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Educators: Try these new activity plans for Skype in the Classroom

Skype in the Classroom has always been one of my favorite resources for engaging students in real-life, relevant learning experiences. I recently learned that using Skype in the Classroom has become even easier for teachers with the addition of FREE activity plans! These are activity plans written by educators for educators.

5 Reasons to get excited about the launch of these helpful new resources:

Teachers always have a long to-do list. Want to engage your students with a Skype in the Classroom experience but short on time? These activity plans will help make it happen! The plans are free and easy to download in just a few seconds. Each one includes objectives (GREAT to share with parents and administrators), activities to activate background knowledge, research, brainstorming, preparing students for the call, assessment, reflection and more.

  • Easy to adapt

Each activity plan can be followed step-by-step or easily adjusted to best fit your students’ needs. Once you download, each plan is fully editable, making any adjustments quick, seamless and easy. This is also a great way to save any changes after the Skype experience, so you will be able to remember how you adapted the lesson for the next time you use it with students.

  • Aligned to ISTE Standards

Not only are objectives listed for each activity, they are also aligned to ISTE standards. This is a nice way to keep the big picture in mind. It’s a valuable resource to share with students, parents, administrators and colleagues.

  • Help other teachers

Do you know other teachers who are curious about using Skype in the Classroom with their students but are unsure how or where to start? This handy resource will give them a step-by-step guide, including question prompts, research and assessment ideas, and more.

  • Deep(er) learning

Each activity plan includes ideas to launch the lesson, research, prepare students, reflect and assess. These ideas help teachers plan intentionally for each aspect of the learning experience and provide a framework of ideas for before, during and after the Skype experience.

Whether you are looking to launch a new school year with an exciting Skype call, planning for Skype experiences throughout the year, dreaming of Skype-a-Thon connections, or whatever your Skype in the Classroom goals may be, be sure to check out and download the free activity plans to support and enhance the experience for you and your students.

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New Alienware gaming desktops and Dell gaming monitors announced at Gamescom

Gamers both experienced and new now have more options to choose from in hardware, training and updates, with the launch of Alienware Aurora, NVIDIA and AMD graphics updates to Alienware Area 51; the availability of Alienware Academy; Alienware notebooks; and Dell gaming monitors.

Alienware Aurora

Alienware Aurora gaming desktop

The new Alienware Aurora gaming desktop, designed for VR experiences, and currently the designated training PC for Team Liquid, is both a proven powerhouse for gaming professionals as well as a complete package for gaming noobs and veterans who need significant performance and upgradability under a reliable, high-quality chassis.

For gamers looking for a mid-tower desktop, the new Alienware Aurora is ready for current Oculus VR or HTC/VIVE requirements and can also support higher performance configurations for the near future’s more demanding VR, as well as 4K gaming and even up to 12K gaming with its highest end graphics options. Gamers can choose from a wide variety of upgradability options, spanning many performance and budgetary considerations.

Engineered around the principle of supporting more dedicated graphics power than any previous Aurora, it now comes with a total 600W (2x 300W) of dedicated desktop graphics and an additional 120W of dedicated power for custom CPU overclocking with liquid cooling.

the components of Alienware Aurora gaming desktop

With a MicroATX motherboard, it’s Alienware’s smallest dual-graphics-capable desktop and has more tool-less features than any previous Alienware mid-tower desktop, including: tool-less graphics, expansion cards, hard drives and memory. It’s Alienware’s first chassis supporting tool-less graphics card upgrades.

Inspired by the Alienware Area-51, the external design of the system includes AlienFX customizable lighting and has incorporated various ergonomic features for user-handling and component access. Its internal arrangement and fan positioning delivers ambient air towards the priority components with exhausts at the top and rear of the system to deliver maximum performance.

Some notable features of the Alienware Aurora:

  • Supports five storage drives + one ODD
  • Supports Intel Optane memory technology
  • Killer Gigabit Ethernet hardware and software
  • 11ac wireless technology on all configurations
  • Whisper-quiet operation
  • All-parts upgradeable. Includes intelligent cable and Wi-Fi antenna, routing

Alienware Academy

screenshot of Alienware Academy

Coming this fall, you can now enroll in Alienware Academy, an online training platform where all PC gamers can get data-driven lessons and be challenged to learn, train and improve in competitive gaming.

You’ll find CS:GO weapon spray course curriculums for the most popular competitive games and more than 10 lessons taught by Team Liquid’s pro gamers and other esports professionals. You’ll also get tools enabled with eye tracking that will help you gain insights from your play, with specially designed challenges and custom practice maps that will help you train.

To advance to the next level and unlock your true potential, after each lesson you must pass objectives designed to test your understanding. You can see your progess over time across different challenges on Alienware Academy profile pages. Those who demonstrate lesson mastery receive badges and rewards.

Alienware 15 and 17

Alienware laptop

With up to 8th Gen Intel Core i9 k-Series processors, the Alienware 15 and 17 are engineered with an improved thermal solution and a thin, hinge-forward design to extract the maximum performance from top-of-the-line components.

The design introduces premium materials such as anodized aluminum, magnesium alloy, steel-reinforcements and copper thermal management to ensure a level of stiffness, rigidity, thinness and high-quality feel – all without sacrificing gaming performance. You can also get to internal components easier through a new bottom door mechanism.

With an upgraded Alienware TactX keyboard, with per key RBG LED, Alienware 15 and 17 now support n-key rollover, enabling more than 108-key commands for maximum actions per minute. It’s the only keyboard on a laptop with 2.2mm of key travel, allowing for rapid response for any keystroke. Reinforced with a steel back plate for rigidity and uniform feedback, it’s guaranteed to stay functional for up to 10 million keystrokes.

You’ll also find:

  • More than 80 quadrillion lighting combinations via per key RGB lighting with many effects and modes
  • Improved audio output with a new speaker design that includes internal smart-amps used to monitor the audio waveforms, enabling the use of the entire thermal margin of the speaker, thus enabling louder sound
  • Support for desktop graphics cards from NVIDIA or AMD with the optional Alienware Graphics Amplifier
  • The highest performance available AMD- or NVIDIA-based graphics cards using GDDR5 video memory
  • Optional 120Hz TN+WVA 400-nits display designed for NVIDIA G-Sync experiences
  • All configurations include Killer Networks e2500 Gigabit Ethernet and Killer 1550 Networks 802.11ac 2×2 Wireless with Bluetooth 5.0 technology
  • Includes 3 USB 3.0 ports, one of which includes PowerShare technology, another of which uses a Type-C connector for Type-C compatible devices
  • One Thunderbolt 3 Port (USB Type-C with support for SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, 40Gbps Thunderbolt, and DisplayPort)

Dell 24 and 27 gaming monitors

Dell 24 and 27 gaming monitors side by side

S2419HGF                                                 S2719DGF

With Dell’s 24 (S2419HGF) and 27 (S2719DGF) gaming monitors, you’ll experience sharp, tear-free graphics with a swift overclocked refresh rate at 144Hz and 155Hz respectively. You’ll also leave lag behind, with blazing fast and responsive gameplay at an extremely rapid 1 millisecond response time.

These monitors support AMD FreeSync for smooth gameplay and give you the flexibility to game with the No-Sync fast refresh option on your existing hardware. You can also personalize and preset up to three gaming profiles, in addition to three factory preset modes, with a gamer-geared menu. Both monitors are distinguished by metallic paint in recon-blue to complement Dell gaming PCs for unified look and gaming experience.

back of a Dell monitor

With tilt, pivot, swivel and height adjustable features, you can find your ideal viewing position and game for long hours comfortably. With the wide range of ports, you can hook up these gaming monitors to your PC, and add another secondary device – like your gaming console of choice – for simultaneous entertainment options.

The Dell 24 Gaming Monitor offers FHD resolution, while with the Dell 27 Gaming Monitor, you’ll enjoy vivid edge-to-edge gameplay, crisp QHD resolution and 3.68 million pixels – almost twice as much than full HD.

The all-new gaming monitors provide maximum reliability with Dell Premium Panel Exchange, which allows a free panel replacement during the Limited Hardware Warranty period even if only one bright pixel is found.

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HP kicks off Gamescom with OMEN innovations

OMEN by HP unveiled new hardware and mobile software innovations for gaming enthusiasts on the eve of the industry’s big Gamescom event in Cologne, Germany. On the hardware front, the OMEN Obelisk is the latest addition to the company’s desktop gaming family. On the software side, OMEN Game Stream for Android will bring OMEN experiences to gamers looking to connect and play on the go.

Omen Obelisk Desktop components

Also unveiled are new features for the OMEN Mindframe Headset – the world’s first headset with active earcup cooling technology – to add comfort and audio benefits for both competitive play and streaming.

“HP is focused on delivering incredible experiences that fuel the future of gaming and enable the community to perform at their best,” said Kevin Frost, vice president and general manager, Consumer Personal Systems, HP Inc. “Integrating the newly announced NVIDIA GPUs and teaming up with HyperX to provide high-performance memory for our OMEN Obelisk and future desktops demonstrates our commitment to building a world-class ecosystem comprised of the world’s best gaming solutions.”

Gamers are always hungry for the latest and greatest generation of components such as graphics cards and memory. The OMEN Obelisk will be one of the first systems to carry the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20 Series of GPUs by way of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080, powered by all-new NVIDIA Turing architecture, giving gamers access to the world’s ultimate gaming architecture. The integration of HyperX high-performance memory within the OMEN Obelisk is another critical part of engineering a desktop to utilize the latest GPUs, RAM and other components through an industry-standard upgrade path vital to gaming at the highest levels, both now and in the future.

“HyperX is pleased to work with HP and provide HyperX FURY memory in all upcoming and refreshed OMEN by HP gaming PCs,” said Mark Leathem, general manager, HyperX Peripherals Division, when speaking to the memory integration. “With over fifteen years of experience delivering gaming memory, the HyperX brand is a great fit with HP’s vision of providing exceptional PCs for gamers.”

The OMEN Obelisk Desktop addition to the family of OMEN Desktops has been engineered with peak performance and customization so PCs can keep up with the latest in gaming. With a DIY-friendly, industry-standard upgrade path, along with options for the latest graphics and processor architectures, gamers can continually achieve the performance they expect.

Top features of the OMEN Obelisk are detailed in HP’s press release and include world-class power and storage, latest series of NVIDIA GPUs, HyperX integration, strategic cooling with extensive venting that takes advantage of thoughtfully placed components to generate optimal airflow, and a customizable and clean design.

The OMEN Game Stream feature of the OMEN Command Center enables gamers to harness the power of their OMEN on other Windows 10 devices to play games on their big screen TV. The addition of Android functionality later this year will add a new array of devices for gamers to stream their OMEN experience. OMEN Command Center comes preinstalled on all OMEN PCs, providing features such as Network Booster and System Vitals. It also supports customization and settings adjustments for the latest accessories, such as the OMEN Sequencer Keyboard, OMEN Reactor Mouse and OMEN Mindframe Headset.

OMEN Mindframe headset

Speaking of which, the forthcoming OMEN Mindframe Headset is the world’s first headset with active earcup cooling by way of HP’s patented thermoelectric driven Frostcap technology. It has been built with comfort in mind, while also delivering top-notch sound quality. The OMEN by HP team has made further additions prior to launch, including noise cancellation, real-time audible feedback via sidetone to take advantage of noise cancellation, and new fabric cups for improved breathability.

Regarding pricing and availability, the OMEN Obelisk Desktop is expected to be available in September via HP.com and other retailers for a starting price of $879.99. OMEN Game Stream for Android is expected to be available later this year via the Google Play Store for free. And the OMEN Mindframe Headset is expected to be available in October via HP.com and other retailers for a starting price of $199.99.

Updated August 20, 2018 11:27 am

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Windows 10 Tip: Use Paint 3D to edit your snips

If you use the Snipping Tool and like to mark up your snips when you share them, now there are more ways to liven them up, thanks to the Windows 10 April 2018 Update.

With the new “edit in Paint 3D” button built into the Snipping Tool, you can take your snips to the next level. Move (or remove) objects with Magic select, augment and annotate with realistic brushes, bring in 3D objects from Remix 3D and more.

For example, someone could snip a chart from Excel, load it into Paint 3D, then add a text box to give a title to this new creation and a 3D model to make it feel different and more compelling.

Check it out in action:

A 3D bike drag and dropped onto a chart to show Paint 3D in action in a snip

Drag and drop a 3D image into your snip

If you like this, check out more Windows 10 Tips.

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‘Minecraft: Education Edition’ is coming to iPad

We’ve spent our summer building innovative tools to help students of all ages and levels get the most out of learning, the minute they walk back into your classroom.  In this latest edition of What’s New in EDU, we’re excited to share a new batch of features and enhancements to help you encourage independent learning and engage your students – and we’re kicking it off with the expansion of Minecraft: Education Edition.

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Transform your classroom with Minecraft: Education Edition for iPad

Today, we are excited to announce we’re bringing the magic of Minecraft: Education Edition to iPad. Now, students can tap into the power of iPad to build historic monuments, swim through coral reefs with the Update Aquatic, bring creative stories to life, experiment with chemistry, and document their learning with the camera and portfolio features.

Educators trying Minecraft: Education Edition for the first time can get started with a beginner’s tutorial world and access a number of free class resources on education.minecraft.net. A global community of Minecraft Mentors offers year-round onboarding and classroom support, right alongside the growing Minecraft: Education Edition community – now with 35 million licensed teachers and students in 115 countries.

“Minecraft: Education Edition on iPad unlocks new and intuitive ways of collaborating and sharing and has revolutionized the way our students and teachers explore curriculum and projects,” says Kyriakos Koursaris, Head of Education Technology for PaRK International School. “The features allow for deep and meaningful learning, and the values it promotes, from inclusivity to 21 century skills, empower everyone to use technology with extraordinary results,” said Koursaris.

Here’s how to get Minecraft: Education Edition on your school’s iPads next month:

If your school district is already licensed through Microsoft:

If your school is licensed through Microsoft 365 for Education (A3 or A5), you already have access to Minecraft: Education Edition. You will be able to download the app onto iPads in September. To learn more, visit this webpage. What’s more, we’ve updated Intune for Education so it’s easier than ever for IT administrators to manage student devices from one unified, streamlined console.

If you’re interested in trying Minecraft: Education Edition on iPad in your school but have not purchased a license in the past:

Minecraft: Education Edition is licensed via yearly subscriptions that are purchased through the Microsoft Store for Education, via volume licensing agreements and through partner resellers. To learn more, visit our webpage on how to license Minecraft: Education Edition.

Minecraft: Education Edition is licensed via yearly subscriptions, purchased through Authorized Education Partners, or directly from the Microsoft Store for Education. To learn more, visit our webpage on how to license Minecraft: Education Edition.

And for Minecraft players and families who play outside of school:

We’re excited to share that players of the Windows 10 PC and Xbox console version of Minecraft can now use the Chemistry Resource Pack, released originally for Minecraft: Education Edition.

The Chemistry Resource Pack introduces lab tables, element blocks and items that are craftable only using the new chemistry features. With this added feature, players can create elements and combine them into compounds, build a periodic table and combine materials using chemistry to create new items like helium balloons, sparklers, latex, and underwater torches. Learn and experiment with the building blocks of chemistry in the world of Minecraft!

To get the Chemistry Resource Pack, go to the ‘Create New World’ option in the game and, under the ‘Cheats’ menu, toggle the ‘Education’ option.

What else is new in Microsoft Education this month?

Office 365 Education:

Microsoft OneNote helps teachers organize class content, create and deliver interactive lessons, provide feedback, and collaborate. Graphing in Math Assistant is now available in OneNote Online – this tool helps students visualize math problems and equations as they learn the steps to solving a problem.

OneNote is also making improvements to help you save valuable teaching time. Roaming Ink enables Pens and Ink preferences that follow you from device to device. You and your students can easily reuse the custom pens and ink you love, even when you switch devices. Learn more about using OneNote in your classroom.

Open Up resources:

We’re extremely excited to partner with Open Up Resources to offer high quality, free curriculum materials through Microsoft OneNote and Forms. Since the partnership announcement, we’ve been working to incorporate Open Up curriculum seamlessly into OneNote and Forms.

Using OneNote Class Notebook to access the Open Up curriculum, teachers can distribute course materials on any device. Students can write, draw, collaborate, and save their work automatically in their personal digital notebooks. Open Up content in OneNote integrates seamlessly with common LMS and SIS platforms. Using Open Up in Forms, teachers can access one-click assignment and efficient scoring. Get started using Open Up curriculum now.

Technology can be a wonderful tool to help personalize learning for every student in your class. To help students customize reading even more, we’ve added additional colors for page themes in Office Lens. Choose from the expanded selection with the latest update of Office Lens (version 2.15) for iPhone or iPad. Read more details here.

  

Closed captioning in Stream is also now available so you can make a lesson more accessible by recording it and adding captions.

Microsoft Teams:

Microsoft Teams is the digital hub that brings conversations, content, assignments, and apps together in one place. Educators can create collaborative classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with school staff – all from a single experience in Office 365 Education. Check out all the new updates in the Teams back-to-school blog post.

  • Rubric Grading now available. Built directly into Teams, rubric grading helps increase assignment transparency for students and allows teachers to give more meaningful feedback. Customize your grading criteria with your own rubric to enable skills-based grading of your assignments.

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  • Updates to the assignments experience on mobile: With new updates to iOS and Android apps, you can now access all of your assignments directly when you launch the Teams app and see a simplified list of upcoming tasks, across all of your classes. Students can work on their assignments directly on their phones and turn in.
  • Archiving teams: Instead of deleting older teams, you can now archive the team, placing it in a read-only state. This way you can go back and reference what you covered last year, any time you want.
  • Reusing assignments: Reuse assignments from current or archived class teams, bringing over instructions, attachments, and customizations from previous assignments to your new assignment.

  • New Class Notebook and Staff Notebook tab app: Teachers can enjoy the new and improved Class Notebook and Staff Notebook settings directly inside of Teams. Just select “Manage.”

Skype in the Classroom:

Skype in the Classroom (SITC) is an online community that enables thousands of teachers to inspire the next generation of global citizens through transformative learning over Skype.

  • New Activity Plans for your favorite Skype in the Classroom activities. Whether you are going back to school or in the middle of the academic year, make learning relevant and fun for your students by participating in one of the Skype in the Classroom LIVE learning experiences. Use the new Activity plans, written by teachers, to enrich your students’ learning experiences with activities and assessments aligned to ISTE standards. They can be followed step by step, or you can adjust them based on your classroom’s needs. Explore all activity plans here.

Microsoft Photos App:

The Microsoft Photos App makes it easy to tell stories with photos and videos. There is a built-in video editor, making it easy for you and your students to create movies using photos, video clips, music, 3D models, and Hollywood-style special effects. Whether it’s a group history project, a lab report, or a music video just for fun, the Photos app makes it easy to quickly assemble content, add titles, drop in music, enhance your story with special effects, and share. If you liked making videos with Movie Maker, you’ll love what you can do with the Microsoft Photos App.

  • Newsroom-inspired 3D effects. We’ve added newsroom-inspired offerings to the 3D effects built into the Photos app. Now your class can add “LIVE” overlays to their video projects, and identify breaking news, 24-hour coverage, or inspiring sports stories.
  • Video Editor tile: Jump directly into video projects, or start a new one quickly, with the new Video Editor Tile. Your next big story is only a click away.​

Surface Go  

When we sit down with our education customers, many tell us that they’re looking for hardware that seamlessly integrates with their larger ecosystem of Microsoft-powered devices. Beyond that, our education customers need a device that’s small and sturdy while still providing the performance their students need. And all of this has to be at the right price. That’s why we’re excited about what Surface Go offers for schools, and the magic that it unlocks within each student who uses it.

Surface Go equips both students and teachers with the quality and productivity that Surface is known for in a more compact – and affordable – package. At just 1.15 pounds and 8.3 mm thin, Surface Go packs amazing portable performance into a 10” device. Starting at just $399 MSRP for education customers, it represents a new entry point for the Surface family, while keeping the premium qualities that have come to define Surface.

Surface Go is a great device for schools looking for a Windows 10 device that offers tablet to laptop flexibility, pen and touch input, a natural typing experience with the Surface Go Type Cover, seamless digital inking, and the ability to run full desktop applications.

Early reception to the device has been positive and tech journalists across the world are excited for what Surface Go can do for education.

More information about Surface Go is available here. Education customers who are interested in purchasing Surface Go should contact their Microsoft sales representative or device reseller today.

Intune for Education makes it easy to set up and manage Windows 10 devices in just a few steps, including deploying apps or settings to users, and managing shared devices.

  • iOS device management features are now available in Intune for Education. Intune for Education is already a great way to manage your school’s Windows 10 devices, and you will now be able to use it to manage apps and settings on your classroom iOS devices. With these new features, Intune for Education continues to grow as a unified, streamlined administrative console to manage your school devices.
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Reflections on Microsoft’s inaugural Council for Digital Good event in D.C.

It’s been a month since our inaugural Council for Digital Good met in Washington, D.C., to unveil an open letter to law- and policymakers about improving life online which was a culmination of the teen council’s work over the past 18 months. While I summarized the event and the open letter in a blog post last month, I wanted to share more details about the council’s time in D.C., as well as a few thoughts on the pilot program overall.

Our July event consisted of two panel discussions led by the teens and focused on the state of online civility today and what we hope for in the future. During the first panel, four teens shared what they discussed with peers, parents and their broader communities at various workshops and discussion groups that they led on and around international Safer Internet Day in February. We then asked three adult panelists to react to and question the teens about what they’d presented. Representatives from Google, Columbia University and Born This Way Foundation responded with praise, feedback and a few thought-provoking questions. Here are a few highlights:

Teens stress awareness-raising, education and communications  

  • Jazmine, a 14-year-old from Kentucky, stressed the need for awareness-raising of online risks and formal, in-school education about online safety and digital civility. “There’s no silver-bullet solution to protecting kids online,” she said. “I want to offer my feelings of empowerment to other students.” That’s why going forward, Jazmine is committed to leading activities in her school and school district on Safer Internet Day every year. We look forward to Jazmine’s progress, as well as the responses from her peers, teachers and others.
  • Judah, a 14-year-old from Tennessee always brought a unique perspective to our discussions because Judah does not have technology or social media. We selected Judah for the council for his somewhat atypical teen experiences and he shared some of those in D.C. As we at Microsoft also often note, Judah said age limits exist on social media for a reason. “If you’re not abiding by them, you’re not helping yourself.”

Judah also spoke of the need for parents to model good digital behavior in front of their children and teens. “When a kid sees a parent on the phone, it’s a competition for (the parent’s) attention: the kid versus the cellphone.” Judah said young people immediately start asking questions of the parent, seeking permission for one thing or another. “Kids actually want the parent to say no” because that would mean the parent was truly listening and paying attention to them. In addition to addressing a fourth-grade class on Safer Internet Day 2018, Judah joined his parents‘ online safety program and organization, Parents Who Fight, at four other informational events they’ve held this year.

  • Asked what more might be done to connect positively with young people about online safety and the need for digital civility, Christina, a 17-year-old from Georgia, said high-schoolers are “set in their (digital) ways,” and will likely be more difficult to reach with proactive messages. “Until something happens to them, kids think they’re immune” from online ills. Christina also noted that young people fear judgment and punishment from their parents for risky online behaviors, so she suggested “no condescension” when coaching kids through online life. Following the event, Christina was approached by a D.C.-based nonprofit to write a guest blog about her council experience and she’s been offered an internship opportunity with another nongovernmental organization. (More on this discussion and the entire D.C. event when we post some new videos to our YouTube channel.)

Council members share their unvarnished views

Our second panel featured six teens, three discussing the cohort’s written manifesto for life online released in January, and three others presenting the open letter. Introducing the written manifesto, Sierra, an 18-year-old college student from North Carolina, highlighted the need for resilience-building in young people, mindfulness and digital civility – all key ingredients for helping to reduce exposure to online risks and abuse.

Highlighting the importance of reporting concerns to technology companies about content and conduct on their services, the young people said they’d like to receive acknowledgement emails from companies that the teens’ reports were received and are being addressed. They also noted the need for tech firms to promote awareness within their individual products and services that reporting illegal and abusive material and activity is warranted, necessary and useful. We first discussed reporting terms-of-use violations with the teens at our Redmond, Wash., summit last August. Initially, we didn’t seem to be connecting with the teens on the topic, but over the course of the next several months, the youth clearly gave some thought to the issue. In fact, during the D.C. forum, William, a soon-to-be high-school junior from Washington state, admitted, “I didn’t even realize I had these opinions until someone asked to hear them.”

Indeed, we wanted others to hear firsthand what these impressive teens have been learning and clearly internalizing for at least the last 18 months. The opinions and perspectives that they shared in D.C. and throughout the council program were their own and those of others in the cohort. Even when drafting the open letter, we at Microsoft provided only directional guidance and feedback. We wanted clarity of thought and authenticity to shine through with our group, so we made it a point of requiring only two things: active participation and timely completion of assignments. How members went about accomplishing their work – individually or as a full council – was up to them. And, we emphasized open dialogues, the sharing of experiences and focus group-style interactions.

Most importantly, and being mindful of a comment from one applicant, we treated our council members like the informed and interesting young adults that they are. In her application, one council member said that she had opinions and she wanted adults to hear and listen to them. Again, the impact of the event in D.C. and that of the entire program underscores the importance of the youth voice and the need for young people to have a say in policy matters that affect them.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor of criminology at Florida Atlantic University, followed the council’s progress online and was energized to learn of its next steps.

“It is so encouraging to see that the students – while aware of the breadth and scope of online risks and vulnerabilities out there – are motivated to find and implement solutions among their peer groups and communities,” Hinduja said. “Interestingly, the best strategies to positively change attitudes and actions of youth online aren’t rooted in technology, but in the development of character traits such as grit, gratitude, empathy, integrity and emotional self-regulation. These youth clearly know this and will now move to translate their ideas into actionable efforts that have the potential to change their generation’s ‘default’ approach to social media use into one marked by thoughtfulness, inclusivity and kindness.”

Although this inaugural pilot program formally concluded following our D.C. event, many of the individual council members are joining other organizations to continue to learn, grow and advocate for these critical societal issues. We’ll be sure to follow up with a ‘Where they are now’ post in a few months.

Learn more

In the meantime, you can read the council’s full open letter here and learn more about digital civility at www.microsoft.com/digitalcivility. For more about online safety generally, visit our website and resources page; “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Celebrate the power of youth with WE Day broadcast this Friday on ABC

Get ready to be inspired and to inspire your students to do good.

Invite your friends and families to join me and millions of Americans on August 17 to watch WE Day on ABC, a celebration of the transformative power of young people.

Microsoft is proud to support WE’s mission to empower youth to create a positive impact at home and around the world through service-learning. A supporter of the organization since 2013, we continue to help WE by equipping them with Microsoft technology that lets them bring the benefits of their programs to schools, families and youth around the world.

I am particularly excited about our work with WE to inspire students to make our world more inclusive through the WE Are One Campaign. Today, thousands of youth are learning, creating and ideating on ways they can leverage technology to make their classrooms and communities more accessible and inclusive for all.

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The WE Day Special features a great example of the WE Are One Campaign at work.

Johnny (featured above) is a glowing example of a student using technology for good. He built a social networking app for people with disabilities and their families, motivated and informed by his brother, Christian.

I invite our passionate education community to take part in the free WE Schools program, including the WE Are One Campaign. Through service learning, students learn to take action on the issues that matter to them, while learning critical academic and life skills along the way.

The WE Day Special on ABC will inspire action through the stories of everyday Americans making extraordinary impact in their communities. And you can catch host John Stamos, alongside Selena Gomez, Jennifer Aniston, The Chainsmokers, Dierks Bentley, and WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger on the WE Day stage as they celebrate youth and families committed to changing the world!

Join the WE Movement: Watch the WE Day Special August 17 at 8/7c on ABC @WEmovement #WEAreOne Click To Tweet

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Here’s what’s new in education apps

With the new school year fast approaching for the Western Hemisphere, we thought it would be useful to look at some of the most recently released apps on the Microsoft Store for Education. These apps work seamlessly within the Microsoft Education ecosystem to enable us all to empower every student to achieve more.

 

Cashtivity is passionately focused on preparing students for success, in college, career and beyond. It’s this focus that drives them every day. They recently released Mindsets Learning – a digital library of inquiry based, real-world lessons for K12 math, science and STEM.

Students collaborate, predict, analyze and apply their math skills to solve a real-world challenge using design thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset. Educators are able to mentor & monitor students using real time data and facilitation tools provided in the app.

 

Music lessons will never be the same again with Flute Master from Classplash, a company founded by an educator with a passion for creating sustainable digital content for music education.

With Flute Master, students will learn how to play the soprano recorder! It’s easy and a lot of fun! They play a real recorder, and the sound will be recognized through the microphone. Flute Master presents an immersive story, lovely animations and includes 30 original music tracks that gradually teach each note on the recorder.

Besides learning how to play a real instrument, they will improve their music, fine motor skills and make progression in sight-reading by using the sheet music play-along for each track.

 

In Rhythmic Village you’ll discover the crazy and happy music notes named “Rhythmiacs.”

In this adventure you’ll learn the basics of sheet music reading, play percussion instruments and improve your sense of rhythm. Use your device and start right away in the app.

 

Shape robotics journey started in 2011 just outside of Copenhagen, at the Technical University of Denmark.

Moises Pacheco and David Johan Christensen, an Associate Professor and Robot Researcher respectively, shared the same vision: to develop a robot system that was extremely easy-to-use, even for younger school pupils. This resulted in the launch of the Fable Robotics System, a modular robot that allows you to build advanced custom robots in seconds.

Fable Blockly is the official programming Windows 10 app that enables Fable to become a walking Fable, a social Fable, Fable as a snake, and even an industrial Fable who can perform tasks such as sort colors.

 

Many teachers teach using text ,but 65 percent of students learn by visuals. Squigl solves this problem.

Squigl is software that utilizes AI to allow teachers and students the ability to transform their text into animated visual presentations in minutes. A user inputs text into Squigl, and with a couple of clicks, an animated video is produced.

Squigl allows anyone to make animated videos in minutes with ease. A student enters text into Squigl or through Word, and within a couple of clicks an animated video is produced. Squigl generates a full package that includes an MP4, sound file, a specially formatted PDF document, and the digital assets used in the project for consumption in other systems.

 

Vidigami is a collaborative, private and secure media management platform designed exclusively for schools. It is a cloud-based, members-only application available on web and mobile that allows staff, faculty, families, and students to crowdsource authentic school memories.

Photos and videos of everything from sporting events and field trips to class projects and artwork can be easily captured, centralized in on place, intelligently organized, and finally, privately shared with other members of the community, so they can be easily archived and transformed into incredible content for engagement, education and more.

To learn more about these solutions and thousands of other apps that could support you, please visit the Microsoft Store for Education.

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Schlumberger boosts global collaboration with Microsoft 365

The Schlumberger logo.


Profile picture of Ron Markezich.With more than 80 years of pioneering innovation in reservoir characterization, drilling, production, and exploration, Schlumberger is the leading provider of upstream products and services in the oil and gas industry. It’s a highly collaborative business, both internally, with more than 100,000 employees working in 85 countries, and externally, with the world’s leading global oil and gas customers depending on Schlumberger products and services. Moving data and expensive resources through a complex network of delivery systems calls for reliable, real-time collaboration and communication for all stakeholders. That’s one reason why standardizing on Microsoft 365 is a major step forward in the company’s strategy to harness the cloud and drive efficient customer service.

Recently, Schlumberger’s VP of Information Technology Sebastien Lehnherr had this to say about driving teamwork and productivity on a global scale:

“Operational efficiency and agility are requirements in a highly regulated service industry striving for performance and service quality. We use Microsoft 365 as a core element of our digital strategy—Microsoft Teams, Enterprise Mobility + Security, Power BI, and Windows 10 empower our employees globally with the intuitive, feature-rich tools that help them collaborate more efficiently and be more productive working in the office or while on the road.”

With highly secure, collaborative cloud apps at their fingertips, Schlumberger employees working in the field and at head offices in Paris, Houston, London, and The Hague are empowered by agile digital connections that accelerate service delivery and keep customers’ products moving to market. Unimpeded communication helps connect the big-picture expertise from Schlumberger’s leadership centers with local experience at production sites, adding value to customer relationships. We’re also excited to see how Schlumberger’s global Windows 10 deployment will add value to its Microsoft cloud business productivity platform.

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Go behind the scenes with ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’ enhanced for Xbox One X

Many of gaming’s most compelling stories come from those who’ve helped to create our favorite Xbox One games. In our Inside Xbox One X Enhanced series, these creators will share the behind-the-scenes accounts of the work involved in enhancing these epic games for Xbox One X, how they’ve helped chart the course of the world’s most powerful console, and what that means for the future of gaming. Today, we’ll be chatting with Eidos-Montreal Programming Director Frédéric Robichaud on the highly anticipated Shadow of the Tomb Raider which sees Lara Croft’s defining moment as she becomes the Tomb Raider.

What specifically is your development team doing to enhance Shadow of the Tomb Raider for Xbox One X?

To ensure that Shadow of the Tomb Raider looked crisp and amazingly polished on Xbox One X, we have worked incredibly hard to fully support HDR mode. We’ve revamped the entire pipeline to be HDR from the get go: realistic lights intensity calibration, HDR textures and global illumination energy conservation.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, we offer two modes for players: High Resolution and High Framerate mode. With the GPU power of the Xbox One X, we were able to get 4K at a constant 30 FPS and with the CPU boost, we are targeting 60 FPS with full HD (1080p) in High Framerate mode.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

We’ve been able to improve the quality of certain algorithms on the Xbox One X like stochastic screen-space reflections and atmospheric effects. With the extra memory, we have increased the shadow maps and texture resolution to enhance the visual quality.

Audio wise, we are fully supporting Dolby Atmos to create real 3D audio immersion.

How do these enhancements impact the gaming experience, and why did your development team choose to focus on these enhancement areas?

The recent Tomb Raider games are known for their high quality graphics and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as the final entry in the origin trilogy, pushes the visual boundaries more than ever before. Supporting 4K was mandatory for us. Players that do not own a 4K TV will still see the visual improvements, mostly with less aliasing and more details in the image.

If the player chooses the High Framerate mode, they will enjoy the fluidity and reactivity of the controls in a seamless gameplay experience.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

The audio immersion is perfect with Dolby Atmos, especially in the jungle areas which are dense with wildlife like the locusts below and birds above. Spatial audio is best experienced with a home theater system; however, all players will still hear those effects and an overall increase in audio fidelity.

How do you expect fans of Shadow of the Tomb Raider will respond to playing it on Xbox One X with these enhancements?

Those playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the Xbox One X will be blown away by the visual quality in High Resolution mode or the fluidity if they choose the High Framerate mode. Players will not want to go back to the previous generation of consoles!

What enhancement were you most excited about to explore leveraging for Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X?

Without a doubt, High Framerate mode. Maximizing the CPU power to target 60 FPS with a huge, living crowd like in the Cozumel café or Paititi was an interesting challenge. A lot of optimization to our engine was done to achieve these stunning results.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

What does 4K and HDR mean for your game, games in the future and development at your studio?

We completely revamped our pipeline to integrate HDR from the beginning of production. Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks more real and better than ever before because of 4K and HDR. Better resolution, less aliasing, more intensity and more nuance.  We hope that players are blown away by the visual fidelity of the most recent edition to the Tomb Raider franchise.

It is only the beginning; 4k and HDR will become standard to all the games, especially when all developers begin to follow a common HDR standard.

Thanks to Frédéric for taking the time to chat with us about Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which releases on September 14. We’ll bring you more interviews with more developers in the future, as well as more on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, so stay tuned to Xbox Wire!