01/31/2013 02:00 pm ET Updated Apr 02, 2013

How Educators Can Empower Students and Themselves Through Technology

Today's educators are faced with significant challenges. On one hand they are tasked with preparing today's students for employment in an increasingly-competitive marketplace. Over the next decade the workplace will change entirely from what it is today. Many jobs will be created that don't even exist now and workers will be required to possess higher levels of IT skills than ever before.

On the other hand they are faced with the harsh reality of teaching in today's economic environment. Federal, state and local government budgets are under continued stress to hold the line on costs and taxes. With school boards focusing on possible cutbacks, mergers and closings, teachers are complaining that they have no resources available to help develop students' skills.

Fortunately technology can come to the rescue for many of these beleaguered and frustrated teachers. Since so much of the future will be based on technology, it only makes sense for technology to play a critical role in training tomorrow's workforce. Microsoft has taken up the cause of providing educational resources by making a substantial commitment to its Partners in Learning (PiL) program.

PiL supports teachers in their ongoing efforts to provide students with the personal development and technical skills needed to thrive and succeed. Teachers have access to a multitude of resources for imparting the crucial skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and problem-solving, their learners need to achieve both business and personal growth.

Helping Students Realize Their Full Potential

Through the Partners in Learning program Microsoft says that it has helped train more than 11 million teachers and reached over 200 million students. Educators in this worldwide community can access free resources such as Learning Suite, which includes free software add-ons to popular Microsoft products, Office 365 for education training materials, a Critical Thinking Teaching Guide, Local Language Tools, the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum, and much more. Teachers can collaborate with a community of like-minded educators from around the world and enhance their own personal development. It's also great place for teachers who aren't so tech-savvy to go and get advice, tutorials and learn from other people's lesson plans.

Andrew Ko, General Manager, U.S. Partners in Learning, says that, "We believe that education is the most effective way to develop the skills needed for better economic opportunities and outcomes, but we can't educate tomorrow's leaders with tools and practices from the past. We must continue to invest in the development of enhanced learning environments that lead to better outcomes. Effective teachers are the number one predictor of student success. We want to help equip every teacher with the tools and resources they need to ensure they are the most effective they can be."

Students themselves are already geared into using technology to boost their future. From their comfort with using smartphones to manage their daily lives to the use of social media as their sole means of connection and communication, students are intuitively prepared to integrate technology into their everyday workplace environment as they grow older. They are teaching themselves how to use their social media influence to affect behavior and create change in others. When these basic skills are encouraged and nourished by a caring teacher who is backed up with innovative resources, who knows what our students will be able to achieve?

Our students do matter. They have the ability to achieve their own growth and to shape the course of our world, and need to be provided with the personal development resources they require to achieve their own promise. We must use technology to empower them and the teachers who are molding their young minds. Teachers will play a crucial role in shaping the minds of the next generation and helping them realize their full potential.