Today Microsoft launched the pilot program of Bing for Schools, an initiative to improve digital literacy among students. Schools participating in Bing for Schools will have access to a custom, ad-free version of Bing search equipped with SafeSearch filtering and enhanced privacy protections as well as an online curriculum focused on improving students’ online search skills and the opportunity to earn free Surface RT tablets. Bing for Schools’ launch partners include the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Atlanta Public Schools, the Fresno Unified School District, and the Detroit Country Day School, among others.
An Ad-Free Bing
According to a recent Pew poll, 94% of educators believe their students are very likely to use a search engine to complete typical assignments. Unfortunately the modern Web search experience is filled with ads that are inappropriate or not helpful to students. For this reason Bing for Schools offers an ad-free Bing experience, allowing students to focus on useful content rather than ad clutter when searching the Web. Bing for Schools also offers SafeSearch, a tool administrators can use to filter out inappropriate websites, and enhanced controls to protect the privacy of young students.
A Curriculum for Search
To help educators, who are often strained for time and resources, teach digital literacy, Bing for Schools will host three short and fun learning activities every day of the school year, one each targeted at K-4th, 5th-8th, and 9th-12th grades. The free activities, which are aligned with Common Core standards, will teach students the value of online search and the vast tasks that can be accomplished through Web search best practices. The lessons will stem from Bing’s daily homepage image and will be archived on Microsoft’s Partners in Learning page, a global community of educators dedicated to improving student learning worldwide.
Bing Rewards Integration
Bing Rewards allows you to earn credits each time you use Bing to search the Web and redeem those credits for gift cards and donations. Granted, this offering sounds a little desperate on Microsoft’s end, but now you can use Bing Rewards to do good. People enrolled in Bing Rewards can choose to give their credits to their school of choice. Microsoft pools these donations, and each time 30,000 credits are gathered Microsoft will send the school a Surface RT tablet bundle. If parents and friends get onboard this initiative, they could see real results: Microsoft estimates that 60 Bing Rewards users can earn one Surface RT tablet for their school each month!
Some might say that Bing for Schools is merely a ploy to start students young on Bing search. Let’s not be dramatic. I agree that Bing for Schools is an effort on Microsoft’s part to encourage more people to use Bing over other search engines, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that Bing for Schools is a brainwashing tool. Despite Bing’s efforts at bringing the internet an alternative, more streamlined search engine, it’s been hard for Bing to incentivize people to use it. Part of this could be a fault of Internet Explorer’s deteriorating reputation, which has resulted in antagonism toward other Microsoft products. I see Bing for Schools as a way for Microsoft to ask people to give Bing a chance, not a way for Microsoft to take advantage of young minds. After all, we’ve already adopted “Google” as a verb that means searching for anything online – there’s no way students will be unaware that Google Search exists as a competitor to Bing. And if in the long run Bing gives Google a run for its money in online search, we can only expect Google Search to continue to improve.
Do you think Bing for Schools will help educators teach digital literacy? Let us know in the comments section!