Microsoft brings tech to Davis district


by Becky GINOS

bginos@davisclipper.com

FARMINGTON—Davis School District teachers and administrators were treated to a two-day workshop recently with representatives from Microsoft to learn more about the programs, games and gadgets available to enhance their classrooms.

Minecraft, Making + Coding and Hacking STEM were among the presentations to give district staff an opportunity for a hands-on experience of the endless possibilities of the computer world in education.

“Why is computing education important?” said Jacqueline Russell, PM for MakeCode. “Those are the jobs of the future. We want to teach kids to be responsible users because they’ll be interacting with it every day. It gives them career skills, equity and employability. It’s education for the modern world.”

Microsoft MakeCode is a “new approach to computing education that combines the magic of making with the power of code, in a way that engages every student in computational thinking,” according to material provided.

“Computational thinking is breaking down programs into pieces,” Russell said. “Research is a good way of learning across all subjects. There is 31 percent growth in the field of computer science but only 3 percent in the U.S. are getting bachelor’s degrees in it.”

She said there’s not enough teachers, training or class time to teach it in schools. “Girls and the minority population are not interested in computer science. There is no progression path to real-world skills.”

Humans in general are all makers, said Russell. “We like to build with our hands. You know the feeling you get when you make something? There is a certain satisfaction you get when you put something together with your hands.”

MakeCode combines with computer science to become accessible to everyone. “It’s more inclusive to girls and minorities,” she said.

Hacking STEM is a “monthly resource devoted to helping teachers modernize their current STEM curriculum through inquiry and project-based lesson plans, aligned to middle-school academic standards,” according to Microsoft. Presenters demonstrated robotics through hand movement and programming.

In another area, Neal Manegold, director Minecraft Education for Microsoft let participants test their skills at the popular Minecraft game and showed them how it could be utilized in the classroom setting.

“There’s a Minecraft camera that allows you take pictures around yourself,” said Manegold. “As teachers you can place your students around the world. The advantage is Minecraft is a three dimensional game. I can get slices, export it, label it and it gives me the information I need to know. When you build something with clay you can only see the outside. This takes students inside where they can really go to town and show me.”

Microsoft visited the district as part of a company initiative to provide education to students throughout the world with the idea that “the right technology can empower education, inspire learning anywhere, and unlock the potential of students, educators and schools.”

“This team really understands education and the skills that are needed for the future,” said. Tyson Grover, STEM director for the district. “It causes students to wonder, make sense of the information and use it to solve problems.”

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