Bill Gates, Microsoft call on you to contribute to education reform

Bing Maps app matches viewers of Waiting for Superman movie with needy schools in the viewer's area.

Bing Maps app matches viewers of Waiting for Superman movie with needy schools in the viewer's area.

Bill Gates hopes to inspire you to do something about education reform during his interview on the Oprah show today. Gates and Microsoft are backing a new movie called "Waiting for Superman," a documentary about how America's education system is failing some of the nation's neediest children. Microsoft today also launched a Web app, built by OnTerra Systems, that uses Bing maps to match your location with the needs of schools in your area.

Bill Gates on Oprah
I clicked on it and in two minutes found a project that I may be able to help with. Again, the app can be found here.

Waiting for Superman is Davis Guggenheim's latest film. Guggenheim is best known for his Academy Awarding winning An Inconvenient Truth (the movie starring Al Gore that explored climate change). With Waiting for Superman, the idea isn't to just stir you pathos by following the tales of several children in their quest to get an education (though even the movie trailer will do that). It's a giant call to activism. Viewers get $15 gift to donate to classrooms of their choice. Likewise with the companion book of the same title, that expands on the film’s arguments. It too comes with the $15 donation stimulus.

Bill Gates appears in both the movie and the book. He blogged about the movie today, prior to the airing of the Oprah show. He writes,

"Guggenheim also breaks down complex but critically important policy matters such as inconsistent state standards, teacher effectiveness, and educational data in a way that is compelling and convincing.

"The film focuses on charter schools, which we know are only one aspect of the solution. The foundation supports high-performing charter schools as labs for education innovation. But these charter schools reach only about 3 percent of our public school students so they are only one part of a multi-faceted, system-wide set of solutions."

Among other education projects, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $290 million in four communities to try and transform how teachers are recruited and trained. Among the lucky four is a charter school network in Los Angeles.

So, you've seen the movie, are fully outraged and armed with $15 (to which you are invited to add your own contribution). What next? You fire up Bing and find the local classroom of your choice and its need. The Bing map pulls information from four other location-based apps, Mentor.org, Great Schools, DonorsChoose.org and All for Good.

It's not the only applications that maps a user's location to volunteer opportunities in the area. Google has been hosting the All For Good website since 2009, and that site uses Google maps to showcase a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Education is but one choice, and the one pulled into the Bing map.

Oprah hasn't yet posted any snippets of the interview ... just a really awful teaser of it in which she proclaims that she was shocked by today's education system and asks, "How far will Bill Gates go" to fix the situation?

Here's a preview of the movie.

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