Category Archives: Information Technology

Virtual Classrooms – The Future of DeKalb Schools

Stan Jester - DeKalb Schools Board of Education

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.

My thoughts on the BOE Race

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.

Stacy Stepney DeKalb Schools

DeKalb Schools – Chief Academic Officer

In an effort to prepare for next year, the District is developing professional learning for administrators and teachers focusing on how to effectively teach in a virtual learning environment, how to monitor student learning, how to plan engaging lessons, and how to provide a healthy balance virtually.

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.

Derrick Brown DeKalb Schools

DeKalb Schools – Chief Information Officer

Zoom’s pricing for state, local and government institutions is approximately $14/person annually. Microsoft Office 365 is infused and heavily integrated into our ecosystem and currently operating on more than 90,000 devices including servers using Microsoft’s operating system. Attached is the memo we sent to all employees on April 7th regarding video conferencing.

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:
• Fulton
• Cherokee
• Cobb
• 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:!-Digital-Learning-Tools-&-Resources.aspx

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:

DeKalb Schools Digital Dreamers

Digital Dreamers is the code name for the rollout of laptops for each and every student and teacher in the district.

In the first phase, over 25,000 Chromebooks were ordered and scheduled to arrive at elementary schools throughout the DeKalb County School District beginning June 19, 2017. DeKalb Schools has been busy removing over 7,400 legacy student computer workstations in labs, media centers and classrooms.
Once the Chromebook devices have been deployed, the support services staff, will visit each school location to configure the devices to access the DeKalb wireless network. These devices will enable schools to bridge the gap in the digital initiative for curriculum instruction and learning initiatives.
The new footprint will also afford school administration the ability to increase the volume of on-line standardized testing including Georgia Milestones for the 2017-2018 school year.

Stone Moutain ES is Ready

The Support Services team is busy completing the device verification and inventory of Chromebooks to all elementary schools as a part of the Digital Dreamers program. As of July 28 I.T. will deploy 20,262 Chromebook devices to 61 local sites.
With the return of educators on July 31 and students August 7, the school district is on target to complete the deployment by August 3, 2017.

IGNITE U is the district’s Three-Year Professional Development Plan that specifically addresses technology integration. The major goal of the Ignite U learning experiences is to provide wrap-around support for staff empowering them to integrate technology to support teaching and learning. During Years One and Two, the district would like to move employees from basic awareness of the technology tools to proficient integration of technology tools. Year Three is about expanding, strengthening, and sustaining this proficiency.
In order to assist with this task, DCSD’s Instructional Technology Department is developing FUSEs throughout the district. FUSE stands for Furthering Student Engagement and these are innovative teacher leaders who not only love technology, but will serve as ambassadors in their school for effective use.
This summer, a FUSE Advisory to solidify the District-Wide training plan for all FUSEs to start in August 2017.
The Instructional Technology Department is preparing to launch the second phase of IGNITE U district-wide. Last school year, the goal was to make teachers aware of the available digital tools. Now with the majority of staff aware, the next two years will focus on transitioning this awareness into integrating these tools into instruction.
Successful technology integration will be measured by implementing identified tasks with students. Although all teachers will be responsible for the same technology integration tasks, schools and teachers will be able to personalize how these are tasks are completed to fit his or her classroom. By 2019, our Digital Dreamers should be immersed in a new digital learning environment.