Microsoft to sanitize Bing for schools

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Microsoft continued its push into the education market by announcing plans for Bing for Schools, which will optimize results for K-12 students and eliminate ads in the process.

Microsoft said that when the program rolls out later this year, Bing for Schools will filter out adult content by default, and prevent students from changing that setting to allow it back in. Ads will be stripped from results. And finally, Microsoft will enhance its Bing homepage images to include “lesson plans,” or provocative questions that kids can search out the answers to themselves.

Microsoft made the announcement at the International Society for Technology in Education in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, where Microsoft and others are attempting to win over the classroom. Microsoft confirmed reports from last week that it will hand out 10,000 Surface RT tablets to educators attending the event; educators can apply for the hardware at the company’s site. Microsoft will also offer substantially discounted Surface RT tablets to educators—a 32 GB Surface RT tablet for $199, for example, versus its standard price of $499.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all chasing after the education market, which in 2009 ranked just behind healthcare as the nation’s largest sector, by spending. In 2011, a government report said that $625 billion is spent annually on K-12 students, about half of the $1.3 trillion spent annually on education. Although Apple was one of the first to design computers specifically for education with the iMac, Apple’s recent efforts in education have focused on the iPad. Google has also pushed its Chromebooks as educational tools. And Microsoft, whose Surface RT tablets are naturally locked into apps that use its Metro or Windows Store interface, appears to be pushing those limitations as a selling point with its discounted Surface RT tablets.

Under Bing for Schools, these results would be filtered to make them kid-friendly.

“Learning is no longer linear,” Margo Day, vice-president for Microsoft’s U.S. education business, wrote in a blog post. “More than ever, students need to be able to collaborate in teams, present before peers from cross-country or international sister schools, creatively problem solve, analyze data sets, and write papers. These projects require an all-in-one learning environment that mirrors the real-life challenges they will face after graduation. And these skills are those employers seek.”

Because Microsoft hasn’t finalized the details of the Bing for schools program, the company declined to offer further specifics, or provide screenshots of the new experience. The company did say, however, that the experience will replicate itself across the school for those who opt in, presumably filtering the results for the students who access Bing from within the particular school’s domain.

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