Classroom Instruction Tools

Microsoft Introduces Full Suite of Learning Accelerator Tools at No Extra Cost

Coaching for Students and Progress Monitors for Teachers Cover Media Literacy and Search, Math, and Speaking and Presentation Skills

Less than a year after introducing its Reading Coach and Reading Progress tools for education users, Microsoft today introduced an entire suite of similar tools called Learning Accelerators that focus on digital literacy, speaking and presentation skills, and math, each with a “Coach” tool for students and a “Progress” monitoring and assigning tool for teachers.

Microsoft also unveiled educator-requested updates and expanded access to Reading Coach, adding fluency and comprehension skills, so teachers can assign comprehension questions, and students can practice reading fluency, Microsoft VP, Education Marketing Paige Johnson told THE Journal in an interview. Johnson hosted Microsoft’s annual Reimagine Education virtual event today, where she announced the new tools and updates — all of which are being added to education licenses at no additional charge.

“At Microsoft, we believe technology solutions play a vital role in helping students catch up, keep up and get ahead – inside and outside of the classroom – and we want to offer educators effective and innovative tools to improve literacy across the board,” Johnson said.

“This is a new category of learning tools that help support and streamline the creation, review, and analysis of student progress and development across academic subjects. Learning Accelerators include both Coach tools and Progress tools: The Coach tools provide students real-time coaching and opportunities for self-directed learning. The Progress tools are designed to help teachers personalize assignments as well as feedback and instruction assisted by actionable insights,” Johnson explained.

Reading Coach is rolling out to be accessible to more learners as well, Johnson said: It will now be included in the Immersive Reader feature across Word Online, OneNote, Microsoft Teams Assignments, Minecraft Education, Flip, and others. The new integrations will give more students the tools they need to practice reading fluency and get real-time feedback, “helping them fully engage as readers on the web and across Microsoft 365 apps that support Immersive Reader,” Johnson said.

Screenshot shows how Microsoft Search Coach feature works for students  

Search Coach and Search Progress take aim at misinformation on the internet and were built to help students develop critical thinking skills and improve their media literacy — with constant feedback such as how their search phrase impacts the results, how to know which results might be biased or inaccurate, and how to evaluate the sources that show up in their search results, Johnson said.

Search Coach “empowers students to think critically, search with confidence in the classroom, and build stronger information literacy skills,” she said. They provide “real-time coaching to students on forming effective queries and reviewing reliable sources in an ad-free online environment” and act as “training wheels for searching the internet” using Microsoft Bing API. Search Coach is now live in Teams for Education and available worldwide, Microsoft said.

Search Coach was “built with feedback from leading experts, librarians and teachers” and includes the following features:

  • Real-time coaching to students on forming effective queries as well as identifying and reviewing reliable sources.
  • Daily search tips and targeted tips included on the results page, filter options that help students find relevant sources, and much more.
  • Customizable filters that teachers can easily set for personalized lessons and students can use to make their searches more specific for additional independent practice on certain concepts.
  • Optional filters like a Fact Check button that can be enabled by the teacher to encourage students to review sources with some of the top fact checking websites and an option for teachers to create their own list of sites for students to use.

“Students are often searching for a needle in a growing global haystack that includes false and misleading information,” Microsoft said in the new blog post. “Most search education focuses on analyzing results delivered by the search engine. We help with this analysis, but the unique superpower of Search Coach is to show easy ways to form more effective search queries. To get the right answer, ask the right question. Avoid encountering most unreliable information in the first place!”

A new video from Microsoft shows how it works:

Search Progress will give teachers actionable insights, showing them what students are searching for, whether they’re acting on the Search Coach prompts to fine-tune their results, and which sources students are clicking on, Microsoft said. It will be rolled out later this year, Johnson said.

Speaker Progress and Speaker Coach were built to help improve student speaking and presentation skills by allowing students to practice independently with real-time feedback on enunciation, pacing, pitch, inclusive language choices, filler words and sounds such as “kinda” or “ummm,” on persuasive presenting, and more.

Speaker Coach is available now, built into Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Teams and LinkedIn, while Speaker Progress will be available in preview within Microsoft Teams Assignments during the 2023–24 school year, Johnson told THE Journal. Additionally, Search Coach will be embedded in the Microsoft Edge browser later this year, Johnson said.

Also coming in time for the 2023–24 school year are Math Coach and Math Progress, which will be available in Teams for Education for grades 4–9 initially.

“Math Coach breaks down each part of a problem – with text explanations for each step and operation in more detail – to help students think more critically through how and why they arrived at a particular solution,” Johnson explained. “Math Progress assists teachers in generating practice questions, identifying which concepts challenged students, and providing feedback and personalized support more efficiently. The tools work in tandem, as Math Coach generates additional practice problems for students based on teacher input and insights gathered from their previous Math Progress assignments. Schools can also leverage math fluency data to help track trends and progress as well as improve outcomes. ”

Educators and administrators will now have access to expanded insights, called Education Insights Premium, through all versions of Microsoft 365 Education, including the no-cost Office 365 A1 license, the company announced.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].