North Dakota has partnered with Microsoft to provide all students, educators and school personnel inside the state’s K-12 education system with Office 365 at no cost to the school districts.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple made the announcement last week alongside leaders from the North Dakota Information Technology Department and EduTech, the state’s education technology division with ITD.
“This project is a major milestone in providing all K-12 schools in North Dakota with 21st Century, world-class technology tools to enhance learning and better prepare our young people for educational and career opportunities in the future,” Dalrymple said in a release. “Ensuring access to innovative technologies in our schools not only strengthens the future of our students, but also the future of our state.”
The announcement came as part of a two-day information and training seminar at Microsoft’s Fargo, North Dakota, campus for school technology directors and educators in a group that include state Chief Information Officer Mike Ressler and Robert Kaspari, the director of EduTech.
EduTech, a division of ITD, and Microsoft are rolling out a statewide K-12 Active Directory and Forefront Identity Management tools and portal.
The project is designed to have every K-12 student and staff member in one unified statewide database using Microsoft Active Directory. Active Directory will store, and make it easier to search for information on students and staff on a statewide basis.
The project also uses Microsoft’s Forefront Identity Management product, a state-based identity management software product designed to manage users’ digital identities, credentials and groupings throughout the lifecycle of their membership in an enterprise computer system.
“EduTech’s leadership continues to position the K-12 community to be at the forefront of deploying technology,” Ressler said. “The Office 365 roll-out highlights this leadership and the value of partnering with organizations like Microsoft to implement IT solutions in North Dakota.”
The product will be used to help students create reports and work with other students online and see each other’s changes in real-time with Office Online and OneDrive while working on projects either at school or at home.
“This project is really about education and providing North Dakota K-12 schools with the right technology tools for the job,” Kaspari said. “It is about a vision to create something that didn’t exist by using innovation and technology to enhance teaching and learning in the state.”
The move is the latest in what has been an aggressive push from the company in the education technology space. Earlier this year, the company announced it would donate $1 billion to help schools across the country purchase Windows devices at a reduced cost as part of the White House’s ConnectED initiative.
“To move students into the future, they need the skills and resources that can bring learning to life and prepare them for the workforce,” said Margo Day, vice president of U.S. education at Microsoft, earlier this year.
“Through Microsoft’s commitment, we are helping bridge the technology skills gap that exists among many students today by providing tools and learning resources that give all students a world-class education and help teachers better use technology in the classroom,” she said.