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Join us live or virtually at Bett as we bring you the latest updates on ed tech tools that can drive innovation and success in the classroom | | Microsoft EDU

A new year brings new opportunities to learn about all the latest and greatest from Microsoft Education. Join Microsoft at Bett 2020 in London on January 22-25, either online or right there with us at the event, being held at London’s ExCeL venue.

Bett is an annual event that explores how technology can empower educators and students to reach their full potential. Microsoft, as a worldwide partner of Bett, will be hosting a wide array of sessions and hands-on demonstrations on the show floor, along with inspirational talks to support educators looking for new ways to engage and empower their students.

To kick off a whole week of Bett, we’re releasing a special episode of What’s New in EDU, our show that gets you caught up on the new tools and updates coming from Microsoft Education this year. This Bett episode will be available on January 22 – watch it to learn more about all the new and exciting Microsoft classroom technology that will be available. And don’t forget to stay tuned to the Education Blog for more as it comes in!

We’ll also have special edition What’s New in EDU live events streaming daily from Bett in London. You can register to catch the livestream events each day with the following links:

Whether you’re looking for the latest in mixed reality for education, some grounded advice on how to transform your classroom digitally, or want a peek at what’s next for Minecraft: Education Edition, the schedule below is a good place to start, learn and participate. Make sure to stop by Booth NF40 to see all the new experiences we have relating to STEM, Virtual Reality and new tools for the classroom.

If you’re joining us at Bett in person, we hope to see you at one of the following highlights:

Microsoft keynote | Bett Arena | Wednesday, 22 January, 13:35 – 14:15

Hybrid Intelligences: Amplifying Human Potential

Young people are leveraging emerging technologies such as AI to raise their voices and build solutions to the most pressing issues they face. Emotional intelligence is converging with artificial intelligence as researchers merge psychology and computer science. And educators are adapting and innovating in a profession that will look significantly different by 2030.

Join Microsoft’s Anthony Salcito and Barbara Holzapfel,  Affective Computing researcher Dr. Daniel McDuff, and NetHope Emerging Technologies Initiative Lead Leila Toplic as we explore the technology that will empower educators to navigate the changing needs of the staffroom and the classroom, and enable students to accelerate their impact and transform the world.

Microsoft Sessions
In addition to joining for our keynote in the Bett Arena, be sure to visit us across the Bett show at our own Learn Live Theatre, Microsoft Training Academy, the Bett PD Theatre, Bett Schools Theatre and the Bett Higher and Further Education Theatre!

Learn Live Theatre

This is the perfect place to go if you are looking to see and hear about the latest product releases, see demonstrations, and discover ways you can unlock learning in your students. Each session is held on Microsoft stand NF40 and lasts 25 minutes.

 Time Title
Wed – Sat
10:15-10:30
What’s new in EDU?
Wed – Fri
10:30-11:00
Meet the New Microsoft Edge & Learn How to Deploy it Today
Sat
10:30-11:00
Immersive Reader is Everywhere and other Apps to support your inclusive classroom including: Translator, Presenter Coach, and Seeing AI
Wed – Fri
11:00-11:30
Engage and amplify every scholar with Flipgrid
Sat
11:00-11:30
Unleash Creativity with Windows 10
Wed – Fri
11:30-12:00
Make your classroom more inclusive with built-in, free, and non-stigmatizing learning tools
Sat
11:30-12:00
Intelligent Forms features to transform your data collection and analysis
Wed – Sat
12:00-12:30
Greenwood Academies: Empowering students with Dell Affordable Devices and M365
Wed – Fri
12:30-13:00
Immersive Reader is Everywhere and other Apps to support your inclusive classroom including: Translator, Presenter Coach, and Seeing AI
Sat
12:30-13:00
Build confidence and improve your communication skills with Presenter Coach in PowerPoint
Wed – Sat
13:00-13:30
Empower individual teachers and your entire school system with Microsoft’s free and adaptable professional development resources
Wed – Fri
13:30-14:00
How Office can help your students develop into great writers
Wed – Fri
14:00-14:30
Going for full 1:1 with Surface Pro – journey of infrastructure, CPD and teacher involvement
Wed – Fri
14:30-15:00
Using Microsoft Teams to enable effective professional development
Wed – Fri
15:00-15:30
Develop a Teaching and Learning Video Culture with Teams and Stream | Connect with meetings and live events, teach with web-based screen recording and create on mobile using the Flipgrid Camera
Wed – Fri
15:30-16:00
How Microsoft Sparks Learning: Classroom stories
Wed – Fri
16:00-16:30
Make your Own Arcade Games with MakeCode
Wed – Fri
16:30-17:00
Create inclusive live presentations with PowerPoint
Wed – Fri
17:00-17:30
Deliver Student Centered Learning with Education Devices
Wed – Fri
17:30-18:00
Drive greater faculty engagement and professional development with your faculty using Teams


Microsoft Training Academy

If you are looking for a hands-on opportunity to try, test and experiment with Microsoft products and devices, this is the perfect stage for you. Get tips and tricks and learn about the best way to use a Microsoft solution in the classroom, from and with our own teachers, trainers, and Microsoft Learning Consultants. Each session is held in the Platinum Suite Level 2 foyer and lasts 25 minutes.

Time Title
Wed – Sat
10:30-11:00
How we empower teaching and learning by getting teachers to learn and students to teach
Wed – Sat
11:00-11:30
Grow your practice with free professional learning and resources with the Microsoft Educator Center
Wed – Sat
11:30-12:00
How you can build an Inclusive classroom with Microsoft Learning Tools
Wed – Sat
12:00- 12:30
Helping students grow and improve with Teams Assignments
Wed – Sat
12:30-13:00
The impact that OneNote Class Notebook is driving for teachers, students, and classrooms everywhere
Wed – Sat
13:00-13:30
Enabling your school with Office’s free and easy-to-use web apps!
Wed – Sat
13:30-14:00
Utilizing smart assistance and intelligence across Office apps
Wed – Sat
14:00-14:30
Transformative Teaching with Minecraft: Education Edition
Wed – Fri
14:30-15:00
 Build an app in 25 mins or less to free up teacher time
Wed – Fri
15:00-15:30
App Smashing in Teams
Wed – Fri
15:30-16:00
Maximizing Teams for your education institution
Wed – Fri
16:00-16:30
Foster an inclusive classroom with Flipgrid
Wed – Fri
16:30-17:00
Grow your practice with free professional learning and resources with the Microsoft Educator Center
Wed – Fri
17:00-17:30
The impact that OneNote Class Notebook is driving for teachers, students, and classrooms everywhere
Wed – Fri
17:30-18:00
How you can build an Inclusive classroom with Microsoft Learning Tools


Microsoft on the Stage (PD Theatre)

Time Title
Wed
13:00 – 13:30
(South Hall)
Empower students with the Immersive Reader in the inclusive classroom
Wed
15:00 – 15:30
(South Hall)
Whole school professional learning with the Microsoft Educator Center
Fri
15:00 – 15:30
(North Hall)
Saving time through authentic assessment using Microsoft Forms


Microsoft on the Stage (Schools Theatre)

Time Title
Wed
11:50 – 12:20
Digital transformation of teaching and learning to support all
Wed
15:10 – 15:40
Innovation Driven By Community
Thurs
11:45 – 12:15
Improving outcomes through the use of technology in the classroom
Thurs
14:45 – 15:10
Implementing digital transformation – Wimbledon High’s Journey
Fri
11:50 – 12:20
Enriching and engaging learning in a challenging environment
Fri
15:10 – 15:40
Learning Tool in Action:  Helping Students of all Abilities thrive at Louis Riel


Microsoft on the Stage (Higher and Further Education Theatre)

Time Title
Wed
11:50 – 12:20
DigiLearn: Empowering transformational change in education
Wed
15:30 – 16:00
Working better together: Using Microsoft Teams to embed digital skills at Newcastle University
Thurs
11:35 – 12:05
Strategic Digital Transformation: A blueprint for adoption
Thurs
15:00 – 15:30
A digital University by ethos and design – how the university of Bath is putting digital at its core
Fri
11:35 – 12:05
Establishing a digital learning platform that works for all
Fri
15:00 – 15:30
Transforming Teaching, Learning and Assessment using technology: empowering all learners to achieve more

Community Learning Center | Booth SM45 |Wednesday, 22 January – Saturday, 25 January

jp.ik and Microsoft have been partnering together for the last decade and gathered the necessary expertise in this vertical by implementing several large-scale sustainable projects around the world and impacting over 16 million students and 1 million teachers in over 70 countries. Throughout our journey we have been facing the lack of basic structures (schools), the lack of basic utilities (electricity and sanitation) and the lack of telecommunication network. This is why jp.ik, Microsoft and their partners have come together to create a Community Learning Center to empower rural areas and connect them throughout the entire globe.

We look forward to welcoming you in Booth SM45, located next to the Bett arena in the South Hall to discover our solar-powered, digitally connected Community Learning Center.

Microsoft Certifications Testing Lab | Platinum Suite 5 |Wednesday, 22 January – Saturday, 25 January

In partnership with Microsoft, Prodigy Learning is offering Bett 2020 attendees the opportunity to complete a Microsoft Certification Exam for FREE. We are delighted to announce the Microsoft Technical Certifications (MTC) in Azure Fundamentals, M365 Fundamentals & Dynamics Fundamentals. Learn more.

Microsoft Partner Adventure |Wednesday, 22 January – Saturday, 25 January

Take part in the Microsoft Partner Adventure and for a chance to WIN a Surface Pro, a Surface Go, or a 3rd party partner Windows device daily! Discover Microsoft’s unique off-campus partners and answer a question to reveal a code, scanned using the Bett app!  Participants will have to visit all 15 partner booths to answer all the questions, scan the QR codes.  Competition closes at 15:00 and winner drawn at 16:00 daily (Wed to Fri) and closes at 13:00 and winners drawn at 14:00 on Saturday in front of the Learn Live Theater on the Microsoft stand NF40. Winners must be present to collect their prizes.

Solutions Showcase | Platinum Suite 7 |Wednesday, 22 January & Thursday, 23 January, 10:30 – 16:15

Digital transformation is an indisputable force revolutionizing industries and reshaping the workplace. Education leaders around the globe are faced with the need to prepare students for this new world. These sessions are your opportunity to meet fellow practitioners and hear first-hand global experiences and trends and how these might help support you.  Learn more.

Microsoft Education Developer Platform and Data Solutions | Gallery Suite 8 |Wednesday, 22 January – Friday, 24 January

This free event features sessions in two tracks for technical audiences:

CIOs and IT Pros –

Come learn how Microsoft can integrate with your IT system and learning apps to save time and data management costs, protect student data privacy, and accelerate learning in the Classroom.

Application Developers and Microsoft Partners –

Come learn how Microsoft can help you create and deliver applications that empower learners and educators to achieve more.  Whether you are enhancing an existing application or building a new solution from scratch, Microsoft’s Education platform can help you facilitate deployment, maximize inclusion, increase engagement and improve outcomes.

Secure your seat and register for the sessions that you would like to attend. Learn more.

Transformation Leaders’ Summit | Platinum Suite 6 | Thursday, January 23, 10:30 – 13:00

Driving successful change is challenging whether in an individual school or system-wide. Across the world, leaders are discovering the most effective ways to improve student experience and outcomes, using technology to support learning, teaching and school administration. This Microsoft event aims to explore innovative, impactful journeys that leaders are taking to support their students, bringing together hands-on experience, networking opportunities and strategic insight for leaders at school and system-level. Learn more.

Privacy & Security Summit | Platinum Suite 6 | Friday, January 24, 10:30 – 14:00

Microsoft Worldwide EDU will be launching VIP invitation only CEO / CIO / CSO Privacy and Security Summit at the BETT conference. Subject matter experts from Microsoft product teams will be listening to customer feedback and discussing AI, Privacy and Security in K-12. Agenda will encompass discussions around student security on campus, trends for privacy in schools worldwide as well as how AI can drive positive impact. Learn more.

Become a Microsoft Global Training Partner | Platinum Suite 6 | Thursday, January 23, 13:30 – 15:30

Join this session to learn about the Microsoft Global Training Partner Program, explore how it fits your existing Professional Development training model and what are the partnership models possible with Microsoft. Learn more.

MakeCode Saturday | Platinum Suite 6 & 7 | Saturday, 25 January, 10:00 – 15:00

Microsoft MakeCode Saturday is a fun, hands-on workshop at BETT that is free and open to teachers, parents and students.  Microsoft MakeCode is an open source platform for creating engaging computer science learning experiences that support a progression path from Blocks into real-world programming. Learn more about MakeCode Saturday.

Explore tools for Future Ready SkillsExplore tools for Future Ready Skills

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Beyond overhead: What drives donor support in the digital era – Microsoft on the Issues

One of the greatest challenges to running a successful nonprofit organization has always been that donors look at nonprofits’ stewardship of funds as a primary way to assess impact. While there is no doubt that nonprofits must use donor funds responsibly, tracking to see if a nonprofit maintains the highest possible ratio of spending on programs-to spending on overhead is a poor proxy for understanding how effective a nonprofit truly is. In fact, the imperative to limit overhead has forced many organizations to underinvest in efforts to improve efficiency. Ironically, this has long prevented nonprofits from utilizing innovative digital technologies that could help them be more efficient and effective.

Now more than ever, cloud-based technology can have a transformative effect on how nonprofit organizations increase impact and reduce costs. The same technologies that give for-profit businesses insights about customers and markets, create operational efficiencies and speed up innovation can also help nonprofits target donors and raise funds more strategically, design and deliver programming more efficiently, and connect field teams with headquarters more effectively. This means smart investments in digital tools are essential to every nonprofit’s ability to make progress toward its mission.

The good news is that a major shift is underway. As part of our work at Microsoft Tech for Social Impact to understand how nonprofits can use technology to drive progress and demonstrate impact, we recently surveyed 2,200 donors, volunteers and funding decision-makers to learn how they decide which organizations to support, what their expectations are for efficiency and effectiveness, and how they feel about funding technology infrastructure at the nonprofits they support.

The results, which we published recently in the white paper “Beyond overhead: Donor expectations for driving impact with technology,” make clear that people donate to organizations they trust and that donors are increasingly looking at data beyond the ratio of program spending to overhead spending to measure impact. We also found that those who support nonprofits now overwhelmingly recognize the critical role technology plays in driving impact and delivering value. Nearly four out of five supporters (which includes both donors and volunteers) and more than nine out of 10 funding decision-makers told us they support directing donations to improve technology at a nonprofit. An overwhelming majority — 85 percent of supporters and 95 percent of funding decision-makers — are more likely to contribute to organizations that can show that they are using technology to improve how it runs programs.

At the same time, the survey found that most people expect organizations to use donations more efficiently and to advance the causes they work for more effectively than in the past. Among supporters, for example, 79 percent believe nonprofits should be better at maximizing funding than they were 10 years ago. Just over 80 percent of funding decision-makers believe nonprofits should be more effective at achieving their goals and advancing the causes they work for now than in the past.

To give you a better sense of what potential donors are looking for as they consider where to target their nonprofit contributions and how much they weigh technology into their thinking, we have developed a tool using Power BI so you can look at the data in greater detail. Within the tool, you can see how people responded to questions about overall effectiveness and efficiency, the importance of technology as a driver of success, how likely they are to support organizations that use technology to demonstrate impact, and their willingness to fund technology improvements at the nonprofits they support.

To make the tool as useful as possible for your organization, you can sort the data by supporters and funding decision-makers, and you can explore how responses varied by region. As you move through the data, you will see how these critical groups of supporters and funders think about these important questions in the region where your organization operates:

The ultimate goal of this survey was to get a clearer picture of what motivates people to contribute to an organization and how technology can help nonprofits meet supporters’ expectations. Overall, I believe our research provides some important insights that can help any organization be more successful. Fundamentally, we found that people donate to organizations that are perceived to be trustworthy, and that trust is achieved though operational transparency and effective communications. More than ever before, donors recognize that using data to measure and demonstrate impact is the foundation for trust.

I encourage you to read the full report and learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to support nonprofits.

Go to Original Article
Author: Microsoft News Center

Meet Lucas Joppa, the man on a mission to save the planet by democratizing AI – Microsoft News Center India

Can mankind’s greatest technological advancements help solve the biggest ecological challenges facing planet earth? Can technology help accelerate biodiversity conservation? Can it predict global warming to reduce the potential impact? Can it help conserve fresh water? Can it help achieve global food security? These are some of the existential questions that have kept Lucas Joppa awake at night for more than a decade.

Today, as the first Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft, Joppa leads AI for Earth, a five-year, $50 million global program that blends ecological science and cutting-edge AI to solve some of the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges. We caught up with him to learn more about the program, his experience with technology interventions for environmental advancement, and his vision of deploying AI to advance sustainability across the globe. Here are some edited excerpts from our conversation.

You’ve a PhD in Ecology and have worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This is not exactly a profile of someone who’d be working at a technology company. How did you decide to join Microsoft?

My educational background is in environmental studies. After completing my undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology, I spent time in the Peace Corps working for Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Then I did my PhD in Ecology. What all the work on the environment side taught me was just how serious environmental issues really are.

The science shows the seriousness of the issues, but the work also highlighted just how monumental the task is actually going to be, to find our way to sustainable solutions where the human species can exist in a more sustainable manner, with the rest of the life on earth. As soon as I began to truly realize the enormity of the challenge, I started panicking a little like everyone does. But it also got me thinking that there’s got to be some way to get out ahead.

I began to see that there was one thing that was accelerating exponentially and potentially even faster than the degradation of our planet’s natural resources. And that was technology. Thus, I decided to drive my career towards leveraging advances in technology to address the negative effects of human activities on rest of the life on Earth and started focusing on the computational aspects of ecology. I joined Microsoft Research to focus on and lead research programs at the intersection of environmental and computer science. What enthused me was that Microsoft, about a decade ago, had realized that this was where the real challenges were, both for society and the technology sector.

How did you transition to the role of the Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft? How did the AI for Earth program come about?

I pursued research programs for about eight years at Microsoft Research. That experience prepared us to step back a couple of years ago and see the progress we had made in research from an environmental and technology perspective and how we could place it all the way into shipped products.

I put together all those learnings into one document, which I called “AI for Earth”. It laid out the opportunities I saw for Microsoft to really make a more concerted, company-wide effort, than simply a research program, to leverage our 35 years of ongoing investment in AI research and technology and focus all those efforts on the four key areas of agriculture, water, biodiversity, and climate change.

From my experience at Microsoft Research, we knew what the problems were, and we’d done enough on the technology front. So, it was time to put it into action. Last year, I left Microsoft Research and started serving as the company’s first Chief Environmental Scientist leading the AI for Earth program. That position recently expanded to Microsoft’s first Chief Environmental Officer, which allows me to oversee the whole environmental sustainability mission and mandate across the company.

PyRoMineIoT cryptojacker uses NSA exploit to spread

A new malware variant reads like the greatest hits of cyberthreats: a cryptojacker using an NSA exploit to scan for IoT devices with hardcoded passwords to spread and distribute the miner. And according to experts, there’s blame to be had on all sides.

Researchers at Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs have been tracking Python-based malware that uses the EternalRomance National Security Agency (NSA) exploit to spread and install a cryptominer — hence, PyRoMine. And, now, the researchers found a variant that directly targets IoT devices, which they call PyRoMineIoT.

Jasper Manuel, a malware researcher at Fortinet, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., wrote in a blog post that PyRoMine and PyRoMineIoT malware don’t need Python to be installed on the target systems, and PyRoMineIoT uses the EternalRomance NSA exploit to scan for IoT devices that are vulnerable due to using hardcoded passwords. Once PyRoMineIoT infects a device, the malware downloads components, including a Monero cryptominer.

“This development confirms yet again that malware authors are very interested in cryptocurrency mining, as well as in capturing a chunk of the IoT threat ecosystem,” Manuel wrote. “We predict that this trend will not fade away soon, but will continue as long as there are opportunities for the bad guys to easily earn money by targeting vulnerable machines and devices.”

Sean Newman, director of product management for Corero Network Security, based in Marlborough, Mass., said enterprises may not need to worry about cryptojackers specifically, because “they have their own specific mission, which has nothing to do with any data or information within an organization which ends up hosting them.”

“But there is the obvious performance impact for any device which does get compromised for this purpose, which could negatively impact the function of IoT devices, for example,” Newman wrote via email. “However, enterprises should really be asking themselves the [following] question: If a hacker can plant malware within my organization to mine cryptocurrency, what other malware can they, or another cybercriminal, plant just as easily?”

Justin Jett, director of audit and compliance for Plixer, based in Kennebunk, Maine, said regardless of the size of the enterprise, “organizations should be concerned with cryptominers.”

“These malicious applications steal valuable resources that are critical to business applications. When allowed to go unabated, vital business applications are unable to perform as required. This means that organizations are losing not only resources, but time and money,” Jett wrote via email. “Every company should use network traffic analytics to see where these cryptominers are spreading. Specifically, in the case of PyRoMineIoT, the malware is actively scanning for IoT devices on the network. Network traffic analytics makes quick work of such security vulnerabilities and can help IT professionals quickly see where the malware has compromised them.”

The NSA connection

While the PyRoMineIoT malware uses an NSA exploit — leaked by the Shadow Brokers — to help it spread and infect more vulnerable devices, experts said the blame for any damage shouldn’t necessarily go to the NSA, because even if the EternalRomance NSA exploit hadn’t been developed by the U.S. government, someone else would have created the attack.

Pat Ciavolella, malware team lead at The Media Trust, based in McLean, Va., said, “Developers are innovative” and would have eventually created something similar to the EternalRomance NSA exploit.

If a hacker can plant malware within my organization to mine cryptocurrency, what other malware can they, or another cybercriminal, plant just as easily?
Sean Newmandirector of product management for Corero Network Security

“Part of that innovation comes from being on the lookout for vulnerabilities, which is also how security measures are improved,” Ciavolella wrote via email. “The NSA and any organization that does this type of work needs to exercise tighter control over who has access to their innovations so that they do not fall into the wrong hands. Today’s digital economy isn’t just the Wild West, it’s the Wild ‘Westworld’ — virtually any innovation in the wrong hands can hurt others.”

Gabriel Gumbs, vice president of product strategy at STEALTHbits Technologies, based in Hawthorne, N.J., said, “Blaming the NSA is easy and far too convenient.”

“IoT vendors must be held to higher standards,” Gumbs wrote via email. “It is not OK to sell interconnected devices to consumers that fail to implement even basic security measures.”

Larry Trowell, principal consultant with Synopsys Software Integrity Group, said the government shares some of the blame for the NSA exploit.

“It’s in every country’s interest to develop systems enabling offensive and defensive strategies to protect individuals and national services,” Trowell wrote via email. “There is no fault in that. If the NSA does have some blame to share in this situation, it is for allowing secrets to be exfiltrated — not in developing them.”

Jett said although the NSA exploit was stolen, “they didn’t create the vulnerabilities that allow for the malware to exploit devices.”

“As such, you can’t hold them responsible for the malware that has emerged from the EternalRomance exploit. Vendors whose products are vulnerable to EternalRomance are responsible for resolving the exploit problem,” Jett wrote. “Additionally, it has been more than a year since the NSA exploits were released, and vendors have created patches. It becomes incumbent on the users to make sure they are properly patching their software and reducing the threat surface for these exploits.”

The Napkin Disrupted: Meet Ink to Code, a Microsoft Garage Project – Microsoft Garage

Urban legend has it that some of the greatest ideas in history started with a napkin. The Gettysburg Address, the poem that gave way to the U.S. National Anthem, and the premise of the Harry Potter series—each were reportedly born into the world through the medium of sketches on scrap paper—and when app creators put pen to paper for their ideas, this is often a canvas of choice. While rapid prototyping with the napkin and the whiteboard holds its charms, less charming is the prospect of translating quick sketches into working code.

Last summer, a group of Garage interns tackled this problem by creating a prototype of their own: meet Ink to Code, a Microsoft Garage project, now available in the United States and Canada. Ink to Code is a Windows app that enables developers to draw wire frame sketches and export them into Visual Studio, expediting the process of prototyping Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Android user interfaces.

The Garage Internship takes a unique, entrepreneurial spin on the traditional big tech model; rather than embedding with a full-time organization, students work in groups of 5-6 as a distinct team, building their own, standalone project. Microsoft product groups vie for intern teams to work on proposed projects by pitching opportunities to interns at the start of the internship. This summer at the Microsoft New England Research and Development facility (fondly known as NERD) located in Cambridge, MA, 6 interns found their passion in the pitch for Ink to Code and signed up to work with the Xamarin team sponsoring the idea. 5 more interns studying at MIT joined the Garage team to continue working on the project.

Building a Better Napkin

Ink to Code Guide Feature Screenshot
Ink to Code captures sketches of basic visual elements and translates them into the beginnings of an app in Visual Studio

The sponsoring team and interns were both motivated by a desire to modernize the brainstorming and prototyping process from using napkin and white board sketches, to an experience that is more automated and cohesive with the Visual Studio suite. “We’ve all been in that situation as developers,” notes Alex Corrado, a Senior Software Engineer on the Xamarin Designer team, and one of the originators of the project. “Getting your ideas for a new app or feature onto paper is one of the fastest, most natural parts of the brainstorming. But then, you ultimately need to turn that sketch into code and sooner than you know it, 10, 20, 30 iterations of a sketch really add up.” The team turned to the Smart Ink built into UWP to preserve the natural desire to sketch, while bridging the gap between analog and digital with a companion app for Visual Studio. In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Smart Ink improves ink recognition with AI. The Ink to Code team leveraged this machine learning technology to save months on development time.

Ink to Code translates common design symbols into the beginnings of an app in Visual Studio. The first version supports basic app visual elements including labels, text fields, text paragraphs, images, and buttons. While Ink to Code can’t bring a full app vision to life, it significantly cuts down on creating the basic foundation of the app with the power of automation. Perhaps even more valuable is the way it enables developers and designers to collaborate differently. Ink to Code can be used as a more productive canvas in brainstorm meetings, or even more significantly, as a tool that can bridge the gap between collaborators with different levels of design or technical knowledge.

A Prototype for Prototypes

A core part of the Garage intern experience is conducting customer development and research, and the Ink to Code team worked with internal developers and designers to get feedback on their prototype. Today, the sponsoring Xamarin team releases the app to drastically expand the pool of feedback. Alex also shares, “Our goal is to hear from a wide variety of app creators, so we know what people like most and what we should add.”

“Developers are crazy diverse, and no experience could serve them 100% on day 1, but their feedback can help us get closer, faster,” adds George Matthews a Senior Program Manager in the Garage as well as a key originator of Ink to Code. The gut reaction of any app creator is to make sure your project is polished and perfect before shipping it, especially when releasing to an audience of your developer peers. The Ink to Code team is embracing the mindset of getting feedback early, and developing with the customer and for the customers.  George continues, “The feedback from our first customers will really help us stack rank our backlog.”

To check out Ink to Code and feed into the future direction of the project, download it at the Microsoft Store and share your thoughts via in-app feedback or UserVoice. Ink to Code is best with Visual Studio 2017.