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. “Seriously, all joking aside, we hope the kids … end up getting a great education despite Microsoft’s involvement.”

    In all likelyhood, the only way they’re going to get an education is “despite Microsoft’s involvement.”

  2. I saw that on the TV news last night. I live in Seattle, so they eat that kind of crap up. They then proceeded to run a story on the new imac. They used footage showing pictues of the old “DV” grey G3 imac, and then showed some ice blue G3 tower. Totally Clueless. Seattle is such a suck-up to everything M$. Too many M$llionaires here, too much denial about the tsunami coming from Cupertino.

  3. We can only hope that the kids will get so frustrated that they will teach themselves independently, then go on to have successful careers not using Windows just so they can stick it to Microsoft for trying to ruin their lives.

  4. And what is the IT cost?

    Say, 1000 students with 1200 computers in the school. That’s gotta be 50 full time Microsoft certified professionals each making $70k a year.

    huh. $3.5 million a year just in tech support, plus symantec virus licenses at $30 a year per machine (another $36k a year), plus stock options for the teachers as incentives to not pull their own hair out, or worse, pull each others’ hair out. And, who’s PCs did they buy? Probably Dell, so that’s another warranty hell. Something tells me this whole thing is a bad idea.

    Knowing Microsoft, every action the students take is tracked, every time their lockers are opened, the school administration knows about it. Every time the toilets are flushed, somebody is monitoring it.

    For MDN – moving to Detroit is a bad idea. I’m in Ann Arbor, 50 miles from Detroit. The teachers are striking there so there is no school. Of course, that might be better than attending a Microsoft school. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  5. Hmmm…I don’t think we’ll be reading any stories about Apple putting MacBooks in the hands of Philly students anytime soon.

    All kidding aside, Bill Gates was heavily featured on a recent Oprah special on education. To give credit where credit is due, he had some great ideas. It’s one thing for the non-profit Gates Foundation to get involved with designing a new school paradigm as long as it’s overseen by real, progressive educators, but I feel very uneasy about Microsoft putting a school together. I absolutely agree that we need need to shift the focus of education to Science and Technology because that’s where the future lies, but having MS involved to this degree will only be trading in one set of problems for another.

  6. All joking aside, this is a sick commentary on the competancy of school officials. They were “impressed” by Microsoft’s “culture”. I will bet you anything these pointy-haired retards did not one lick of research prior to meeting with Microsoft. Microsoft presented them with their best face and they ate it up.

    If they had done any research at all, they would know that Microsoft’s “culture” is in a state of severe crisis. The employees are miserable. The company can’t seem to succeed at anything. It is NOT a culture you want to model anything on, much less a school system.

  7. I’m all for this. Gates is right that our schools are obsolete, and any attempt and modernizing the way students learn is a great first step, even if it doesn’t work out. At the very least, I hope that it brings the discussion to the forefront and leads to other innovations.

    I’m a little shocked that the school board picked up the entire tab. Does anybody know if that 63M was earmarked for a new school regardless of MS’s involvement?

  8. Here’s a few more I uncovered Ampar:

    Plagiarism? Use when convenient.
    There be towels for gym class and free Mountain Dew.
    Windows HS has more hallways than classrooms.
    There will be little paper clips beside each student repeatedly asking them: if they’re sitting in the correct seat, using the proper pen color, looking at the prettiest girl, happy with their lunch choice… etc.
    And yes, there will be a $20 a month charge for “virus protection”.
    School officials expect to lose about two students per day and remind parents to back up their children often.
    But no one’s sure what happens when the student registry gets corrupted.

  9. Here in Philadelphia, the public school system is so lousy and so broke that charity is welcome from anyone, even Microsoft. Even I will put aside my anti-MS bias when they’re trying to help.

    Still, I’m a product of the Philadelphia school system, and I done gots a real good edjamakshun. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  10. I think if Apple opened a school, it would bring a whole new meaning to the word learning by applying their “Think Different” ethos.

    Sure, there would be shiny new computers to use, once the thought train had been engaged, but I suspect Apple would be more interested in introducing the likes of kinesthetic learning techniques to ensure the “learning experience” was geared to the needs of the individual.

    “You’re not doing well enough in class, because you don’t have enough shiny, flash kit” does seem like an ill thought out, very Microsoft like response to me….

  11. Geek Humanist, huh? Does that sound vaguely familiar to anyone whose ever applied at an Apple store? Mac Geek, Mac Genius, Creative, etc…

    You’d think they’d be able to think of something original… Oh wait… never mind…

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