Local News

November 13, 2012

Board approves $100,000 education management software

For some teachers, technology such as cellphones and tablets can be a nuisance in the classroom, but the Dalton Public Schools Board of Education voted 5-0 to approve a proposal by Instructure, a Utah-based software company, that will make local classrooms more digital than ever.

Instructure will help school officials start Canvas — a $100,000 learning management system that aids in managing and documenting education courses — that will be used throughout the district beginning Jan. 3, 2013.

“We already have (10) trailblazing teachers who went ahead and tried this and they really liked it,” said Will Esters, director of school supply. “Any bugs were on our side and we’ve worked them out.”

The program allows students to access an online interface with discussion boards, class blogs, worksheets, announcements, schedules, video chats and grade books.

Board Chairman Danny Crutchfield was not immediately convinced it would be money well spent.

“What do we do if it doesn’t work? How much is training?” he said. “I know people like (Instructure) who disappear after getting their $100,000.”

It’s a problem Instrucure representatives considered.

“Overall, it is software that is user-friendly that wouldn’t require a whole lot of training with online tutorials,” said Jeremy Sandstrom, implementation and professional services project manager. “Some folks who do not want to try it because they are not sure about it yet will have the chance to learn it. There would be training for people who are not exactly tech-friendly.”

Several of the “trailblazing” teachers spoke about the benefits of the program, referencing its ease of use, compatibility with different devices such as phones and tablets, and the amount of time it saves.

“By the time I tell them to take out their notes they can log into Facebook, tweet and Google,” said Henry Sun, a Dalton Public Schools teacher. “They all come in with a phone. That’s their skill. They can access data so quickly. They can set their own pace and they feel independent.”

Independence is a hallmark of the digital world, Esters said.

“Every person is an individual learner,” Esters said. “We’re are trying to find ways to link people together digitally to capitalize our resources like time, space, information and the tools we use. If they (students) walk into a classroom and we pull away the iPhones and computers and all the digital things, we’re failing them. In learning, these kids are further and further behind. This will help.”

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