Today marks the official launch of Bing for Schools, a new initiative designed to improve digital literacy for students by putting technology in classrooms, helping students learn how to use the power of search, and making sure they can do it in a safer, ad-free environment. We’re not only announcing our first partner districts for the search pilot program and taking requests from school administrators to join, but also expanding our commitment with new features in Bing for Schools that let parents and communities join in the effort to promote the development of digital skills, backed by a national ad campaign to raise awareness about the importance of digital literacy.
Let’s start with a quick review of the search experience that classrooms can choose with the Bing for Schools search pilot. We already know that search is an important tool for kids in school – a recent Pew poll found that 94% of teachers believe their students are very likely to use a search engine during a typical assignment. We believe that schools should have the choice to make sure those searches are safer, more private, and ad-free. For schools in the search pilot, all of the school’s Bing searches will have three key enhancements:
- Removal of all advertisements from search results.
- Automatic strict filtering to help block adult content.
- Augmented privacy protections.
We’re excited to announce the pilot program today, and want to thank the diverse group of schools and districts across the country who have already signed up as our launch partners, including Los Angeles Unified School District, Atlanta Public Schools, Fresno Unified School District, Detroit Country Day School, and others. Together, we’re bringing the enhanced Bing experience to over 800,000 students as they start school.
Bing for Schools isn’t just about giving schools the choice to have an ad-free, safer and privacy-enhanced search experience, however. The internet has become a vital part of our society and according to the same Pew study I mentioned earlier, 91% of educators believe that content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum. At the same time, schools are facing reduced budgets and are being asked to do more with less.
Use Bing, Earn Surface RT Tablets for Your School
Bing for Schools wants teachers to be able to do more with more and to truly teach digital literacy, students need access to technology in the classroom. So we’re adding a new feature to Bing for Schools that utilizes our Bing Rewards program and allows people to use their credits to help schools put Surface RT tablets in classrooms. Any school can receive Bing Rewards credits – they don’t have to be enrolled in the official Bing for Schools ad-free search program. We’ll aggregate the credits for everyone supporting each school and when they reach 30,000 credits, we’ll convert those into a Microsoft Surface RT tablet with Touch Cover that will be sent directly to the school.
To express that math a different way, about 60 Bing Rewards users can earn a Surface RT a month for a school. And it is simple to do: just sign up for Bing Rewards, use Bing for your searches, and then redeem your credits toward a school. Personally, I’m using my credits for Territorial Elementary School, the tiny school in rural Oregon that I attended as a kid. Because with Bing for Schools and Bing Rewards, you don’t have to be a parent or teacher to support digital literacy: anyone can help put technology in classrooms.
Engage Students with Daily Lesson Plans based on the Bing Home Page
Access to technology alone isn’t enough, however; students have to know how to use it to find information and solve problems. So we’re making it easier to incorporate digital literacy into the classroom by offering three learning activities every school day for the entire year, targeted at K-4th, 5th-8th, and 9th-12th grades. The activities are free, aligned with Common Core standards, and will use the Bing homepage image of the day to pose a critical thinking question that can be solved using search tools. In addition to being linked from the homepage image, we’ll keep a growing archive of the lessons on the Microsoft Partners in Learning site. You can check out a few lessons already and daily lessons will begin on September 3rd with the help of a set of very talented teachers.
How to Get Involved
In keeping with our intention to make Bing for Schools a program that allows everyone to play a part in digital literacy, we’ve updated the Bing for Schools site with new pages to help parents, teachers, and students understand how they can participate, and one for administrators to learn about the details of the program and submit their request to join. School districts can register for the search pilot now; a limited number will be accepted into the initial pilot, with non-pilot schools being notified about future eligibility. And we’ll continue to update the Bing for Schools site, and post on the Bing blog, as we continue to expand the program to improve the educational search experience with custom features and new ways to promote digital literacy.
For now, join Bing Rewards and pick a school to support, check out our lesson plans, and encourage your school district to participate!
– Matt Wallaert, Bing Behavioral Scientist