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A child with a face mask and a man with a face mask and headphoneslooking at something on the Surface Pro.As K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the nation finish or near the close of the regular term, we are celebrating educators for once again elevating learning in this second school year of teaching in an uncertain world. Our Microsoft team is honored to support educators spanning the primary to higher education landscape, helping them to use trusted technology to empower student learning at home, in the classroom or anywhere in between.

Educators are superstars

Since early 2020 when the pandemic began escalating, educators proved that they really are superstars, capable of adapting to remote and hybrid learning situations as government guidance and protocols evolved. We’ve seen countless examples of educators going above and beyond to overcome significant challenges, connect with students, and deliver high-quality education through remote and hybrid learning environments. You’ll find inspiring primary and secondary education and higher education stories demonstrating heroic efforts to teach while confronting remote learning issues involving technology, security and inclusivity.

Our Education team is committed to supporting educators with Microsoft 365 Education (M365), Microsoft Teams and other solutions that transform learning — and improving these tools based on their feedback. Whether teachers are remote, returning to the classroom or using a hybrid approach, these recently introduced Microsoft Teams features and video tips from respected education influencer Leslie Fisher will strengthen their teaching toolkit.

The benefits of Teams, M365

Teams also is helping educators address the growing importance of social-emotional learning, with Praise Badges giving teachers and students more ways to recognize one another, Education Insights enabling better understanding and response to student needs, and Reflect for learners to identify and label their emotions.

In continuing discussions with U.S. education professionals, we’re finding a growing appreciation for the benefits of using Teams, M365 and partnering with us to advance college and career readiness by equipping students with the tools they’ll use in the future, as highlighted in this story about theUniversity of Alabama. Our anecdotal evidence is corroborated by Forrester’s study, The Total Economic Impact™ Of Microsoft 365 Education, which notes students saw a 20% improvement in reading and writing, educators realized 216 more hours each year to focus on improving learning outcomes and Microsoft Teams produced enhanced classroom engagement.

Security is paramount

One of the key insights confirmed in the pandemic-driven learning environment is that security is paramount, especially given that 64% of reported enterprise malware encounters occur in education. Stephen Taylor, director of Digital Learning and Teaching at North Carolina’s Onslow County Schools, emphasized the importance of security by saying: “It was important for us to know that Teams is extremely secure. We had to be aware of CIPA and COPPA compliance,” referring to the Child Internet Protection Act and the Child Online Privacy and Protection Act. “Microsoft helps give us peace of mind that we’re meeting those regulations.”

Microsoft’s history of providing secure, reliable, and affordable computing, as well as M365 compliance with rigorous industry standards, ensures our education clients can rely on us for a safe and simple experience for all. Teams features like Hard Mute and Student Lobby allow educators to keep students secure and learn from anywhere.

Creating equitable and inclusive learning

While the pandemic has imposed hardships on all, educators who teach students with special needs have faced some of the greatest hurdles over the past two school years. Teams and other accessible technologies have been invaluable in enabling teachers to keep these exceptional students involved in a virtual learning environment. Being able to see, hear and connect with teachers through Teams also has reduced some of the stress on the 2.5 million students in the U. S. who have learning disabilities, along with every parent trying to secure the best education experience for their child.

The Forrester Total Economic Impact study underscores the importance of implementing assistive technologies by noting that up to 50% of instructional time can be lost to managing the needs of students with disabilities. That makes Microsoft tools such as Immersive Reader, our new Reading Progress in Teams and other accessible education technologies absolutely vital to creating equitable and inclusive learning.

Microsoft recently reinforced its dedication to conquer what’s been called the disability divide to support the more than 1 billion people around the world living with a disability. We’re very proud to build on Microsoft’s accessibility commitment for the education community with M365 by:

  • Providing five times more integrated assistive education technologies than a competitor, all free of charge.
  • Reducing the stigma for students with special needs by incorporating assistive technologies throughout, so that everyone is using the same applications and has a common user experience.
  • Reducing the stigma for students with special needs by incorporating assistive technologies throughout, so that everyone is using the same applications and has a common user experience.
  • Delivering all the accessibility features of a competitor offering without having to purchase, deploy and manage multiple third-party applications, which not only increase costs but add security issues.

Empowering each and every student

Microsoft values educators for playing an extraordinary role in the lives of students, helping them to thrive despite the pandemic. To acknowledge the demanding responsibility of empowering each and every student to achieve more, we launched these virtual showcase sites with the latest digital transformation tools, videos, stories, and more:

In addition to taking advantage of these new resources, we hope you’ll learn more about Microsoft 365 Educationconnect with an education expert or follow me on Twitter @lydiasmyers and LinkedIn to prepare and get excited about the 2021–2022 school year.