I’ve been following Microsoft on Facebook and Twitter for quite awhile, and it’s amazing to see what they have out there for students.  All I can wonder is … why weren’t these programs around when I was in school?!?  So check this stuff out…

DreamSpark

As some of you know, these programs have sparked my interest – WebsiteSpark, BizSpark, and yes, even DreamSpark.  I had originally heard about DreamSpark first and then about the others later.  I found it quite interesting to see just what DreamSpark entails.  So Microsoft is providing professional tools to classrooms and students alike, free of charge.  And we’re not talking just 4-year colleges either – community colleges, vocational schools, and even high schools can get involved!  If you have a verified (confirmed usually by a school/organization/something that can verify the student status) Windows Live ID, then you can get access to a variety of Microsoft’s products at no cost.  For more details, check out the DreamSpark FAQ.

Imagine Cup

Not only can you get their products, but you can also use their products to solve problems and compete against other students in the Imagine Cup.  The 2010 event already happened. There were 3 winners in each of a variety of areas – including Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Design, IT Challenge, and Digital Media. 

There’s talk already of the 2011 Imagine Cup, as its finals will be held here in the US, in New York City.  The 2011 theme will be along the lines of the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals.  For more details. check out the 2011 theme page.  Ready to compete?  Then get planning to take over the world, as the Imagine Cup may be one small piece of code for you but may solve one giant problem! 

Microsoft Tech Student

Recently, they launched Microsoft Tech Student on Facebook.  It’s a great way to reach students via social networking through a site that many students are familiar with.  It is also a great way to present what offerings are available for students.  Thanks to that page, I now know about XNA in Academia – yes XNA programming in schools!  How neat!

Academic Evangelists

Finally, I want to talk about another group of evangelists that work with academia, called academic evangelists.  These are the people who spread the word about Microsoft to those in academia.  Now you won’t find them on the “Meet Your Local Microsoft Evangelists” site; I’m not sure why that is.  However, your local evangelists would be able to help find who the academic evangelists are. I know for sure that you can find a few blogging over on the Springboard blog.  They’re a great resource for students and teachers when it comes to learning about the latest and greatest technologies and how to get involved in the community.

Conclusion

These are just some of the offerings that appear in the academic realm.  Seeing all of this makes me jealous!  If I had these available to me when I was in school, I’m sure I would be in a different place.  If you are a student or know a student who’d be interested in this, definitely check out what Microsoft has to offer – it’s a wide world of opportunity out there!