Becoming a Microsoft Innovative School

Conference News Online – 2013 By Mary Kay Sommers

Conference News Online – 2013

By Mary Kay Sommers

Have you been looking for ways to improve your technology skills or those of your staff? Are you intrigued by the idea of becoming an innovative school and networking with principals of pioneering schools? Do you need ideas for using gamification effectively, or infusing 21st century skills into teaching and learning? Or, could you benefit from having examples of polices for using social media in your school?

If so, resources from Microsoft’s Innovative Schools program may be just what you’re looking for. I was very impressed with the resources shared by former principal Byron Garrett, director of Microsoft’s Innovative Schools program, in his Friday concurrent session.

Likewise, I was inspired by the successful experiences of Garrett’s co-presenter, South Carolina principal Wendell Sumter. At his rural Pre-K-5 elementary school, Sumter boosted achievement by using technology purposefully and expanding the capacity of his teachers to reach high expectations. Student engagement and achievement significantly increased. Because of the school’s success, the school district has adopted many of these strategies.

For principals who want to follow Sumter’s example, Garrett and Sumter shared how Microsoft Innovative School’s Partner in Learning Network offers educators free resources, valuable international networking, and opportunities to become recognized as an Innovative School. On the site, Garrett suggests principals start with the sections called “For Educators” and “For Schools.”

To assist principals in capacity building, the program offers free tutorials to help school leaders and teachers increase their technology skills. Even if you can’t purchase new technology, you can learn how to more effectively and confidently use the technology you already have in your schools. Did you know, for instance, that teachers can quickly design an assessment using a special application found in Word? Microsoft developed these online trainings to assist educators with digital literacy, teaching with technology, and integrating technology intentionally into the pedagogy. The latter correlates with Michael Fullan’s suggested strategy for effective change in these chaotic times.

Microsoft is also seeking innovative schools from around the world. You can register on the network and begin connecting with other principals working to become more innovative. You can even design a quick plan to become a Microsoft Certified Innovative School and apply to become recognized as a Mentor School and a Showcase School. Some schools will be invited to attend a global forum at which innovative principals from around the world will share ideas.

Plus, Microsoft, recognizing the importance of school leadership, is dedicating resources to assist principals in our efforts to become effective innovators and capacity builders. For instance, Microsoft is offering only to educators its new Surface device for only $199 (regular price: $499). It uses Windows 8 and is complete with the full Office package. This offer is only good until August 31st. Go to or email for details.

As Michael Fullan reminded us in his presentation, the avenue for change is through capacity building of our leaders and our educators. Microsoft is here to help us increase learning for our staff, our students, and ourselves.

Mary Kay Sommers is an NAESP past president from Fort Collins, Colorado.

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