Microsoft Student 2020 Competition

Here is my answer to Microsoft’s Student 2020 Competition:

1. First, tell us how technology today influences school life and helps you learn. Then, tell us about the future….

Today’s technology has a somewhat heavy influence on my school life. In Physics, we use some digital instruments such as thermometers, stopwatches, calculators, among other tools in our labs. In History, my professor often shows PowerPoint slides to explain events in U.S. History. In English, sometimes I go to Sparknotes.com to get some summaries of books to help aid with my understanding of the text, or do web searching to help find information I could apply in papers. I even have a computer class called BCIS (Business Computer Information Systems) where we use Office 2007 quite often, and learn other aspects of computer technology to help aid us in our future careers. In Pre-Calculus, we use graphing calculators from time to time. Sometimes, we use the computers and laptops to help with doing research and typing up papers or presentations. Flash drives make it very easy to transport papers from home to school. The school has a website with news, as well as access to students’ digital grades, so we can view our current grades anytime we feel it is convenient. Technology has transformed the way schools have worked into the 21st century. It’d be hard for today’s students, to imagine a life without technology like this.

2. What will Windows Vista, Windows Live and Microsoft Office look like in 2020?

Windows Vista, or whatever version of Windows at that time, will be even more user-centric by 2020. The OS will be more lightweight, to fit on a wide arrange of devices and computers. The built-in dynamic search will get even deeper into the computer, and pull out all sorts of results from varying files, documents, programs, and codes of all sorts. Speech recognition, touch, multi-touch, and other forms of input are going to increasingly get better. As for the look, I hope the OS will be super sleek with just the right touch to every aspect of the UI. I see white text over black background become more prevalent, light touches such as shadows, bezel, a glimmer, better window frames, and then a more interactive graphical UI, that’s pleasing to the eye, yet not too distracting. A redesigned taskbar that makes it more easier to view many open programs all at once with the status bar allowing more simpler things like managing the volume by just hovering and selecting, a trash bin where you can simply drag and drop items into, a USB flash drive/CD/DVD icon shown so I could easily access that, wonderful thumbnail icons rather than traditional program icons, and in general – a more visual-based UI. A visual interface that seems very polished and intuitive.

  • A new visual experience – Of course, by 2020, I hope that Microsoft has greatly changed the look of Windows. I wish for more graphical eye candy (useful eye candy), and taking in consideration with drop shadows, shiny bevels, curves, transitions, thumbnail icons instead or typical file icons, snappy and swift interfaces, dynamic rendering, and as much as you can throw to amaze the many people who like fancy-GUI’s, at the same time functional GUI.
  • New Taskbar – The Taskbar is fine for most people, but one of its quirks is that if you have many open programs on the Taskband, it can be difficult to pinpoint which program is which. You usually only have an icon, and a short part of program title to rely on. Sometimes you have to dig through groups of similar windows. It’s all annoying. Instead, I’d love for a nice thumbnail view of each open window on the new Taskbar, instead of the way it is today. You can you your mouse or arrow keys to switch from thumbnail to thumbnail. Or you could launch a fullscreen windows viewer, and have a tiled view of each window where you can spot the window you want by usage, sequential order, A-Z, by searching, and all that. I wish that the Notification Area became a sort of its own Status Bar (which is what it really is today). You’d still have the time, Messenger, connection, and all. But added functionality such as a Trash bin where you can easily drag and drop stuff into, a USB-drive/DVD/CD icon pop-up if it’s plugged in, to quickly access. A load bar can show up if things are download/uploading onto the computer. I don’t want it to necessarily become Apple’s Dock. But think of new ways on how the Taskbar should operate with the rest of the system.
  • Search everything – Hopefully, tons of iFilters will be supported by default, so you can type in the name of an artist, someone’s name, a previous e-mail message, a photo, or anything results will come up instantaneously. Maybe with thumbnails included with the results too.
  • Improved Windows Explorer – In this day and age, drives assigned with a letter should be an antiquated method. Instead, printers connected show up as printers with a Printer icon, USB flash drives show up as their respected USB flash drive icon, etc. Thumbnail icons instead of typical file icons will be used to vividly display most files. Statistics button to find information such hard drive space, computer specs, a log of every program/file used, all in a visually pleasing view. Better search functionality to quickly zip through all the content on my computer and drives, checkboxes next to each file name (like your inbox in a webmail) to better manipulate many items, tabs within Explorer, etc.
  • x64 only – Should be only 64 bit at this point
  • Better built-in applications and utilities – With the reduction of Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mail, and Calendar out of Windows (to be replaced by Windows Live versions), I really hope any built-in applications are much more better. Like Windows Media Player will be able to play a ton of formats natively, have podcasting ability at this point, better visualizations, and even be more similar to the Zune software. WordPad will be more prominent (most of my friends don’t know it exists!), and hopefully the built-in utilities are more efficient and “wizards” are not so annoying to deal with. I also hope for a document viewer built-in, just in case people don’t have Microsoft Office, they can still easily look at documents sent to them and do simple edits and controls. More tools that will make computer use much better, and so on. I hope that by 2020, built-in Windows applications are much better and stronger than its OS X variants.
  • UAC is more helpful, instead of annoying – UAC in Windows Vista is secure, but too secure. Hopefully, there will be ways to customize what prompts you would like to see, a check box in each prompt that say “Do not show me this message (or prompt) again”, and better prompts that better describes the issue. It also wouldn’t hurt to put in some real anti-virus applications, would it?
  • Less resource intensive – The less resource intensive, the better. By 2020, I hope Micorsoft can find better ways of managing graphical, indexing, and all sorts of typical resource intensive actions, and make it less intensive.
  • Few versions – I really don’t think there should be more than 3 versions. Multiple SKUs have confused consumers, and it’d be much easier to have ONE version than many. If at most, there’d be a Home version (what most users will want and need, OR everything) and a Business version (with more business and office needs built-in and more cheaper than Home).

Windows Live –

  • Better and consistent user interface – I really hope to see a wonderful iconic interface that makes the brand unique and lovable. Nice pretty icons, smooth interface with a nice touch on the graphics, Ribbon-like elements on desktop applications, snappy clean web interface, dynamic search box that pulls up results as you type, AJAX and Silverlight, etc.
  • Better brand name and service/product naming convention – I’m guessing a new and improved (and more catchy) brand name will come up, instead of staying with Windows Live. Also, I hope to see long product names such as ‘Windows Live Photo Gallery’, ‘Windows Live Movie Maker’ to something more quick and snappy like maybe WinLive ‘PhotoFixer’ (or just PhotoFixer) and WinLive ‘VideoFixer’. ‘Quik’  as a brand name maybe? QuikMail, QuikVids, QuikIM, etc.? Anything but ‘Windows Live’.
  • Greater mobile access to services – Hopefully, the services will be available on a wide variety of phones, and offer as much full functionality as a desktop version. Especially on mobile browsers that can handle more of the “full” web (A better mobile browser, Microsoft?)
  • Ultimate search engine – Hopefully, Live Search (or whatever it’s name will be by then) be the ultimate search engine to use. Stuff like site previews, search suggestions, website safety indicators, etc. will be commonplace
  • Focus on offering the most it can to users – Tons of better features than the competition + free + speed + ubiquity = Love from users; This is the formula I hope Microsoft will be using with Windows Live.
  • More innovate ways of doing advertisement – Instead of just banner ads sprawled out on the top of a site in an ugly fashion, how about by 2020 Microsoft can do a much better implementation like a collapsible banner pane on the right side, or old-fashioned well done text ads, location-based ads, friends-based ads, etc. I love the way AdCenter Labs is going.
  • (A real) Social/Community network – Having elements such as being Facebook-like, lots of Profile/Space customizability, offering more services (such as classifieds, dating, chatrooms, groups, among others), and making it much easier to connect with friends (with networks, web IM, threads, etc.), and personalizing your place.
  • MSN is much better or dissolved – I hope that either the current MSN will use a much-need facelift, offer better content with better features, and original content, or just dissolve complete into oblivion.
  • Expand into more areas – like online shopping, more nifty web tools, other search verticals, eBooks, site hosting, etc.

Microsoft Office – Mostly the same, with better modifications:

  • Most if not all the applications will adopt the ingenious Ribbon interface
  • A great site to share/edit/store Office files online (SkyDrive or Mesh, instead of Office Live Workspaces?)
  • More options to legally obtain Microsoft Office – to A simple free ad-supported web version of core Microsoft Office applications “or” a full web version of core Microsoft Office application with a reasonable subscription “or” one-time fee for one day usage. Maybe even all.
  • Even more graphics/effects/textures/fonts built into Office to better customize your projects with. As well as a completely refreshed ClipArt gallery with more modern up-to-date vector graphics and audio samples.
  • A search box built into the Ribbon that can dynamically (or instantly) search for commands/templates/ClipArt/effects/fonts etc. (Scout?), or text within the document as you type
  • More support for a wide variety of fixed citation styles (bibliographies)
  • Better refinement of the UI throughout the whole program, including dialog boxes (with hopefully support for Live Preview)
  • Cheaper prices – stand-alone apps should go for roughly $30-$70, or other options for getting Microsoft Office like continuing “The Ultimate Steal”.

3. What will the attitude be towards cell phones and smart phones in 2020 classrooms?

I doubt that cellphones/smartphones will still be allowed to be utilized in classrooms, unless for a very specific purpose (like calling a parent for permission) allowed by the teacher. Cellphones/Smartphones don’t offer any direct educational benefit, and monitoring usage in a classroom environment would be difficult. However, I do hope there’s less restrictions on cellphone use throughout the school. Perhaps you can use your cellphone/smartphone in the hallways or any other place outside the classroom, since you’re not learning at that moment, and you could use that time to answer some quick messages, or study real fast from your phone. Just not likely in a classroom environment.

4. How will you go to classes? What will the classroom look like?

From home to school? Most likely the same way: school bus, car, walk, or bike. Maybe if development gets more increasingly urban instead of suburban, we’ll see walking and biking more heavily used. I doubt anything wild like teleportation, hovercrafts or such will exist or be feasible by 2020 in schools.

From class to class? I’m hoping that the layout of the school of the future is built smart. Core courses are divided into its own sector and placed in a specific part of the building. Other electives will most likely be in a logical place as well. Walking from classroom to classroom will most likely stay the same as it’s cheap and healthy. Escalators or elevators might be made for all-student use, depending on how wealthy the school is. The cafeteria, or a main hallway marks the center of the school. Outdoor areas will be created to help encourage a place for students to gather and work (such as a courtyard with a public art sculpture, biology garden, etc.). An underground parking garage or small parking lots will place more appearance on the school, rather than the cars. Lots of trees and shrubbery everywhere.

As for the classroom: I’m hoping that classrooms will be more of a sociable place to conduct class. Instead of individual desks, I hope teachers encourage more group activities (since that’s how the workforce is mostly like), so we’ll see either more tables or desks grouped together to encourage groupwork. I’m also hoping that every student will (in my school of the future) be able to have his/her own touchscreen tablet/laptop. That way, classrooms can be completely paperless for the most part – no bulky textbooks, loose-leaf paper out and about, cluttered desks, stacks and stacks of papers. This will save money in copying, printing, and time to go paperless. Schools will be built more green, so classrooms will have LED lights (a step above fluorescent), more/bigger windows, and environmentally friendly materials. An HDTV (or a regular TV) mounted onto every wall, for viewing digital videos, PowerPoint slides or other documents, high school’s video broadcasts, and software to extend a person’s touchscreen tablet/laptop onto the screen to act as a replace to the overhead or SMART Board. A proper paper recycling bin, and taken out every day by the janitors. There could be more fancy and frivolous things, like doors with metallic frames and a large pane of tempered glass with the room number and a small circular peephole etched into it, upholstered chair for ergonomics, ambient LED lighting, several all-in-one computers (one for the teacher), vibrant wall colors (with maybe school colors?) and framed black & white photos, and a Surface table.

5. What will extracurricular activities be? What new classes will be added to course loads?

I’m quite certain that most of the extracurricular activities we have today, will still remain available by 2020. Maybe more clubs catering to tech such as video games, PC making, tech lovers, or a wide assortment of random clubs. I doubt any new exotic sports will hit the mainstream high schools. If any new classes were to be added, I think I might see more career-oriented classes, to help jumpstart a student’s path to the workforce faster. Computer classes will become even more popular of course, with maybe more courses geared towards certain types of software. Otherwise, the choice of classes will most likely be the same as it is now.

So that’s where I see Microsoft and education going by the year 2020. Though it’s not an answer to any question, I really hope Microsoft revitalizes Encarta from being a simple digital encyclopedia, to being a full-fledged educational tool for students all over the world. By 2020, I hope more schools will issue laptops/tablets to students, and digital learning will become even more relevant. I’d love for Encarta to encompass:

  • Articles on almost everything in the universe – Maybe based on Wikipedia and Freebase, but edited by professionals for accurate information, with wonderful multimedia (great graphics, high-quality images and videos, realistic audio of speeches or sounds, tables/charts/graphs to sum up simple concepts, etc.), and a fantastic article layout. Maybe a partnership with SparkNotes to provide even more in-depth summarizations, quotes, themes, and other topics to help assist in the understanding of literature. Access to a wide plethora of articles from many publishers. As much information on any topic with an outstanding design and layout would be great.
  • Digital Textbooks and other reading material – Microsoft can get in on the growing market of eBooks, and can work with prominent publishers on creating wonderful interactive and in-depth textbooks and reading material. Abilities like inline search, fancy video content over just still images, chapter/unit quizzes and games, annotation, note-taking pane, virtual demos, etc. This IS the future of education, instead of musty old textbooks.
  • Great tools – Besides the Encarta encyclopedia, things such as a fancy digital graphing calculator (a deal with TI maybe?), wonderful Atlas and Planetarium, FlashCard/Quiz maker (buy/partner with Quizlet?), superb dictionary/thesaurus/translator that gives precise results, OneNote integration, educational podcasts from teachers for your Zune/iPod, educational games, among all sorts of tools to assist with educating.
  • School (or District) website hosting and services – Schools can find someone to make a website, but Microsoft can go above and beyond. Doing things such as allowing students/parents to check grades from the virtual GradeBook, see information on test results you got from taking a state’s standardized test or SAT or other professional tests, graphs and data to show what HS credits you’ve accomplish or still need to finish, managing lunch account, a Live Map of the school, Events calendar sharing, teacher’s page with e-mails and whatnot, etc. Microsoft could provide a wonderful professional site hosting and services to bring school websites into the 21st century.

Here’s a wonderful video I found that illustrates something that I think could be in Encarta of 2020:

I would love to see Encarta become the next generation tool for education.

That said, I hope my answers has given Microsoft a good idea where I see education going in 2020, and even where I can see Microsoft and education by 2020. I could even go into more detail on the future of the structure of schools, learning, among other aspects of education. I hope my answers satisfy the questions asked.

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