Microsoft and the state of Maryland have teamed up to provide Microsoft Office 365 and other tools at no cost to all public school students in the state.
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and Microsoft collaborated to deliver technologies to students and educators in response to President Obama's ConnectED challenge.
"Through this collaboration, young people and adults have access to the tools, skills and certification opportunities they need to train at school and at home for in-demand careers," said Dr. Lillian Lowery, Maryland's state superintendant of schools, in a statement. "Private-sector companies like Microsoft are helping to strengthen learning by increasing access to the technology and training needed to acquire skills for any professions that students choose to pursue."
In addition to enabling all public school students to have free access to Office 365, Microsoft will provide a one-year license for the Microsoft IT Academy program to 25 high schools in 10 county school systems. All students in the receiving high schools will have access to online courses and tutorials, and teachers receive unlimited access to instructional tools.
"Maryland is committed to increasing access to the latest tools for learning and preparing all of its public school students for in-demand careers," Lowery said in a post on the Microsoft Education blog. "No matter where students attend school or what their economic situation may be, all now have free access at school and at home to Microsoft Office 365, the latest applications for collaborating and creating."
Moreover, while many students currently use Microsoft applications as part of daily instruction, to create documents or to complete assignments, not all students receive instruction in the use of advanced applications or computing. The Microsoft IT Academy resources are designed to help students learn computing and advance their technical skills in a wide range of applications and receive industry-recognized certifications.
"We are deeply committed to working with educational leadership to use the power of technology to provide schools and homes the software services, training, and tools that empower instruction and learning," said Jamie Harper, Microsoft's general manager for U.S. Education at Microsoft, in a statement. "We are pleased to work with the State of Maryland on these programs that will bring students skills and certifications to better help prepare them for college and the modern workforce."
MSDE, Microsoft and the Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium (MEEC) arranged for all students at public schools in the state to receive the Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus benefit at no additional cost. Every student and teacher at public schools across the state can download Microsoft Office on up to five PCs or Macs, and Office apps on any mobile device, enabling them to get their school work done virtually at any time and from anywhere.
The 25 high schools piloting the first Maryland Microsoft IT Academies were selected based on enrollment in existing computer science courses and their interest in expanding Career Technology Education (CTE) programs in information technology and computer science.
Under the Microsoft IT Academy program, schools, their educators, students and staff receive digital curriculum and professional development for teachers and administrators. The 25 IT Academy high schools also will establish a Certiport Assessment Center to provide students with the opportunity to earn IT certifications for fundamental technology skills, including the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification.
MTA is an optional industry-recognized certification for those pursuing a career path in IT infrastructure, database design or software development using Microsoft technologies. Students must pass just one exam to achieve certification, giving them a first step toward a career in technology. MTA enhances understanding of IT fundamentals and validates core knowledge. The certification fits well into the existing curriculum to bridge the gap to more advanced certifications and gives program participants another impressive accomplishment on their resume.