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Tech’ll Fuel Changes in MEA Education Sector- Salcito

peter ugwu
l-r Anthony Salcito and Peter Ugwu during the interview
l-r Anthony Salcito and Peter Ugwu during the interview

Anthony Salcito is the vice president, Education for Microsoft Corporation’s Worldwide Public Sector organization. Under the role, Salcito works with education institutions and partners globally to embrace technology to optimize learning environments and student achievement.
He oversees the worldwide execution of Microsoft’s vision for education and its partnership and technology outreach efforts via the Worldwide Partners in Learning, Partners for Technology Access, and Public and Private Alliances programmes.
The education innovation enthusiast has been a Member of the Advisory Board of RM Educational Software, Inc. since April 2010.
Prior to the role, Salcito served as Director of HMH Holdings (Delaware), Inc until February 03, 2012. Salcito helped launch the U.S. Partners in Learning program in 2003, which was recognized in 2009 with the Public-Private Partnership Award from the U.S. National Governors Association, among other accolades.
With Microsoft’s key role at the Inaugural BETT Middle East Leadership Forum & Expo, held in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Education Council at Intercontinental Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Salcito in an interview with peter ugwu re-echoed Microsoft’s innovations in education as driven by the penchant interest to empowering global leaders towards solving challenges confronting education systems. Excerpt 

Significances of Inaugural BETT Middle East Leadership Forum & Expo
The Forum accords us the opportunity to learn, emphasis on the need to progress. This is a time in history that is very critical to push hard and drive for innovation and change in schools. So we need to challenge each other to push harder and faster for the changes needed in the education sector.

Global Educational Challenges and Microsoft’s Identified Solutions
That is very right. One of the things we have seen as a challenge is: teachers need support, training, encouragement and that is applicable in any part of the world. We have been investing and working hard on tools for online training through Microsoft Educator Support.
I was in Skype session with teachers in Nigeria a couple of weeks ago, to train them on Microsoft platform.
 It is very remarkable for us to celebrate these teachers; make them feel special. These teachers are our heroes.
Another thing we have seen globally is that teachers are unprepared for the changes and dynamics in education.
Now, we are working in line with UNESCO teachers’ capacity framework to help them, building a community for them to share their ideas.
We also see leaders struggling for change. There is a change in skills, likewise the cultural changes; universally that is a challenge. We have working Microsoft Education Leadership Transformation Framework which is a way of assisting the leaders embrace the kind of change they want to see in schools. So, we are working hard to see these achieved.
From the technology standpoint, we see some challenges as well. Access to bandwidth is a challenge. Microsoft is working to develop technologies that can function in low connectivity domains, as well as working with innovations to extend connectivity leveraging on TV broadband or whitespaces to extend the low cost connectivity to schools.

Microsoft Office365, Azure and Relevance to Transforming Education
One of the things to note is the value preposition Office365 has with regards to skill sets. The International Data Corporation (IDC) reported that globally Office365 is one of the top five skills requested.
The peculiarity is that, it is built on Word, PowerPoint, Excel experiences, but extends to Cloud ideation where teachers can share and connect to other classrooms around the world.
It contains tools where teachers can collaborate and share ideas; teachers can have one-to-one relationship with the students.
All that functionality and capability are provided in Office365 for free; a secured cloud environment where schools can manage innovation.
They can integrate their systems such as a Module (Learning) Management System to the Office365, as an endpoint solution at a very low cost.
So, we think that it is a very powerful set of tools for schools and Microsoft is working to providing training and materials to help schools leverage it; help teachers connect it, teach. For schools that have ‘Office’ for clients, a lot of the connectivity solutions are supported, because you can take notes in OneNote or manage emails…and they synchronize, especially when you have connection; and without connection you can still do your work. So, we are thinking ahead to bring seamless, affordable and adaptable solutions to every region.

Microsoft’s Assessment of MEA, Leadership and Preparedness for 21st Century Education Requirements
I would say that the reality of embracing technology is supported. I think we need to ask: are we really ready for changes that will happen in the classroom?
There are leaders in the regions (Middle East and Africa, MEA), who are seeing the changes in the classrooms. Globally, no leader in each of the regions think they are done.
The best schools in the developed countries would want to continue to push forward and there are many other countries that want to move faster. So, there is universal acceptance and the willingness to embrace the change.
Secondly, the change is really about technology as the core element. We know, the change requires leadership, people, and holistic embrace of the changes as quick as possible.
Technology will always be the fuel for the change; it will optimize, such as the learning requirements, opportunities for students, how content can be more personalized. Those things can be powered by technology, but technology shouldn’t be just the focus of the change.

Skill Sets for Relevance in 21st Century Work, Education, Environments, Etc.,   
When we think about skills, from the workplace perspective, then, we are focusing on students who are great in communication, collaborations, critical thinking, creativity, and a lot of Microsoft’s products are designed to help people achieve this.
With and from the Cloud platform, companies communicate, collaborate and pass critical information to express ideas even with the PowerPoint. So, we have a number of products and the kids are excited about it by expressing their ideas with technology. Importantly, we are working with teachers to embrace how we assess the skills. Microsoft is committed to redefining the skills set relevant in the 21st century work environment by providing the kids with the tools while they are in school. As employers we need the students coming from schools to be well equipped.
Another skill that is really critical to Nigeria is entrepreneurship. We need to create the entrepreneurial mindset for students; not only to work for large companies like Microsoft, but to build ‘Microsofts’ in Nigeria.

4Afrika Initiative
A number of the 4Afrika initiatives are education specific. We work from everything around connectivity to providing tools like Office365, providing trainings for school leaders to drive the impact and providing business (startups). A number of universities are participating in that test in creating new startups.
Two key pillars of 4Afrika initiative are: Access and Skills. Access implies to connectivity; that is where emphasis on leveraging TV whitespaces or spectrum to provide access to the people. The skills development are through trainings to teachers, and molding or developing the students at very younger age.

Microsoft’s Penchant Interest in Education
Education is a priority for Microsoft as we invest, not only in resources, people, and developers, to think about how we can support the space. And this is something that will continue for Microsoft going-forward. It is needed and will thrive through a combination of working with the school leaders to drive the change, getting Insights from teachers and students on how we can build tools and products they need. Every school has a programme and expectation, so we will continue to support them in achieving those programmes.

Microsoft Enabled Hardware/Devices to Drive Education Contents
Yeah, for the most parts what we have been planning to do is work with manufacturers to produce lower cost-effective technologies that leapfrog some of the contents. There are some devices we have.
They are rugged, embrace smart-pens, convertible/detachable and are delivered to the people locally. It is really a priority for us. We want to gain and retain confidence in Windows 10 as platform for developers and hardware manufacturers to build on, while the Office365 provides the unrivaled connectivity experiences.

Message to African Leaders from BETT’16
I think, the change that we should aspire to be is big and not compromised by the realities of connectivity and budgets are presented today. We have the opportunity to change the mindsets of the kids, develop them to be employable and expand the footprints on the Continent.
Korea is one of the best performing countries in the world. If you paint the picture of connectivity downtimes about 50 years ago, you will see a completely different landscape. We need leaders in Africa to project 50 years ahead on what is possible and stand the foundation on the kids in classes today. And when you work with partners like Microsoft, be assured that with shared Insights we can together build solutions to see-off the challenges. Thank you.