The Department of Education and Microsoft Puerto Rico recently signed a memorandum of understanding renewing their commitment for another five years to continue transforming education through the integration of technology into the teaching and learning process.
During the signing, Education Secretary Rafael Román-Meléndez announced new strategies the agency will use to develop 21st century skills and competencies in middle school students and teachers.
“With the signing of this agreement with Microsoft, which seals a commitment for the next five years, we seek to meet one of the cornerstones of our academic agenda: to achieve the full development of 21st century skills and competencies necessary so that our students and teachers are able to compete in a highly globalized world,” said Román-Meléndez, after signing the MOU, along with Anthony Salcito, vice president of Microsoft Corp.’s education and public sector division and Microsoft General Manager Marco Casarín.
“We’re also taking a step forward to contribute to our island’s sustainable economic development by having a better prepared workforce that is equipped with the technological tools necessary for national competitiveness,” he said.
Through the MOU, Microsoft and Education have agreed to cooperate and focus their efforts on implementing several initiatives, among which are: enabling access and adoption of technology in schools, developing academic programs to improve student skills and competencies, providing ongoing professional development for teachers, and connecting Puerto Rican learning communities with others worldwide.
Microsoft and Education have been working together for the past 14 years through the Partners in Learning initiative, set in motion worldwide to extend next-generation technology to all schools.
“The goal of Partners in Learning is to discover, share, expand and develop learning models that any school can adopt to help students achieve their potential and create a community of collaboration between teachers and education leaders by using Microsoft technology,” Salcito said.
Additional initiatives announced
In addition to renewing the alliance with Microsoft, during the celebration of the Third Forum on Innovative Education in Puerto Rico, the Education chief announced the “Strengthening the Middle School” and “Kinect for Learning” projects, which seek to develop 21st century skills and competencies among public school students and teachers.
“Statistics show that the middle school level has the highest dropout rates and low academic achievement. That’s why we decided to focus our efforts on this level and assist it with the sense of urgency it deserves,” said Román-Meléndez.
The “Strengthening the Middle School” initiative seeks to develop skills and competencies in students to stimulate critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration, computer use, and the ability to learn independently. It also promotes a digital inclusion strategy that will provide a laptop or tablet to each teacher and middle school student to promote learning anytime, anywhere.
Teachers will also have the opportunity to develop digital content and virtual classes to offer a curriculum that meets 21st century learning standards. The program will also allow teachers to design and develop individualized learning plans that provide a broad education according to each student’s interests and abilities, ensuring the best alternatives for maximum development.
The project is expected to start as a pilot in the San Juan educational region soon.
Meanwhile, “Kinect for Learning” was already tested as a pilot in March 2012 at a school in Toa Alta, to help low academic achievement students meet or exceed the minimum performance standards established for math in the Puerto Rican Academic Achievement Tests and provide participants with innovative educational experiences that promote teamwork, stimulating social integration among students.
Students who participated in that pilot program had the highest islandwide scores in the 2011-12 achievement tests. It will now be extended to other regions.