Earth Day is almost here, and students around the world are busy devising ways to create a greener, cleaner, more sustainable planet. One of the most important lessons that educators can teach learners is that their choices matter, whether those are individual decisions or the solutions they support in their communities. To help students understand these crucial concepts, we’re excited to announce the all-new Radical Recycling lesson!
This activity takes place in the Sustainability City world and gives students the chance to make their way through an epic Minecraft map as they explore recycling in a bustling urban setting. Learners start by researching and sharing background knowledge about recycling through introductory games and discussions as they build connections with their own surroundings. They’ll also learn about a real-world recycling center that will help inform their actions in the game.
Once students have built up their knowledge of recycling, they enter the Sustainability City world and begin their quest. They’ll comb the city for recyclable materials, taking notes to determine what can be found at various locations. This journey will take them throughout the entire urban environment, including a house, a school, an office building, and a grocery store. They’ll learn that different locations have different recycling needs and discover the kinds of materials that tend to accumulate at particular sites.
Once students have assessed the situation and shared their findings, they’ll visit the city’s recycling center to compare the in-game facility with its counterparts in the real world. They can consolidate their learning by writing a summary of which items can be recycled and how it’s done.
Now it’s time for students to get creative. Once learners have assessed Sustainability City’s situation, they use the recyclable materials they’ve found to create a solution to a common household or classroom problem. It could be a lampshade made from recycled paper or a vehicle crafted from recycled cans… even a trampoline stitched together from repurposed clothing! You’ll be amazed at what your students create.
Educators can find supporting materials, guiding questions, curriculum connections, extension activities, and the Sustainability City world file on the Radical Recycling lesson page.
The edtech experts at Cobblestone Collective are also helping out with a full week of virtual sessions designed to engage students using Sustainability City. Every day from April 19 to 23, they’ll be hosting live, co-taught lessons on the components of a sustainable home, managing waste products, clean electricity generation, responsible forestry, and more. After each session, students will show off their learning in a build challenge and enter to win awesome Minecraft prizes. Can’t make the lesson? No worries! They’ll also be posting the challenges online. Learn all the details about these interactive virtual events here.
We hope these Earth Day activities will inspire a new generation of innovative and ingenious sustainability superheroes among your students. Take a look at the Radical Recycling lesson plan and join us for these exciting events as you get ready for Earth Day. Together, we’ll empower students to build a better, greener world!
When you think about coding, the first thing that comes to mind might be software development, game design, or artificial intelligence. But what if you could use computer science to tell a story? In the latest lessons for Minecraft: Education Edition, we’re taking students inside fairy-tale worlds where they can flex their creative writing and computer science skills!
Today we’re launching Story Time Coding, a new set of lessons designed by Phygital Labs that will help learners bridge the gap between language arts and code. Over a space of three days, students will have the chance to recount, experience, and reconstruct three classic fairy tales: Hansel and Gretel, The Three Little Pigs, and Jack and the Beanstalk. As part of their learning, they’ll immerse themselves in the worlds of these familiar characters, use computer science to push the narrative forward, and put their own stamp on some old favorites.
With their trusty Agent at their side, students might be able to secure all three of the little pigs’ homes against the big, bad wolf. They could alter Jack’s magic beans so they grow their way to a new adventure entirely. Maybe they can even find a peaceful resolution between Hansel, Gretel, and the witch. Set your students free to create and see what they dream up!
To start, arrange students into groups. In these groups, learners will take turns recounting one of the three focus stories: Hansel and Gretel, The Three Little Pigs, or Jack and the Beanstalk. Encourage group members to help each other by adding details to the story without taking over the narrative. Once this phase is complete, gather your students back together and discuss the fairy tales. Using one of the three stories, model a chart that lists the characters, settings, and basic plots. This step will help your learners gain familiarity with the elements of a story and create their own charts before embarking on their fairy-tale journeys in the world of Minecraft.
Students enter the Story Time Coding world in Minecraft: Education Edition. They’ll spawn inside a storybook ship and choose which of the three fairy tales they’d like to experience. For The Three Little Pigs, learners pretend they’re the wolf and use code to blow down the hay house and the wood house, each containing a little pig. They’ll have to watch out for the brick house… There’s a trick inside! For Jack and the Beanstalk, learners take their mother’s cow to the village to trade for food. But first, they must code their way across the broken bridge. Once they return home and plant their seeds, they can watch the magic begin. Keep an eye out for the giant, though! In the world of Hansel and Gretel, learners walk through the forest, munching on sweet cakes, finally finding themselves at the witch’s candy house. Be careful: She’ll make you sick and unable to escape. Students will need to use the emergency exit, then run their code to defeat the witch and save the day.
Once students have completed the stories, they can select one and brainstorm ways to modify its characters, setting, or plot using code. They complete their own version of the story elements chart from lesson one, including their thought process for changing one character or setting to impact the plot. They can describe the ways their story would change verbally or write them down, then propose their changes with a sketch. Once you approve their sketches, they’re ready to build their changes into the story within the Minecraft world. Students can use the camera and portfolio to take a picture of their creations and write a few sentences about how they’ve changed the story.
Story Time Coding is a creative way to tackle computer science, a subject that some students may find intimidating. Who knows? By blending reading, writing, and code, you may engage a learner who never thought they’d be interested in computer science! Find all three lessons in our Language Arts Subject Kit and start your adventures today.
First and foremost, THANK YOU for being amazing. We know that this school year has had its ups and downs, and we are so grateful to you for all your hard work and dedication to not only helping students learn but supporting their wellbeing. If there is something you’d like to see more of, please let us know! We’re always listening.
Let’s dive in! (Click here to jump right into a quick list without extra description)
1) Encourage class participation during synchronous learning Meeting recap Access all the relevant files for the class or meeting like recordings, transcripts, notes, and files in one easy view. Students will either be able to see the recordings, transcript, and files in the meeting chat or channel, or for private meetings by going to their calendar, expanding the meeting, and clicking on the “Details” tab at the top. Those who missed the meeting, joined late, or want to revisit what was discussed, can play the recording and visit class transcripts.
Get an easily shared meeting link from the Calendar Users can now copy a meeting link from the Calendar tab and share it out with others without starting the meeting. If you are in an email, chat, or channel conversation and agreed to meet at a certain time, this is an easy way to copy a meeting link and paste it into the conversation.
Enable tenant administrators to configure masking PSTN participant phone numbers With schools or institutions that have Audio Conferencing enabled for their Teams meetings, tenant administrators now have the ability to define how their Audio Conferencing participants’ phone numbers appear in the roster view for meetings scheduled within their organization. The options include masked to external users, masked for everyone, or off (visible to everyone). This provides flexibility in securing PSTN participants’ phone numbers. This feature is only available through PowerShell cmdlet at this time.
Outgoing participant video in meetings in Safari If you use Safari, now you can turn on an outgoing video so the class can see your smiling face. Just click the camera icon to turn on the video in the meeting. This requires Safari 14 or higher on MacOS BigSur.
Touch Bar meetings controls for Mac MacBooks with Touch Bars now have Teams Meeting controls that quickly allow users to access controls without clicking into the window. Users can open the ‘view participants’ panel, open meeting chat, use raise hand, enable video, mute/unmute, open shared tray, and leave the meeting from one place.
New and dynamic meeting experiences on Android The newly improved Teams meetings experience on Android devices now allow educators and students to see up to 20 participants on phone devices and up to 30 participants on tablets. Simply scroll to the right on your device to see all the participants in the meeting. You can also view shared content and a spotlighted participant simultaneously. This enhancement enables participants to follow along with the presentation while continuing to view the speakers’ and other participants’ video. This is currently already available in iOS.
2) Support asynchronous learning Android On-Demand Chat Translation Inline message translation helps ensure that every student has a voice and facilitate conversations across language barriers or with language learners. With a simple click, people who speak different languages can fluidly communicate with one another by translating posts in channels and chat.
250 GB file size support in Microsoft Teams Upload file size limits for Microsoft Teams have increased from 100 GB to 250 GB. This also applies to all other Microsoft 365, services including SharePoint and OneDrive. That means educators and students can easily share large files, like 3D models or large videos for projects. Learn more
Add Microsoft Teams to your SharePoint team site Now it’s even easier to bring SharePoint content into Microsoft Teams, and at the same time add Teams to your teams site. As you connect SharePoint to Teams, you choose what lists, libraries, and pages you want to bring into Teams as tabs in the new, default General channel. Learn more
New file sharing experience Create a shareable link for any file stored in Teams and directly set the appropriate permissions, making it a better process to share files with the right people. Additionally, you can also set permissions for files stored in SharePoint or OneDrive while composing a private chat or starting a channel conversation. Learn more
3) Help keep students safe with better meeting controls New bypass lobby option For class, it’s helpful to choose who can bypass the lobby and be allowed to directly join class. There are a number of different options you can choose from, and this month you’ll be able to choose two additional options: “People in my organization” (which excludes guests) and “People in my organization, trusted organizations, and guests.” This provides another level of security and flexibility to Teams users. This is available for both private and channel meetings and provides another level of security and flexibility for schools and universities using Teams for class. Learn more about Teams meeting safety and security options.
4) Create better large meeting and webinar experiences Live Event presenter for iPad Love using an iPad for large meetings? Now it’s easy to present live in Teams from your iPad. Just open the Teams for iPad app and select ‘Join as presenter’ to start broadcasting content to your class or audience. Learn more
Improved experience for large meeting participant lists It can be tough to manage meetings with large numbers of participants. But now it’s now possible to review the full participant list in the lobby before admitting everyone into the meeting or webinar. During the presentation, attendees are listed in alphabetical order and those who raised their hands are elevated to the top of the participant list, making it easy to see interact with students asking questions or looking to participate.
5) Improve collaboration and communication among school staff Viva Connections on Teams desktop Viva Connections is your gateway to a modern employee experience. It is personalized and appears in the apps and devices your employees already use every day, such as Microsoft Teams. Viva Connections gives people a curated, company-branded experience that brings together relevant news, conversations, and other resources. Learn how you can add Viva Connections to your Teams desktop.
Create a task from a message in Microsoft Teams Some messages result in follow-up actions. With this feature, you’ll be able to quickly create tasks right from any Microsoft Teams chat or channel conversation without having to switch apps or windows. Select More options on a Teams message to choose ‘Create task from message’ and pick which individual task list or shared plan to save the task to. Powered by the new Tasks in Teams experience, you can then track and manage the task in the Tasks app in Teams.
6) Train yourself on Teams with new resources created for school scenarios For educators
Join us for Microsoft Store’s next, “For You, By You: A How-To Series for Educators to Supercharge Classroom Engagement.” Taking place on May 13 at 3 PM PST, the event is the 2nd part of a series to celebrate the incredible work that educators around the world have been doing. May’s event will feature how to create engaging virtual lesson plans in Microsoft Teams, and review tools to assist with accessibility and inclusion in the classroom. There will also be some surprise celebrity appearances! Sign up for the event here.
Find what you need to get started on Teams all in one place at aka.ms/TeamsPP
And for those that love lists, here’s a quick review of all the features we shared that are now generally available:
Encourage class participation during synchronous learning Meet recap Get an easily shared meeting link from the Calendar Enable tenant administrators to configure masking PSTN participant phone numbers Outgoing participant meetings in Safari Touch Bar meeting controls for Mac New and dynamic meeting experiences on Android
Support asynchronous learning Android On-Demand chat translation 250 GB file size support in Microsoft Teams Add Microsoft Teams to your SharePoint team site New file sharing experience
Help keep students safe with better meeting controls New bypass lobby option
Create better large meeting and webinar experiences Live Event presenter for iPad Improved experience for large meeting participant lists
Improve collaboration and communication among school staff Viva Connections on Teams desktop Create a task from a message in Microsoft Teams
We’re always looking to improve the education experience in Teams, and we can only do that with your support and awesome ideas. If there’ something you’d like to see in Teams for Education, please let us know!
Educators around the world love using Whiteboard.Chat to draw, share and collaborate. They also love the ability to watch student learning and progress in real-time. Over the past few months, we have heard many requests to integrate Whiteboard.Chat with both the Immersive Reader, as well as OneNote and today we are excited to announce two new integrations.
Immersive Reader in Whiteboard.chat
Make content more inclusive is what Immersive Reader is best at, and now you can launch the Immersive Reader directly from different text types in Whiteboard.Chat elements. As you see in the video below , you can even launch the Immersive Reader from an embedded PDF in Whiteboard.Chat! This integration is now available worldwide and students can use it today.
Embed a Whiteboard.Chat into OneNote
The OneNote binder metaphor, and the ability to easily distribute Whiteboard.Chat pages in OneNote, organize them, or distribute to others in OneNote Class Notebook, seemed like a great match. Today we are excited to announce the integration between Whiteboard.Chat and OneNote!
You can now paste the URL of any Whiteboard.Chat board onto a OneNote page and it will render it as a live interactive embed, similar to how we support embedding many apps into OneNote
To see some examples or how easy this is to do in OneNote, see the example video below. This integration works in OneNote Windows 10, Online, Mac, iPad, Android. We hope to bring this to OneNote 2016 Desktop later this summer.
We hope you enjoy this new integration to bring together three great apps that educators love!
Mike Tholfsen Microsoft Education Product Manager @mtholfsen
Last summer, we launched a global skills initiative to reach 25 million worldwide. Nine months later, we have helped more than 30 million people, learned from our projects and are ready to launch the next phase in our work. Today, I’m excited to join my colleague and LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky to share the details. As you’ll see below, this extends our work, expands our vision and commits Microsoft and LinkedIn to a new promise to help 250,000 companies make a skills-based hire in 2021.
Our plans are grounded in a vision of what is needed for a more inclusive post-pandemic recovery. COVID-19 has led to record unemployment numbers, disrupting livelihoods of people around the world. A century ago, the United States and other governments responded to the twin crises created by the Great Depression and World War II by investing in the infrastructure and people of their time. This included not only roads and bridges, but ubiquitous access to inventions such as electricity and the telephone and the biggest educational expansion in human history.
By 1970, America’s high school graduation rate reached 80%, compared to 6% when the century began. Perhaps more than any other single indicator, this explains why the 20th century not only boosted economic productivity but distributed its benefits so broadly.
The world has a similar opportunity today. A new generation of 21st century infrastructure calls for new investments that will broaden access to the digital devices and broadband connectivity that have become the lifeblood of commerce, healthcare and education. And it similarly calls for a renewed commitment to the education and skills that a new generation of technology has made essential for people’s personal progress.
While there are important similarities to the needs the world has addressed in the past, there are significant differences as well. A more diverse workforce confronts a wider array of educational needs and opportunities. Some careers require more formal education while others do not. More jobs require not wholesale retraining, but that people fill in specific gaps among their current skills. Employers and employees alike must increasingly identify and develop these skills and connect them with more dynamic and faster-moving hiring and promotion needs.
This requires new initiatives and more collaboration across the public and private sectors. It’s a global challenge. No government or industry can fully meet this need by itself, and the impact of any single company will be even more limited. But with LinkedIn, GitHub, Microsoft Learn and a wide array of technology that supports the digital transformation of so many enterprises, we have a broad array of digital skills resources to bring to bear. Our global skills initiative has given us new insights into the practical obstacles that people confront and new ways to overcome them.
Today Ryan and I share the next skilling chapter for LinkedIn and Microsoft. This will build on what has worked best for partners and participants in our global skills initiative, extending free content and certification offerings to the end of 2021. We are doubling down at LinkedIn and across Microsoft with new work to support a more inclusive skills-based labor market, creating more alternatives, greater flexibility and accessible learning paths that connect these more readily with new jobs. And we’re strengthening our work in Microsoft Philanthropies to advance digital equity through nonprofit partnerships that serve those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 downturn, including Black and African American communities in the United States.
Start with what’s working…
Not surprisingly, when you pursue a global skills initiative that reaches more than 30 million people, you learn a lot yourself. There’s a lot of cause for optimism, as well as some sobering reminders about the scale of work that lies ahead.
The good news is that most people everywhere want to learn new digital skills. We tested this proposition last summer by providing free access on LinkedIn Learning to more than 500 online courses containing more than 950 hours of content for in-demand roles. We also connected people to Microsoft Learn for free, interactive, hands-on training on in-demand technical skills for Microsoft products and services. Finally, we provided free access to the GitHub Learning Lab and hundreds of free demonstration modules that teach technology and coding.
In the eight months that followed, 30.7 million people in 249 countries and territories took advantage of these opportunities. You can see the details in the interactive map and table below. It’s not surprising that a country as large as the United States accounted for the single biggest number, with 8.1 million participants. But I wasn’t expecting 91 participants from Antarctica. Digital skilling is now literally a global phenomenon. The top 10 countries with learners in our initiative are the United States, India, Brazil, United Kingdom, Mexico, Poland, France, Germany, Canada and Spain.
30,681,893 participants in 249 countries and territories
A second piece of welcome news is people’s focus on classes that appear to be developing the right skills needed for the most in-demand jobs. This is reflected, for example, in the extensive uptake in courses that address horizontal skills needed for a wide variety of jobs, including three of the most popular LinkedIn Learning pathways in the skills initiative. These are pathways for critical soft skills; diversity, inclusion and belonging; and digital transformation. We’re also seeing a strong correlation between the more focused classes people are taking and the jobs that are open in countries around the world. For example, the 10 most utilized in-demand, role-based LinkedIn Learning pathways in our initiative, ranked below in order of uptake, are well represented in most of the labor markets tracked around the world in the LinkedIn Economic Graph.
This wide uptake underscores the importance of bringing training tools to platforms people are already using to advance their careers. Every week, 40 million people come to LinkedIn to look for a new job. Our skills initiative created the opportunity for people to use the LinkedIn platform to identify and take courses to help burnish the skills needed for a new position. That’s likely one reason we saw just over 60% of our initiative’s participants take a class on LinkedIn Learning.
This learning has helped inform the direction for the next phase of our skilling work.
Develop a more inclusive skills-based labor market…
As Ryan outlines in his blog, we are committed to an expansive skilling vision across LinkedIn and Microsoft. It’s all about creating more alternative, flexible and always-accessible learning paths. LinkedIn is at the heart of Microsoft’s efforts in this area, and other parts of the company will build upon and complement its advances.
LinkedIn at the center. I’m perhaps most excited about the work LinkedIn is announcing today to help build the infrastructure needed for more effective skilling worldwide. As Ryan explains, we need to help everyone speak the same “skills language.” His blog illustrates well the obstacles that arise both for individuals and the labor market more broadly when people talk about the same thing using so many different and confusing terms. It’s as if the modern world has created its own skilling version of the ancient Tower of Babel.
LinkedIn has an antidote to this confusion through its market-leading and widely accepted skills taxonomy in the LinkedIn Skills Graph. LinkedIn will now expand access to this Graph to help create a common skills language for individuals, employers, educational institutions and government agencies.
As Ryan outlines, LinkedIn is also taking steps in two closely related areas, focused first on individuals and second on employers. LinkedIn will pull data from its Economic Graph to help people identify skills that map to in-demand jobs of potential interest. It also will extend to the end of 2021 the free course offerings from our skilling initiative on LinkedIn Learning, and will add new ways for people to demonstrate the skills they’re acquiring. One new feature, announced today, is a video Cover Story that individuals can create for their LinkedIn profile. In a world in which 75 percent of hiring managers find a standard resume insufficient, this provides a new tool for people who want to personally convey what they can bring to a new job. This new feature is in the first phase of its rollout, with captioning capabilities coming soon.
While these steps are critical, the world also needs better recruiting technology. That’s why LinkedIn is piloting a new Skills Path. This will bring together LinkedIn Learning courses with Skill Assessments to help recruiters source candidates based on their proven skills. Initial participants include BlackRock, Gap Inc. and TaskRabbit. As Ryan explains in more detail, this is one piece of LinkedIn’s commitment to help 250,000 companies make a skills-based hire this year.
Putting the rest of Microsoft behind a skills-based economy. We’re bringing together every part of Microsoft to supplement LinkedIn’s work to promote far-reaching digital skilling opportunities.
This starts with accessible and fun computing education for students in K-12 to grow their curiosity and confidence in technology. Minecraft: Education Edition, our game-based learning platform featuring thousands of hours of educational content for students, is launching English-language learning curriculum and expanding on sustainability education for Earth Day 2021. Microsoft MakeCode Arcade, our online computing education platform, is releasing a Beginner Skillmap guide to support students learning at home through a self-paced series of tutorials that introduce students to game development and computer science concepts. Additionally, we are releasing a new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles with Microsoft MakeCode curriculum using MakeCode Arcade for high school students.
To support higher education students and institutions with workforce readiness, Microsoft is also introducing a new Teams for Education app powered by LinkedIn, called Career Coach. This will provide personalized guidance for higher-education students to discover their career path, grow real-world skills and build their network all in one place, using an AI-based skills identifier and LinkedIn integration that aligns a student’s comprehensive profile with job market trends. It also helps higher-education institutions gain insights into student skills, career goals and job market trends.
We’re also supplementing LinkedIn’s work with additional and deeper offerings for more advanced skills-based learning. We will extend to the end of 2021 all the free courses and low-cost certifications we offered in our global skilling initiative through Microsoft Learn and will also extend the low-cost certification offer beyond job seekers to students. These align to 10 high-demand technology jobs. We saw more than 3.5 million people use these offerings as part of our global skilling initiative, including our learning paths for cloud foundations, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and skills relating to our Azure, Microsoft 365, Power Platform and Microsoft Dynamics offerings.
Finally, we expect that our new Viva Learning app for Teams will play an important role in fostering better skills-based training for employers and employees. Viva Learning will provide a central hub for learning where people can discover, share, recommend and learn from content libraries across an organization. It will include content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, Microsoft 365 trainings, third-party content providers, Learning Management Systems and an organization’s own custom content – making learning a natural part of an employee’s day. Viva Learning will be available in public preview in April.
Invest in digital equity…
We decided last summer to make digital equity a special focus of our global skills initiative. We based this on a recognition that the biggest brunt of the COVID-19 downturn is being borne by those with lower educational attainment, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, women, younger workers and individuals who have less formal education. We were especially persuaded by the insights offered by Black Lives Matter and created a special focus on Black and African Americans in the United States.
One of the most striking aspects of our initiative has been the skilling successes of nonprofits that are trusted by the community. Our goal was to reach 5 million people through our nonprofit partners. To date, we have already reached nearly 6 million learners. But more important than these quantitative results is the qualitative impact of the wraparound support, coaching and mentoring, and connections that have resulted in on-track program completion rates that have exceeded those for learners that are not connected to nonprofits. For example, roughly half of the 1.1 million people in our initiative that completed the multiple courses involved in a full learning pathway had the support of a nonprofit partner.
We also know that people skilled by our nonprofits need that last-mile connection to a job. Building on progress over the last year, we are launching Microsoft’s Career Connector, a new service that will help place 50,000 job seekers skilled by Microsoft’s nonprofit and learning partners in tech-enabled jobs in the Microsoft ecosystem in the next three years. Career Connector will have a specific focus on women and underrepresented minorities in technology.
Microsoft’s Career Connector will anchor the next phase of our global effort to help these successful digital learners find job opportunities that utilize these new skills. One example of this work is in Northeast Wisconsin, where a significant number of service-related jobs were impacted due to the pandemic. In response, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit supported by Microsoft, New North, is leading an effort to address these job losses and help people find new work in Wisconsin and beyond.
After our global skills announcement, New North brought public and private sector leaders together with a local startup accelerator called gener8tor to create a new talent development program called gener8tor Upskilling. With 700 applicants and a 79 percent graduation rate, the program is helping jobseekers quickly pivot to new careers through training, interview preparation and connections to new jobs. With support from Microsoft’s TechSpark program, gener8tor Upskilling has since expanded to Wyoming and Virginia, with plans to take the program to Alabama, Indiana and Alaska.
In many ways, this nonprofit work and other aspects of our skills initiative point toward additional important innovations for the delivery of our programs. Across Microsoft we are investing in multiple learning methods – reading, video and hands on interactivity – to enable learners to use technology within the context of the content they are trying to learn. For Microsoft Learn, which leverages these different modes of learning, our completion rate for modules is 58%and our completion rate for learning paths is 21%, exceeding the industry average of 8%. We will continue to build on these multiple modes of learning to deliver content.
These advances also point to a broader need. Self-paced learning without accountability and additional support doesn’t keep learners engaged and motivated to continue. We are committed to new efforts to keep learners engaged, such as project-based learning and incentives such as job interviews and network connections to help learners progress and complete learning paths.
A brighter future based on digital skills…
While we’re excited by these next steps, the world’s need to re-skill remains daunting. A global village comprised of private enterprises, employers, governments and nonprofits will need to join together to create the digital skilling opportunities to meet this challenge.
We believe that digital technology and tools can play a central role in fostering a more inclusive skills-based labor market. But individuals will need to invest more time and employers will need to invest more energy in the hiring and training practices that will be critical to success. Governments will have a critical leadership role to play, including by providing support for people with greater needs and economic incentives for smaller businesses. And as we’ve seen firsthand, the nonprofits of the world will be indispensable in the front-line work needed to make digital equity a reality.
The promise is worth pursuing. The world’s most successful nations a century ago were not prepared to leave rural communities without electricity, homes without telephones or people without an opportunity to graduate from high school and go to college. Their bolder ambitions, while always imperfect, created decades of economic growth and broadening benefits for a growing middle class.
Similar success in the 21st century is within our reach. But it requires that we all work together in new ways that will not only provide people with easier access to technologies, but the skills needed to put them to use.
 Robert J. Gordon, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since World War II” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 544.
We are thrilled to announce that the Immersive Reader is rolling out to four additional Microsoft apps and services, including PowerPoint for the web, OneDrive, SharePoint and MakeCode. This set up updates that bring this powerful literacy tool to even more places!
PowerPoint gets more inclusive
One of the top requests we’ve heard from students, parents and educators has been to add the Immersive Reader to PowerPoint. It has also been a top UserVoice request for the PowerPoint team. We are excited to announce that Immersive Reader in PowerPoint for the web is rolling out globally to Office Insiders, and will continue rolling out in April. You’ll be able to access the Immersive Reader in two areas of PowerPoint for the web.
Select any text on a PowerPoint slide and choose “Open in Immersive Reader” (see the demo below).
The other area was inspired directly by Molly Paris. Molly and her mother visited the Microsoft campus last year and Molly told us how helpful it would be for her to be able to access the Immersive Reader in the Notes area of PowerPoint. We’re happy to announce to Molly and everyone else that Immersive Reader access is now on the Notes section of every slide as well. Just select the Notes text, right click and choose “Open in Immersive Reader.
SharePoint adding Immersive Reader for Pages
Another area we’ve heard customer feedback from is making SharePoint pages more accessible with the Immersive Reader. Last fall, we did an internal hackathon to prototype this, and today we are excited to announce that Immersive Reader for SharePoint Pages will be rolling out in April. An example of this integration is below.
OneDrive adding the Immersive Reader for documents
OneDrive is a great place to store and access documents and other content. To enable better access to content, we’re adding the Immersive Reader directly into the OneDrive menus to launch it on Word documents and text files. This will roll out in April and May of 2021.
MakeCode and Immersive Reader make STEM and Computer Science more accessible
MakeCode Arcade tutorial instructions are now available to all by clicking on the Immersive Reader icon at the top of any tutorial, as well as where there are instructions for a MakeCode project. See the demo below for the details.v
We hope you enjoy these inclusive and accessible updates where we’ve added the Immersive Reader to Microsoft products!
In Brooks’ follow-up to the New York Times bestselling novel Minecraft: The Island, the explorer has left the safety of the island and finds themself wandering a vast, icy tundra. Is there anything out here? Did they do the right thing by leaving the island? Should they give up and go back? So many questions and no time to ponder—not when dark is falling and dangerous mobs are on the horizon.
Gurgling zombies and snarling wolves lurk in the night, and they’re closing in. With nowhere to hide, the lone traveler flees up a mountain, trapped and out of options… until a mysterious figure arrives, singlehandedly fighting off the horde. The unexpected savior is Summer, a fellow castaway and master of survival in these frozen wastes.
Excited to find another person in this strange, blocky world, the explorer teams up with Summer, whose impressive mountain fortress is a safe haven… for now! But teamwork is a new skill for two people used to working alone. If they want to make it home, they’ll have to learn to work together—or risk losing everything.
If that sounds exciting to your students, imagine how thrilled they’ll be to enter the world of The Mountain in Minecraft! The new, custom-built Minecraft map by Blockception features locations and adventures from the novel. It’s also the setting for five standards-aligned lessons created by Phygital Labs that offer unique writing opportunities to use in conjunction with reading The Mountain. Students will begin their journey in a hostile landscape, prepare to spend the night in the wild, explore a secret base, make their way to the Nether, and ultimately learn valuable lessons about friendship and community.
As an introduction to the novel and this epic new world, students are invited to attend a virtual Q&A on March 25 with Max Brooks himself! He’ll speak about the inspiration behind The Mountain and answer questions from your learners. Then the Minecraft: Education Edition team will take the group through the world and show off some of the amazing locations students can explore. Register now for these free sessions at 9:00 AM PT and 4:00 PM PT.
You’ll find all five activities for Minecraft: The Mountain along with detailed lesson plans in the Language Arts Subject Kit. Let’s take a look at the lessons!
Students spawn on the beach. They’re surrounded by fallen arrows and darkness, a little woozy after arriving in this world. A non-player character (NPC) greets them and explains that they must journey to the mountain to find safety. But first, they need to get ready for a perilous journey. Students gather materials from the beach and place them in their inventory to prepare for travel, selecting from various elements they find on the beach. Learners reflect on the materials they selected, why they’re important, and how versatile they might be, then take a screenshot of their inventory and use explanatory writing to describe their decisions.
Students travel from the beach, following a trail toward the mountain. They’re stopped by another NPC who says they have too far to travel today, so they should build a shelter for the night to escape the creatures that emerge. There are supplies nearby to help build a safe haven for the night. Learners will attempt to travel to the next NPC, but before they can reach it, the snow collapses, and they fall through a chasm to a cave below. There they’ll find a hidden cave and begin rebuilding its hideaway using the supplies and materials they find. Once their work is complete, they design a real estate advertisement for their hiding place, including photos, descriptions of defensive elements, and an outline of how the shelter could help someone survive. Students practice persuasive writing for their advertising campaigns and design their final product.
Following the trail, students finally arrive at the entrance to the mountain and enter Summer’s base. They’re greeted by an NPC who helps them find the doors. Once inside, another NPC greets them with additional supplies, including the book and quill and camera and portfolio. Students will explore the home and look for examples of Redstone engineering or Netherite in use. They’ll write an explanation of how they created an item and why it works in the game. Learners then use design thinking and reverse engineering to improve Summer’s designs, explaining what they’ve changed and how they’ve improved things through expository writing.
It’s time for the final showdown! Students will enter the Nether, where they’re greeted by an NPC who tells them that hoglins and piglins have captured a variety of animals and stashed them around the biome. Their mission is to save these unfortunate creatures! Learners solve challenges to save the animals and lead them back to the portal. After completing the challenges, students use the book and quill to write a personal reflection about how they used each element to complete their tasks. They’ll engage in personal narrative writing to explain how they employed planning, preparation, priorities, practice, patience, and perseverance to finish the challenges and ultimately conquer tough situations.
In this lesson, students explore the rest of the world and find additional hidden features. They use the camera and portfolio to make a digital memory book of five or more of the friendship lessons—the “fressons” they’ve learned throughout the book—by reenacting the scenes with a classmate. Learners can use signs, examples they build, or the environment to showcase each fresson. They’ll capture each scene using the camera and add a caption with the fresson below. Students can then save their portfolios and submit them as their assignments. If multiplayer isn’t available for your learners, they can use an NPC to stand in as a friend or find a separate way to represent the fresson without a partner.
The Minecraft: The Mountain map offers students the chance to explore the exciting world behind the novel and flex their own creative writing muscles. Through developing their writing skills, there’s no telling what landscapes your learners might conjure up, what characters they’ll create, and what adventures they’ll imagine through the power of the pen. Enter the world of Minecraft: The Mountain to help them take their first steps!
All of these lessons are available in the Language Arts Subject Kit for Minecraft: Education Edition. This kit is packed with opportunities for literary learning and creative writing, as well as resources and training for teachers. If you’re new to Minecraft: Education Edition, begin your own journey at education.minecraft.net/get-started.
Today’s math classrooms are incredibly diverse, students come from many backgrounds and teachers differentiate their instruction for various skill levels and needs. At Microsoft Education, we are here to support students and teachers in their journey.
Some time ago, we wrote about the current technology you can use to support the growth of developing mathematicians – regardless of age or ability. Today, we have a set of updates across Microsoft Education to celebrate the International Math Day!
Note: We are in the process of releasing these features, so it may be a little while before you see it in your app or build.
Math Assistant in OneNote is a great practice helper – from basic math to calculus, you can see step-by-step instructions to the solution, which allows you to build understanding of the solution process.
Math Assistant in OneNote
With this update to Math Assistant for younger learners, the step-by-step guide can now help students learn and practice long addition and subtraction. Just type or ink your problem, select it and press the Math button to get started.
Additionally, in response to your feedback, the Practice math quiz is getting smarter! The generated problems are now even closer to the original problem, and distraction answers take into consideration the common mistakes made when solving that type of problem.
Practice Math Quiz in OneNote
If you like Math Solver, you will love this update – you can now use Math Solver in Microsoft Edge to get help with a wide range of mathematical concepts, from elementary arithmetic and quadratic equations to calculus and statistics.
Math Solver in Microsoft Edge
Math Solver in Microsoft Edge lets you to take picture of a math problem – be it handwritten or printed – and then provides an instant solution with step-by-step instructions to help you learn how to reach the solution on your own. It also comes ready with a mathematical keyboard so you can easily type math problems instead of hunting around a traditional keyboard for the characters you need. That’s not all. After solving your problem, Math Solver provides many options to continue learning with additional materials such as quizzes, worksheets, and video tutorials.
When you visit bing.com, you can use an advanced scientific calculator with multi-modal input support for typing, handwriting and math images. This feature is now available globally in over 30 languages. The on-screen keyboard has multiple tabs categorized by topics for entering advanced math operators.
Math Solver in Bing.com
You can switch to handwriting input and instantly see the recognized math expression. There are eraser, undo, and clear buttons to make any corrections. For arithmetic problems, the answers are instantly displayed in the query box just like any calculator. On clicking solve, you navigate to mathsolver.microsoft.com site to get detailed step-by-step answers and other resources.
For International Women’s Day and Women’s History month, we want to help you inspire girls to change the world, whether they aspire to be engineers, artists, programmers, designers, world leaders, or anything that ignites their passion! To celebrate, we’re releasing new lessons for our Good Trouble: Lessons in Social Justice world about two activists who’ve had an enormous impact on women’s education and their place in society.
If you’d like to see these worlds in action and connect with the community, we’re hosting a Lesson Jam on March 18 at 9:00 AM PT featuring members of the Minecraft team. We’ll be walking through the lessons and chatting with team members with a passion for making sure every girl has access to education. Register for the free webinar here.
In this lesson, students join Malala Yousafzai to learn about her quest to ensure accessible education for girls all across the globe. Learners will explore the context of Malala’s struggle for education in Pakistan and why equity in education is so vital to a fair and just society. Then they’ll flex their creativity as they help Malala build a school for local girls!
How does education vary for girls in different parts of the world? How does a lack of education affect girls, their communities, and society as a whole? How has Malala been instrumental in bringing about change to oppressive systems? Students can reflect on these questions and more as they work through the activities.
Travel back in time to meet Emmeline Pankhurst in Victorian Britain and learn all about her fight for women’s voting rights. In a time when women were disenfranchised from the political process, courageous activists like Pankhurst took the fight to the streets, eventually winning their right to a say in the way they were governed. Students will explore Victorian England and help Pankhurst get the word out to eight women who need to know that their time to vote has come.
They’ll ask important questions about gender and politics. Which women were included and excluded in the voting rights won by Women’s Suffrage? Why was it so difficult for women to win the vote? Why are equitable voting rights important? Learners will be able to apply these reflections to their own political contexts and situations.
Both of these lessons provide ample opportunities for in-game activities, external research, and personal reflection. Students present what they’ve learned and share their voices using Flipgrid and their written communication skills. Through collaboration, creativity, sharing, and personal reflection, we hope that discovering these amazing women’s stories will inspire your learners to become changemakers and champions of education and equality for girls and women all over the world!
Sat Paul Mittal School is a Microsoft Showcase School in Ludhiana in Punjab, India. When a chance mention of Minecraft on a Skype call piqued their students’ interest, they took a chance on game-based learning. Head of IT Monica Joshi tells the story of how, in just two short years, Minecraft: Education Edition became a mainstay for creative, cross-curricular learning.
At Sat Paul Mittal School, we wanted an environment that was conducive to engaging our students constructively while also paying considerable attention to students with special needs, so we tried game-based learning using Minecraft to attract and sustain their attention. Connecting students with their environment is the foremost responsibility of an educator, and integrating game-based learning into our curriculum served the need of the hour. Children love to play games, so why not introduce play into their lessons? Games present unique opportunities to make the learning process effective and meaningful in students’ present milieu.
Minecraft was introduced at Sat Paul Mittal School by accident. In April of 2018, the school had organized a Skype session, and during the discussion, the word “Minecraft” captured the attention of the students. As the head of IT, I wanted to leverage the students’ interests to empower them. Our very first lesson was on the Egyptian civilization. It was presented as a challenge where students were given the freedom to explore independently with only the help of in-game non-player characters.
The Egypt lesson was a great introduction because it touched upon many aspects of the civilization, including the social ladder, culture, and more. Students even created some bridges to cross the river Nile using Minecraft’s electrically conductive material, Redstone. In one instance, there was a missing Redstone circuit that required the students to build cross-disciplinary linkages. You can see the amazing outcomes from the lesson in this student creation!
The lesson was a great success! Both the teacher and students were happy with the outcomes, and the lesson was completed within two days. Most importantly, the teacher observed that students were more engaged with self-paced learning since they could re-visit concepts they didn’t understand and perform their evaluations in a non-threatening environment. The approach was to combine elements of fun and work to create a holistic experience of teaching and learning for both the facilitator and the student.
It was very important to involve both sets of stakeholders at Sat Paul Mittal: students and teachers. We announced a creative story-writing competition that would involve both educators and learners. The story would be written by the teacher and created in Minecraft by the students. Our learners trained our teachers to use Minecraft collaboratively in the classroom after an introductory session provided by a Microsoft Training Provider. The students seamlessly adopted Minecraft into their respective lessons without feeling the pressure and stress of integrating it under any compulsion.
There was a form assembly organized in our school based on the theme of mythology. We used Minecraft to showcase the story of Ramayana with a build prepared by two students. It provided a powerful demonstration to the school that Minecraft could be used to collaborate and create meaningful learning beyond just playing games.
In 2019, the school organized the Satyan Innovation Fest, bringing the two wings of the bird of imagination together: The Start-up Edge and The Satyan Gamification Challenge. The festival took place over three exhaustive days of learning experiences focused on innovation and empowerment. It encouraged innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets among the young people and delved deep into gamification—the cutting edge of learning technology in an ever-changing education system. The Gamification Challenge was based on the motto created by our students: “Be an innovator, not an imitator.”
The festival was broken into three segments taking place over three days. The first day featured a workshop on AI and involved setting up kiosks in the Learning Marketplace. Day two involved a pitching round where students made presentations about their Minecraft projects based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. On the third and final day, students displayed their projects in the Learning Marketplace and showcased their Minecraft worlds live.
The Satyan Innovation Fest helped students work through their thought process to address problems they saw around their neighborhood and create solutions. It’s worth appreciating that out of the 22 schools that participated from across India, 16 were new to Minecraft: Education Edition. The festival provided the impetus for students to use Minecraft to collaborate and learn meaningful lessons.
The impact of Minecraft can be measured across many subjects. As part of the research for her Master’s thesis, our principal, Ms. Bhupinder Gogia, conducted a case study with one of the classes, including a sample of 30 students from the third standard and 30 students from the fourth standard. She observed a significant difference in achievement in mathematics between the groups taught through Minecraft vs. traditional teaching. First, the students were tested after the teacher taught the lesson in the traditional manner using a worksheet. Then, students who didn’t perform well were asked to play the game in the form of a tutorial. After playing, the children were evaluated on a specific topic: Area and Volume in Minecraft.
The teacher had created different blocks in the shapes of a square, a rectangle, a triangle, and a cuboid. She wrote questions for students in Minecraft’s Book and Quill tool. Students read the questions and answered on boards placed by the teacher. Not only did the gaming platform clear up the concept for the students, but they enjoyed the experience at the same time. The difference in performance helped motivate the students toward learning mathematics. Our team reflected that we needed to recreate the mathematics curriculum along the same lines in the future to increase student’s interest and scores through using technology in our teaching.
Three years ago, the school had only 40 Minecraft: Education Edition licenses. Now, all of our students have access to the game. For teachers who might not know how to create their own Minecraft lessons, there are numerous activities available in the library, which can be easily mapped onto your own lessons. Our school has used Minecraft throughout all phases of a lesson—to introduce ideas, summarize content, evaluate students, and reflect on learning across the curriculum, including topics like area and volume, symmetry, and the respiratory system. We even conducted a cyber-security lesson as a game and studied simple machines in the form of a Rube Goldberg machine!
The Satyan Entrepreneurship Program (SEP) at Sat Paul Mittal School aims to empower every Satyan to unleash his or her potential. The program is intended to inculcate 21st-century skills by motivating the next generation of thinkers, collaborators, communicators, and innovators. This student-led club provides Satyans a platform to showcase their skillsets, act as mentors, and lead as they carve out a niche for themselves and their team.
The SEP provides Satyans vast opportunities to explore and adopt creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive environment to fast-track their learning experiences as students. With leadership and communication as the key goals, the SEP aims at nurturing responsible citizens and empowered leaders of tomorrow. We’re thrilled to see students in leadership positions, empowering teachers and their fellow learners to explore game-based instruction.
Minecraft enhances life skills like problem-solving, creativity, higher-order thinking skills (HOTS), communication, and collaboration. It helps develop self-confidence for students and also complements academic skills. The platform acts as a stress-buster while providing children with an innovative and ingenious approach to access the curriculum rather than limiting them to rote learning.
Instructors can provide voice, choice, and agency by allowing students to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways, using a variety of tools. The subject integration and thematic approach can be tried and tested through Minecraft. As school leaders, we shall encourage our teachers to foster 21st-century skills using a creative learning environment.
Monica Joshi is the head of IT at Sat Paul Mittal School, Ludhiana, Punjab, and her role focuses on technical and management skills. She is a Teach SDGs Ambassador and writes for the organization’s official blog. Her role involves training teachers in IT skills and orienting students with incoming technology. She’s passionate about integrating technology into education and hopes to make projects engaging and fun for students as well as teachers. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Global Minecraft Mentor, she has successfully integrated Minecraft across subjects. Follow Monica on Twitter to keep up with her journey!