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The shared journey toward education transformation

By Anthony Salcito
October 1, 2016
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Anthony Salcito is vice president of worldwide education for Microsoft. Under Salcito’s leadership, the company has launched several education initiatives, including the Global Microsoft Educator Community, Microsoft Innovative Educator experts and Microsoft Showcase Schools. Microsoft and ISTE recently announced a program to combine and expand a host of their world-class initiatives to ensure educators and school leaders worldwide have access to school planning and professional development resources.

Learning has changed. We must adapt and change with it.

New digital bridges have torn down walls across our planet to connect us all. With ubiquitous access to information, availability of rich content, perpetual creation and sharing, the ability to change awareness, tolerance and career readiness is more possible – and perhaps more needed – than ever before.

While the shift in how we connect, create and learn has changed the potential for our schools and education systems, there is still a fairly wide gap between what’s possible and what’s actually taking place in many schools. This is our next digital divide to cross, and our journey to close the gap will be far more complex, requiring bold leadership and a purpose-driven focus to help students succeed in an increasingly dynamic world. 

During my travels, I have the great opportunity to visit classrooms where I see amazing innovation. Educators are bringing new approaches into their classrooms, they’re challenging the status quo and changing the learning environment for their students. The issue – and it’s a big one – is that these magical moments, ideas and best practices often stay inside the walls of classrooms. While isolated, these points of light shining from schools around the world give us hope for what’s possible and give us a blueprint for the change that’s needed broadly.
Every school, every country is different, but the journey we’re all on is often shared. I’ve learned from the efforts of leaders – from their hopes, amazing successes and failures to break through. Many of these lessons have stayed with me over the years and serve as great reminders to all leaders who are working to embrace a journey to transform. Here are just a few:

Start with leaders. The change we need to make is on people and culture. Leaders set the tone, change the expectations and ensure innovation is the norm. Every step starts with purposeful focus on student achievement.

Leverage process to drive plan. We need to create common language to help spread innovative practices into every classroom. Creating a method to drive thinking that’s shared across a school helps ready great ideas for easier importing and exporting.

Build from the “inside out.”
Real change starts with a focus on enabling students to achieve more. Technology is best used as an answer to purpose-driven questions, not as the focus of the change.

Parents play a key role. Many of the most successful projects I’ve seen acknowledge the tremendous value parents provide in both driving student success and keeping kids safe online.

Use data to measure.
The best projects thoughtfully integrate data to improve efficiency, keep students safe and drive insights to drive impact. Data needs to help students and educators get to a better future, not just report on the past. 

Celebrate Teachers. Always.
We all need to empower school leaders to create a culture of transformation inside their schools and to shift our mindsets so new approaches to education are the norm. We need to make failure an option (and a tool to learn from) and sharing the journey of transforming learning with others a requirement. 

Change starts with purpose.
We often focus on how schools look and how the pedagogy is structured, but this needs to be balanced, and I would dare say re-balanced, with how schools feel and the purposefulness of every aspect to inspire a student to achieve more. The world needs our schools to be beacons of hope and our students to lead our communities to peace and prosperity. 

Greatness awaits every classroom.