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Microsoft launches its Flagship School Program. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft is deepening its efforts in education by literally getting in on the ground floor. On Tuesday, it launched its Microsoft Flagship School Program, announcing partnerships with 17 schools around the globe.

Or soon-to-be schools. Microsoft’s program emphasizes new facilities, collaborating with schools, “from guiding the early design, to helping educators use new technologies on day one of the first school year,” said Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s vice president of education, in a blog post introducing the program. “It’s a great opportunity to hone our tools and resources, take feedback and share what we learn to inspire other schools currently being dreamed of around the world.”

Salcito says the program has been created to support schools beginning with groundbreaking to “when they open in 12-36 months.” The multi-year commitment has drawn a group of 17 schools to start, from Renton Prep in Microsoft’s home turf of Washington state, to the Smart Learning School in Cairo, Egypt, and Monio High School in Tuusula, Finland.

Microsoft says the new initiative was effectively field-tested at Wilburton Elementary in Bellevue, Wash., which opened this fall. “Working in partnership with Microsoft Education, we’ve created a learning environment that will give students the skills and opportunities they need to be affirmed and inspired as creators of their future world,” said Dr. Ivan Duran, superintendent of the Bellevue School District, in a summary of the project.

Wilburton’s teachers took part in more than 100 hours of professional development related to technology. The elementary school, Microsoft said, also has a makerspace, is designed with pods that create “open spaces,” and all students have access to a device and Office 365 tools while they are on campus.

Microsoft said it is applying what it calls the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework in the new program which follows its continuing Showcase Schools initiative. For the new Flagship School program, the company says it’s partnering with firms including architect Gensler, furniture manufacturer Steelcase, and several others.

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