bing in the classroom
April 24, 2014

Bing Searches For New Users In The Classroom

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Microsoft has made a deal to provide an ad-free, safer and more private search engine for use in schools. After a pilot stage the program, Bing in the Classroom, became open to all eligible K-12 schools in the US.

During a pilot period where the program was known as Bing for Schools, Bing's ad-free version was made available in hundreds of districts covering over 4.5 million kids in over 5,000 schools. Students, and possibly faculty, conducted over 35 million search queries using the student-focused search engine.

A number of safeguards go into a search engine for institutional or school use. In addition to an ad-free version of Bing, Microsoft sets filters that block adult and other inappropriate content. The search engine also allows for anonymous browsing so that children are not targeted for advertising. Microsoft also built in learning features that promote digital literacy in the classroom.

“We created Bing in the Classroom because we believe students deserve a search environment tailored for learning. Classrooms should be ad-free, and that should be as true online as it is offline,” said Matt Wallaert, creator of Bing in the Classroom, Microsoft, in a corporate statement.

Teachers and faculty have also had the opportunity to evaluate the Bing in the Classroom search engine.

“I teach kindergarten through fifth-grade media classes, and as soon as I started using Bing in the Classroom, I noticed my kids being more attentive and focused in class. We all know advertisements can be distracting, and with Bing in the Classroom I don’t have to worry about inappropriate content getting in the way of the lesson plan or students’ research,” said Lynda Shipley, media specialist, Bremerton School District in Washington, in a Microsoft corporate statement.

While Bing in the Classroom is an ad-free version of Microsoft's Bing search engine, it is expected that Microsoft could gain new users from the offering, the Associated Press (AP) reports. "The program is meant to create a safer environment for children, but also promote use of Bing, which trails market leader Google," wrote the AP article.

In addition to offering its browser, Microsoft is offering schools its first-generation Surface tablet. Schools will become eligible to earn tablets when community members sign up for the ad-supported service of Bing.

"The program is tailored so that 60 parents and friends who do 30 Bing searches a day can earn their school a Surface in a little over a month. There is no limit on the number of Surface devices a school can earn," the AP article said.

Microsoft took a large write-down on unsold inventory of the first-generation Surface tablets last year. It can now possibly earn a tax credit by donating these tablets to schools.

Microsoft is looking for more of a presence in the classroom. The company created about 500 lesson plans that encourage students to search for answers to questions.

Google also has ad-free versions of its search engine, as well as email, for schools. These versions are available in its Google Apps for Education product, the AP reports.