Davis School District hosted 15 guests from Microsoft Thursday. Accompanied by district staff, the guests visited classrooms at Farmington High, Centennial Junior High and Kay’s Creek Elementary to see how the district uses technology in the classroom.
“Our first goal is to see what is happening in the classes here at Davis,” said Leaza Silver, classroom technologist with Microsoft. Silver manages partnerships with school districts in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
At Farmington High, Principal Richard Swanson gave the group an overview of the new school and its competency-based system.
“Our students in this building all have the opportunity to work at their own pace, place, space and time,” Swanson said. “We’re not tied to seat time, we’re tied to content. So when the students can show competency in the areas they’re working on, then the students move on.
“Our goal is to have every student at Farmington High leaving our building either with a pathway certification or having a letter of completion with all their generals done, regardless of what university they choose to go to,” Swanson said.
The group visited Alanna Wilson’s composites course and Lucas Wild’s digital media and 3D design class.
Composites are a combination of two materials that are stronger together than they are apart.
In Wilson’s composites class students were working on projects as varied as a Captain America shield and a skim board, similar to a wakeboard.
Both projects used a process called a “wet lay-up,” where students reinforced a fiber — in this case, fiberglass — with a liquid resin, shaping the wet fabric with a mold and then letting it dry.
“It’s already in the shield shape,” said junior Skyler Hall about his Captain America project. “We put it in a vacuum bag to suction it down so it gets a tighter seal, and then the resin will harden and link the fibers together, so it will be stronger than steel when it’s finished.”
Though Hall was having a lot of fun building his Captain America shield, the project was also preparing him with some of the skills required to build an airplane.
The composites course at Farmington is part of the Utah Aerospace Pathways program, which allows students to graduate high school with a certificate in aerospace manufacturing.
In Wild’s digital media and 3D design class, students were working on portfolios of the projects they had completed in the course using a program called Blender.
Their projects ranged from designing a 3D animal to videos and 2D animation.
The skills students build while completing these projects can be applied to fields as varied as 3D printing, prosthetics and architecture — or product design, like building a phone case, said Diona Irwin, a senior who is planning to attend University of Utah in the fall, with goals to animate for Disney and design video games.
“I love 3D graphics. It’s just fun to create things like that,” said Amanda Nef, a senior who plans to attend Weber State in the fall. She wants to continue in digital media and 3D design, but she’s not sure exactly how yet, so right now she’s focusing on building her portfolio.
One participant from the Microsoft team asked the principal how students apply to attend Farmington and was surprised to find out that it was a regular boundary school.
After observing technology in Davis classrooms, the Microsoft team’s second goal is to help teachers and other educators continue to develop their skills by conducting workshops, Silver said.
On Friday, Microsoft led professional development workshops for district administrators and educators from 25 Davis schools. Invited guests from other school districts also attended.
Many of the Microsoft staff leading the workshops have been teachers themselves, as Silver has. Others developed the Microsoft tools that Davis teachers use.
Davis School District is one of Microsoft’s partner districts. Silver said that the district and Microsoft reestablished their relationship about two and a half years ago.
The district has one Microsoft Showcase School — Kay’s Creek Elementary — as well as one school close to receiving that designation and another that has just started working toward it.