Looking to help students better focus on their schoolwork, Microsoft unfurled a classroom-specific version of its Bing search engine on Tuesday. Dubbed "Bing in the Classroom," this specialized search comes ad-free and with privacy controls.
"We created Bing in the Classroom because we believe students deserve a search environment tailored for learning," Microsoft's Bing in the Classroom creator Matt Wallaert said in a statement to CNET. "Classrooms should be ad-free, and that should be as true online as it is offline."
The ad-free search is an initiative born of a pilot project that was previously called "Bing for Schools." Microsoft launched the pilot in five of the largest US public school districts earlier this year to see if taming down mass marketing online made a difference with students' schoolwork and learning abilities.
And, indeed, many teachers claim the ad-free searches helped the classroom environment and improved children's ability to learn digital literacy skills.
"I teach kindergarten through fifth-grade media classes, and as soon as I started using Bing in the Classroom, I noticed my kids being more attentive and focused in class," Washington's Bremerton School District media specialist Lynda Shipley said in a statement. "We all know advertisements can be distracting, and with Bing in the Classroom I don't have to worry about inappropriate content getting in the way of the lesson plan or students' research."
Microsoft estimates that every year more than 15 billion search ads are shown to students while they're in school. Typically when students search for something on Bing or other search engines, they'll get an array of results that include ads, company Web sites, businesses, and online resources. With Bing's ad-free search, students just see online resources.
Since the launch of the pilot, the program has swelled to include hundreds of US school districts with more than 4.5 million children in 5,000 schools. This has resulted in more than 35 million ad-free queries during this school year. Now, Bing's ad-less search is available to all eligible K-12 US schools for free.
Along with being ad-free, Bing in the Classroom also lets teachers set up filters to block adult content and ad targeting. Additionally, educators can add various learning features to Bing that promote students' digital literacy.
Microsoft obviously wants to expand the reach of Bing -- and this student-friendly version without some of the pitfalls of the regular search engine could earn good grades among parents, teachers, and school officials.
Parents can see if their children's school has ad-free Bing on Microsoft's Bing in the Classroom Web site.