The school year is virtually wrapping up. I look like Grizzly Adams and I’ve officially gained the Quarantine 15.
The big question: What will school be like when we start in August?
As an indicator, Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremonies will be virtual in June. Face to face graduation ceremonies are possible in July or August depending on the COVID-19 guidance and social distancing requirements.
There is still no definitive plan for what school will look like when it opens in August. However, DeKalb Schools is full speed ahead planning on school in traditional classrooms as well as Virtual Classrooms.
The lock down has introduced many of us to the wonders of video conferencing. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts and now Facebook has come out with Messenger Rooms. I asked Stacy Stepney, DeKalb Schools’ Chief Academic Officer, to give us some insight into the future of Virtual Classrooms at DeKalb Schools.
DeKalb Schools – Chief Academic Officer
With the recent purchase of Microsoft Teams licenses for our teachers, we are able to connect with students and parents through the audio/video conference feature. Teachers have begun using the audio/video conference feature to facilitate student conferences and parent conferences and introduce new standards using PowerPoint presentations, notes, instructional software, and/or live lectures and demonstrations.
Personally, I like Slack messaging and conferencing for business. Zoom is a solid and simple stand alone video conferencing tool with good administrator capabilities. Microsoft Teams, like everything else Microsoft does, is rich and thick and chocolaty with all kinds of functionality that makes it a bit overwhelming.
Last month, DeKalb Schools Board approved 7,100 Microsoft Teams licenses at $11.50/license for a grand total of $82,000.
Derrick Brown is DeKalb Schools’ Interim Chief Information Officer. I asked him why the school district recommended Microsoft Teams for school house video conferencing.
DeKalb Schools – Chief Information Officer
Teachers are welcome to use any FERPA compliant video/audio tools they choose.
Here’s a summary from Microsoft
Microsoft Teams Capacity and District Examples: celebrated the 3rd anniversary of Microsoft Teams and how customers are staying connected/productive amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft also shared updated global capacity now at 44M daily active users – up 12M with over 900 million meeting/calling minutes in the last 7 days – including 93 of the Fortune 100 now using Microsoft Teams.
K-12 short list using Microsoft Teams:
• Miami Dade
• New York City Department of Education
To: All DCSD Teachers and Instructional Support
From: Monika Davis, Executive Director of Innovation and Information
Through: Derrick Brown, Chief Information Officer
Subject: Video Conferencing Information for DCSD Students, Employees, and Families
Date: April 7, 2020
DeKalb County School District is striving to continuously improve virtual learning and the online experience for students, employees and families. To this point, you may be aware that Zoom video conferencing is getting a lot of attention both positively and negatively. We understand that many of our teachers were resourceful and began utilizing Zoom to stay in touch with students and families. Although our school district is not banning this tool, we would like to offer some information, guidance, and best practices as it pertains to safety and security when utilizing web conferencing with students.
District-Supported Options with District-Owned Devices
DCSD currently supports three video conferencing options for use with district-owned devices.
· VERGE has a video conferencing feature for teachers to use with up to 10 students at a time.
· Microsoft Teams will be available for teachers to use individually or with entire classes of students starting April 13, 2020.
· Google Hangouts has video conferencing capability available for staff to staff communication only.
Be advised that student Chromebook cameras are disabled for two-way video use. Cameras are activated on student devices when a teacher initiates or creates a Microsoft Teams or VERGE web conference with students. Again, this is only when using district-supported devices. DCSD cannot control personal teacher and student devices. For this reason, we recommend that employees use their personal devices when using the Zoom application for optimal access.
Training and Support
Training on VERGE, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts can be found on our IGNITE U internal portal:
Stay connected for ongoing updates and training opportunities.
Security and Privacy Best Practices
Security and privacy for our students should be at forefront of our minds. Here are some best practices from Common Sense Media: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-get-kids-ready-to-video-chat-for-online-classes