Future gazing: Unleashing the digital potential of your students

The Microsoft Innovation Centre South Australia (MICSA) launched on 5 March to help drive the next generation of start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Microsoft launched its first innovation centre in Queensland in 2012. Three years later, Brian Kealey, State Director, Microsoft Australia, described how it has evolved to work with both the education space in K-12 as well as higher education.

“In Queensland and South Australia there was a perfect storm where there was either a developing market for entrepreneurs and start-ups, or there was an economic imperative and a community of collaboration,” Keeley told The Educator.

Keeley added that MICSA is currently focusing on how to help educators understand how to incorporate these plans into their curriculum, and ensuring that students ready for the “digital workplace” before they exit school.

“The reality is that every business today is a digital business in some way. The innovation centre provides students with opportunities to engage with entrepreneurs and see entrepreneurship as a career option,” Keeley explained.

“We give students technical training through programs like BizSpark, which allows start-ups to access our technology and training. We provide that to every employer who is under a certain revenue and size in terms of employees.”

With coding and design entering the K-12 curriculum , one element that MICSA is now working on is trying to align national curriculum outcomes with access to technology certifications and training to give those foundational skills to kids.

Keeley said he sees “enormous potential” in this area, given the emerging trends favouring the digital workforce.

“I think there’s no doubt that there are mega-trends at play. There is a growing opportunity for Australia to accept and adopt and be a leader in this space,” Keeley said.

“That really starts with our students not just being digitally savvy but having the business skills, communication skills and technical confidence.”

Keeley said that while the potential for these programs to help student learning outcomes is significant, work needs to be done to ensure children’s online privacy and security.

Keeley pointed to legislation in the EU and US that has been passed to safeguard online privacy, and said that the same safeguards are needed in Australia.

“The question is, are we making sure that these technologies are safe for kids to use in the classroom? Can teachers make sure that they can help both education the children in a virtual world and protect their privacy and confidentiality?”