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accelerate Building the School of the Future Discovery Brief 7: Information Technology

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21st century learning is here. The vision for 21st century learning is not a distant reality. It has already arrived in Pennsylvania at the School of the Future. Part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative, the School of the Future is an important and evolving example of Microsoft’s commitment to addressing the digital inclusion issues facing education today by providing tools and support that enable educators and schools to deliver on the promise of technology in education. At the heart of its success are the people involved – the entire learning community – from educators and administrators to policy makers, industry leaders, parents, and learners of all ages. Our goal at Microsoft is to support these individuals with innovative 21st century skills and tools that enable personalized learning, ongoing development, and greater flexibility in how, where, and when we learn. Funded by the School District of Philadelphia’s Capital Improvement Office, with Microsoft’s contributions largely in the area of human capital and partnership development, the 750-student School of the Future embodies innovation and fosters a public high school learning environment that is continuous, relevant, and adaptive.

Continuous. Teachable moments should not be limited to the classroom alone. The School of the Future creates environments powered by 1:1 access to the tools of the digital age to nurture anytime, anywhere learning.

“The instructional technology at School of the Future is an integral part of my instruction. All of my learners comment frequently on how helpful it is to receive notes from class on their laptops, how beneficial it is to see math problems with different colors and highlighting, how convenient it is to see other learners’ work via the document camera.  I cannot overemphasize how important and beneficial technology is to the quality of my teaching.” Kelly Cooper, 2nd Year Math and Biology Educator/Testing Coordinator, School of the Future.

Relevant. Learners are inspired by the connections they make between curriculum and the real world. The School of the Future leverages the latest technologies, instructional tools, and community interaction in order to increase its everyday relevancy. Adaptive. Individuals learn in individual ways. The School of the Future is not a one-size-fits-all learning environment. Rather, we use technology and adaptive instructional models to effectively and efficiently offer learning opportunities to learners, educators, parents, and other stakeholders in our school community.

Partners in Learning Partners in Learning is a global initiative designed to actively increase access to technology and improve its use in learning. Together with our partners around the world, we are focusing on three key areas that have the greatest potential to empower learners and teachers and transform education. Our goal is to help schools gain better access to technology, foster innovative approaches to pedagogy and teacher professional development, and provide education leaders with the tools to envision, implement, and manage change. For more information, visit 1

A guiding light to a global vision. The goal of the partnership was and remains the creation of an educational model that can be leveraged in communities around the world. As districts and communities struggle and strive to identify and establish optimal learning environments for their learners, the School of the Future offers an important roadmap that can be considered and learned from to help incorporate best-of-class technology solutions in every area of the learning community, including curriculum delivery, community collaboration, back office support, content creation and dissemination, and assessment.

Technology replaces traditional. Through the advances of technology, education is no longer bound by the limits of the teacher, textbook, or the books in the school library. However, while technology has greatly expanded the boundaries of the “traditional” learner, it takes far more than access to technology to create a digitally connected world. It also takes digital “literacy”— the knowledge and skills necessary to use technology. Understanding how technology works and adapting that knowledge to new devices helps learners succeed in both the workplace and society.

“Technology is enabling a fundamental change in the way people learn. The goal here at school of the future is to connect learners with the technology that gives them access to those new ways of learning. From collective learning and collaboration to the vast amount of information that is available almost instantly. We’re helping learners to find their own way as the way we learn evolves with these new technologies. John Pavia, System Engineer, School of the Future


One of the original precepts of the School of the Future was the idea of building a space focused on teaching and learning, not technology. Educators and technologists were challenged to see IT through the lens of how it solves real problems and furthers the educational experience. From the first brainstorming meeting, the team understood that one of the central challenges of imagining and implementing next-generation technology is being faithful to the idea of it as an enabler of teaching and learning and resisting the allure of the shiny and the new. In the School of the Future, technology plays an important yet supportive role. It assists in inquiry, supports content distribution, and increases efficiency. Technology is not an end but a means to an end, driven by a rigorous curriculum and justified by its capability of enhancing instruction. The School of the Future embraces classroom-friendly technologies such as Tablet PCs, online learning spaces, digital textbooks, and note-taking software to actively engage and enable learners to conduct research, capture and organize information and analyze its reliability, communicate their insights to others, and collaborate with classmates. At the same time, the team also realized that the school could not exist in a vacuum. The technologies at work in the School of the Future would have to marry with standards established for all new schools in the district if they were to realize the vision of testing and evaluating new ideas in the new school and then replicating them everywhere.

An almost invisible IT infrastructure inside a learning environment. The School of the Future’s technical and architectural teams emphasized using technology to fuel a continuous, relevant, and adaptive learning environment and believed that enabling technologies in their purest form should be nearly invisible. That belief guided decision making on everything from Internet access to security and ultimately resulted in several defining features. For instance, wireless technologies offer flexible access to the Internet and intranet throughout the building and extended campus — moving instruction beyond the end of a cable. Several important aspects of the technical infrastructure of the School of the Future helped the team successfully execute the balancing act between the promise of new technologies and the limitations of legacy environments, including: H  igh-bandwidth Internet connectivity (2000 Mbps) over metropolitan fiber

Dedicated (1000 Mbps) point-to-point Ethernet linkage between the School of the Future and Drexel University, which is currently hosting and managing the application and LAN servers for the high school G  igabit-switched access to every network access point S tandardization of high-maintenance infrastructure (PBX systems, networking equipment; end-user devices such as telephones, printing/ imaging, projection systems, etc.)

Modular and expandable WLAN infrastructure using Meru Networks’ R4000 radio switches and supported by Nortel Networks LAN switching technology

Existing services — voicemail, e-mail, parental telephone notification service, and remote access

“I’m glad to come to school every day because there’s always a new challenge to overcome and new ways to learn. It’s a new experience I never found at my other schools.” Natania Harris, 3rd Year Learner, School of the Future


Using tools of technology to expand and extend learning. Innovative Microsoft software and solutions have the power to enhance the teaching and learning process and improve the operational efficiency of educational institutions. The 1:1 laptop environment is supported by a dense wireless access point infrastructure that allows connectivity to applications from outside the walls of the physical school building. Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007® is fully deployed as the classroom assignment delivery tool that integrates and supports all intranet, extranet and Web applications within one integrated platform, instead of relying on separated fragmented systems. With over 750 laptops expected to be deployed by the first graduating class in 2010, the School of the Future had the first deployment of Microsoft Windows Vista® in the school district of Philadelphia. With its improved connectivity and operational efficiencies in desktop image deployment, management, and security, Vista helps learners and educators find the information they need faster with features like Integrated Search and Live Tools online.

Portal to more insightful and exciting learning.

Learning Portal Platform Requirements The School of the Future’s Learning Portal is dependent on a set of services provided by Microsoft as well as some third-party providers. Its minimal IT requirements are: Microsoft Active Directory Microsoft SharePoint M  icrosoft Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007 Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Microsoft Live@edu  icrosoft Gold Partner Version3’s Identity M Management Solution technology 4

SharePoint 2007’s integrated suite of server capabilities helps improve organizational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search which significantly accelerates shared educational processes and facilitates information-sharing across boundaries for more insightful and exciting learning experiences. As the backbone of the School of the Future learning environment, SharePoint 2007 supports a robust, dynamic, online collaborative environment that allows for secure, managed website and workspaces to be used by educators, learners, community members and parents. Features like interactive learner planner, assignment and homework submission, document management, real-time live alerts, social networking, integrated video lessons, electronic surveying, and forms management are all key elements of the School of the Future Portal. A continuous learning environment affords learners and educators with “anytime, anywhere access” to the technology tools and strategies that facilitate education.

Assignment submission, group collaboration, wikis, blogs, and other methods of engaging learners digitally are incorporated into interdisciplinary projects. To help demonstrate the relevance of technology in their lives and to grow a sense of shared responsibility for running and maintaining the school facility, the Learning Portal allows learners to think innovatively about how to communicate and make decisions on a range of school-related matters – from what sort of merchandise and products will be sold in the School of the Future’s store to developing a learner run IT Help Desk.

Some Unique Features of the School of the Future Learning Portal Web-based client: The current system is a web-based solution, requiring no desktop software for use. Extranet access: All services are designed to be hosted internally and available externally to authenticated users. The system includes access tools and functionality designed for external participants such as parents, community members, external tutors, and others. Home folder access: Users who are configured with network “home folders” often need access to this content from remote locations. This service is also coordinated with the networks and facilitates the simple file access to a user’s personal files via the portal. Parent permissions: Special security engines ensure that parent privileges are maintained providing access to all content created by their children. Learner planner: Provides a consolidated view of daily, weekly, and monthly educational activities. The color coded planner presents all class schedules, school activities, personal activities, homework assignments, and extracurricular events. Late homework assignments are highlighted with clearly visible tags. Assignment engine: This set of tools facilitates the creation, management, and security of homework and similar assignments. Assignments may be simple reminders or complex multi-component deliverables. Announcements: This feature informs users about school or classroom announcements. It is integrated with the interactive alert system to inform the users about unread announcements. Schoolwide announcements may be “broadcast” in which case the announcement will automatically be displayed to all users. Class sites: Every class has a SharePoint 2007 site dedicated to it and in most cases is completely under the control of the Educator associated with it. Class sites are integrated into the assignment engine, the announcement system, and the learner planner. Late homework: The late homework indicators are integrated with the learner planner assignment due dates and deadlines and the interactive alerts. 5

Tools to take notes. In a joint partnership with Dell, a select number of learners at School of the Future are using Tablet PCs for everything from note-taking to assignments to research in an effort to understand the benefit of tablet enabled devices vs. standard laptops. Writing on the Tablet PC is also made easier by the Tablet PCs screen which has been designed to operate with both an electromagnetic digitizer as well as a touch sensitive screen similar to those typically found in Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). Microsoft Office OneNote® 2007 note-taking program also helps the learners and educators to electronically capture, organize, and reuse notes on a laptop, desktop, or Tablet PC. OneNote 2007 provides learners with a single place to collect and customize notes, allowing them to capture lessons or research information in multiple ways and organize it according to their needs.

How does Thomas Gaffey, Math and Technology Educator, utilize his school’s IT resources on any given day? Before School C  hecks Outlook for meetings and events on daily calendar. B  egins ideas for the day, primers activities, and assignments. Starts detailed planning for the day by organizing lesson plan with OneNote. C  reates assignments on the Portal — automatic distribution of assignments goes to all learners. Posts all accompanying PowerPoint and Word documents.

During School U  ses ScholarChip online attendance application to check students in. U  ses Smart Board setup and Projector to enhance the learning experience. Utilizes the document camera in the ceiling to automatically track his movements as he demonstrates concepts in front of the class. “After solving the equation on the board I want my learners to be able to solve them using a scientific calculator. In order to demonstrate this I set the camera to track my hands and the calculator so that everything that I’m doing is displayed through the projector and they can follow along.” U  ses the promethean whiteboard to initiate and enhance learner interaction and calls on learners to come up and answer questions on the whiteboard. “Demonstrating learning is an important aspect of ensuring engagement, so I have my learners take the Promethean pen and complete geometry equations using digital ink. They also solve algebra equations on the board that can be saved directly into OneNote in their own handwriting using the examples they’ve completed on the Promethean board.” U  ses OneNote to track everyone’s brainstorming ideas for class projects.

Microsoft Surface Microsoft Surface represents the next generation of Learner digital interaction and an opportunity to change the way future classrooms are designed. With multi-touch recognition seat and a more natural user interface, multiple Learners are able to collaborate while engaging and interactive education applications. 6

The note-taking technology treats the information students input using the Tablet PC’s digital pen as regular text, allowing them to convert handwritten notes to typed text. While some learners are handing in assignments on paper, the learners with Tablet PC’s can easily email or save a digital copy of their assignments written in their own handwriting. and convert them to a typed Microsoft Word-based format when it’s time for the assignment to be marked. OneNote 2007 also includes tools which make research easier to manage; the software allows learners to date stamp screen captures of online research material and automatically stores the Web address of the information. OneNote 2007 is a digital notebook used by educators, learners, and parents as a shared multi-media organizer of a classroom assignment’s content and class notes. Educators are able to build their entire course curriculum with OneNote 2007 by incorporating content, text, and recorded videos including, instructional messages and other repurposed information from any variety of external resources into one handy and user-friendly electronic notebook.

K  eeps in touch with educators throughout the day not only in person, but also using Instant Messaging to get information needed immediately, sometimes during the middle of a classroom session. Educators also IM him for information before and after classes.

After School T  akes notes from the day and submits them to his class portal notes section — learners can access these anytime and anywhere and it allows those who missed class the opportunity to stay on top of missed work. S earches online for digital textbooks for homework, guides learners to the right resources — digital, PDF or OneNote. Finds online interactive activities so learners can find answers to their questions while still being engaged. U  ses OneNote for after school meetings. A  t home, checks to see who submitted assignments, uses his online digital grade book to send messages about missing homework directly to learners and parents. “My philosophy on integrating technology into the classroom is that it’s not about just using technology, it has more to do with using tools to enhance the learning experience. If you can find a flash animation on the Internet that illustrates something a static picture in a book can’t, that’s integration. A teacher’s notes on a blackboard can’t be saved, a teacher’s notes in OneNote can not only be instantly be saved, but can link to multiple additional resources, that’s integration. My ultimate goal is to have learners using wikis, blogs, and other  tools to collaborate together and to be able to facilitate the completion of assignments in a way that sitting next to somebody using separate sheets of paper can’t do, that’s integration.” 7

Learning made more fun and more accurate. Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office® 2007 provides education-specific tools for learners and educators to get the most out their familiar Microsoft applications. Organized into categories like Classroom Organization, Research Projects and Rubrics, this free add-in also provides curriculumbased templates, tutorials and toolbars for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel written by education publishers like McGraw-Hill and Pearson that help learners and educators get started, stay organized and successfully complete higher-quality school assignments while helping to train and hone many of the most critical technology skills required for success in today’s working world.

With so much information – and misinformation – easily available to everyone these days via the Web, conducting informative and reliable research for a school project is riskier than ever before. Designed to be easy to use and simple to learn, Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2009 makes learning more fun and faster and much more reliable.

From science and math, to learning a foreign language, Microsoft Student 2009 enables educators to teach with confidence knowing the content and research information that learners have access to is up to date and accurate. Learners at the School of the Future have more opportunities to succeed knowing they have the right tools and information to get their projects started quickly, their questions answered faster, and their research done more thoroughly. Need to solve a math equation? Microsoft Math gives School of the Future learners all the right Math tools that they need to not only learn step by step calculations but to be able to visually understand the properties of graphed equations. Chemistry, Calculus, and Trigonometry are no longer a mystery with built in math tools and tips that complement any science or math class at a fraction of the cost of a handheld calculator.

With Microsoft Office 2007, everyone at the School of the Future saves valuable time, is better able to organize their workloads, stays connected and manages information more effectively. From the familiar applications of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook to new favorites like Microsoft InfoPath® 2007 or OneNote, the School of the Future integrates all of the Microsoft Office 2007 family into everyday learning and school life.

Microsoft Roundtable “Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except technology.” Eric Scott-Murphy, 3rd Year Learner/ Chief Admin Officer, Beta Tech Club


Distance Learning is closer to reality with Microsoft Roundtable. This advanced collaboration and conferencing device provides participants with an engaging and immersive remote meeting experience. Used with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 or the 2007 version of Microsoft Office Live Meeting, Roundtable provides a 360-degree view of the conference room, high-quality audio, and video that tracks the flow of conversation among multiple speakers 9

In a paperless school environment, it is an inherent goal to reduce the number of requests for paper forms and documents while still providing the much needed assessment, performance and authorization documentations required of and from parents. Microsoft InfoPath® 2007 offers an electronic form and information gathering program for the day-to-day administrative systems, reducing the time spent by educators and administrators filling out forms and creating more time focusing on what they love to do – educating. The Chief Learner is now able to go to a parent meeting, open InfoPath and click a drop down list with their entire roster of learner names and pull the specific assessment needed for the meeting without having to print a single piece of paper.

Apex Math online allows learners to work at their own pace or ahead of the class. With its unique integration of online assessments and instructional content, Math ClassTools provides educators with tools and resources that make it possible to efficiently individualize math instruction and increase proficiency for all learners. Online diagnostics pinpoint each learner’s strengths and weaknesses. Individual and class-wide study plans save educators time by minimizing the need for re-teaching and remediation efforts. Interactive math activities motivate learners to stay alert and engaged.

See how learner Eric Weston uses technology to enhance his learning experience. Before School U  ses ScholarChip smartcard to swipe and log into the school system. This is the same card used to purchase breakfast, lunch and open lockers.

During School U  ses both paper and Tablet PC in Algebra II. Also uses OneNote so he can do his work in his own handwriting. U  ses a Tablet PC in art to draw outlines and blueprints for the project he’s working on with Microsoft Web Expressions – the web design application that the Beta Tech club is using to compete in the upcoming Computer Fair.

Criterion offers a Web-based application that evaluates a learner’s writing skills and, within seconds, provides score reporting and diagnostic feedback to both writing educators and learners. Educators can create classes, assignments or individual work and allow learners to immediately access the coursework online.

With Rosetta Stone, educators at the School of the Future are better able to concentrate on the personal instruction and interactive classroom activities that promote foreign language fluency while learners can work independently building their basic listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing skills in their chosen foreign language of study.

C  ompletes an assignment in English called School House Rock Scavenger Hunt, by looking through online resources for answers to clues and using Live Search’s Bing to get the pictures, videos and information needed for some of the items. C  hecks Outlook and sends out daily announcements for West Park Cultural Center’s after school programs. Keeps all of his meetings and appointments on the calendar so he doesn’t miss anything. W  orks on developing a Help Desk that is run by learners. Using OneNote, he works on a timeline which contains goals, milestones, and objectives that need to be completed. S urvives Chemistry by working in OneNote to answer questions and study online textbooks.

Live Services: Spaces, Sky Drive, Live Mesh, Office Workspaces Windows Live™ is a set of personal Internet services and software designed to bring together in one place all of the relationships, information, and interests learners care about most, with social networking, sharing and collaborating tools as well as security features across their PC, devices, and the Web. 10

In Spanish, finishes work packet and his PowerPoint on Filadelfia.

After School G  oes to the ILC (Interactive Learning Center) after school to browse through some new applications on the Microsoft Surface computer, including Surface DJ by VectorForm, and makes some beats. B  rowses school’s online Learning Portal to check on the assignments that are due. C  harges his Zune, mobile device, and laptop for another day of IT wonders tomorrow! 11

Learning beyond books and borders. From a technology perspective we’re able to support and promote how technology can augment an environment that strives to be relevant in today’s “world without walls” where books are no longer required to be bound and printed but can be accessed on laptops as digital books. Online resources and electronic forms are made available to every member of the School of the Future community supporting a “greener” more environmentally-friendly approach to learning. Paper processes like recording attendance to assignment and test grading to taking messages are reduced. And through the innovations of online resources, the realm and location of learning is extended from behind the school’s walls into the homes of families – and far beyond. Information presented to the learners at the School of the Future in a new way has captured their attention and imagination. The educators are helped along in their teaching efforts by the “cool factor” of technology. Learners are responding much more enthusiastically to learning with a laptop and the technology is proving to be an effective way of engaging even the most challenging children in the learning process. The School of the Future staff has noticed that learners who have trouble reading and would typically have more difficult time retaining information are overcoming those challenges, benefit from a curriculum which includes video, sound, and animation.

A pervasive use of “smart” technology. Interactive Learning Center The community at large is a vital participant in the School of the Future. As part of the school’s mission to invite members of the community to engage with the educational experience, the School of the Future features an Interactive Learning Center (ILC), where local residents can hone their technology skills and take advantage of individual and group instruction. Located adjacent to the main entrance, the ILC is designed for shared use by learners, faculty, and the surrounding community. A technology lab delivers both wired and wireless Internet access. 12

Throughout the school day, learners and educators utilize the ScholarChip access and identification smart card platform. The primary use of these smart cards is for building access and attendance. Learner rostering information is embedded on each card and attendance is collected and aggregated on the ScholarChip backend system and then transferred to a legacy learner information system. The School of the Future also uses the cards for learner access to their Penco Lockers as well as for food service point-of-sale transactions. Every aspect of the school strives to live up to the goal of creating a replicable model that can be leveraged by communities around the world to demonstrate the power of public and private partnerships in improving education and learning outcomes.

Discovery Brief 07 - Building the School of the Future IT  

School of the Future discovery brief covering the thought process behind IT at the school. How it was thought of, how it's implemented and h...