I wrote earlier this week about Matt Wallaert, a behavioral scientist at Microsoft who’s been trying to figure out ways to make Bing easier to use and to wean people off of automatically going to Google for their searches.
Today, Microsoft announced the launch of Bing for Schools, one of the projects Wallaert has been working on.
Bing for Schools, a pilot program that K-12 schools in the U.S. can request to join for free, offers K-12 schools in the U.S. ad-free searches as well as strict filters and enhanced privacy protections, according to Microsoft.
The idea, Wallaert said, stemmed from the question: “What are some thing we can do to make Bing easier for teachers and students?”
The Bing team looked at the environment at schools, determining they were “protected” places that are ad-free. They talked to teachers and administrators and surveyed parents about whether that sort of ad-free environment was important to them.
“We saw a clear trend of universal broad support for ad-free schools and that people wanted that to be extended online,” Wallaert said.
Another part of the program uses Bing Rewards, allowing people using Bing at home or on their mobile device to select a school to earn credits when they search on Bing or try out new Bing features. Each time all the supporters of a certain school together earn 30,000 credits, Microsoft will send a Surface RT tablet to the school. About 60 regular Bing Rewards users can earn a Surface RT each month for a school, according to Microsoft.
The impetus for that idea came from thinking about the psychology of habit change.
“When we think of breaking a habit, of moving something from an unconscious place to conscious place, you need a sea-change moment,” Wallaert said. “You need to understand that: Here’s a thing that has a conscious value in your life.”
If people realize that one of their habits is going to support schools and another doesn’t, and “if supporting kids is important to you, you can make a conscious decision,” he said.