Microsoft Disrupting School Model by Putting App Building into Curriculum

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Microsoft is working with a school district in Ohio to teach students how to buid and market apps, according to Ben Lower, Sr. Product Manager, Developer Experience, Windows Phone Apps.

Lower, who writes for the Windows 7 Phone Developer blog, told us in an interview this afternoon that Microsoft recently began working on a partnership with a non-profit (501-3c Corporation) he didn't name whose charter is supporting the Chagrin Falls, OH school district. "The goal of this partnership will be to develop coursework around building and marketing Windows Phone applications," says Lower.

The pilot session of this program will be a group of roughly 40 students who will be led through the creative, technical and tactical aspects of Windows Phone app development.

Microsoft has been working more closely with schools and students as it has become apparent that programming and apps are becoming a significant portion of future careers.

Recently, Lower's developer group worked with eight student finalists -- one of them a high school student -- this summer in a competition to build new apps for the new Mango phone out this Fall.

One of this year's winners in a was a local high school student named Tara Balakrishnan.

Tara used the new Mango phone and the Hawaii app building platform to create Pictionary, a multi-player mobile version of the popular draw and guess game. Tara is senior at Redmond High School and was an intern in the Research Connections team where she evaluated the Hawaii tools for High School students and got some experience with the Windows Phone. She had only been programming (.NET) and using a Windows Phone for a month, says Lower.

This could be a boon for Microsoft. Everyone from school district heads to education reformers have been clamoring to get kids to learn more of a 21st century curriculum. We've already seen apps that mobilize and socialize textbooks to link them to the Internet. If most people are moving to mobile, this will be the way students of today do business and have social lives tomorrow.

Microsoft is launching more of these open app competitions, and you find application material at Lower's blog. High school students, or any other students, can fill out the form and Microsoft will send them a phone and the tools they need to make their own apps.

The XAPfest Tara won is one example of how Microsoft is investing in educating and supporting current and prospective Windows Phone student developers. In June, the company wrapped Imagine Cup 2011, where student developers solved world problems with Windows Phone apps.

This year's third place finalist, LifeLens, created an app that uses a microscopic lens attached to a Windows Phone to digitally characterize anemia, visualize blood cell rupture, parasites and malaria.

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