Experiments in Education | News

New York iZone Academy Taps Microsoft and Other Corporate Sponsors for Blended Learning Environment

When the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) opens its next iZone school in fall 2014, Microsoft will be deeply embedded in its operations — along with other corporate sponsors that may even go as far as hosting classes for this new school without walls. Innovation Zone is a community of New York City schools trying out new instructional and operating models to personalize education for students.

iZone Academy, the next offering in this roster of 300 schools, is proposed to be a school with both a physical and virtual presence that teams up with business, government, and cultural communities for blended learning.

The initial cohort will have ninth graders, but it won't have a building of its own. The school will operate throughout the city to give students exposure to "real-world learning experiences," according to a discussion document that describes the school. Microsoft will be the primary sponsor of the venture.

A major focus of having Microsoft support the endeavor is that the school will take advantage of the company's IT Academy technical training program, Office 365, and other resources, such as Teaching with Technology online learning curriculum. Microsoft's sponsorship responsibilities will also include helping the school set up mentoring opportunities with industry professionals; committing a staff person to be part of the school's steering committee; contributing to the development of workplace experiences such as projects and speakers; identifying additional business partners; contributing to curriculum development; and giving access to Microsoft facilities to support the program's activities.

The school received a grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges, which reported that iZone Academy will have 400 students when it's operating at capacity. According to the grant writeup, the school will "create a community-bridged learning experience where small businesses and startups share space, resources, and projects with students in a common co-working space."

The new program emulates a similar project begun in 2011 when IBM supported the creation of Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn. President Obama recently visited that school after referring to it in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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