Microsoft Sends Surface, Ad-less Bing to Schools
The software giant turns its attention to the education market with a kid-safe variant of its Bing search engine and a program that helps schools earn Surface RT tablets.Microsoft on Aug. 21 announced the launch of a new educational program called Bing for Schools. Under the initiative, which is currently in the pilot stage, select schools can access Bing without advertisements and other protections that preserve privacy and fend against adult content. In a blog post, Bing behavioral scientist Matt Wallaert, noted the prevalent role of search engines in education. He noted that "a recent Pew poll found that 94 percent of teachers believe their students are very likely to use a search engine during a typical assignment." It's reason enough for Microsoft to get involved. "We believe that schools should have the choice to make sure those searches are safer, more private and ad-free," added Wallaert. In addition, the program presents an opportunity to push digital literacy at a time when schools, like IT managers, "are being asked to do more with less." Wallaert stated that according to Pew's data, "91 percent of educators believe that content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school's curriculum." Microsoft's answer: free coursework. Bing for Schools makes "it easier to incorporate digital literacy into the classroom by offering three learning activities every school day for the entire year, targeted at K-4th, 5th-8th, and 9th-12th grades," wrote Wallaert. The activities are "aligned with Common Core standards" and will leverage Bing's hallmark home page image to challenge students.
In contrast to Microsoft's consumer-facing search product, Bing for Schools removes all advertisements from search results. Further, it imposes automatic "Strict" filtering (versus the default "Moderate" filtering option) to keep adult content at bay. Finally, it features "augmented privacy protections" aimed at bolstering children's privacy online.