A year ago, Microsoft launched a beta of its ad-free “Bing For Schools” program, which promises to give K-12 students access to an ad-free search experience with additional content filters, privacy protections and a couple of specialized learning features to enhance digital literacy. Today, it’s taking this program — which is now called “Bing in the Classroom” — out of beta. With this, the program is now open to all U.S. K-12 schools.
Microsoft says the program previously attracted schools in the five largest districts in the U.S. and is currently being used by about 4.5 million students. In total, Microsoft says, it has served around 35 million ad-free queries. Given a student population of 4.5 million in this program, that’s just under eight queries per student — not exactly a very high number given that most people probably do more than eight Google searches per day. Microsoft, however, tells me that the program is currently growing by more than a million queries per day leading up to today’s launch.
Today’s launch also includes a number of updates to the program besides the name change. Bing will now, for example, feature a set of new daily digital literacy lesson plans for teachers and parents. The team has already produced about 500 free lesson plans to date.
As part of this program, communities and parents can also donate their Bing Rewards to schools to allow them to buy Surface tablets. So far, people have donated about 2 million Bing Rewards credits to 8K different schools. That’s 250 credits per school (assuming they are evenly distributed, which they most likely are not). It takes 30,000 credits to get a free Surface, so in total, Microsoft has given away a whopping 66 Surfaces so far, it seems.
No doubt, the idea behind a program like this is to get students used to using Bing as early as possible. After all, Microsoft is painfully aware that for most people, web search is synonymous with Google.