Microsoft and T-Mobile test program to connect underserved areas to web

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Microsoft announced a new partnership and several new tools to help students and educators. Microsoft and T-Mobile will work together to provide 4G SIM cards to students in underserved areas. The effort is part of a pilot program that helps students connect to the Internet. Microsoft also announced three new education tools and improvements to 14 affordable Windows 10 devices aimed towards students. Microsoft details the new partnership and improvements in an education blog post

The collaboration with T-Mobile is part of a larger effort from Microsoft to connect more people to the Internet. Microsoft’s Airband Initiative connects people to the Internet in underserved and rural areas by utilizing TV whitespace. This partnership with T-Mobile uses a different method, but ultimately achieves the same goal of connecting more people to the web. The program will provide students at pilot schools with SIM cards and free 4G LTE coverage plans. Microsoft has a similar partnership with Vodafone for countries around the world.

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Microsoft also announced improvements to hardware that help students. 14 affordable Windows 10 devices from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, JP.IK, and Positivo have upgrades or improvements geared towards education. Microsoft highlights that seven affordable devices run on the latest Intel processors, which delivers 46 percent more system performance over previous chips. Additionally, several devices feature ways to tether or store pens, which students frequently misplace or lose. Lastly, teachers can now tell that a student’s device is charged and connected to the Internet by looking at a built-in LED indicator on the back of the device. Five of the affordable devices Microsoft highlights feature the LED indicator.

On the software side of things, Microsoft announced three new features. People will soon be able to use PowerPoint Live Presentations to train teachers. Schools can share slides with a link or QR code. The presentations support live subtitles in 60 languages to help train people across language barriers. People can also use live reactions and surveys to receive feedback from trainees.

Microsoft also announced the ability to use the Microsoft Stream app to create training videos. The app now integrates with Flipgrid’s camera, which makes it easy to create personalized videos. Microsoft Stream supports eight languages and has automatic captions and searchable transcripts.

Finally, educators can use Microsoft Teams Class Insights feature to utilize data on student performance and activity. Microsoft Teams also supports private channels to allow people to work together securely.

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