non-apparent disability. Kenneth emphasized the importance of having the support of senior executives when building an inclusive corporate culture.

For employers and organizations looking to learn more about disability employment at your company, you can reach out to USBLN to connect with other companies engaged in the effort. Find out more about our efforts at Microsoft Inclusive Hiring or within the new Microsoft Disability Inclusion Journey.

Even though the symposium was a cause for celebration, there is still much work to be done. At Microsoft, we are excited to work together to have a positive impact on the unemployment and underemployment rates for people with disabilities.

Happy NDEAM Everyone!

Ford Performance and Xbox Collaborate on Custom F-150 Raptor to Appear at SEMA and in Forza Motorsport 7

In celebration of the November 7 launch of the Xbox One X, Ford Performance and Xbox have teamed up to create a specially-modified Xbox One X version of the new F-150 Raptor which will be showcased this week at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas. In addition, early next year, this version of the F-150 Raptor will be available for free to Forza Motorsport 7 players within the game.

“The Xbox One X is the world’s most powerful console,” said Henry Ford III, Ford Performance Marketing Manager. “It’s the benchmark in the console gaming world, while F-150 Raptor is its equivalent in the world of pickup trucks.”

“We have long enjoyed and valued our partnership with Ford Performance and feel privileged to work with them on the incredible F-150 Raptor, an iconic American legend,” said Mike Humphreys, Senior Director, Business and Partnerships for Forza Franchise, Turn 10 Studios. “The Ford Raptor is built on top of another iconic legend, the Ford F-150 pickup, resulting in technical excellence and off-road innovations that make it a Forza fan favorite.”

The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Xbox One X Edition boasts unique graphics, paint, and upholstery inspired by the console’s internal code name, “Project Scorpio,” as well as the Raptor’s desert racing heritage. Custom wheels, bumpers, chase rack and LED lighting in Xbox’s signature green complete the look. Performance-enhancing modifications include a Fabtech six-inch lift kit, upgraded Alcon brakes, Addictive Desert Designs intercooler and Ford Performance Borla exhaust.

The partnership between Ford Performance and Xbox showcases storied brands with deep roots in performance. Whether it’s a track-shredding supercar taking on competitors at Le Mans, or the world’s most powerful gaming console that’s the best place to play gaming’s biggest blockbusters, fans win with some of the best products on the market today.

The partnership between Ford and Forza goes back over a dozen years to the first Forza Motorsport and the original Xbox. Today, Forza features more Ford vehicles than any other video game, with the Fiesta ST, Focus RS, Mustang GT 350, F-150 Raptor and Ford GT each making their video game debut in the Forza series, the latter two as cover cars.

For additional details on the Xbox One X Raptor and other Ford SEMA project vehicles, visit media.ford.com.

Stay tuned to Forzamotorsport.net for updates about when the F-150 Raptor will be on its way to Forza Motorsport 7 players.

Forza Motorsport 7 is currently available as an Xbox Play Anywhere title (Xbox One and Windows 10 PC versions included with a single digital purchase at no additional cost) and is releasing on the Xbox One X on November 7 when players will be able to experience it in native 4K and HDR at 60FPS.