Tag Archives: YouthSpark

Sparking opportunity for all youth around the globe

Sometimes all it takes is a spark: that one class, that one teacher, that one project which makes a difference. It can change the lives of young students who may have had little opportunity to excel, or perhaps even to complete high school, to enable them to become successful engineers, entrepreneurs or computer scientists. This is the inspiration behind our global YouthSpark initiative.

Last September, Satya Nadella announced a three-year, $75 million YouthSpark investment to help every young person get the opportunity to learn computing skills and computer science.


Click here to learn more about our partners.

Today we are providing an update by announcing YouthSpark grants to 100 nonprofit partners in 55 countries. In turn, our partners will leverage the power and energy of local schools, businesses and community organizations to create new and engaging opportunities for students to explore computer science. These partners will teach students valuable skills to help them prepare for and succeed in jobs that are open today across industries, along with new jobs that will be created. Our partners will build upon the work that Microsoft already has underway, including our commitments to computer science education through programs like Hour of Code with Code.org, BBC micro:bit and TEALS.

Still, much more progress must be made. Despite the need for basic computational thinking skills across all subject areas, in the U.S. less than 25 percent of high schools offer computer science classes. Only 2.5 percent of U.S. high school graduates go on to study computer science in college, and of this small percentage, only 1 in 5 computer science graduates is female. Globally, some countries have made computer science a mandatory subject in secondary schools, but we know firsthand through our own work that far too few schools around the world provide courses in computing. We also recognize that governments play a critical role in continued progress on this important issue. We continue to work with policymakers around the world to support the policy and funding necessary to expand computer science into public education. In the U.S., we’re proud to support Computer Science for All, a national effort created by President Barack Obama to give all American students the opportunity to learn computer science in school.

We know that no single organization or company can close the global computer science education skills gap. That is why we are committed to work in partnership with others. Our efforts have focused on leveraging longstanding community relationships of more than 100 nonprofit partners around the world to create access to computer science, and also to break down barriers and stereotypes that are keeping large populations of youth out of computer science education — even when the opportunities are available.

Later this month, we will bring together some of our local nonprofit partners from around the world during a YouthSpark Summit at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. We’ll learn, discuss, share ideas and develop action plans so that, together with our partners, we can continue to improve and bring better knowledge and expertise to local communities.

Every young person should have an opportunity, a spark, to realize a more promising future. Together with our nonprofit partners, we are excited to take a bold step toward that goal today. Learn more about our nonprofit partners here, and visit YouthSpark.com for more information on our global initiative to make computer science education accessible for all young people. ‪

The post Sparking opportunity for all youth around the globe appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

Young people dive into Hour of Code, Cortana now on iOS and Android, and wacky out-of-office messages – Weekend Reading: Dec. 11 edition

Hour of Code, YouthSpark, education

Students from Knollwood School in Fair Haven, New Jersey, participate in the “Minecraft” Hour of Code tutorial at the Microsoft flagship store on Dec. 7, 2015 in New York City. (Donald Traill/ AP Images for Microsoft)

The moment when “I can do this!” strikes: There were millions of such moments this week around the world during Hour of Code, as young people learned to tap into the power of coding. Cortana came to iOS and Android. And, just in time for the holidays, Microsoft launched the “Center for Out of Office Excellence,” a fun site to help you create your own OOO (out-of-office) memes with a bit of ‘tude. A busy and gratifying week, to be sure:

Microsoft hosted coding sessions with young people in more than 50 countries around the world, and held hundreds of “Minecraft” Hour of Code camps in Microsoft stores in North America. Thousands of Microsoft employees volunteered their time to help teach and inspire young people during the third annual event, which coincides with Computer Science Education Week in the U.S. The “Minecraft”-inspired coding tutorial was created by the game’s designers in collaboration with Code.org engineers. Want to try the “Minecraft” Hour of Code for yourself? “Block” out some time (sorry!) and go for it!

Hour of Code, Minecraft tutorial, YouthSpark, education, youths

Cortana became available on select iPhone, Android and Cyanogen OS-powered devices, broadening its availability as a great companion experience to Windows 10 PCs. Look up info, get helpful suggestions and just plain get more done. Last May, Microsoft announced that Cortana would be the first personal digital assistant to help you “complete tasks across your devices, from PC to phone and vice versa regardless of your device of choice,” says Marcus Ash, Cortana group program manager. This week’s news is “a big step in delivering on that promise – bringing even more ways to save you time and effort anywhere you need it.”

Cortana, iOS, Android

Cortana, ready to serve you, now on select iOS, Android and Cyanogen OS-powered devices.

Planning to be out of the office for the holidays, and need to let others know with an “OOO” email? Microsoft has launched the “Center for Out of Office Excellence,” a “cheery, not-so-serious site to help you create your own OOO (out-of-office) memes,” writes Vanessa Ho. “Upload an image, choose a design type and revel in the joy of OOO.” Learn about the secret history of the Out Of Office message, and the meaning behind one popular acronym for it, OOF, and why it has that mysterious “F” in it.

Outlook, Out of Office emails

Bing unveiled new features to help you follow the debates, issues and candidates for the 2016 elections. When you search on election topics in Bing, you can now see in-depth candidate pages and the Bing Political Index, a look at where each candidate stands on an issue. Powered by the Bing Predicts engine, the index can help you better understand the candidates’ positions on the issues.

Bing, Elections 2016

TuneIn Radio, our App of the Week, is now available for Windows 10 PCs and tablets. With the free app, you can choose from more than 100,000 stations worldwide that deliver music, sports, talk radio and news. You also have access to top podcasts, too.

App of the Week, TuneIn, Windows

The Now Playing screen in the TuneIn Radio app for Windows 10.

Microsoft researchers announced a major advance in technology designed to identify the objects in a photograph or video, showcasing a system whose accuracy meets and sometimes exceeds human-level performance. Microsoft’s new approach to recognizing images also took first place in several major categories of image recognition challenges Thursday, beating out many other competitors from academic, corporate and research institutions in the ImageNet and Microsoft Common Objects in Context challenges. Also this week: Five Microsoft researchers honored as Fellows and Distinguished Scientists by the Association for Computing Machinery.

This week on the Microsoft social channels, we launched a Tumblr page, called Inspired By. It is a collection of stories celebrating the people who go above and beyond, reach their dreams, and inspire us every day. Follow along as we share more inspiring stories.

Tumblr, GIF

That’s all for this edition of Weekend Reading. Relax and restore over these next few days, and we’ll see you back here next Friday!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

Microsoft expands computer science education, partnership with Salesforce and your mind with Hacking Mars design challenge — Weekend Reading, Sept. 18 edition

TEALS, education, computer science, YouthSpark

High school juniors and seniors in TEALS classes at the public Boston Latin Academy last year took this photo to thank their TEALS volunteers for the computer science education instruction they provided.

The universe expanded in new ways, yet got more personal, this week at Microsoft. For one thing, CEO Satya Nadella announced a new commitment of $75 million to help young people around the world study computer science. Also announced: Microsoft’s strategic partnership with Salesforce will grow. And if you’re ready to help “The Martian’s” stranded astronaut Mark Watney get off the Red Planet, the Hacking Mars design challenge is your opportunity to come up with a solution.

Microsoft’s YouthSpark program will grow mightily over the next three years to increase access to computer science education for young people everywhere, especially those from under-represented backgrounds. In the U.S., where the TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program brings computer science education to both high school students and teachers, this flagship program of YouthSpark will spread from 131 schools in 18 states to nearly 700 schools in 33 states. Right now, computer science is offered in less than 25 percent of American high schools. Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer, says Microsoft’s goal over the next decade is to reach 4,000 high schools.

Microsoft and Salesforce are strengthening their strategic partnership, which began last fall, to connect the Salesforce Customer Success Platform to Microsoft Office productivity apps and services. New solutions that integrate Salesforce with Skype for Business, OneNote, Delve and Windows 10 will empower companies to connect with their customers and collaborate more effectively. Nadella talked about the partnership and Microsoft’s mission at Dreamforce 2015 in San Francisco.

Salesforce, Power BI, business intelligence

Microsoft Power BI and the Salesforce content pack for Power BI.

No astronaut left behind: Enter the Hacking Mars design challenge. In the movie “The Martian,” coming Oct. 2, astronaut Mark Watney is trying to figure out how to get home from Mars after being left on the Red Planet, presumed dead by his crew. Gather up a team and enter the Microsoft Hacking Mars design challenge to come up with solutions to help Watney. You can also track his progress with a new interactive map from Bing. And teachers and students across the country will be able to download space-related curriculum through Bing in the Classroom.

The Super Bowl is going for the 50, and the NFL is using Surface to get there. The NFL is starting its countdown to a major milestone with Super Bowl 50 with some new Surface Pro 3s. The league provides the specially equipped devices, which include the Sideline Viewing System introduced last season, to all 32 teams. The Microsoft app lets coaches analyze full-color images from a previous offensive or defensive series, and plan their next plays more quickly. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson told writer Athima Chansanchai that Surface has been “a game changer” for him. “The Surface has been exceptional to have on the sideline. When I get back to the sideline, I’m able to get the plays right away. Being able to zoom has a huge advantage, too. I can see everybody’s eyes, what they’re looking at.”

You can see everybody’s eyes and more with the official WWE Network app for Windows 10, our App of the Week. The free app lets WWE Network subscribers see all 12 WWE live pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania, groundbreaking original series, reality shows and documentaries. Want to catch up on the best of “Raw” and “Smackdown” replays? It’s there for you. Get the WWE Network app this weekend, and watch the WWE “Night of Champions” Sept. 20.

Windows, apps, Windows 10

The second annual Old Glory Relay, conducted by Team Red, White, and Blue and presented by Microsoft to benefit veterans, kicked off at sunrise on Sept. 11 in San Francisco. Fifty-nine teams of runners are on their way across country, with the 60-day, 3,540-mile journey expected to end at sunset on Nov. 8 in Washington, D.C. You can follow the runners’ travels and experiences by visiting the Microsoft Military Affairs blog.

military affairs, veterans, Old Glory Relay

This week we watched as Frederico Phillips and Maria Takeuchi redefined dance. Using Kinect for Windows, the two artists merge technology and dance as we’ve never seen before.

Wherever your journeys take you this weekend, near or far, enjoy! And join us again next Friday for Weekend Reading.

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

Microsoft delivers new school supplies for class this year

education, teachers, Microsoft Innovative Educators, Microsoft Education Team

The Microsoft Education team with Microsoft Innovative Educators, showing off their superhero status.

The stores are chock-full of school supplies, buses are back on their routes, and anticipation is in the air: it’s back-to-school time again. And while parents and students are doing their part to be school-ready, teachers have been working behind-the-scenes to prepare for perhaps the most important job there is: educating our next generation.

I’ve had the great privilege to work with teachers and schools around the world for years, and I’ve seen a lot – continually evolving education systems, the “sure-fire” ways to improve learning, new trends in teaching and even those that cycle back through. Yet, no matter the trend in education, the constant force that has been hard at work to transform learning for decades, are teachers.

At Microsoft, we create products with teachers in mind and they tell us that products like OneNote, Sway, Minecraft and Skype help them bring new creativity and engagement to the classroom. We are inspired by what’s possible when teachers meet students where they’re at, help them to learn at their own pace, and then propel them to reach new heights in their learning. There’s no better place to use technology – and its promise to change lives – than in the hands of great teachers!

Individualized teaching and learning in action.
With the right technology platform in place and training, teachers around the world are finding inspiring new ways to use personalized approaches to impart 21st century skills.

Today, we announced 8 new resources to help enable individualized teaching and learning:

  1. New and no-cost features to Office 365 Education, along with the recent launch of Windows 10, are offering huge improvements for educators and students. With today’s update, we are simplifying our education lineup, moving to a single, free plan for all academic institutions and adding several new features to help schools meet their security and compliance requirements. We’ve also made it easier for teachers and students to sign up and start using free Office tools. Starting today in the U.S. and later this week everywhere else, anyone with a valid school email address can sign up.
  2. OneNote Class Notebook & Staff Notebook are now available globally for all Office 365 Education customers. In a recent IDC research study, OneNote has been shown to address the top 10 activities teachers describe as “time sinks.”
  3. New Skype in the classroom field trips are ready this year. Teachers can take their students on an adventure in their own classroom by signing up for a virtual field trip with Skype.
  4. Sway – a digital storytelling app in the Office portfolio – recently moved from preview to general availability just in time for the new school year. Teachers have been using Sway to reimagine class lessons, recap class projects, provide supplemental material for parents, provide new accessible storytelling tools to their students, and more. Sway has also helped students breathe new life into school projects, class reports, and even personal portfolios.
  5. Snip is a new screen capture tool that lets you tell your story in your own voice while you ink on an image, a photo that you take with your webcam, or a digital whiteboard. And you can share that story by copying your snip to the clipboard, sending it in an email, and embedding it on a website. Educators are using Snip to provide personalized feedback to students and students are using Snip to express their creativity and to collaborate with teachers and classmates.
  6. In addition to learning how to use technology, we see the growing interest from students to learn how to create technology. Teachers can help their students understand and learn more about creating technology with these new resources:
    • Microsoft YouthSpark Hub has various resources and programs to learn digital skills and computer science, for students to prepare for the jobs of the future or even to start their own business.
    • Microsoft Imagine tools and resources are available to teachers at no cost to help their students learn the fundamentals of coding while engaging in fun projects.  Take it to the next level by leveraging contests through the Imagine Cup competition hub to help your students use those fundamentals to become creators of technology.  New for this school year, Imagine Cup Earth leverages a partnership with NASA that teaches earth sciences and programming at the same time. Inspire your students to build their skills and bring their ideas to life and possibly win prizes!  And, if you are interested in creating a coding club, our Coding Club Starter Kit will help get you started.
    • Microsoft Virtual Academy is offering even more no cost computer science courses for students at all levels, coupled with resources to help teachers better integrate technology into their curriculum.
    • Creative Coding Through Games And Apps, a new computer science curriculum designed to spark interest in teens for computer programming and for teachers with little or no background in the field, launched today and is free to teachers.
  7. With Angela Maiers and Choose2Matter, Inc. we’re providing teachers with a free, customizable and interactive e-book: “Liberating Genius, The First 20 Days.” This free e-book guides teachers through the introduction of Genius Hour.
  8. Even more free training, designed specifically for educators, is now available online and at your local Microsoft stores.

Supporting the best and the brightest.
The best technology will never be a substitute for great teachers. That’s why Microsoft supports teachers through learning communities that offer resources and peer connections. Programs like the Microsoft Innovative Educators enable teachers to connect, share best practices, and help break down barriers together. Applications for this year’s cohort of Microsoft Innovative Educators are accepted until Oct. 30, 2015.

Together, we’re off to a good start of the new school year and I’m looking forward to more to come … Teachers, we celebrate your superhero status!

Sparking learning at YouthSpark summer camps, 75M devices running Windows 10, and a regular cellphone turns into a 3D scanner — Weekend Reading: Aug. 28 edition

YouthSpark, education, summer camps

At age 8, Allyse Nguyen is among the youngest students in the Smart Game Design class in Bellevue, Washington. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

With summer waning, most students are just getting ready to head back to school. But there are some who decided to continue learning over the break, and specifically, to dive into the world of coding. Read on for this story and more from the week at Microsoft, where the phrase “summer slowdown” is an oxymoron.

Around the U.S. and in Canada, children ages 8 and up spent part of their summer attending YouthSpark Summer Camps, held at 76 Microsoft stores. The camps, which will also be offered this fall, teach children how to code, create games, use their creativity and imagination, and learn to think critically. “I like that sometimes coding can be simple, but it can also do so much more,” says Andrew Stephens, 11, an incoming sixth grader.

YouthSpark, education, summer camps

Andrew Stephens, left, with dad Andy Stephens, was among the students who learned about coding at YouthSpark Summer Camps. (Photo courtesy of Andy Stephens)

Meanwhile, 80 teens took part in a day-long STEM exploration event at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, where there was no shortage of big ideas and passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Microsoft partnered with Seattle nonprofit iUrban Teen for the day of technology immersion, which included a diverse group of speakers from Microsoft, the White House, Yale University and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “It was really cool, seeing how people have all these great ideas for fun and useful things,” said 14-year-old Geno L. White II. “We have the same dreams that they do.”

education, STEM, iUrban Teen STEM

Geno L. White II (left) and Ceon Duncan-Graves check out a ball that was created with a 3D printer at The Microsoft Garage during the Microsoft iUrban Teen STEM Exploration Day. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

75 million devices are now running Windows 10, a stat shared by Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Marketing for Windows and Devices, on Twitter, along with other tidbits of Windows 10 trivia, such as: Windows 10 is available in 192 countries, virtually every country on the planet; more than 122 years of gameplay have streamed from Xbox One to Windows 10 devices; and in response to “Tell me a joke,” Cortana has told over half-a-million of ‘em since launch.

Yusuf Mehdi, Windows 10

Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Marketing for Windows and Devices.

A new Microsoft Research project delivers high-quality 3D images in real time, using a regular mobile phone. And it takes about the same effort as snapping a picture or shooting a video. Researchers say the system, called MobileFusion, is better than other methods for 3D scanning with a mobile device because it doesn’t need any extra hardware, or even an Internet connection, to work. That means scientists in remote locations, or hikers deep in the woods, can capture their surroundings using a cellphone, without a Wi-Fi connection. Sweet.

Two inexpensive, Internet-enabled feature phones, the Nokia 222 and Nokia 222 Dual SIM, were announced this week. The phones are designed to connect more people to the Internet, and let them capture and share their photos with others using apps such as GroupMe by Skype, Facebook, Messenger and Twitter. The Nokia 222 and Nokia 222 Dual SIM will be available globally in select markets, starting in September, priced at $37 before local taxes and subsidies.

Nokia 222, feature phones

The Nokia 222 and Nokia 222 Dual SIM.

Cortana took on more workload this week: She’s now available as an app in beta to all Android phone users. The personal digital assistant will also be coming to iOS devices, as was shared in May. The app for Android can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone (even tell jokes).

Run for a touchdown, run circles – or both. Get the Xbox One EA Sports Madden NFL 16 Bundle, which includes a 1TB hard drive, a full-game download of Madden NFL 16 and one year of EA Access. It’s now available for $399 from Microsoft and other retailers. And this week’s “App of the Week” is “Running Circles,” a free game that’s new to the Windows Store, and tests players’ timing and reflexes on a constantly changing, spinning and dizzying path.

games, Windows Phone

“Running Circles”

This week we met Wanderson Skrock, a young man who grew up in a rough neighborhood of Brazil and was in jail twice before age 17. However, Skrock turned his life around with technology and now he’s teaching digital literacy classes in Brazil’s correctional institutions and working with Microsoft YouthSpark.

That’s it for this edition of Weekend Reading! We’ll see you next week!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

Microsoft Hyperlapse releases, Windows 10 editions and Detroit entrepreneurs – Weekend Reading: May 15 Edition

This week saw the release of Microsoft Hyperlapse, a new set of products that create smooth, stabilized time lapses from first-person videos. For consumers, Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile turns any long video – from a bumpy bicycle ride to a family stroll in the park – into a short, distilled version easily shared with friends and family. For professional shooters and serious video enthusiasts, Microsoft Hyperlapse Pro creates a hyperlapse using a Windows computer from video shot on any camera or device – including drone footage. A third product, Hyperlapse for Azure Media Services, lets developers integrate hyperlapse options into websites and apps. Read the full story to get all the details – including how an idea born in the mountains became a reality – and check out the project website, where you can find links to download the apps.

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced the Windows 10 editions, designed to deliver a more personal computing experience across a range of devices. The editions are: Windows 10 Home, the consumer-focused desktop edition for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s; Windows 10 Mobile, for smaller, mobile touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets; Windows 10 Pro, a desktop edition for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s with extra features to meet the needs of small businesses; Windows 10 Enterprise, which builds on Windows 10 Pro, adding advanced features for medium- and larger-sized organizations; Windows 10 Education, designed for school staff, administrators, teachers and students; and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise, designed to deliver the best customer experience to business customers on smartphones and small tablets.

Jason Gittinger, second from right, started the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music. Photo by Ami Vitale.

Jason Gittinger, second from right, started the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music. Photo by Ami Vitale.

The Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music, founded by musicians Jason and Sherry Gittinger, is part of an entrepreneurial scene reviving metropolitan Detroit. The school teaches students not just to rock out, but to collaborate, persevere and ignite a passion for learning.

Staff Sgt. Sarah Stimpson, pictured here with her daughter, Apprimay, found a new team mission in helping the members of her Microsoft Software & Systems Academy cohort successfully transition to civilian careers.

Staff Sgt. Sarah Stimpson, pictured here with her daughter, Apprimay, found a new team mission in helping the members of her Microsoft Software & Systems Academy cohort successfully transition to civilian careers.

On Monday, 31 participants graduated from the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Tacoma, Washington. Two of those graduates, Staff Sgt. Sarah Stimpson and Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Travis Myers, shared their experience in the program and their goals for life after military service. MSSA is a full-time, 16-week IT job skills training program for active duty U.S. military service members who have received their separation date. The goal is to help each service member transition to high-quality careers in the IT industry, as well as to meet the economy’s demand for workers with computer science training. It works by combining technical education and training, career guidance and mentorship from Microsoft employees who are former service members.


Students showed off their brainpower in all kinds of creative ways this week. Microsoft’s U.S. Imagine Cup National Finals gave students from around the country a chance to turn their cool ideas into reality and, for three winning teams, a shot at being in this year’s world competition and winning a $50,000 prize. Microsoft also hosted the Student Tech Fair at Loft One in New York on Wednesday to celebrate Microsoft YouthSpark Stars — student innovators using technology in impactful ways — and to showcase the latest Microsoft technology for students. Head to the Windows Blog and Microsoft YouthSpark to learn more about these amazing young people and discover Microsoft resources for students.

Marriott International

Marriott International

Owners of Windows Phone devices, PCs and tablets got more apps and games to download. The App of the Week, Marriott International, makes mobile check-in and checkout easy, while Plague Inc. arrived on Windows Phone and “Talking Ginger” pounced into the Windows Store. Bargains also came through the weekly Red Stripe Deals.

Veronica Ura Iturralde

Veronica Ura Iturralde

This week on our global adventure to find people who #DoMore on the Microsoft Instagram page, we met the founders of Beyond Beanie, a social clothing company whose mission is to help children in need and empower women artisans like Veronica.

Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. See you next week!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

NYC students get Office 365 for free, Microsoft welcomes Sunrise, soldiers schooled in civilian skills – Weekend Reading: Feb. 13th Edition

It was a week of honors, awards and an acquisition. It was a week in which one more group of soldiers completed training that will help them transition from military life to the world of civilian IT. And it was a week where students in the nation’s largest city learned they’re getting free access to productivity software that will help them prepare for college and the workplace.

New York City public schools announced Office 365 is being made available, for free, to its 1.1 million students, as well as to teachers. New York City’s Department of Education, in collaboration with the City Council, is providing the Office 365 ProPlus benefit, which gives students and teachers up to five downloads of the latest versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher, along with anywhere, anytime access. “With free at-home access to the same tools students use at school, classroom assignments will no longer be confined to the classroom,” says Anthony Salcito, Microsoft vice president, Worldwide Public Sector Education.

Microsoft acquired Sunrise, provider of popular next-generation calendar app for iOS and Android. The acquisition, in addition to Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Acompli and the new touch-optimized universal Office apps for Windows 10, “all exemplify Microsoft’s ambition to rethink the productivity category,” says Rajesh Jha, Outlook and Office 365 corporate vice president. “Our goal is to create more meaningful, beautiful experiences in mobile email and calendaring across all platforms.”

A fourth group of soldiers graduated from the Fort Hood Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA). The academy is a 16-week course that prepares service members to transition to civilian life. In addition to being offered at the Texas base, MSSA is available at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and at Camp Pendleton in California. For Sgt. Cole McBride, one of this week’s grads, it was the death of a close friend in the military that drew him to serve his country in the first place. And during his service, he developed a deep interest in the field of computer science.

MSSA, military, education

Sgt. Cole McBride credits his wife as his biggest supporter as he readied himself and his family for his civilian transition. He is one of the new graduates of the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy at Fort Hood in Texas.

On another continent, we learned about a young man whose life was heading in a bad direction before he turned it around. Wanderson Skrock grew up in a slum outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a young teen, he sold drugs, and he was imprisoned twice. During his second sentence, he took a course offered through a Microsoft partner, Center for Digital Inclusion. It changed his life, and the lives of others, for the good. After he got out of prison, he became a computer instructor for the center, and now teaches children and teens from backgrounds similar to his. Microsoft recently named Skrock one of its global YouthSpark Youth Advisors, who will help the company create programs, partnerships and resources that meet the needs of youth around the world.

When Vinny Pasceri’s friend and fellow Microsoft employee went missing last fall, Pasceri was driven to try to do more than post search information online. He wanted to come up with a way help others in the same situation, especially those with special needs children, and with the assistance of his fellow coworkers, created a new kind of tracking system. The result is Lighthouse, which tracks proximity to a caregiver through Bluetooth Low Energy. With Lighthouse, a student wears a beacon in a wristband or other small device. The beacon is linked to an app on the phone of every teacher and specialist on the student’s schedule. The app registers when the student is within range of each caregiver. It sends a missing alert if the student is out of range. Lighthouse won a first-place award in the 2014 Global Startup Battle, considered the largest startup tournament in the world, with 25,000 international participants last year.

app, children, safety

The Lighthouse team includes, from left, Jeff Davis, Tanya Dastyar, Vinny Pasceri and John Griffin. Not pictured: Liang Frank Chen and Louisa Fan. Photo by Scott Eklund, Red Box Pictures.

Microsoft is among the companies that will be honored by the American Foundation for the Blind with a 2015 Access Award in April. Microsoft is receiving props for its “huge efforts to advance accessibility in computing by increasing access to the popular Window-Eyes screen reader and by supporting the needs of customers with disabilities through a dedicated technical support service,” the foundation says. Meanwhile, Microsoft researcher and Distinguished Scientist Richard Szeliski has received one of the highest honors accorded to an engineer — election to the National Academy of Engineering — “for contributions to computer visioncomputer graphics and interactive image and video rendering.”

Early happy Valentine’s Day! No matter whether the source of your affection is Fido, feline, friends or family (or all of them), there are plenty of apps to help you celebrate. The Happy Valentine’s Day collection in the Windows Phone Store has gathered 30 apps for one-stop installing, such as the free Tom’s Love Letters (also available in the Windows Store), which provides Talking Tom and Talking Angela – the cutest-virtual-kitties-ever – as your personal Cupids. It’s got 19 romantic digital cards and four catchy love songs from which to choose. Valentine turns your phone into fantasy of hearts and roses, with more than 40 wallpapers, and lots of ideas for romance and gift suggestions. You can also find good anytime entertainment with “Wheel of Fortune” for Windows Phone, PCs and tablets. Catch up on NPR news with the free NPR One app, available on Windows Phone, PCs and tablets. And be sure to check out the revamped Weather Channel app – with better search, a new user interface and upgraded video player – for Windows PCs and tablets.

apps, Valentine's Day

From left, Tom’s Love Letters, Valentine’s Texter and Love.

This week on our global adventure to find people who #DoMore on the Microsoft Instagram page, we met Julia Streets, who worked in the London PR world for years, but took a break to pursue her passion for comedy. Now she does both.

Instagram, #DoMore

Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. We’ll see you next Friday!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

Big changes for education in the Big Apple

As a native New Yorker, I take special pride in the announcement made today by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito during her State of the City address. Today, 1.1 million students in the New York City Public Schools are taking a significant step forward in their educations and will now have free access to the productivity powerhouse that is Office 365.

In collaboration with the City Council, the New York City Department of Education is making the Office 365 ProPlus benefit available to all teachers and students – at no cost – providing them with up to five downloads of the latest versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher, along with anywhere, anytime access to OneDrive cloud storage. Students and teachers can also download Office to 5 additional mobile devices (smartphones or tablets).

What’s the impact of this bold move? In the city that is a world leader in so many areas, every student will gain proficiency in what IDC called the number-three most in-demand skills valued for employers. Quite simply, the integration of Office 365 into every student’s daily schoolwork prepares them for future success by developing both the hard and soft skills they’ll need as they enter college and the workplace.

For educators – like my brother, who teaches history at the Bronx’s largest public high school — the Office 365 ProPlus benefit means they can expect more from their students. With free at-home access to the same tools students use at school, classroom assignments will no longer be confined to the classroom. Students will be free to research, create, collaborate and share — anywhere, and at any time. And educators can create and review assignments and assess student progress just as easily, freeing them up to concentrate on the business of learning.

With the program, educators can access full Office on up to five PCs or Macs and can unlock the editing capabilities of Office apps for iPad. They can also take advantage of great Office apps and add-ins like Office Mix to record and publish class lectures. With tools like Lync, the students in NYC can communicate with other classrooms around the world, and collaborate instantaneously. And with OneNote, teachers can share lesson plans, class notes, photos, and ideas on any device, accessible from anywhere.

Microsoft is committed to improving education outcomes and helping young people around the world do more and achieve more. We fulfill that commitment every day through the more than 30 free programs and hundreds of partnerships that make up the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative. We also bring that commitment to life through the Office 365 ProPlus benefit.

We applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito, Chancellor Carmen Fariña, and Mayor Bill DeBlasio for their commitment and dedication to the students, and the future, of New York. By making the world’s most widely used productivity platform available in a district as massive as New York City, the benefit represents transformational change at scale – and game-changing progress.