FARMINGTON -- Davis School District is moving forward in the age of ever-increasing technology with several new projects in the works.
In the next few weeks, the district will be rolling out the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 for all students, allowing them access to the Office 2013 applications from home, school, or even on vacation.
"The beauty of it is students can use it from school, save their assignments out into the cloud, then access at home those same projects or notes," said Duane Singleton, Administrator of Technical Services at Davis School District. "Our students are often being asked to turn in their assignments using Microsoft Office applications, and now it is free for our students and their families."
Included in the set-up will be 25 gigabytes of free storage, according to Singleton.
The district is also a quarter of the way into a two-year long plan to install wireless internet in all of the district's schools. The project should be finished by Christmas of 2014.
"This allows entirely new opportunities for our schools, since we are moving in the direction of having students bring their own devices to school," said Singleton.
The district had capital funding in place that they had planned to use for energy upgrades, but decided the wireless internet setup would be a better use of the money right now, according to district officials.
The district's 1:1 computer program, giving each student access to a computer has been successfully piloted in several schools and classrooms, officials said. Since district officials believe there is a low-feasibility of providing computers for the nearly 68,000 students in the district, other opportunities are ideas are being suggested, such as having them bring their own devices to school.
"Students are already coming in the door each day with (a variety) of computers. Many have one in their backpack, and one in their pocket," said Singleton. "We think that's the natural direction this will take, and rather than putting them in their locker, we want to encourage them to bring those devices in (to class)."
He acknowledges that the devices won't be used constantly during class, but only as needed for research, when they need to create something, take notes, or work on an assignment.
"Technology will never replace critical thinking by students or creativity by their young minds, and it will never replace a great teacher who stands in front of them and inspires them," said Singleton. "We hope to provide tools to help the students use the inspiration they get from teachers to improve their learning."
There is a general excitement from teachers about the direction the district is going with technology and the wireless internet, said Singleton.
"I think almost without exception, schools are excited about it, and so many of our new teachers are coming into our system, and expect this is what they will have," Singleton said.
Funding is often a concern when it comes to technology, Singleton added, which is why the district will be turning to students using their own devices in upcoming years.
"All over the country, we have found the 1:1 computer program to be unsustainable as the impact on tax payers is too great. So having a lot of kids come with their own computers is the only sustainable way for the future," Singleton said.
That's not to say that every child will be required to own their own computer, Singleton was quick to acknowledge. The district still plans to provide computers at schools, especially in elementary school where devices are not as prevalently owned by students as junior or high school-aged kids.
The district recognizes there are a lot of students in the county who don't have access to a computer at home, and end up going to their grandmother's house, to the library, or a neighbor's house to work on a computer.
"One of the best-kept secrets in the district that we would like to get out is that through the generosity of the Davis Education Foundation, we grant refurbished desktop computers for those in need of one," said Singleton.
To keep up with the demand for newer computers at school, the district has a replenishing process in place using capital funding to replace computers every eight years. The district currently has about 31,000 computers and 5,000 tablets, with the refresh program replacing about 4,200 of those a year.
"Not many of us want to work on an 8-year-old computer, but we're doing the best we can by trying to balance all of the needs (in the district)," said Singleton.
Other technology developments in the district include mobile computer labs put into place at several elementary schools using tablets that can be moved from classroom to classroom, which enabled rooms formerly used as computer labs opened up for additional classrooms.
The district is also adding more real time access for parents through the district's student/parent website, and should be in place by next spring. Parents will be able to control the settings so they are notified immediately if their student doesn't show up for first period, or if the student's grade level has fallen below a parent's predefined threshold.
"We are trying to be more proactive in letting parents know what is going on with their students," said Singleton.