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Microsoft's High School Opens in PA 601

Posted by Zonk
from the i'll-admit-it-i'm-jealous dept.
Joopndufus writes to mention a CNN article about a Microsoft-planned high school, newly opened in the Philadelphia area. Funded entirely by that city's school system, Microsoft offered its management skills and personnel to design every aspect of the high-tech setting. From the article: "After three years of planning, the Microsoft Corp.-designed 'School of the Future' opened its doors Thursday, a gleaming white modern facility looking out of place amid rows of ramshackle homes in a working-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. The school is being touted as unlike any in the world, with not only a high-tech building -- students have digital lockers and teachers use interactive 'smart boards' -- but also a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques."
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Microsoft's High School Opens in PA

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:33AM (#16065653) Homepage Journal
    Staff at the school were happy with how the opening day went, the pupils were welcomed in by a Brian Eno classic on the tannoy system.
    This informed them that the tannoy system was working and it was now safe to enter the building.

    However, once the day got underway things quickly went downhill in the English letter writing class.

    "Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all,"

    Meanwhile the gymnasium had to be rebooted twice after some children overloaded the basketball hoops.
    Several pupils were stuck in the changing rooms for a few hours until the scandisk procedure managed to locate all the fragments of the key to unlock the door.

    The music class was interrupted because someone brought in an illegal sample of a track in mp3 format and forgot to include a verification document from the parents of the original composer signed in blood.

    On top of all these problems, the school is hunting for the person responsible for posting "goatse" on every single whiteboard, this shocking image appeared at 14:21 and remained on screen for 15 minutes whilst technicians located and removed it.
  • Interesting 'idea' (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MECC (8478) *
    "but also a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques"

    Does that mean that students only get help on the first Tuesday of each month?

    Does anyone else see a problem with modeling a school after a management style better at spin than substance? Or with MS managers telling teachers how to do their jobs? I wonder if the lockers will have DRM built-in? The sheer magnitude of bullsh*t this promises is nearly limitless, based just the amazing lack of common sense found in the idea. Its
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:42AM (#16065722)
      Seriously. MS is trying to work in the ideas that made one of the largest most successful companies in the history of business. Sounds like there may be some carryover since making a good company is all about maintaining smart, happy employees. What have you done for education lately, besides complained about it? I applaud their effort, in the face of government and other big orgs who see 'business as usual' a fine mantra as our education system goes straight down the crapper.
      • Insightful. Like the workplace, schools spending a large amount of resources trying to make students happy would help with alot of the other problems they're having.
      • by MECC (8478) * on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:51AM (#16065816)
        "Seriously. MS is trying to work in the ideas that made one of the largest most successful companies in the history of business"

        As in steal ideas from others, lie to federal judges, violate federal laws, and spin faster than a top?

        "and other big orgs" Of course, MS isn't a "big org", and knows so much more about education than, say, educators. There are people out there who do turn around schools, and they do it by addressing the fundamental problems, not throwing technology at the situation as some kind of utopian panacea.

        "What have you done for education lately"

        One doesn't need to be a sailor to know that a ships float better than stones.

        Really, from the article, it looks like MS just wants to train future MS employees. And have somebody else pay for it. And then not hire them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dun Malg (230075)
          Of course, MS isn't a "big org", and knows so much more about education than, say, educators.
          MS isn't there to tell them how to educate. Educators don't need to learn how to educate. They already know that. What educators seem to need but their own education completely ignored is how to manage.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by MECC (8478) *
            "MS isn't there to tell them how to educate."

            From the article, it looks different:
            "...Their laptops carry software that assesses how quickly they're learning the lesson."
            . . .
            "Lessons will have more incorporation of current events to teach subjects. For instance, a question of whether Philadelphia is safe from the avian flu will teach students about geography, science and history."

            MS is definetly getting involved in class content and the educational process itself. And of course, MS has no agen
      • by jthill (303417) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:54AM (#16066300)

        Schools aren't businesses. Nations aren't businesses. Churches aren't businesses. This pretense that competence in business translates to competence in other areas is borderline insane.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Microsoft didn't succeed due to its management ideas. Its management ideas have been a hindrance, as evidenced by the process problems behind Vista's development cycle. The reason Microsoft is successful goes all the way back to a single agreement with IBM in which Microsoft shipped the OS on all PCs while retaining the rights to the software. This brought in massive revenues and allowed them to expand into other areas, some successfully, most unsuccessfully. In other words, they got lucky. Otherwise,
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by forgetmenot (467513)
        Why is this rated "insightful"?

        Since when did "having done something" become a requirement for criticizing something that many view with suspicion? Am I "not" allowed to complain about a landfill being built in my neighbourhood because I never built one myself?

        Microsoft is a publicly trade company and as such is driven by shareholder value. They are not a charitable organization. Furthermore they have a track record of unethical and illegal behaviour. Around the world!

        Why would you NOT be suspicious of thei
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:49AM (#16065794) Homepage Journal
      Why not just give money to the school system?

      Because that isn't the answer. The current school systems are already being pumped cash, but still show horrible results. Especially when compared to private schools. What Microsoft is doing is not a bad idea. I just cringe at the idea of applying "Microsoft Management Procedures" as a panacea to all the school's problems. Most likely, all that technology will just mean that the students do just as badly, but in a high tech environment! :-/

      Of course, the problem really stems from poor elementry education. Students are rarely taught a solid foundation that they can grasp, and concepts like personal responsibility, individual talent, and academic achievement are wiped away as unimportant. Just so long as nobody feels they're special and nobody feels that they're not normal, then who cares if the academic bar is going lower and lower?

      Unfortunately, I find it doubtful that things will change as long as Political Correctness rules our schools and parents see elementary as nothing more than free day care.
      • by jd142 (129673) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:11AM (#16065951) Homepage
        The current school systems are already being pumped cash, but still show horrible results. Especially when compared to private schools.

        That simply isn't true. The report came out a couple of months ago from a government study that privately run charter school students scored lower than public school students. The report didn't get a lot of press for obvious reasons. Here's the first google news link I found:

        http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/9765/1/338/ [pww.org]
        • MOD PARENT UP (Score:5, Informative)

          by Abcd1234 (188840) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:17AM (#16065983) Homepage
          And here's a link to the actual study [ed.gov].
      • by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:15AM (#16065969)
        What you're saying isn't entirely meritless, but

        The current school systems are already being pumped cash, but still show horrible results. Especially when compared to private schools.

        No, public school children show horrible results compared to private school children. The children of typically wealthy parents that care enough about their child's education to go to the effort of putting them in a private school perform better in school. Public schools could obviously be run better in many cases, but you sure as heck can't do a one-to-one comparison. Although I'm all for a test case, privatizing an existing, poorly-performing public school and forbidding an increase in expulsions (if you're going to do it on a large scale, you can't just send the less-exceptional kds off to public school to pad your "look how great the students that are still here do" numbers) and seeing how well things go. I'd absolutely love to see that data, 'cause I want there to be an easy fix. I just doubt there is one.

        Students are rarely taught a solid foundation that they can grasp

        Sure they are. They're taught until their teachers are blue in the face. But other than the 10% that are going to grow up to be the important people, the students just generally don't give a damn. You can't teach an interest in learning.

        But you're right that Microsoft's stuff won't help much.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) *

          The children of typically wealthy parents that care enough about their child's education to go to the effort of putting them in a private school perform better in school.

          I can say from personal experience that you're allowing your preconceptions to get in the way. Private schools are far from a playground for the rich. For example, the private school I send my children to actually has quite a number of low income families sending their children there. As a whole, the school has produced academically superio

        • The children of typically wealthy parents that care enough about their child's education to go to the effort of putting them in a private school perform better in school.

          They key phrase there being "parents that care" regardless of what studies show the problem has nothing to do with public vs private schools or teachers not performing the problem is with parents.

          All of my cousins (34 or so of them my grandfather couldn't keep his pants zipped) went to big time private schools in NYC, I went to one of
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by nursegirl (914509)

            That is so true. I have several friends who work in the Canadian school system, and parents make or break a student's education. Generally, if three students fail a test, one parent won't comment at all, one parent will try to get the teacher fired, and one parent will come to the school and ask how they can help their kid catch up.

            Guess which kid actually moves forward in education and in life? The problem isn't primarily teachers. The problem is parents. Of course, eventually teachers get so tired of be

        • What?! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:58AM (#16066802) Homepage Journal
          >You can't teach an interest in learning.

          You don't have to! Watch a kid sometime. No unopened box is safe from them. Their talk is an endless stream of "Why does ___?" and "How does that work?". Ever tried learning a second language? Hard work, right? Kids learn a first language quickly and fluently without anyone coercing them into "language school". They watch every move that adults make and try it out for themselves.

          You can stop them from learning, by keeping them so hungry or abused that higher brain functions shut down. You can communicate that some places are not for learning, by turning those places into Lord of the Flies. But fundamentally "interest in learning" is something hardwired into all mammals and especially humans.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        What Microsoft is doing is not a bad idea. I just cringe at the idea of applying "Microsoft Management Procedures" as a panacea to all the school's problems. Most likely, all that technology will just mean that the students do just as badly, but in a high tech environment! :-/

        They may even do worse in some cases.

        One of the things I really noticed in the article was the following: In addition, students at the school must apply to college to get a diploma.

        Since they set up this school in an inner city area,

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DevStar (943486)
          Applying for college is not the same as attending college. BUT there is an important reason why they're doing that. There is some data that suggests that one reason that many students don't go to college is that they think they can not get in. By requiring them to apply it at least addresses that issue. The students can decide whether or not they want to go to college after the college decision.

          And applying to college does cost money, but virtually every college will waive the fee if you can't afford

      • by dculp (669961) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:55AM (#16066309)
        Having been in the education business for awhile I take exception to your comment that school systems are already being pumped full of cash. I assure you that they are not. Most schools I have taught in are woefully short on basic supplies; instead most teachers have to buy their own supplies. I am a science teacher and if I want to do cool science labs then most of the time it is up to me to buy those supplies. The $800.00 budget our science department gets (10+ science teachers in the building) just does not go far.

        Most schools I have been in are short on textbooks and those textbooks are usually outdated and worn out. If a teacher wants to offer something cool and educational to their students we usually are told there just isn't any money. I run a highly successful robotics club in my middle school which was largely funded in the beginning out of my own pocket. I also run a rocketry club after school which, once again, is largely funded by me. I spent my summer school paycheck on a complete hybrid rocket motor system and ground support equipment to use with the kids.

        I can certainly tell you that the massive influx of money is NOT going towards my salary. Everyone I know with a college degree earns generally far more than I do. Am I complaining, yes, but it is the life I chose to live. I knew what I was getting into from the beginning, salary wise.

        This brings me to my main point If we want to better the educational system in America we need to raise teachers' salary (among other things). As a teacher I am generally disappointed by the people attracted to education. I am a science geek, I live, eat, and breathe science, however, most science teachers I know (especially at the middle school level) are NOT science oriented people. They are not passionate about science and this disappoints me greatly. However, many of the people I know who are passionate about science and I think would make good teachers do not want to take a massive cut in pay. The argument is that the low pay attracts people who really WANT to be teachers. I do not wholly buy that argument.

        In general, I think the educational system that we have in America is a very good system and that most of the problems are not intrinsic to the educational system. For example, I teach in a school that is over 79% economically disadvantaged. My students have very little support at home and I get little to no support from the parents. My students are mal-nourished and under cared for. In general when I have problems with a student I cannot get hold of the parents, much less get support from them.

        I can tell you, from my own observations that the single greatest factor that influences whether a student gets a good education or not is the parents. The students that I have that do very well in school, are not behavior problems and are active in the school community have parents that are actively involved in the their life and supportive of them. The students that do not do well in school, are constant behavior problems and have little to no involvement in the school community have parents that simply do not care to be involved in their child's life and general well-being and expect the school to be their baby sitter. It does not their socio-economic or racial background.

        Go ahead, flame me.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) *

          Go ahead, flame me.

          Ok, you asked for it...

          Having been in the education business for awhile I take exception to your comment that school systems are already being pumped full of cash.

          Having taken an interest in school systems and their results, I take exception to the fact that incredible amounts of money is being spent, but that this money is not finding its way into the education. As you say, you may end up with an $800.00 budget for science experiments. Yet a school might invest hundreds of thousand to mi

  • by ruiner13 (527499) on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:35AM (#16065663) Homepage
    Do they offer crash courses? Do all the windows have blue screens? Does every student get a clippy to help with their homework?

    Ok, i'm done.
  • by isecore (132059) <isecoreNO@SPAMisecore.net> on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:35AM (#16065669) Homepage
    that open-source is banned in that school?

    "Say, that's a nice school we helped build... wouldn't want any open-source in there, that would mean bad things, and we don't want bad things to happen, right?"
  • also a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques

    Maybe I've watched too many B movies, but I've got a bad feeling about this. I can't quite put my finger on it...something about creating monsters maybe?

    --MarkusQ

    • by digidave (259925)
      It just means it will take students five years to pass each grade and most of the stuff they were supposed to learn will have been cut out of the ciriculum.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now this is the story all about how
    My life got flipped, turned upside down
    And I'd like to take a minute just sit right there
    I'll tell you how I became a student owned by Microsoft
    In West Philadelphia born and raised
    On Slashdot where I spent most of my days
    Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
    And writing some code outside of the school
    When a couple of guys said "we're up in no good"
    Started making trouble in my neighbourhood
    I hacked into one little computer and my mom got scared
    And said "you're going to tha
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by xdjyoshx (804247)
      I whistled for a segway and when it came near
      the sticker said "pwned" and the dude had flakes in his hair
      if anything i could tell that he was ready to throw a chair
      but i thought nahhhh forget it wait
      YO HOLEMS YOU SMELL WAREZ?

      I
      pulled
      up to my laptop around 7 or 8
      and yelled to the teacher
      yo melinda page ya later
      i looked at my kingdom
      it was all white and bare
      and there it was known as MS High School despair.

      Sorry i had to finish the song.. geez
  • vista (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    but also a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques
    I'm not trying to be a troll but with the way Vista has been handled, hasn't MS shown that their management techniques aren't exactly very good?
    • Re:vista (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kripkenstein (913150) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:10AM (#16065948) Homepage
      I'm not trying to be a troll but with the way Vista has been handled, hasn't MS shown that their management techniques aren't exactly very good?

      Exactly what I was thinking. When I read "[Microsoft] didn't pay the $63 million cost -- that was borne by the Philadelphia School District -- but shared its personnel and management skills" in TFA, my reaction was: it would have been better for them to just donate a big stack of cash and keep their 'skills' to themselves. Money is something Microsoft have more than enough of; 'management skills' - doubtful at best.

      And even if they did have 'management skills' - they have no idea of how to teach those skills to children. All their experience is with hiring already-skilled adults.

      Had I heard "Microsoft donates $1 billion to the Philadelpha public school system", I would have applauded Microsoft for their generosity (despite everything I have against them). But this project just sounds like a bad idea to me.
  • What the ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:40AM (#16065705)
    The company didn't pay the $63 million cost -- that was borne by the Philadelphia School District -- but shared its personnel and management skills. About 170 teens, nearly all black and mainly low-income, were chosen by lottery to make up the freshman class. The school eventually plans to enroll up to 750 students.

    $63 million
    Supporting 170 students
    $370,588 per student right now.
    At the 162,000-square-foot high school, which sits on nearly eight acres, the day starts at 9:15 a.m. and ends at 4:19 p.m., simulating the typical work day. Officials said studies show students do better when they start later in the day.

    That's a lot of resources thrown at very few students.
    • by kaiser423 (828989)
      You do realize that they don't build a new school for every class of students, right?

      It's a lot of money, but the building will probably be used for the next 50 years or so.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rayde (738949)
      consider though, that the numbers will look a lot different when it's 750 students a year, and it's been running for 20 years. sure it's a lot up front, but school districts don't build new buildings every day
      • by lazlo (15906)
        OK, so it's 750 students, and say it lasts 20 years (I'd call that optimistic, I haven't seen a whole lot of schools that old without some serious refresh, and this is a high-tech school as well - high tech gets real old real fast.) Anyhow, that's still $4500 per year, per student. And that's purely depreciation on the building. Once you add in teacher salaries, administrative overhead, maintenance, and (this is Microsoft after all) software licensing and upgrades, that won't be chump change.
    • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:59AM (#16065872) Homepage
      Interesting end time ... 4:19? Another sign of the "420" culture at Microsoft? LOL!

      Ron
    • Re:What the ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by jblake (162981) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:02AM (#16065894) Homepage
      It's not $63 million spent on only 170 students. $63 million was spent as a capital investment into building the school, infrastructure, and other things which can be amortize over the usable lifetime of the school. I know of high schools that have been around for at least 50 years, although of course there are occasional renovations. Assuming the school lasts for 50 years, you have to divide by the total number of students that attend the school. You would have to calculate the capital investment into the school by $63 million / (170 new students per year * 50 years) = $7,411.76 per student cost to build the school. If the school lasts longer or increases the number of new students per year, the per student cost decreases.

      There is also the yearly cost of teaching and maintaining the grounds, but that is a separate statistic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by OneSeventeen (867010) *

      That's a lot of resources thrown at very few students.

      You forgot a word... needlessly...

      That's a lot of resources nedlessly thrown at very few students.

      I wonder what it would be like if that money went towards regular supplies, like paper and pencil for all the other schools in the district, how far that amount of money would go?

      I also wonder if before this happened they analyzed Microsoft's Management skills, perhaps with a case study on Vista?

      This looks like a fun idea but it sounds like one giant Mi

    • Sadly I doubt that the technologies that are actually be relevant to these kids' future -- Open Source, ODF, OS X, Solaris, BSD, basically anything not-MS -- will be represented in their computer labs...

      But it's consistent with MS' time honoured motto: "Spreading Ignorance and Low Expectations."

    • To be fair, a lot of that cost would have to be experimental, custom technology whose marginal cost would be relatively low if it's successful enough to use in other schools. When you think of it as a school, then yes it's an obviously irresponsible waste of resources. When you think of it as a laboratory for new educational techniques...

      Also, it looks really bad to attribute the entire cost of long-term infrastructure (the cost of the land and building, for example) to the first crop of students.

      Finally,
    • Re:What the ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thesolo (131008) <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:23AM (#16066016) Homepage
      That's a lot of resources thrown at very few students.

      Exactly. Speaking as someone who lives in Philadelphia, this has not been very well received here. The school system in this city is grossly underfunded, but now we suddenly have this new $63 million school, where all the freshmen get laptops and the lockers open with smart cards. The entire building is wireless, the students don't even have textbooks. A commentator on NPR this morning declared the school to be, in regards to money well spent, "a total waste"

      Just the other day, there was a /. story about opposition to HS students having laptops [slashdot.org], which pointed out the obvious: the students are using the technology to send IMs and play on networking sites like myspace. The laptops get beat to the ground and loaded full of spyware, the kids don't learn, and it becomes a giant waste of money. My brother-in-law, who is a teacher in Philadelphia, mentioned that they had to block Wikipedia on their school computers because kids would just copy the articles verbatim for book reports, make up a few sources, and hand them in. Having instant access to the answers isn't making students study harder...

      Perhaps I'm sounding like a luddite, but I fail to understand how having interactive whiteboards & plasma TV screens all over the building are going to make kids learn calculus or a foreign language. I find this entire thing a bit ridiculous. Mind you, the students seem to love it, but apparently they're more interested in the bathrooms [philly.com] than the classrooms:
      "They have those sinks that you just put your hands like that and the water comes out," said Sandra Nelson, 14.

      "Toilets flush by themselves. It's all just so nice," agreed Bianca Gibson, 14. "I want to give a shout out to Bill Gates and tell him, 'Thank you, so much.' "

      Where's that emoticon of the head banging against a brick wall?
      • Re:What the ... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rolfwind (528248) on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:16AM (#16066463)
        I agree with most of your sentiment but this caught my eye:

        My brother-in-law, who is a teacher in Philadelphia, mentioned that they had to block Wikipedia on their school computers because kids would just copy the articles verbatim for book reports, make up a few sources, and hand them in.


        Isn't that a little shortsighted? Wouldn't the appropriate thing to do is punish the student? Because if they don't copy wikipedia, they same student will just copy another website or perhaps a book which is harder to track.

        Anyway, on the issue of tech in the classroom - it's actually good in areas where technology just works. Think, for instance, about Graphing Calculators. Aren't they pretty good? I know I probably checked out a lot more functions than if I had to draw it by hand. Of course, I still know how to draw it by hand..... (thinking of all the cashier in places who can't add/subtract change w/o the register).

        Technology tends to break down in the classroom when it stops being a pretty focused tool that's simply convenient and turns into some ill-defined and ill-focused panacea and prevent the student from thinking on their own.

        There were lots of uses of technology which gave me a better understanding of the subject material, like in science classes there was Carl Sagan's excellent Cosmos series (I still consider the simple TV&VCR tech in the classroom). And Lego's mindstorms are pretty damn creative and a good intro to programming (thinking in that way).

        But I haven't seen that many good software titles. When learning foreign languages, I'm still looking for a decent Japanese software title - but most edutainment (is that what they still call it?) sucks.

        And learning/thinking still is hard work for many people. You can't sit the student in front of the computer and expect them to be taught. The programs/tools need to be focused on the job, and environments where you can just fire up the ICQ/browser when you should be working (speaking of which....) is a terrible temptation - especially for the young.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by neo (4625)
      But man is that cheap for a commercial for Microsoft.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by argStyopa (232550)
      Because the way to teach someone to fish is by simply throwing lots and lots of fish at them?

      No wait, that's not right....
  • The borgification has begun.
    Your children will be assimilated.
  • Cool (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Klaidas (981300)
    I think this will have loots of trolling...
    Anyway, hwo much of you really wouldn't want to study at the school which is run by the world's biggest (I think it is) software company, which's products are used on 95% of computers?
    • I would not. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:46AM (#16065772)
      Anyway, hwo much of you really wouldn't want to study at the school which is run by the world's biggest (I think it is) software company, which's products are used on 95% of computers?

      Read the article. The library does not have books. It's all "digital".

      That right there would be enough for me to avoid it.

      Microsoft is great at MARKETING their products. They do not write great software.

      And there is nothing to indicate that they know ANYTHING about education.
  • by LoP_XTC (312463) on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:43AM (#16065738)
    Anyone here ever read the book "Jennifer Government". Basically in the near future everything is corporate owned and your last name reflects the company you work for. So like John Nike works for Nike ...

    Anyway in the book they describe how the main female characters daughter attends school owned and run by Mattel ... and reading a story like this makes you wonder just how close we are getting to a world that more closely resembles the one in that novel. All this needs is for the kids to be walking around with the last name Microsoft and there you go.

    Aaron
    • by ruiner13 (527499) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:02AM (#16065896) Homepage
      Isn't that how a lot of us got our surnames anyway? "smith" comes from a family of blacksmiths, "baker" comes from a baker, etc. What was once will be again, I guess. I'm not saying I think it would be a good thing, but it isn't new.

      As a side note, "Bush" I believe comes from the long history of stupid twats in his family.
    • by FridayBob (619244)
      Well, doing away with the so-called "free and fair" elections in the United States and just letting the big corporations decide who becomes the next president wouldn't really be changing a lot either. Hey, I'm already used to the idea!
  • by Xest (935314) * on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:43AM (#16065740)
    I work in tech. support for schools and certainly our catchment area (171 schools) now successfully has an interactive smart board in every single class room. Also thanks to a goverment initiative, the laptops for teachers scheme means all teachers have a laptop which they can create lesson plans and produce teaching content on and then move around class rooms with to hook up to the smart boards. We also have an average ratio of 1 computer for every 4 students across all our schools too.

    Whilst not many schools here have digital lockers (lockers aren't popular here full stop like in the US) we do have things like card systems for pupils to register entry into the toilets with (kinda big brotherish I know, I'm against it but the technology is cool) so there is a paper trail if someone vandalises or smokes in the toilets. The cards double up as well as being able to provide dinner ladies with information on what kids don't need to pay for school meals and such due to their family being poor and on benefits, some schools the few that do have digital lockers - the swipe cards also work for these.

    Certainly schools here in the UK have come a long way in the 8 years since I left, they were only just replacing blackboards with those nice whipeable whiteboards when I left!

    As for a learning process modelled on Microsoft's management techniques, I've also seen evidence of this in the schools for kids with behavioural problems who are there because they've been expelled multiple times from elsewhere, the main evidence being that they've often threatened to "fucking kill me" and thrown chairs about the room :p
    • we do have things like card systems for pupils to register entry into the toilets with Yeah, I bet that works just as well as the doors for an ATM.
  • The joke is that out back they have a blackboard and chalk and some actual books that they'll use when the whole system crashes. See, its all just a return to the 3-R's.

    And this gives highschool nerds ultimate power, to hack - disable and otherwise compromise other people's lockers. At least with my locker (back in the day) there were a limit number of very physical actions you had to take to "crack" or denial-of-service a lock. This just adds "oops, the machine just took a crap" to a longer list.

    In oth
  • Interactive whiteboards? Wow. Registration cards? Uh-huh.

    I work for a small Local Education Authority where all secondary schools use interactive whiteboards, as do the majority of primaries.

    There is a school in London that uses fingerprint-scanners at the classroom entrances instead of registers (a little more reliable than a perfectly portable ID card? I dunno.), and there are numerous examples of the effective use of decent technology to impact attendance and learning. Automatic texts to parents' mobil

  • by dduardo (592868)
    "...a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques."

    If Microsoft's management techniques is good enough for Vista, it's good enough for our children.
  • by Speare (84249)

    It looks like you're trying to record a video for yout^H^H^H^H MSN Funny Videos. Do you want to:

    • sneak out the window while the ancient teacher rambles on,
    • run up to the distracted teacher and pull down his pants,
    • take a glam shot of your dweeby attention-starved friends,
    • light a firecracker in the class dork's desk,
    • maintain a small cute housepet in your locker to attract babes?
  • Say What You Want... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ctrl+Alt+De1337 (837964) on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:46AM (#16065773) Homepage
    Say what you want about Microsoft and its management techniques (and plenty of jokes are already around) but I think this is a good thing. Whatever about Microsoft, they probably have better management techniques than most American school systems, and Bill Gates was right about schools essentially being obsolete.

    There needs to be new ideas and new blood running things in the schools. Most administrators are former teachers, and just like good programmers don't always make good IT managers, so do good teachers have a spotty history at becoming good administrators. If this ushers in an era of trying new things to improve schools, then I'm all for it. Microsoft has the name recognition and technology chops to get its foot in the door, but other companies should give it a go. Imagine a GE-led school using Jack Welch's management techniques...
  • Graduation (Score:5, Funny)

    by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacific@noSpaM.yahoo.com> on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:47AM (#16065781) Homepage Journal
    A: So you go to Microsoft High School?

    B: Yup.

    A: When do you graduate?

    B: I was supposed to graduate in 2002. But I got held back. Then it was supposed to be 2003, 2005, then 2006.

    A: Yikes! Are you that dumb?

    B: No, they just tried to teach me too much unnecessary stuff. They kept cutting classes out of the requirements hoping I'd make it.

    A: So, when are you graduating?

    B: Right now, they're saying 2007, but many think it'll be 2008 or later.

  • by rlp (11898) on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:49AM (#16065796)
    So if you try to transfer to another school does the vice-principal throw a chair at you?
  • "...a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques."

    Based on these techniques, when can student's expect to graduate? Do they have to go through Beta year as a junior, then become a Release Candidate in their senior year?

    The problem is, with Microsoft's track record, they'll have seniors that stick around for years. What happens when MS decides to change its techniques? "Sorry...you have to go back through four years of school to remain compatible."
  • Where's the Linux lab? :-)

    Nothing like enforcing your monopoly like buying out the schools... or at least making them think you bought them out...

    Tom
  • by TexasDex (709519) on Friday September 08, 2006 @09:53AM (#16065830) Homepage
    Meanwhile, students at Drew Elementary, deep in the low-income area of West Philly, don't even have keyboards and mice for the few old iMacs in the library because they can't afford them (I suspect NCLB is to blame for that). I am part of a student organization in Drexel University called Tech Serv and we are preparing to donate around 31 computers to the elementary school, some of them Pentium IIs but it's better than what they had, which was nothing. Most of the machines will be donated with edubuntu, because the school can't afford windows licenses; we're trying hard to find a few machines with windows stickers already on them for the engineering lab, which plans to use Mindstorms to teach kids basic robotics. And meanwhile that school gets $63 million in funding because Microsoft had a nifty idea.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dslauson (914147)
      Hey, these kids going to MS Elementary are poor inner city kids as well. Lucky for them, they got selected to have a helping hand. Life isn't fair, and if you're saying that it's a bad thing that these kids get to go to a school that's well funded just because some other kids don't, then we might as well just implement communism, pool all our resources together, and distribute them evenly among everybody. We all know that doesn't really work, though, as nice an idea as it is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lachlan76 (770870)

        Life isn't fair, and if you're saying that it's a bad thing that these kids get to go to a school that's well funded just because some other kids don't, then we might as well just implement communism, pool all our resources together, and distribute them evenly among everybody


        It's hardly an unreasonable stance to suggest that adequate funding for all of the schools is better than underfunding the majority and overfunding a minority.
  • One of the major initiatives of the Gates Foundation has been improving high schools in difficult regions. Their first attempt was to fund smaller schools, where it was thought students could manage better. This had not succeeded [businessweek.com] so they are trying other things now.
  • costs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:01AM (#16065883)
    The $63 million cost could of been spent on more schools and teachers then just 1 high tech one. The mainly low-income teens are more like to have the laptops sold / stolen then people who are better off and that may even more likely at times of the year when it is dark at 4:19 p.m.

    Also using smart boards and digital lockers seem like overkill for school and if there a hardware brake down the kids may have there stuff stuck in there lockers and the teacher may have a hard time teaching with out the smart boards.

    Instead of a cafeteria, there's a food court with restaurant-style seating. How long is there lunch? Cafeteria style lets you have more people in there at the same time.

    Also in the high school I was at the food cards did not work that well and the kids where getting doubled billed and the system was down from time to time making the cafeteria workers take the id number buy hand.

    Students have scheduled appointments with teachers, typed into their online calendars, instead of being limited to structured times for classes. Their laptops carry software that assesses how quickly they're learning the lesson. If they get it, they'll dive deeper into the subject. If not, they get remedial help. I like the idea but how many teachers do you need to make that work and there are a lot of state mandated things that must be learned.

    In addition, students at the school must apply to college to get a diploma. Sounds like a good idea but what do you with the people who can't pay for it?

    This sounds like a good program but public education funds can be better spend on brining all schools up to a better level then just having one real good one.
  • OK, so it opens to much fanfare. WHat about in a year, or two or five? Is this going to have legs or is it going to be abandoned? Who is going to measure the results, what methodology will they use to measure the results and where can we find the research.

    Thand and only then will we know if it is just a marketing ploy or a serious attempt to improve education. And how successful it is.

    Also, am I the only one that feels uneasy about using kids and their future as part of a large scale sociological, psycholog
  • by dghcasp (459766) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:03AM (#16065905)

    Microsoft management practices, eh?

    Now, class, your assignment is due friday.

    Of course, if it's not done by then, you can say the schedule slipped and take up to four years to complete it.

    If you don't like your grade, submit a service pack for your assignment and I'll regrade it. You can do this as often as you want.

    Footnotes are not important; if you plagerize something, just define it as your standard. Make sure to change one word so that your writing is different enough from the source.

    And, of course, it's perfectly all right to buy someone else's assignment and then submit it.

  • by debrain (29228)

    but also a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques

    Because a company with virtually no accountability and the most infamous monopoly in the world and has essentially unlimited revenue is the ideal model for a taxpayer-funded cash-strapped public school system. Exactly what qualities are they planning to transfer from Microsoft's management to the school. Let's see ... what qualities do we have, here?

    * The complete lack of vision and focus on imitation instead of innovation? (Copying is

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:06AM (#16065925) Homepage Journal

    Jesus Christ, there are a lot of sharpshooters in here. Everyone knows the US K-12 system, particularly in big cities, sucks goats through a straw. Philadelphia and MS are trying something new. Maybe it won't work, but at least they're trying to do something to fix the problem.

    If I were a kid lucky enough to win that lottery, I'd be happy to have the opportunity to go to a one of a kind, modern school. I'd feel like someone actually gave a damn about my education. Why are so many urban schools so fucked up? Part of the problem is that the facilities are ancient, crumbling edifices left over from the 1800s. I'm not suggesting that every school in the country be razed and rebuilt, but it's no secret that the physical design of schools is a huge factor in the overall learning environment.

    Bringing modern technology into schools isn't enough in itself, but I think it's worth trying. As for Microsoft's involvement, if you're badmouthing it, when is the last time you volunteered at a school?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by idonthack (883680)
      Why are so many urban schools so fucked up? Part of the problem is that the facilities are ancient, crumbling edifices left over from the 1800s.
      And the rest of the problem is that the districts spend most of their budget on stupid projects, when they should be applying it to the schools that need it. Think of what they could have done with 63 million dollars, instead of making a "high-tech" school for less than 800 kids.
  • Being a resident of Philadelphia and knowing the city very well, I think this is probably the ONLY place in the US Microsoft could have done this and actually not stir up contoversy or much debate.

    Everyone knows the New York City school system is the most pathetic, poor and inept one on the planet, even though it is the most richest city in the United States.

    Philadelphia's system is similarly bad, since most people with any means raise their kids in private or parochial schools if they live in the city. Ev
  • by djlowe (41723) * on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:42AM (#16066185)
    I'd wait for Service Pack 1, myself, before deploying.
  • by bhmit1 (2270) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:46AM (#16066221) Homepage
    Throwing technology at a non-technical problem won't fix it. I like some ideas including more self directed study and the new class times (though I'd worry about traffic if this was done across an entire city). And as much crap as MS will get for this, I don't think they have evil motives at heart.

    However, the real problem with schools is the insistence upon including everyone and teaching to the lowest common denominator. The more we can get the high achievers into more advanced programs where they spend time around other high achievers, the better. The entrance requirements for this school shouldn't have been a lottery, but a skills test and teacher recommendations. The best colleges in the country don't use a lottery for admission, and neither should the best schools.

    I'm sure there are a long list of other things that could be done. For example, we need ways to find and reward teachers that engage students and truly educate them. I have a hard time remembering the teachers that taught from a book, but the ones that brought in dry ice and had us build model rockets are at the top of my list. The first management technique that MS should have brought to the table was the proper identification of what the problems are and how they can find and implement the best solutions. Sadly, this was more about money and publicity than it was about fixing a problem.
  • by neo (4625) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:50AM (#16066264)
    CLIPPY!! He can help coach the team!

    BOB!! The yellow face from the BOB OS!

    BILLY GOAT!! With a face like Bill Gates who couldn't love him!

    DEAD PENGUIN!! Picture a penguin that's been fucking killed by certain CEOs

    BLUE SCREEN!! Nothing scares opposing teams like a looming crash!!

    THE ARROW!! The cursor can run around "right clicking" on the opponents cheerleaders, if you know what I mean.
  • by mwoliver (688853) <me@kt2t.us> on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:10AM (#16066426) Homepage
    Education in this country is broken, and this is a great attempt by a very successful software company to change the tide. It's sad that the bulk of the replies to this article are coming from MS haters who have nothing more to contribute than stale jokes about reboots, BSOD, etc. Why don't you catch up with reality? I haven't had a BSOD since I started using XP, and I only had BSODs under 2k when caused by lame ass drivers from third party hardware vendors. That is reality, whether you like it or not. Personally, I use FreeBSD on all of my personal machines and run Windows XP on the laptop provided by my employer, so keep that in mind when you come at me with the "he's drinking the MS kool-aid" rhetoric.

    You LINUX sheep are so typical in your responses. Why can't you just love your distribution of choice and stop hating MS? There is nothing that MS can do that you can see in any other light than negative (at best) or illegal and malevolent (at worst). For all of your bitching about how horrible MS is, you likely haven't spent near as much time helping your local alma mater better their education processes. Typical armchair quarterbacks.

    So, maybe this new antiseptic, all-digital approach isn't right, but who are any of us to sit here and say that it is worse than the status quo for education in this country? Do you have a better idea? I hear some say "just give the money to the school system, we don't need your management style", and I think that is about the most ignorant thing they could do. There is no shortage of money in the education system, though it is disproportionately focused on administration and not on the educators. Pumping more cash into the system will not help one iota, just as throwing money at any situation without a focused plan to use that money, and a way to make those in charge of those disbursements _ACCOUNTABLE_FOR_THE_USE_OF_THE_MONEY_, is a terrible way to manage any process, business, or endeavor in general.

    I am excited to see some change in the education system in this country, and if it fails then at least they tried, hopefully learned a lot from the experience, and aren't too discouraged to not try again with an improved approach.
  • This is stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:32AM (#16066572)
    In my home town (Fort Collins, CO), the school district got a similarly crazy idea - build a brand-new, $36 million dollar high school. It was expensive, it was controversial, but in the end it had a far better idea: spend more now to spend less later. The new school, Fossil Ridge, was designed to be highly energy efficent - it is expected to save the district almost $60,000 per year in energy costs. Since the school is likely to be in service for 30+ years, that adds up to a substantial savings. The district also recieved substantial grants from the Feds for building an eco-friendly school.

    Oh, and Fossil Ridge has SmartBoards too - but only in a few rooms. The lockers are manual, students aren't given laptops (although there are 180 laptops in "mobile labs" that teachers can bring to classrooms, and nearly 700 desktop PCs), and the rooms don't have plasma TVs. And, of course, students still use textbooks and good old pencil and paper.

    In a district that has budget problems (as this PA district apparently does), building a "super-school" that costs 3x as much as a conventional school just doesn't make sense. In the real world, we have a term for that - incredible waste.
  • by bobalu (1921) on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:48AM (#16066711)
    I never could figure out why they make kids get up at the crack of dawn to go to school. You don't have to be a genius to realize people learn better when they're awake.

    It's like some kind of holdover from farm days or something.
  • by dougman (908) on Friday September 08, 2006 @12:19PM (#16066994)
    I can't believe how many comments there are (and have been modded up too) that think M$ should have given them money and left the teaching to the same old union-backed teachers and administrators. We've been trying to solve this problem with more money for years and there has not been any significant return (i.e., increased learning) on that investment. The following numbers are from the US Dept of Education statistics site (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d04/tables/dt0 4_365.asp) (in thousands of current dollars)

    1970 4,625,224
    1975 7,350,355
    1980 13,137,785
    1985 16,701,065
    1990 23,198,575
    1995 31,403,000
    2000 34,106,697
    2002 46,324,352
    2003 57,442,854
    2004 62,864,595

    Note that this is federal spending. There are billions more collected at the state and local level. For example, the estimate in 2003 was nearly $450 billion nationwide. That's just for K-12. FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS.

    Democrats and Republicans alike have both tried to throw money at this problem for a loooong time. Increases in education spending far exceed inflation or personal income. The problem is not money! You can google those facts all day long.

    Microsoft may or may not be an answer to the problem, but the fact that they're getting in there and trying to fix the problem should be embraced.

    I encourage you to poke around www.schoolmatters.com, which is a free service provided by Standard & Poors. They specifically ask that you don't take numbers out of context, so I won't post anything here. It's better to see then in context anyhow.

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