Historic milestone: Microsoft researchers achieve human parity in conversational speech recognition

Microsoft has made a major breakthrough in speech recognition, creating a technology that understands a conversation as well as a person does.
In a paper published Monday, a team of researchers and engineers in Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research reported a speech recognition system that makes the same or fewer errors than professional transcriptionists.  The researchers reported a word  error rate (WER) of 5.9 percent, down from the 6.3 percent WER the team reported just last month.
The 5.9 percent error rate is about equal to that of people who were asked to transcribe the same conversation, and it’s the lowest ever recorded against the industry standard Switchboard speech recognition task.

Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’ - managed solution

Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’

By Tony Prophet as written on blogs.microsoft.com
At Microsoft, we’re all in on education!
Our company mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In education, it’s to empower every student. Today, we’re proud to share the latest on what’s coming for Back-to-School 2016/2017.
Introducing Microsoft Classroom and Microsoft Forms, OneNote Class Notebook now with Learning Management System (LMS) integration, new experiences for Windows 10 and the dawn of “Minecraft: Education Edition” – Get ready!

First, we are announcing all new education features coming in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, features specifically inspired by teachers and focused on students.

Faster, easier set-up:

Shared devices in the classroom are the norm – in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of schools report using shared devices. We also know that nearly 50 percent of teachers serve as their own tech support in their classroom. Until now, setting these devices up has been complex and getting students productive often takes too long.
With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update we are introducing a ”Set Up School PCs” app that allows teachers to set up a device themselves in a simple three-step process – in minutes. We’ve also made significant performance improvements for affordable devices. We expect the average first login to take 26 seconds, with subsequent logins of 6 seconds when the student uses that machine again.

Secure assessments:

Testing is going digital — teachers consistently tell us they want a simple way to set up quizzes or standardized tests digitally. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a new ‘Take a Test’ app – simple and more secure standardized testing for the whole classroom or the whole school, where teachers or IT can lock down the testing environment, or enable simple quizzing.

Education-ready Windows Store:

Nearly 60 percent of teachers purchase and load apps themselves. With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Windows Store will enable teachers to access thousands of apps, and schools can purchase and deploy them in bulk.

Free upgrade and affordable devices:

More and more, educators are asking us about affordable devices. We have a great portfolio of affordable, durable and innovative Windows 10 devices starting at $199, designed for the demands of education.
So you can see, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a huge range of education-specific features that teachers and students are going to love. Learn even more about these new updates, and more, over on the Windows blog!

microsoft announces teacher 2 - managed solution

Second, we are announcing some big improvements to Office 365 Education.

Today we are announcing Microsoft Classroom

– a new experience in Office 365 Education. Microsoft Classroom is designed to be the one place students and teachers come to manage their day – from Class Notebooks, assignments and grades to conversations, calendars and to announcements!
We’re piloting this with Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska. Let me just share with you what they had to say . . .
“It simplifies our digital classroom management and frees up our teachers so they can spend more time with students and less time managing administrative access to class materials.” – Rob Dickson, Executive Director, Information Management Services of Omaha Public Schools.

Today we are also announcing Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS)

– a powerful complement for Microsoft Classroom. SDS connects Microsoft Classroom to a School Information System (SIS), so teacher, student and classes information is automatically populated in Microsoft Classroom and OneNote Class Notebooks. School Data Sync will be included in Office 365 Education. Think of it as a super simple process that quickly provisions a set of classes and rosters from many School Information Systems already used.

Also being announced: Microsoft Forms

– a simple way to quickly assess student progress and get feedback with easy-to-create surveys and quizzes. It’s in public preview starting today for Office 365 Education here.
OneNote Class Notebooks are the heart of our education experience and they just keep getting better and better. We have seen incredible momentum – with millions of student notebooks created just this school year. On top of the millions, we are currently seeing an additional new 10,000 student notebooks created per day!
To hear one educator describe it: “It’s your whole classroom (lesson plans, materials, assignments and student work) in a digital binder with tools for communication and collaboration!”

We’re also announcing Class Notebook assignment and grading integration is now available with more than 25 Learning Management System partners

– including leaders like Canvas, Edmodo, Schoology, Brightspace and Moodle. Learn more here.
We’re really excited about all of these improvements for Office 365 Education coming for the new school year! Learn more about all of the updates to Office happening for education – check out the Office blog here.

microsoft announces teacher 3 - managed solution

Finally, we’ve got some great news about “Minecraft: Education Edition”! June begins an early access program of “Minecraft: Education Edition.” It will be available for any educator to download and try for free on Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan.
This program is a great way for educators and administrators who are interested in “Minecraft: Education Edition” to give it a test run in the summer months and give us more feedback and suggestions.
If you are new to “Minecraft” in the classroom, check out education.minecraft.net for resources to help prepare, including lesson plans and a new “Minecraft” mentors program to connect with amazing teachers already using “Minecraft.”
What’s the next step? Upgrade your devices to Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan, and sign up for an Office 365 Education account.

minecraft education - managed solution

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By Koen Timmers as written on blogs.skype.com
In April 2015 a dozen global educators had a Skype call with refugees in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. The camp houses 179,000 refugees and 55% are children. It has 30 schools, each containing 20 classrooms. We set up a project in which teachers from around the world would teach the Kakuma students using Skype.
During a second call, I taught a group of 10 Kakuma teachers how to install and use Skype. We soon discovered that the schools had very little resources: textbooks were only available at a ratio of 1:10; there were no computers and no power supply. An outreach assistant brought his computer to the class he was teaching and 150 students looked onto the small screen. This made me decide to send them my own laptop with the help of a colleague educator who brought it to the camp himself.

skype refugees - managed solution

I created a website for Project Kakuma set up with crowd funding, as well as a game called “Jump to Kakuma” which is available on Windows 8, 10 and iOS. All returns from the game are invested in textbooks and devices for the camp. Two months ago I had enough funding to send a laptop, a projector and a sound system.
We are now conducting classes every week through three to five Skype calls. During the calls a global teacher teaches science, math, art, etc. to the student refugees. These past two months the students have had lessons taught by teachers from the USA, Brazil, New Zealand, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Denmark, India, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Israel and many other countries.
During our 2-day Skype-a-Thon back in December, we managed to connect with Kakuma from all over the world. Our 24 Skype calls resulted in an astonishing 137,833 virtual miles—the equivalent of 5 times the circumference of the earth. Check out our Sway presentation to find out more.

skype refugees 2 - managed solution

Some fun facts about Project Kakuma:
  • Mette, a Danish teacher, lets two of her students teach the Kakuma students from time to time.
  • The project was broadcasted by the Portuguese television and published in Belgian, Portuguese and Danish newspapers.
  • Joao, a Portuguese teacher, invited a local band to play during a Skype session while he taught the students about art. He builds apps and is currently working on a game called “Water Heroes” of which all returns will go to refugee camps to build water wells.
  • Those who aren’t able to conduct live calls with Kakuma due to time zone issues record Skype video messages.
  • Vineeta, an Indian teacher, taught the Kakuma students how to create robot cars and sent some to the refugees.
Why is it so important to do all we can to educate these students? The Kakuma refugees are not able to leave the camp. Through Skype calls, we are unlocking their world. We show that we care and increase their level of education, which then leads to greater chances of a new life away from the camp.
We are currently serving five schools with the help of three outreach assistants. The schools are able to host one call each day until April 2016. If you are an educator and you or your classroom would like to have a call with them, you can schedule it on the Microsoft Educator Community.
This project was created through the collaboration of motivated teachers from all over the world. Without the hard work of Kelli (US), Lena (Denmark), Paula (Finland), Koen (Belgium), Joao (Portugal), Kurt (Austria), Ovi (Spain), and many others, there would be no Project Kakuma.

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