Windows HS: Microsoft designs a school system

“Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has famously called high schools ‘obsolete’ and warned about their effect on U.S. competitiveness. Now, his company has a chance to prove that it can help fix the woes of public education,” Deborah Yao reports for The Associated Press.

“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,” Yao reports. “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.”

MacDailyNews Take: “Learning process modeled on Microsoft’s management techniques.” Hmm, no jokes there. We’d love to go to this high school. You can delay handing in your homework for years. “My dog ate my homework” won’t wash, but “My PC crashed” works everytime. But, maybe it’s a bit too dangerous: chair throwing is an encouraged solution for managing anger. That big fat sweaty bald guy who dances at the pep rallies is kinda embarrassing, too. We heard that the lockers don’t have three digit combination locks; you have to “authenticate” by phoning your homeroom whenever you want them opened. By the way, the school’s lone color is blue. Solid blue.

Yao continues, “‘Philadelphia came to us … and asked us to design a school,’ said Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.”

MacDailyNews Take: Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Yao continues, “School district CEO Paul Vallas said he was impressed by more than just the company’s technology. ‘I was also taken by their culture,’ Vallas said. ‘They created a culture within which ideas can be generated and acted upon.'”

MacDailyNews Take: “Generated and acted upon,” yes. The final results are not well-executed, but “generated and acted upon” is something, we guess. It’s better than “generated, but not acted upon” or “not generated at all,” right?

Yao continues, “The high school will use an ‘education competency wheel,’ patterned after a set of desirable traits Microsoft encourages among its employees.”

MacDailyNews Take: These traits include: general malaise, looking busy while doing nothing, taking complex ideas and adding complexity, dyslexic copying, the ability to ignore the total lack of business ethics in return for a regular paycheck, and, of course, loving free towels.

Yao continues, “This new approach to education has sparked the interest of Doug Lynch, vice dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. ‘Two things are quite intriguing _ the willingness of the district and Microsoft to try something different,’ Lynch said. He cautioned, however, that while trying new methods may be valuable ‘we have to be careful because you’re messing with kids’ lives.'”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Philly parents who love their kids: you might want to consider moving to Detroit. Seriously, all joking aside, we hope the kids — “nearly all black and mainly low-income” as described by Yao — end up getting a great education despite Microsoft’s involvement.

Related articles:
CNNMoney’s back-to-school guide: Get a Mac – September 02, 2006
The Seattle Times: Apple Macbook is best computer for school – August 26, 2006
Enderle: Microsoft employees voice concerns about working for dysfunctional company – March 29, 2006
Apple Mac is #1 in European education market, pushes Dell down into second place – February 03, 2006
Apple teams with Detroit Public Schools to provide students with Macs, iPods, digitial cameras, more – September 27, 2005
Pennsylvania school district’s PCs infected with virus; their Macs unaffected – October 01, 2003
Montana school district’s Windows computers offline due to worm; Macintosh computers unaffected – September 03, 2003
More schools experience Windows virus, worm problems while Macs just keep working – August 22, 2003
A tale of two school systems: Windows schools crippled while Mac schools unaffected – August 21, 2003


  1. It’s one thing when your computer crashes daily but what happens when the whole school crashes?

    Oh the horror! The inhumanity!

    On the other hand, this could mean ‘Snow Days’ happening year round.

    Who’s a Canadian? Eh?

  2. What bothers me most about this is that Microsoft was allowed almost free reign to implement their “vision” of the futuristic classroom, with the school district picking up the entire tab, $63 million.

    Microsoft wins all this positive PR, and it doesn’t cost them a dime.

    I wonder if the $63 million was just for the building, or included all of Microsoft’s costs as well.

    In any case, I’m glad they’re creating new opportunities for low-income students. Speaking from experience, it’s hard for us out there.

  3. I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will not loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails,
    I will loot the school and sell the computers if my eduction fails……

  4. As I understand it the district footed the entire bill…including all the equipment and “niceties” in the building. It should be noted that the school house 1500 students. A drop in the bucket first step size wise for the Philadelphia School District. From what I was able to garner from our local news (I live in the City), it looks like it was just an opportunity to include in the building existing technologies that are more difficult to shoehorn into the mostly older existing buildings of the district.

    Looks to me like a lot of flash. We’ll have to wait and see about the substance.

    Hmmm….kinda sounds like the company that is getting all the PR doesn’t it?

    Magic Word: Sales (as in your local microsoftie tonic salesman)

  5. This gives new meaning to “mono culture.”

    School uniforms will be covered in patches. Bowl haircuts for boys and girls are mandatory. Encarta will be the only accepted reference source. At the end of each day, the principal will announce the start of the day. The workout room will be stocked with Zunes for weightlifting. A monkey playing the accordion is the new mascot. The guidance counselors will dress as wizards. The cafeteria will post an Innovations board with groundbreaking cuisine experiments such as extra tartar sauce on the fish sticks.

    Creativity will not be tolerated at any time.

  6. Artisticulated: I gave it a shot!

    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”LOL” style=”border:0;” />

    Magic Thought for the Day: Microsoft engineers the future of education. The future of humanity is permanently stalled for indefinite beta testing. Eventually, all humans become translucent. Enjoy the view.

  7. I live in Philly. A friend of mine applied for a teaching position there, or “Geek Humanist” as they call it – no joke. Here is their educational philosophy – there is none, basically. There is no curriculum. The students teach themselves. The students can wander from one class to another whenever and wherever they want. The students are supposed to provide their own tech support, too. This experiment will go over like a brick. I’ll send MDN local articles as the disaster unfolds.

  8. I have a horrifying vision of Steve Ballmer “educating” children via block streamed windows media ala The Simpsons.

    Ballmer: Now, turn to the next problem. If you have three Chairs and throw one, how much sweatier are you? You, the redhead in the West Philadelphia school system?
    Girl: Windows?
    Ballmer: Partial credit!

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