Award-winning virtual world planned for students this fall

By: Leslie Rivera, Communications Officer

larivera@atlanta.k12.ga.us

Students heading back to class for the 2014-15 school year are sure to notice their new virtual desktops.

The approval of a $15 million infrastructure upgrade, a digital resource known as MyBackPack, officially launches at the start of this school year but has already been recognized as an innovative use of technology. APS was among the honorees at the Digital Content and Curriculum Achievement Awards (DCCAA) for K-12 at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2014 conference in Atlanta on June 30.

“This year’s winners are leveraging the power of digital content and curriculum in creative ways that enhance and personalize learning. They offer innovative examples for other schools to emulate.” said Alan Cox, Senior Vice President for the Center for Digital Education.

The portal houses digital resources where students and teachers can write, create presentations and access a secure internet search engine. All APS students can expect to receive a login and password for MyBackPack sometime at the beginning of the school year.

Students will experience MyBackPack firsthand but there will be other technological advancements to improve their digital learning. APS Chief Information Officer Tony Hunter highlighted several planned projects and explained that upgrades to all teacher laptops will be completed this summer and the district is also beefing up school-based technical support.

“The focus is on making sure every school has access to a technical support person,” Hunter said. “Technical support personnel will be assigned to certain schools so that they are familiar with a schools’ individual needs.”

The focused tech support is critical as APS adds 24,000 “in points” or nodes for its virtual desktop platform. That accessibility means an additional four to six computers in classrooms dedicated for student use. The virtual desktop platform allows students to login from home or on vacation. “This is a major step forward,” said Hunter. Virtual desktop offers students ‘same user’ experience so that students can log in to a familiar environment and have access to the same look and feel of their classroom desktop and applications.

Outside of the physical classrooms, middle and high school students will now have access to an increased number of virtual online courses. That number jumps from 12 courses to 44 this fall, including Gifted and Advanced Placement courses being offered for the first time through APS’ Atlanta Virtual Academy.

All of this is possible because of a major infrastructure upgrade recently approved by the board of education.

The $15 million investment includes network switches, bandwidth and cabling to support digital learning across the district. The process of the upgrade will begin at the start of the school year and work on the project will continue into 2015.

Schools re-open August 4, 2014 for the 2014-2015 school year.

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