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Principal of Multicultural School Talks about STEM Education

Q&A with Principal Gail Doney of Wallarano Primary School, Victoria, Australia sheds light on equality issues in access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education
and how help from the private sector can help.


Educational inequality is an issue many communities struggle with. While the symptoms are usually the result of a number of factors, students with less access to education are less likely to develop skills that will be critical in the future workforce.


To help address this issue, Samsung Electronics Australia and Social Ventures Australia (SVA) have expanded the Bright Spots Schools Connection initiative to include the STEM Learning Hub – an initiative that brings STEM expertise and support to schools in communities across Australia where resources are most needed.


Students of the Wallarano Primary School in Victoria, Australia, engage with digital devices in their classroom


Wallarano Primary School, a large multicultural school situated in Victoria, is one of 48 schools that are part of SVA’s Bright Spots Schools Connection. Wallarano is unique in that it services a culturally rich community of 689 students from over 40 different nations. Among these students, 69% are from a non-English speaking background. Over the last year, teachers and students from Wallarano have been exploring Samsung technology in the classroom.


Samsung Newsroom asked Wallarano’s Principal Gail Doney how she has personally seen the teachers and students benefit as a result of being part of the STEM Learning Hub:



Q. Why do you think programs like the STEM Learning Hub and partnerships like the Samsung/SVA collaboration are so important to the advancement of education?


Education and the private sector need to work together in this time of rapid change. Schools must stay in tune with the future skills and capabilities that young people will need to be successful in the future. Working with Samsung has provided many advantages for our school, particularly by exposing our students to the latest classroom technologies. Our involvement in the STEM Learning Hub has also connected us with like-minded professionals to share different views and perspectives on how to best implement STEM.



Q. Do you think the learning outcomes and experiences of your students have improved as a result of being involved in the STEM Learning Hub?


Most certainly – in fact, our 2017 NAPLAN results showed that 39% students had made a relative gain in Numeracy and over a quarter of our students in Grade 3 (29.4%) and Grade 5 (27.2%) were in the top two bands.


When assessed on the Victorian Curriculum in June this year Wallarano students showed improvements across all areas of learning:


  • Digital Technologies 96% at or above the expected level with 32% of student 1 year ahead of the expected level (compared to 94% at or above in 2017 with only 9.8% of students 1 year ahead of the expected level)
  • Numeracy 85% at or above expected level (compared to 66.5% in 2017)
  • Measurement and Geometry 88% at or above the expected level (compared to 75.3%% in 2017)
  • Statistics and probability 92% at or above the expected level (compared to 66% in 2017)
  • Science Understanding 93% at or above expected level (compared to 88.5% in 2017)
  • Science Inquiry 92% at or above expected level (compared to 88.5% in 2017)


Last year, two Grade 3 girls won 1st place in Australia in the Wonder League Robotics Competition for their age group which was a highlight for all of us at Wallarano.


Two Grade 3 girls won 1st place in Australia in the 2016/17 Wonder League Robotics Competition


What has been most rewarding for us is that the children themselves are telling us that they are more engaged. 88% of students indicated in a school survey that the Digital Sandpit was their favorite school activity.



Q. Prior to being involved in the STEM Learning Hub, what challenges did you face as a teacher?


As teachers, we faced big questions like – What is STEM? What technologies do we need? What is the best way to introduce and implement STEM to ensure a high-quality program at all levels in the primary school setting.


Being involved in the STEM Learning Hub has really helped us to answer these questions by understanding how specific technologies can enrich the learning experience not only for students, but also for teachers.



Q. Why do you think technology is such an important part of learning development and educational experiences?


Technology is embedded in all areas of society and children must know how they work and why, not just how to use them. Students need to have knowledge, skills and capabilities in STEM and design thinking to enable them to enter professions relevant to the modern world – so it is imperative we are setting them up for future success.


Wallarano students in their Digital Sandpit, where staff and students can play, experiment and give each other small challenges to tackle with digital technologies



Q. How have you been incorporating Samsung technology and other technologies in the classroom?


We extensively use the Galaxy Books, the 360 cameras and Samsung phones for Virtual Reality experiences in the classroom. We run a weekly session called the Digital Sandpit where staff and students can play, experiment and give each other small challenges with Samsung technology and equipment such as 3D printers, Laser Cutters and Robotics. Meanwhile, we are also beginning to use the 360 cameras to give teachers visual references of their practice which we then use to give constructive feedback.

Samsung Electronics Helps Inject New Vitality into Taiwanese Education through Promotion of STE-A-M Education

Samsung Electronics Taiwan announced today that it is expanding its STAR UP education program. The initiative seeks to incorporate art into STEM education, through the adoption of Offline-to-Online (O2O) modes for the education curriculum. As first phase for the expansion, Samsung will be creating six online multimedia courses in cooperation with leading educational platform CommonWealth Education Media and Publishing Co., Ltd, and related experts. The aim will be to utilize technology and co-learning concepts, and the O2O model, to allow the sharing of rich resources among a greater number of learners, and overcome barriers in traditional classroom settings.



From STEM to STE-A-M: Incorporating Aesthetic Learning in Technology-Intensive STEM Curricula

Launched in 2017, the STAR UP program aims to inject new educational concepts throughout Taiwan with a focus on aesthetic(美感) education and ‘for-living’ philosophy. It promotes STE-A-M (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education that integrates the aesthetic into the traditional STEM focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Since 2014, Samsung Electronics Taiwan has established 15 SMART Schools, and in 2017, further expanded the reach to 3 hospitals.


“Samsung is committed to meaningfully contributing to local education in Taiwan through our unique efforts in education-related citizenship which aim to provide more holistic, accessible, and ultimately impactful learning,” said Jungjoo Lee, President, Samsung Electronics Taiwan. “Through our on- and off-line SMART Schools, and the simultaneous infusion of innovative hardware and software resources, we aim to help educators expand beyond conventional approaches in broadening the horizons of Taiwan’s children.”



New STAR UP Online Courses Focus on Cultivation of Personal Skills

The new STAR UP online multimedia courses are centered around six core focuses to help children cultivate skills related to managing emotions and interpersonal skills; philosophy and critical thinking; and technology and autonomous learning. Other skills include aesthetics and perception; interdisciplinary and problem-solving skills; and life and character. The online courses, hosted by educational experts, will begin being offered from the second quarter of 2018.


“The utilization of new online technologies facilitates the realization of personalized learning and creates opportunities of multidimensional development for children with different backgrounds, abilities, interests, and characteristics,” said Amy Ho, CEO at CommonWealth Education. “We believe that cooperation with Samsung Electronics Taiwan will inject new vitality into Taiwanese education, ensuring that every child derives maximum benefits from education.”


In addition to the new online courses, Samsung Electronics Taiwan plans to continue its cooperation with various education-related partners in Taiwan, through activities including physical workshops and seminars, to inject more resources into enhancing Taiwanese education.



• From left to right: Wang Shufen (writer), Jungjoo Lee (Vice President, Samsung Electronics Taiwan), Amy Ho (CEO, CommonWealth Education), and Chen Chongwen (creative director, Good Design Institute)


• Jungjoo Lee (Vice President, Samsung Electronics Taiwan) and Amy Ho (CEO, CommonWealth Education) pose at an event to announce the two entities’ collaboration for 6 online courses


• Exhibition highlight at the Samsung SMART School, CommonWealth collaboration announcement

International Women’s Day: Three simple ways we can all #PressforProgress for women in STEM

1976 photo of Mary Snapp
Mary Snapp, promoting science and technology in high schools in 1976.

Women around the world are taking to the streets on International Women’s Day to urge faster progress on gender parity in economic opportunity, education and other important issues. The theme this year, #PressforProgress, is perfectly tuned to the challenges society faces.

I know what’s it’s like to be the “first woman.” It’s really lonely! It feels like all eyes are watching you. I was the first woman hired by an auto company to give science and technology demonstrations at school assemblies in middle schools and high schools, on the road for months at a time. I was the first female attorney hired at Microsoft, supporting the engineering groups, and the “only woman in the meeting” far more times than I could count. Were it not for a few male mentors who took a chance to reach out over the years, I likely would have left my profession as a public relations professional, and later a lawyer. Now it’s an honor to “pay it forward.”

As a society, we have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of female science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) leaders. Today’s youngest students – known as Gen Z – are unlike any previous generation. They are digital natives with the creativity and confidence to use STEM to drive to positive change. Yet we are failing to keep them engaged and excited about the possibilities that STEM studies and careers provide. Unless things change much faster, many in this bright, hopeful generation will not enter these fields.

These are among the reasons Microsoft Philanthropies provides grants to nonprofits that prioritize increasing diversity in computer science, and more than half of beneficiaries are female. For the past four summers, we partnered with Girls Who Code, for example, to host high school girls enrolled in the nonprofit’s summer immersion program. Girls spend a portion of the summer on many of our U.S. campuses learning to build apps, games, websites and hardware. Microsoft women mentor the girls and often stay in touch after the program is complete.

Six girls wearing Girls Who Code Tshirts
Microsoft Philanthropies provides grants to nonprofits, including Girls Who Code, that prioritize increasing diversity in computer science. Photo courtesy of Girls Who Code.

Another nonprofit we support is Laboratoria, headquartered in Lima, Peru, which trains, in mere months, young women from low-income backgrounds to become web developers. Companies hired more than three-quarters of Laboratoria’s graduates into technology jobs that rely on computer science skills, and the average graduate triples her income.

“I always had that eagerness to help and advance myself,” Laboratoria graduate Lizeth Kenny Lopez Zamudio said recently about her experience with the program. She took a Microsoft Azure workshop where she learned to use new software platforms, programming languages and artificial intelligence. She now uses those skills at her job in a financial services company by programming customer service chatbots, working remotely on a virtual machine and presenting case studies on Azure.

Our education team also does excellent work around the world helping inspire girls to pursue computer science. Among many examples, a partnership forged with the United Arab Emirates help support girls as they participate in international technology competitions. Our education team also develops STEM curricula such as Minecraft: Education Edition, Hacking STEM and MakeCode, which help educators engage students with hands-on, immersive STEM experiences. The Minecraft tutorials they built for, a nonprofit that also emphasizes outreach to girls, has reached over 85 million people.

On International Women’s Day, and beyond, I’m calling on everyone – women and men – to take the first steps in encouraging younger women and girls to pursue STEM careers. Here are a few ways to get involved:

  • Mentoring: On International Women’s Day, several of our senior leaders will reach out to girls in our local community and elsewhere, to paint a relatable picture of what it’s like to work in STEM. Microsoft will also host more than 125 DigiGirlz events around the world, to give middle and high school girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. You can volunteer as a mentor through nonprofits such as and Girls Who Code’s Clubs Program.
  • STEM workshops and speakers: Microsoft stores will host DigiGirlz workshops and Women in STEM panels throughout March, featuring women in aviation, coding, gaming and space. Learn to code and meet internationally recognized, aspiring astronaut 16-year-old Alyssa Carson, in Garden City, New York and Troy, Michigan. Meet former astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, in Bellevue, Washington. Learn more at the Microsoft Store website.
  • Socialize STEM: Please share stories about girls doing amazing things in STEM, using the #MakeWhatsNext hashtag. Participate in the @MicrosoftEDU’s global tweetmeet using #MSFTEduChat, to share your ideas to motivate young women to pursue STEM careers.

Gender disparity in STEM fields is a multi-faceted problem. We should each do a small part, and stand up as proud STEMinists. If we each inspire at least one young woman to see the immense potential in STEM fields, progress will come faster, and we’ll all benefit.


The post International Women’s Day: Three simple ways we can all #PressforProgress for women in STEM appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

Hour of Code 2017: Unlock an exciting new world by taking a ‘Hero’s Journey’

Two young girls in classroom working on computer
Students try out an early preview of the new Minecraft Tutorial at the Skyway Boys & Girls Club, in Skyway, Washington, on Oct. 16, 2017.

In a few weeks, people around the world will celebrate Computer Science Education Week. Millions of kids and others will participate in an Hour of Code, a global call to action to spend an hour learning the basics of coding.

Today, it’s my privilege to announce that Microsoft has released a new Minecraft tutorial for Hour of Code, called Hero’s Journey, that will be used in classrooms, at after-school programs, community centers and homes everywhere. The tutorial uses game elements loved by so many young people, and introduces a fun character called the Agent, to present computer science concepts in a fun and creative way. Learn more in a post today by Deirdre Quarnstrom, Minecraft Education general manager, and start planning your Hour of Code.

Depiction of The Agent character in new Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial
The Agent from Microsoft and’s new Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial.

If you’re on the fence about whether you should join this global movement, consider a 2015 study by Gallup that shows how far we still have to go when it comes to helping everyone, including parents and teachers, understand the definition of “computer science.” The study found that “while most students, parents, teachers and school principals surveyed correctly identified ‘creating new software’ and ‘programming and coding’ as computer science activities, many also incorrectly identified ‘creating documents or presentations’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘searching the Internet’ as part of computer science.”

This gap of understanding about what computer science and coding enables threatens our ability to dream big. We need to break down those barriers to help more students appreciate the importance, versatility and creativity that define coding.

Learning to think critically through coding is the single most important step students can take to prepare themselves to fully participate in, and benefit from, the digital economy. Few points drive this fact home better than one from a report by the  World Economic Forum, which predicts that 65 percent of children who enter primary school today will work in completely new jobs that don’t currently exist. Among the study’s recommendations: the need for students to have technical skills to better adapt to our changing workplace.

Photo of Mary Snapp
“Learning to think critically through coding is the single most important step students can take to prepare themselves to fully participate in, and benefit from, our increasingly digital economy,” writes Mary Snapp, vice president, Microsoft Philanthropies.

This brings home an important reality: technology is transforming the economy at the speed of light, putting new demands on our workforce, and on the young people who will soon join that workforce. That’s why, for years, we’ve been engaged with schools, with nonprofits and with others to arm young people with the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital economy. It’s why we are working across the United States, and around the world, to help young people and adults become creators of technology, advance their careers and grow their local economies.

Jean Yang, a computer scientist and blogger, writes that “computer science is the study of what machines can do for us.” It’s a great definition. And learning to code, which unlocks those things that computers – and technology as a whole – can do for us, is something that all of us can, and should, learn.

Take that first step today. Here are a few ways you can do it:

  • Try our new Minecraft Tutorial, and have a friend or family member join you. Share the code you have written on social media.
  • Access a robust set Hour of Code of learning opportunities compiled by Microsoft Philanthropies.

You can also visit your local Microsoft Store for a hands-on experience. Starting today, all Microsoft Store locations will host a free Computer Science for Everyone workshop series for educators and parents at all coding levels who want to learn new coding skills, understand why computer science is critical for students and how to lead their own Hour of Code.

Students at Microsoft Store workshop on coding.
Students learn coding skills at a free Hour of Code workshop at the Microsoft Store at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles on July 20, 2017. Sign up today for Hour of Code workshops, including the new Minecraft tutorial, by visiting your local Microsoft Store.

Microsoft Stores will also host free Hour of Code workshops during Computer Science Education Week, featuring the new Minecraft tutorial for those who want to join in the global movement with family or friends.

Let’s work together to ensure that every young person has their eyes opened to the endless possibilities before them, unlocked by taking that first step, through an entertaining and enlightening Hour of Code.

The post Hour of Code 2017: Unlock an exciting new world by taking a ‘Hero’s Journey’ appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

Gamescom, Hot Chips, Hackathon and inclusivity – Weekend Reading: Aug. 25 edition

This week was awash in news out of gamescom 2017, a European trade fair for digital gaming culture that took place in Cologne, Germany. If your head is spinning from all the announcements, take a deep breath and devote the next three minutes to watching this video, with everything you need to know out of Xbox, including pre-orders of the Xbox One X and the limited-edition Project Scorpio, the Xbox One S Minecraft limited-edition bundle, and news on games such as PlayerUnknown’s “Battlegrounds,” “State of Decay 2,” “Forza Motorsport 7,” “ReCore Definitive Edition,” “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” “Middle-earth: Shadow of War,” Xbox Backward Compatibility and more.

A picture of three different types of Xbox devices and controllers.

Gamescom wasn’t the only big event this week. At the Hot Chips 2017 conference, a cross-Microsoft team unveiled a new deep-learning acceleration platform, codenamed Project Brainwave, that was designed for real-time artificial intelligence. That means the system processes requests as fast as it receives them, with ultra-low latency, according to Doug Burger, a distinguished engineer at Microsoft. “Project Brainwave achieves a major leap forward in both performance and flexibility for cloud-based serving of deep learning models,” Burger wrote.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, it dominated this year’s Microsoft Hackathon last month, with a winning project that’s too hot to talk about. The Hackathon started in 2014 as an experiment to engage employees, and it’s now the world’s biggest private hackathon with more than 18,000 participants who showcase bold new ideas that influence company products and sometimes lead to entirely new services. This year’s winning team put together a project that’s “a compelling and practical use of artificial intelligence that we think our customers will love,” said Jeff Ramos, who leads the Microsoft Garage, the team that runs the Hackathon. “It’s so compelling that we’ve decided to be discreet in the amount of details we want to share.” Taken as a whole, this year’s group of hackers showed how quickly AI is becoming the fabric of how a new generation of technology services is delivered, with projects submitted for everything from self-driving wheelchairs to the prediction of traffic signal times.

A crowd of Hackathon 2017 participants cheer and wave at the camera outside on a sunny day.

It was also a big week for inclusivity at Microsoft. In conjunction with the US Business Leadership Network conference, which focuses on inclusive hiring, Microsoft employees shared personal stories showing the benefits of having a diverse population. Software engineer Swetha Machanavajhala, who was born with profound hearing loss, shared how she uses data and machine learning to help finds ways to enable people who are hearing impaired to better understand and react to the world around them. Amos Miller, who is blind and understands first-hand how important technology is for people with disabilities, said working for Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research team is like “working in a toy store.” Jessica Rafuse, a program manager with Microsoft Accessibility and an employment attorney by trade, shared about her experience being a champion for the inclusive hiring program.

And Beth Anne Katz, a program manager, explained how her long-hidden struggle with mental illness and depression reached a welcome turning point with the assistance of a “most incredible boss” and the Microsoft CARES employee assistance program.

Three Polaroid snapshots of Beth Anne Katz, hung on a red string with clothespins.

Discounted apps will help assuage the back-to-school blues, with savings of as much as 50 percent on heavy hitters such as Movie Edit Pro Windows Store Edition, Stagelight and Complete Anatomy. And don’t forget about next month’s STEM Saturdays workshops, as Microsoft partners with Mattel Hot Wheels® Speedometry™ for free, drop-in sessions that offer a chance to engage in science, technology and math projects hosted by Microsoft Stores. Participants will sensor-monitor cars as they compete on the iconic Hot Wheels orange track, measuring speed and force of impact during collision.

A group of children watch a demonstration of the Hot Wheels orange track game.

This week on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn pages, we featured the four all-women teams who participated in the #MakeWhatsNext Patent Program. From devices that convert text to braille in real-time to a VR game that can prevent bullying, these extraordinary women are changing the world with their groundbreaking inventions, and the support of the Patent Program.

Two women sit together, looking at a laptop screen.

Whew, summer may be winding down, but there’s still a lot going on. Enjoy this last weekend of August, and we hope to see you back here next week!

Posted by Susanna Ray

Microsoft News Center Staff

The post Gamescom, Hot Chips, Hackathon and inclusivity – Weekend Reading: Aug. 25 edition appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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