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Microsoft: Empowering Every Student to Achieve More

With the evolvement of technology ways of learning are changing. So both students and teachers should be able to tap the potential of technology in learning. Microsoft is using evolutionary methods to educate and empower both students and teachers and it is playing great role in improving the learning experience and improving the outcomes. Mike Tholfsen, Principal Product Manager of Microsoft shares the journey of Microsoft through its contribution to the education sector.
Below are the highlights of the interview between Mike Tholfsen and Insights Success:
Tell us a bit about your company.
Microsoft Corporation is a company that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers and services. On the education side, Microsoft creates specific products designed specifically for education, in addition to the existing productivity and cloud software we develop.
Is education technology poised for a new wave of innovation and how? 
The area I’m most excited about is inclusive technology and accessibility. We now have advances in areas such as speech, reading, translation, and natural language processing that enable students to engage in ways like never before. Microsoft’s education mission is to empower every student on the planet to achieve more, and with our focus on accessibility and inclusive technology, we believe some of the most impactful advances will benefit the students most in need.
What is the role of the technology in creating the product that will improve the learning experience? 
Microsoft Education believes that EdTech products should help improve student outcomes, and contribute to a positive learning experience. On the educator side, our goal is to help educators save time, be more organized, and collaborate more effectively, whether that is educator to student, or educator to educator. Technology should help facilitate the learning process and student centered learning, and enable educators to teach students in new ways that weren’t previously possible. Otherwise, in the words of Alan November, a device is just “A $1000 pencil”.
What’s your plan to get your product to your customer base? 
We have a set of education products that Microsoft builds, as well as mainstream productivity products that are used widely in the world. We are able to deliver our products in the web, but also on PC, Mac, iOS and Android. Microsoft’s platforms work on every device, and both online or offline in most cases. You can visit to see the full list of education experiences we offer.
How do you train the teachers to use the product in the classroom? How long does it take for a teacher to become proficient?
There are many ways for a teacher to learn about our products. We have the online Microsoft Educator Community, which is a great source of online classes, community learning, and engagement. We also offer “Teacher Training Packs” to download and use in the district. Other avenues include Microsoft Innovative Expert Trainers, who are located all over the world. Finally, many teachers learn from each other, including conferences, social media, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and Professional Learning Networks (PLN).
How students benefits from product of your company? What is your hook to get students to use the tool? Can students use this product at home?
I think the biggest “hook” for using our tools is that they can help you succeed and improve outcomes. We have software that not only helps with reading, writing, and math, but also 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, and creativity. Our tools are available at school or home, and free. The other key aspect is that when our products are often used in the world beyond school. Students that move in the workforce are prepared to use modern productivity tools, such as Microsoft Office or Teams.
There are a ton of edtech products being created, why would this be a good one for schools to invest in? How do you differentiate yourself from your main competitors? 
All of our core education offerings are free for schools worldwide so at a base level, there isn’t cost. More importantly, our products have been designed to help improve student outcomes, but also make teacher’s lives easier by saving time, and improving collaboration and efficiency. Our inclusive technologies help empower students of all abilities, and it is built-in, mainstream, and non-stigmatizing. We recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to do a Total Economic Impact study on Microsoft 365 Assistive Technology. The report showed that not only did student outcomes improve dramatically, but teachers saved an average of 97 hours per year, and IT costs were reduced $50 per student per year. Those are significant numbers. In addition, our products often translate well into the world beyond school, and helping prepare students for the future world of work. At an education system level, our platforms are safe, secure, and compliant, which helps education leaders have peace of mind with student data.
How do you substantiate the learning gains? 

  • The Microsoft Education team’s goal is to help improve student outcomes, and we help fund research to measure how our products are able to help. Two examples are included below:
  • Moving the needle on student achievement: Fresno Unified School District’s personalized learning initiative
  • Leveling the Playing Field with Microsoft Learning Tools In both of these cases, student outcomes improved through the use of our technology.

Where does company name see itself in the long run and/or what are its future goals? 
Microsoft sees itself in the long run for education. Education is a core part of our mission statement of empowerment and achievement, and our CEO, Satya Nadella fully supports our mission in education. Future goals are continuing to help improve student outcomes at scale, and increasing accessibility and fostering inclusive classrooms.
Client Testimonials 
Learning Tools are a game changer for my special education students. – Lauren Pittman, special education teacher at Holly Springs Elementary School in Georgia.
OneNote and Learning Tools helped us out of a setback and into a transformed classroom. Merlyne Graves, 4th Grade Teacher, Garfield Prep Academy, DC Public Schools