The Barrow County School System (BCSS) relies on technology products and platforms to support teaching and learning. Teachers use technology to organize and share resources with students and families, communicate, and track student progress. Students use technology to demonstrate their learning and to receive feedback.
To keep pace with changing technologies, BCSS will be implementing some strategic changes over the next few years to ensure technology is supporting our growing needs.
Improvement 1: Use Microsoft as our primary platform for the school system, moving away from Google
Improvement 2: Implement a Learning Management System (LMS) to unify and streamline the instructional platforms and software students and teachers use
The transition to Microsoft will be completed by the start of school in August 2023. After that, research and implementation will take place for the Learning Management System during the following 1-2 years. You can read more about what to expect below.
Improvement 1: Microsoft
For years, BCSS has used both Google and Microsoft, which have similar functionality. Supporting two platforms required more resources, finances, and training, which resulted in staff being a “jack of all trades” but a master of none. It also led to an inconsistent and sometimes frustrating experience for students, families, and staff.
The switch to digital learning during the spring of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized our need to focus on one technology platform for consistency, efficiency, and mastery.
After extensive research and consideration, Microsoft was selected as our primary platform for the district. Below are a few key reasons.
- Microsoft shows signs of out-pacing Google in its investment and development of its products. Their platform will be more secure yet just as robust as Google’s.
- Google for Education changed its business model, and it now requires a significant financial investment.
- A community survey conducted through the Barrow Chamber of Commerce showed that 87% of local businesses rely primarily on Microsoft (only 4% rely primarily on Google). To ensure our students are prepared for the technology platforms they encounter in the workplace, Microsoft was the clear choice.
- A similar survey of nearby colleges and universities showed that 93% predominantly rely on the Microsoft platform and 7% on Google.
- Students will receive free home access to the complete Microsoft 365 product suite while enrolled in the district.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR FAMILIES
Last school year (2021-22), select teachers piloted Microsoft in their classrooms. This school year (2022-23), more teachers have begun shifting from Google to Microsoft. By August 1, 2023, all teachers and staff will be on the Microsoft platform only.
Your child may already be using Microsoft in their classroom, depending on their teacher’s adoption timeline, or they may not see the switch until the next school year. We wanted to share information now so families had resources to support them with the change.
Microsoft includes a broad range of products and tools, from common apps like Word and PowerPoint to other apps such as Teams, OneDrive, and Stream. Learn more about Microsoft 365 and its apps.
Improvement 2: Learning Management System
A learning management system (LMS) is a software application that simulates the workflow of the learning process – it is where you store, deliver, and track teaching and learning materials. The online platform will be available to use at school and at home.
Using a learning management system has some big benefits that supplement the traditional way of learning.
- Continuity of learning. Delivering a course through an LMS keeps the content centralized, so all the students have consistent access to content, instructions, and information.
- Easy tracking and reporting. With an LMS, you can easily track the progress of your students.
- Engaging courses. Teachers can easily combine text, images, and video in a learning management system, which they cannot do on paper. Using multimedia with our students will keep their focus and help them learn more.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR FAMILIES
BCSS is looking to adopt a Learning Management System in the next 1-2 years. When our LMS launches, families will only have one place to look for class content and directions.
- Classroom materials can be continually available online for student and family reference.
- Parents can have their own account to observe the progress of each of their children.
- Students can access an increasingly wide array of their coursework and classroom-based interactions online.
When a platform is selected and our staff has been trained, we will share additional information with families so you know what to expect next.