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Microsoft boss says education system must change

Anthony Salcito grew up in a tough neighbourhood in New York City. A self-proclaimed geek, one day he discovered that technology had saved him from gangs, crime and drugs. Technology became a gateway to something better.


Salcito’s interest in technology secured him a job at Microsoft as Vice President for Worldwide Education. He recently visited itslearning’s user conference in Bergen, Norway, where he talked to 400 teachers about technology and how it can support learning.

“People do a great job with technology, but are bad at making it work in a pedagogical perspective,” he said.

The education system must change

Although technology has changed the education system, Salcito argued that the classroom has changed very little. Where teachers used blackboards and chalk a century ago, todays´ teachers use computers and learning platforms, and tests, assignments and books are digital. But even though teaching has been digitalised and automated we have a long way to go. The teachers must contribute to drive the change forward – technology alone is not enough.

“While most OECD countries have doubled or tripled their education costs between 1970 and 1994, the students’ results have stagnated or become poorer,” Salcito said.

In order to improve attainment he said practices in the educational system must change. Most important is making students expect a better future when they start their education.

The teachers must be better at bringing forward the relevance in the curriculum. All teachers have been asked the question: “Why do I have to learn this? I’ll never get to use it.” The students must understand why they learn. Having a classroom full of technical equipment is not most important, but rather how the technology is used. Otherwise, we maintain the status quo.

Learn from computer games

Students who fail are rarely motivated. But if a student who fails plays a video game and gets a “game over”, he is inspired to improve and try again. The school system has much to learn from gameplay, Salcito says. What drives you to continue trying in a computer game? How can teachers have a similar effect in the classroom?

“I’m motivated when my toothbrush displays a smiley if I have brushed my teeth in over two minutes, or when modern cars display a flower motive when you drive economically. We must strive to get a similar motivation into the classroom.”

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