What's Microsoft Doing for Students?

Like the rest of the world, computer science is on a steep transformation curve!

If you’re like me and you’ve been doing this for a while, then think for a second about the technological delta across the first 75% of your life and that of the last 25%.

For me, the first 75% of my life was 1975 to 2003.

In 1975…

…gas was 44 cents a gallon, cars cost an average of $4k, and homes cost $40k. The Altair 8800 was born and Gates and Allen were writing BASIC on it. The Microsoft brand was born as a registered trademark, the big VHS vs Betamax battle was brewing, and the Cray-1 - the first commercially developed supercomputer - was available for the biggest computing tasks.

Jump ahead to 2003 and…

…gas is up to $1.83 and homes are up to $246k. Now, not only is 99% of the human genome mapped, but it seems like everyone has a personal computer and a personal cell phone. Processor speeds are fulfilling Moore’s Law and the Intel chips are everywhere. Everything’s bigger and faster than it was 28 years before, but the digital concepts and paradigms are largely unchanged… it’s basically just more of the same.

How about 2003 to today?

Now look at the delta between 2003 and today - 2013. Not only are things faster and smarter, but we don’t even do things the same way. Our data is in the cloud, and we can assume it will follow us to whatever device we happen to have in front of us. We know our technology knows our whereabouts, our heading, and every microscopic move we make. Everything is video recorded - everywhere. We’re printing things - actual things. And we’re seeing the introduction of autonomous robots that fly anywhere carrying the extent of our modern technology onboard and maybe even carrying our Christmas presents.

Generations above mine still marvel at the technology as it’s released. My generation does not. You can only surprise a person so many times before change becomes his norm. And THAT is exactly the experience of today’s student. Change… steep change… is their norm.

Not only do today’s youth expect change, but they expect themselves to be creators of change. They don’t have so many decades-old paradigms constraining their creative minds. When I work in a classroom full of students, the ideas flow far more freely than they do in professional developer circles.

What about the students?

So my question today is… what is Microsoft doing for students. The answer is… embracing and enabling.

My group - Developer Platform Evangelism - works extensively with students from secondary to post-secondary. We visit classrooms in state schools, private schools, community college, and vocational schools. Through DreamSpark, Microsoft gives its software - its bread and butter - away to the future developers. Not only is it a way to introduce them to our tools and platforms, but it introduces them to a field that can be quite intimidating when you’re yet on the outside.

The computer science field that tends to be intimidating to outsiders is demystified when you install the tools and create your first hello world project. And, like high school math which seems so advanced when you look ahead, every concept simply builds on the another until you find youself making apps that matter.

I went spelunking in an effort to figure out what other programs exist for the benefit of students and here’s what I turned up.

MICROSOFT STUDENT. The portal is a gateway to all student offerings. It’s a good place to start. A student can figure out how to download free software, join the Imagine Cup program, pursue certifications, and a lot more. Students can even find discounts at the Microsoft Store.

FACEBOOK. A student pursuit would not be complete without a Facebook page. Even though recent reports show fewer students embracing the ubiquitous social software, there’s still a lot of action on Microsoft Student’s Facebook page.

TWITTER. Twitter is an exciting way to keep in close touch with the development community. Students shouldn’t hesitate following @ms_student on Twitter to get timely information on what Microsoft Student is saying and doing that affects them.

TEALS. TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) is not a Microsoft program, but there are a lot of Microsoft employees involved in the TEALS program, visiting classrooms, and introducing students to the technology world. We’re especially tuned in female students that may feel otherwise steered away from involvement in STEM careers.

IMAGINE CUP. Imagine Cup is a massive and massively exciting program. Actually, this one is happening as I write this, and this year is an exciting one for the fact that the grand finale is happening right here in Redmond, WA for the first time ever. I’m participating as a judge and have already been through a couple of rounds of student project reviews.

MICROSOFT FOR EDUCATORS. We believe that Microsoft’s hardware and software best serve students in the classroom. The software is managable for the school, intuitive and familiar for teachers and students, and allows the use of the mounds of legacy education software running in harmony with modern apps. If you’re on the other side of the education equation - the teaching side - you should visit the Microsoft in Education page. There you’ll find resources, tips, and even discounts for enabling your classroom with awesome Microsoft technology.

BING. Everyone knows about Bing. Not everyone is using it yet, but classrooms are one place it really shines. Being completely ad free and G-rated, the platform is not only safe, but super powerful. The advantages to using Bing over Google in schools are big and you can see them all at, but the clincher for me is that you can get a free Surface every month for using Bing!

If you’re a student, teacher, or admin in the Pacific Northwest and you want to engage with me directly, please feel free to follow me on Twitter @codefoster and let me know how I can help.

Student Resources

If you’re a student and you want to get involved in developing apps for Microsoft, then this page is for you. I’m going to outline and maintain all the resources I know about that are specifically designed to give you free software, train you, and prepare you for making great apps on Windows and Windows Phone.

I’ll likely have far more resources here in the future. If you need any help getting your system app ready, just let me know.