Microsoft Launches Learning Suite for Magellan Initiative
Microsoft has launched its Magellan Learning Suite, a package of software solutions
and services designed to support a portable computer called Magellan, a low-cost
system based on Intel's Classmate PC targeted toward elementary and middle school
students. The suite will initially support Portuguese initiatives aimed at infusing
technology into the Portuguese education system and delivering technology and
training to disadvantaged youth in the country.
The Magellan Initiative, or "Iniciativa
Magalhães," is similar in some ways to the One Laptop Per Child
(OLPC) initiative in that its aim is to deliver low-cost, mobile systems to
school children around the world. Intel, the hardware designer behind Magellan,
had at one point been a partner in OLPC but is no longer involved. (Its Classmate
PC, on which Magellan is based, is a direct competitor to OLPC's XO laptop.)
Unlike Intel, Microsoft is continuing to partner with both OLPC- and Classmate
PC-derived initiatives, including Magellan, through its Unlimited
Potential program. Microsoft supplies Windows XP system for Classmate PCs,
although the systems are also capable of running Linux. XP is also an available
option for OLPC's XO laptops, but Linux is the default OS on those machines.
Adoption of Windows-based XO laptops is not yet widespread, as Peru last month
became the first country to announce a trial of the XO laptop in its education
system running XP (along with Office 2003 and Learning Essentials).
As Microsoft itself described it, the Magellan Learning Suite "is designed
to encourage targeted, international adoption of the Magellan educational computers
by addressing the need for relevant software and content, user support, digital
literacy and broad scalability."
"Providing students with access to technology and educational opportunities
that will enable them to thrive in the knowledge economy is critical to the
future success of every community," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in
a prepared statement. "We are pleased and honored to join the Portuguese
government and others on the Magellan Initiative as we work together to make
technology more relevant, accessible and affordable for students in Portugal
and around the world."
In particular, Microsoft's involvement with Magellan will include:
- Developing a Magellan-specific desktop and providing productivity and educational
software for use on the systems, including Office 2007, Microsoft Student
Learning Essentials, Microsoft Math(s) and Microsoft Encarta Online;
- Investing in student, parent and teacher training;
- Providing education resources through the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum
and Security Curriculum; and
- Providing collaborative services via Microsoft's Live@Edu.
Back in July, the Portuguese government announced plans to bring half a million
of these Magellan laptops to students this school year. And, more recently,
the government of Venezuela ordered 1 million of the devices from Portugal.
(Although based on Intel's designs, the Magellan computer itself is manufactured
"With the Magellan computer and the massive introduction of [information
and communication technologies] in the Portuguese education system, for the
first time a whole generation will grow up to have strong English and ICT skills,"
said José Sócrates, prime minister of Portugal, in a statement
released recently through Microsoft. "This new generation will be better
prepared and able to contribute more to the modernization and development of
Portugal. Furthermore, with the Magellan initiative, a PC will be introduced
in many homes for the first time, thus also strongly contributing to overcoming
info-exclusion in general."
Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.