On the first day of American Education Week, Nov. 15, Microsoft and the Department of Public instruction announced the implementation of the largest IT Academy in the world across the state of North Carolina, the first state to provide it to all public high schools.
June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Public Education, said in a press conference held at Leesville, “[The program] will open doors of employment and boost students’ academics in college. It is meant to help level the playing field for students in high school and help them get one step closer to being career and college ready.”
The program combines Microsoft IT with an English class and is replacing Computer Applications I. Students can take courses in Word/Powerpoint/Publisher and Excel/Access, and when they complete the course, students can take an exam to become certified as an Microsoft Office Specialist. It is taught by James Hardy and Angela Stephenson at Leesville.
“[Microsoft IT] has provided a way to reach all different students with various types of learning styles,” said Hardy.
Chantel Smith, freshman, is taking the course this semester to help her get accustomed to using Microsoft for college and a future career. “Being Microsoft certified sets us apart and helps us look good on college applications,” said Smith.
This is the first IT program that affects every high school in one state. By August 2011, all 115 school districts in North Carolina will offer Microsoft IT instead of Computer Applications I, with one teacher at each school certified to be a Microsoft certification trainer.
Curt Miller, project manager for implementing the program, piloted the program in twenty-nine school districts including Wake County in August 2010. Throughout September and October, he visited the high schools and worked with Microsoft in fine-tuning the program and brought it to sixty school districts in November.
As well as giving students an extra gold star on college applications and even allowing them to go straight into the workforce from high school, Microsoft IT makes completing schoolwork and having access to files easier for everyone in the school district.
“The program gives all students access to their documents from any computer that has Internet access through cloud computing,” said Miller. Instead of having all Word files stored on a single computer, documents will be stored online to allow access from any computer, anywhere.
“The best part about cloud computing is that it becomes a community-wide program. Because students have access to their documents away from school, families can also benefit,” said Miller.