Microsoft on Wednesday is launching Redu, a Bing-powered site that aims to act as a "homeroom" for people interested in learning more about the state of American schools. The Web site, to which Microsoft plans to link from Bing.com, aspires to be an online hub for those looking to donate to schools, volunteer locally, or work in education.
"This new site is a great way to galvanize interest and focus on public education," Pamela Passman, vice president of corporate affairs at Microsoft, said in an interview Tuesday.
Among its features is a Bing Map that shows available job openings in the education field, along with articles and links to adopt-a-school opportunities.
It's not the first big effort for Microsoft in education. Among the projects over the past 20 years are the company's Imagine Cup contest for students and the Partners In Learning program, which offers online tools for teachers to share tips and curriculum ideas. Microsoft has pledged to invest $500 million over 10 years in the Partners in Learning effort.
"We've used our various properties at various times to get people to be interested in various issues and causes," Passman said. "We felt we could bring these assets together in a [compelling] way."
Passman noted that the effort comes as the documentary "Waiting For Superman" is close to opening, a movie by the director of "An Inconvenient Truth" that Passman said will hopefully draw further attention to the challenges facing American schools.
"People expect that to create a national conversation on public education," Passman said. "This will be a huge asset for people to be part of that conversation."
One of the tricky things when it comes to improving education, Passman said, is that it is not just a question of throwing more money at the problem.
"There's a lot of money spent on U.S. education," she said. "We need to make sure people are held accountable."