CEDAR CITY – Microsoft Office 365 software is now available to all Iron County students, grades K-12, at home thanks to the forward thinking of the new district technology coordinator, Troy Lunt.
By rolling the individual licensure for each Microsoft program the district would already be paying for into one package plan, Lunt said, he was able to take advantage of the opportunity to pass on a valuable tool to the students in the district.
“In the labs that are used that are Microsoft,” he said, “we have to register the windows operating system and any Microsoft products every year so that those systems are allowed to use the Microsoft Office, the Microsoft Windows, whatever it might be.”
Other programs that are heavily used by the district that benefit teachers, students and parents, like the PowerSchool system, are also run by Microsoft, Lunt said, and require annual licensure. By uploading assignments, due dates and grades to PowerSchool, teachers can help parents follow their children’s progress one assignment at a time.
As an incentive to upgrade, Microsoft was offering bundle packages in their campus agreement packages. The bundles included an unlimited number of licenses of Microsoft Office 365 for student home use along with the individual licenses that are already required. The extra enticement was too good to pass up, Lunt said.
“We knew that by doing so we could enable every single student to have Microsoft on their home computer for personal use,” he said.
Having Microsoft programs available at home is particularly helpful when working on group assignments, Cedar High School senior Katlin Kamachi said. A lot of work can be done in Google Docs, but the formatting is completely different than in Microsoft programs. Because of that, she said, there would be a lot of reformatting to make materials match once individual parts of a project, all created from different types of programs and varying versions of each program, were brought together for completion.
The new software allows all of the students and the teachers at each school in the district to have the same version of each application, Kamachi said, leaving fewer opportunities for conflicts when delivering a presentation or an assignment.
“It’s frustrating when you’ve worked so hard on something, and you’re expecting to get all of the points, but then it gets all screwed up,” she said. “They understand, but it’s still frustrating.”
With 6 out of 9 elementary schools in the Iron County School District designated as Title I schools, Elementary Education Director Steve Burton said, any advantage that can be given to a student in the home is a worthwhile investment.
“I think anything we do to help provide access for kids at home becomes a positive thing,” he said. “It just kind of enhances what the kids can do, and what the parents can help the students do.”
Word and Powerpoint are the two most frequently used Microsoft programs for schoolwork, Roland Stead, CHS junior, said. Having them available to him at home is going to make a world of difference to him when it comes to completing assignments on time.
His family couldn’t afford the licenses for the necessary software, he said, so, typically, he would have to stay late after school to finish up assignments, or work with other students on group projects.
“Microsoft Word was what I needed for lots of my homework,” Stead said, “but I never had it, so I had to do most of my homework here (at CHS).”
In addition to the new broad scope of software accessibility now available to students, Lunt said, students also have the ability to become certified in the use of any Microsoft program available in the series. A fundamental understanding of programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint are necessary in today’s world. With certifications available, Lunt said, students will have another edge on their college applications and job resumés to place them in a better position of finding a job in today’s market.
“(This) is going to allow teachers to include different things into their curriculum that they may not have considered in the past,” he said. “It just opens up a lot of opportunities for students who traditionally didn’t have it.”
Beginning with freshman, CHS business teacher Michelle Taylor said, any student at the high school level can certify in the Microsoft programs. So far, students have expressed a marked interest in working towards certification, she said.
Stead didn’t even know there was a certification program available, he said, but now that he does, he said he plans to take the initiative and earn the Microsoft credentials that will help him in the future.
“Right now I am in a computer repair class and I am trying to get my A-plus certification,” he said. “I think (certification) is a big benefit (to students).”
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