Technology to remain key for Dalton Public Schools

File/Daily Citizen-News

Mike Leonard hands sixth-grade student Nickole Walker her computer on the first day of classes at Dalton Middle School in August 2019.

Although Dalton Public Schools already surpasses many school systems with its technology, it will need to make upgrades to remain at the forefront, according to the director of technology and telecommunications.

Stuart Davis updated the members of the Dalton Board of Education on technology progress and a five-year plan for upgrades on Monday.

During the next five years Dalton Public Schools will retain one-to-one status, meaning all students in kindergarten through 12th grade have access to learning devices, and "we've already upgraded to next-generation antivirus (protection) with threat-hunting capabilities," Davis said. Dalton Public Schools upgraded its antivirus protection this school year with "a new platform, Carbon Black, and EDR is the biggest thing we're getting out of that."

EDR (endpoint detection and response) offers "threat hunting and incident response," according to Davis. If Dalton Public Schools is victimized by a ransomware attack, Carbon Black 's EDR will "hunt the virus in our network and stop it, (which is) a huge lifesaver for us."

In the near future, Davis wants to swap out elementary school projectors with touch TVs, and he hopes the school system can improve upon its current data breach response plan, similar to the system's emergency operations plan, he said Monday.

"We have (a data breach response plan), but we want to continue to make it better."

He also wants all Dalton Public Schools staff members to complete at least basic information technology security training in the next half-decade and for the school system to create a digital citizenship pathway training for students in grades kindergarten-12, he said.

"There are all kinds of threats and scams going on."

Additionally, he's monitoring the usefulness of classroom cameras, which are being piloted by teachers at City Park School, Dalton Junior High School, Hammond Creek Middle School and The Dalton Academy in roughly 30 classrooms this year, he said.

"If we try it this year, and it doesn't work, we won't use them" anymore.

"Teachers are in control of everything from the instruction side" with the Kloud-12 OneDevice cameras, according to Davis. Teachers can, for example, teach a lesson in one room of a school, with that content delivered to another room or even another school, allowing them to "double up on instruction."

These cameras are designed specifically for schools, so they're "nearly invisible," according to Kloud-12, which is based in Atlanta. The cameras offer five viewing angles, including 360 degrees, as well as the ability to pan, tilt and zoom without motors, which means silent operation and reliability.

The cameras could also be used by administrators for teacher observations, and teachers may want to record a particular day or lesson to show administrators, which is "no different than videotaping a football or baseball practice, then going back to watch it,'' according to Davis. "There are a lot of ways to use them."

He also wants the school system to "migrate" to Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing service for application management via Microsoft-managed data centers, he said. Among other things, it would make it easier for students to utilize technology while off campus.

He hopes to develop a unified teacher web portal, which would be a "one-stop shop" where they can access all data important to them, including human resources materials, he said. "It's a long-term goal."

Another goal is developing a student technology profile, which would aid students who need help in individual subjects, and upgrading online professional development for teachers so they can "go at their own pace," he said.

He aims to enhance instructional partnering with Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) and work-based learning so students can have more "authentic experiences."

New phonics

Also during Monday's school board work session, Laura Orr, chief academic officer for Dalton Public Schools, and Wiley Dailey, deputy superintendent for school improvement and data analysis, discussed a new phonics program that should be ready for students at the start of the 2022-23 school year.

"Every school has a phonics program, now, but we want to all be on the same page," Orr said. "This is not a whole reading program but (rather) a phonics piece that will slip into our balanced literacy framework."

Based on feedback from educators in the school system, seven possibilities were narrowed to two, and then, with additional comments, McGraw-Hill Education's Open Court Reading was the "overwhelming choice," Dailey said. He expects a price quote from McGraw-Hill Education in the next few days.

"I've heard several teachers very excited about adding this (phonics) piece," said Matt Evans, chairman of the school board.

As soon as Dalton Public Schools receives the materials, the training of staff will begin, ideally this spring, as well as this summer, Orr said. The new phonics lessons will be used with all students in grades kindergarten-three, as well as with small, targeted groups of students in grades four and five.

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