Tablets in the classroom is becoming the norm. The Los Angeles Board of Education recently announcing plans to bring 31,000 free iPads to its schools is just one case in point. Unwilling to let Apple hog the market, Microsoft has launched its own initiative to bring free Surface RT slates to educational facilities. The catch: participating schools must use the new Bing for Schools service and Bing Rewards to take advantage of the promotion.
The newly minted Bing for Schools is a specialized, ad-free version of Microsoft's search engine with strict filters meant to keep potentially offensive material from students. The program's homepage is updated daily with quick search engine lessons that teachers can assign to their pupils. Educators can register their school for the pilot program, and Microsoft announced that the Los Angeles Unified School District (take that, Apple), Atlanta Public Schools and Fresno Unified School district are already on board. There's no word on whether this new program will effect the L.A. district's Apple orders.
To get the free tablets in the classroom, students, teachers and families must use Microsoft's Bing Rewards accounts. Bing Rewards gives users virtual currency for performing Bing searches, referring friends to the search engine and participating in special offers. Users can earn one credit per five searches, and points can be redeemed toward goods such as Hulu subscription, Starbucks gift cards. Now you can also redeem those points to send the school of your choice a Surface RT.
For every 30,000 credits earned by a particular school, Microsoft will automatically tally those points and send the facility a Surface RT with Touch Cover ($449 value). Any user with Bing Rewards can put up to 500 of their credits toward a Surface for their school, which means 60 users can pool their credits per month to get a free tablet. With classrooms full of kids using a search engine several times a day, that goal is pretty achievable.
This isn't the first time that Microsoft has used incentives to try and steer users from Google, but this is the first time their efforts have honed in on the classroom. The Redmond-based software giant will now have to wait and see how many schools switch to Bing in order to get a Surface for students.