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Microsoft launches "Bing for Schools" - the web gets a bit less naughty

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, has plans to expand control for school district IT administrators. Later this year a new service, Bing for Schools, will allow a custom tailored experience for education institutions. The new service will allow opt-ins without the need of any special software or a different search address.

IT administrators can take control of a collection of new features inducing the ability to remove ads from search results, default filtering to “strict” while locking out a student’s ability to change it, and a customized Bing homepage that integrate a common core curriculum.

Microsoft's Bing behavioral scientist, Matt Wallaert, outlines the program’s abilities in a press release:

Keeping Our Kids Focused on Learning:As a country, we’ve set schools aside as a special place that is focused on learning, and have traditionally kept advertising out of that environment. Bing For Schools removes ads from the search experience, keeping with our strong belief that schools are for learning and not selling.

Protecting Our Kids:Bing already offers the ability to filter out adult content with SafeSearch, but with Bing For Schools, SafeSearch will automatically default to the strict setting and remove kids ability to change it.

Educating Our Kids: In addition to the beautiful Bing homepage images, which feature hotspots that encourage exploration of new and unexpected topics, Bing For Schools will offer short lesson plans that teach digital literacy skills that are related to search and tied to the Common Core. For example, this picture of a sloth might be coupled with the question “How many sloths could live in one square mile of jungle?” and a lesson helping students use search tools and critical thinking to find potential answers.

For now, not much more information is known about Bing’s program - those interested can sign up at Bing.com/schools for more information.

Source: Bing Blogs

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Reader comments

Microsoft launches "Bing for Schools" - the web gets a bit less naughty

32 Comments

This is cool! And we will finally learn how many sloths CAN live in one square mile of a jungle.. It's a very important topic for all students to know.

Call me conservative, but I still think that children should be educated through books and not computers and that a computer shouldn't get anywhere near a student in schools at least until he reaches the 7th grade.

What a terrible idea. Then they'll get into the real world and type slowly with two fingers like most adults do. I grew up in the time where computers were starting to be used in schools, only in the computer lab/library of course as it was a 8 years ago when I was in HS, and it was great learning how to type, use the internet, office, etc...from a young age.

DJCBS suggested seventh grade, which isn't high school.  Even with what s/he suggested, people could still experience everything that you mentioned and be prepared for the outside world.  As an educator in a post-secondary environment, I tend to agree a little more with DJCBS, but only because of the overreliance on computers that the current system encourages.  While young people may be able to use a computer, they are missing basic fundamentals, like avoiding run-on sentences, capitalizing proper names, and misuse of elipses. Sure they can type, but they can barely express themselves clearly and concisely.

As an ex-high school teacher that grew up at a time when we really didn't use computers until 6th grade, I thought I would chime in. While I completely agree with DJCBS and allos autos on the idea that computers are having a negative impact on our current youth, they are both forgetting one big problem. You have to convince parents to do the same. I would actually say mobile devices are more to blame, but I digress. I grew up with a computer and actually got sent to the office in my 7th grade typing class because the teacher thought I mocked her for finishing her assignment so fast. I had been using computers for a decade at that point in my life and knew my way around a keyboard from my time spent at home... my dad was a high school computer science teacher so I was raised next to the keyboard. I learned nothing about using computers in school. I really don't think most kids these days are learning that much either outside of specialty classes (programming, design, repair, etc).
 
During my time in high school, people had feature phones, but you didn't dare take them out. There wasn't much point anyway since the voice rate plans were terrible. I don't even remember having the ability to send a text. When I was student teaching in 2008, phones were kept well hidden and kids knew better than to have them seen, although many still did. You knew they were used because a kid would pop their head in asking something they could have only found out via a text sent during class. When I returned as a sub for the following 18 months to my alma mater, I noticed the culture of phone use was progressinvely getting more and more out of control. In my last teaching position (this year), texting had ruined not just the English skills, but also the social skills and penmanship of the population. One of the hottest debates in schools right now is bullying. I would argue one of the biggest contributing factor to this becoming more of an issue is the decline in social skills stemming from mobile devices.
 
It's one thing to have a properly controlled and monitored experience with technology at a young age. To say books should be the only resource allowed for school work is a bit overboard. It is another monster altogether to have our current mess related to unmontiored usage of technology. I will tell you right now that one of our first big computer research projects in middle school dealt with the US presidents. No one ever forgot the day we all went to whitehouse.com (NSFW) and not whitehouse.gov. Since this was before web filtering was implemented...well, you can imagine the rest. At present, a teacher spends most of their time during a similar assignment keeping kids on topic-related websites, particularly when IT does a terrible job locking things down.

Haha oh god! I remember being a student in the 6th grade and accidentally going on whitehouse.com instead of .gov. Big shocker for an 11 year old kid.

ikissfutebol,
I just wanted to clarify that I wasn't suggesting that educators rely solely on books, but rather that I agreed more with a book-centred approach than I do with a "MOAR COMPUTARZ!" approach that a few other commentors have espoused throughout these comments.  There are significant drawbacks of books; for one, the information contained within them are only updated with a new edition.  To insist on a book-only approach is a bit overboard.
As you say, the key is to properly control and monitor their experience with technology within an academic setting.  Setting boundaries that are then regularly enforced is a necessity.  Unfortunately there seems to be only a well-documented list of problems and concerns about technology in academic settings, and not a lot of answers.
Lastly, I wanted to compliment you on the clarity and eloquence of your post.  It's a refreshing change of pace. :-)

@allos autos,
 
Thank you for your kind words. Sadly, the same reason I left education is the same reason why this problem is only going to get worse in the short-term. In my professional experiences, too many people that are in the leadership roles (principal, IT, supers, county/state/national-level leaders, etc.) have been out of the classroom for so long, assuming they were at some point, and have not experienced a student of the post-texting revolution...for those non-educators, I am referring to actually teaching, not simply being a student. The result is that the decisions being made right now are all based on hype and on their last experiences actually in front of 15-40 sets of K-12 eyes. Why drop $60,000 of a broke districts money to buy iPads if (a) the infrastructure isn't in place to support them and (b) the apps being used are truthfully really poor tools? I say that last part given my year of experience working in a school's IT, not just as a teacher.
 
Here's the sad reality. The smartphone revolution is still younger than most of the populations in our K-12 system. To think schools, decision makers, and educators have really fine-tuned their use of technology on a large scale is hilarious. The iPad/tablet revolution is even younger. The average teacher I have encountered is just tech savvy enough to repeat the basic tasks they are shown during training. To then take new technology they have no experience with and throw it at them with a pathetic amount of training and expect wonders is... criminal? a huge joke? idiotic? I would love someone to show me some data that my experiences in a half dozen high schools, between subbing and teaching, is flawed. Sure, I know there are teachers out there that are way ahead of the curve and can do wonderful things with technology. These are also the exception and sadly not the rule. Should we revisit this question in another 10+ years? Most certainly. Sadly, without the support of parents making sure their kids are truly fluent (reading, writing, speaking) in English, the language as we know it is doomed. As most parents are hardly IT wizards, I think it's safe to say that will not be the case...not to mention that in another ten years, some of the very kids that grew up texting will start becoming mommies and daddies.

I report my answer to that given by allos autos.
Also, I didn't grew up with a computer next to me since first grade. Still, I can write on a computer faster than people who have used computers since they were very little. Those skills are trained. The more you train, the better you get. Age has nothing to do with it.

Well, I live in Finland and I'm going to 9th grade, and we still get educated through books, just sometimes use the web for some projects. But I just hope that computers and web come to education more and more..

That's preposterous. I was educated through a lot of books but I had a lot of computer education as well. Learning how to type and programming with LOGO in first grade til third, turbo pascal in fourth and visual basics in fifth and so on. I wouldn't want to be deprived of all of that.

Learning programming at young ages is just stupid. 90% of the children have no use for those skills.
But just to clarify...you're not referring to "first grade" as in when you're 6 years, right?

while i agree with the notion that children shouldn't get too comfy learning through a computer i have to disagree with you on when to learn to program, learning to program actually teaches kids how to solve problems using logic, it actually helps them learn in all other courses (of course, except arts, i think that's a whole other beast to conquer) 

Yeah. I think people are getting dummer and dummer thanks to the overuse of google and Wikipedia. Fuck me, right?

Fortunately there are iluminated souls like you. I feel so much confindent in the Worlds future now...

I think people are getting dumber and dumber due to laziness and stupid parents.  But yeah, learning from bad info and idiots online doesn't help matters.
I actually grew up with computers around most of my life.  Granted, I was born in '80 and started using computers with DOS around '87, so the progression was a lot different than it is today.  If I hadn't been online and using the computer all the time in high school, I might (*might*) be more capable socially.  However, I also wouldn't have the skills (not just computer skills) I have today and probably wouldn't have be writing code for a living and making good money.
I agree with you that there needs to be a balance.  We can't let children rely solely on what's online (or get tainted by all the tripe that's online), and book-learning is still important.  However, I don't agree that they should be kept from computers until middle school.  Computers are helping young children learn at an increasing rate, and as others have pointed out, an exposure to computing and programming at an early age can greatly increase a child's understanding of logic (not just computing logic, but logic in general).  I run into plenty of adults who are incapable of any kind of logic and who will never get it.  Starting early is a great way to help a child's development.  But it absolutely should not be the only thing to which they're exposed.

I agree. The modern world is based on computers now. Kids need to be technology literate. Kids weren't taught with stone tablets in the book era, why teach with books in a technology focused era? Instead of an atlas, kids can now have interactive 3D models (as an example), that sounds both more engaging and educational to me. I was making presentations (involving web research) on animals and historical figures in elementary school- well before grade 7.

Wholeheartedly agree with you, we should encourage them to read more at young age. It's sad that kids/teenagers don't read much anymore.

I'm actually a Facilitator at a new startup that focuses on getting teachers out of the way. Reason being I live in Pakistan and the educational standards are seriously messed up. The teaching staff in Government schools is extremely poor.

We are currently testing/developing a self study method that uses various websites such as Livemocha, IXL, Youtube vids etc to get kids learning directly.

Though its been a bumpy road, they have shown somewhat improvement over their other counterparts. However this is just in its initial stages and lots of fine tuning still needs to be done.

A lot of funding in the US at least comes with strings to keep schools porn free, and let's not forget that no school needs the grief of an angry parent because their kid saw something at school (instead of home or at a friend's house)

All for this. Sounds like a smart move but I do find it quite funny how the first point MS talks about is keeping advertising out of schools. Surely the whole point of this product is raising brand awareness of Bing amongst school children.

Off-topic: Michael, last week or so you mentioned that WPCentral would be starting to label US-only promotions/deals as such in the title of topics.  It seems like you're the only one following through.  Is there any way you could get your colleagues to start doing it as well?

Oh, I wholeheartedly agree.  US-only is just the most common example.  But you're right; it should be generalized.

I see this as a not so subtle attempt to reduce google's ad revenue...very clever, what Bing may or may not do is a bonus

Nice. I really don't care whether snoop dog smokes 80 blunts per day, and our students don't need the exposure. So, yeah, we'll stay with Bing and step up to this move forward.
We'll be piloting Surface RT tablets this year (thanks to the promotional offer at $200 a pop for education) and switching to Office 365 (good riddance Goolge Apps). Keep up the good work, and let mw know a few weeks in advance before you *finally* release a Microsoft-branded laptop so I can buy some stock ;-)