COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County School System (NCSS) Director of Technology and Media Services Adam Phyall recently won the award for Best Implementation of Digital Curriculum at the national Tech & Learning Innovative Leader Awards conference ceremony in Orlando, Florida. The award is testament to Phyall’s department quickly and successfully making the switch districtwide to a digital curriculum in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the start of the pandemic we were almost at a ratio of one device for every two students,” Phyall said. “We had begun the process of moving to 1:1 with Chromebooks in 2018.”
Then COVID hit. Schools were closed with no set timetable to reopen, meaning all teaching and learning had to switch quickly to a digital format.
“As soon as we were allowed to leave our homes during the shelter in place order the Technology Department was distributing devices throughout the county,” said Phyall. “We deployed over 1500 hotspots and over 11,000 Chromebooks, laptops, and iPads to our students during the pandemic.”
According to Phyall, one of the greatest challenges was being able to provide support for all users.
“From a user support standpoint, we are used to being able to meet with a teacher or student and provide support,” he said. “Being virtual, we had to think outside the box and provide remote support by creating a call center and utilizing tools like Chrome Remote Desktop and Splashtop. These tools allowed us to see what the user was seeing on their device and troubleshoot remotely.”
Phyall noted the deployment of technology was extremely important, but not just for the continuation of teaching and learning.
“Technology allowed students and teachers to reconnect during the pandemic,” he said. “With all the uncertainty that we were dealing with, we wanted to create as much of a familiar routine for our students as possible. With students having devices and access to Zoom, they were able to have classes and continue learning new content.”
Now that NCSS is officially 1-to-1 in terms of technology, Phyall said the greatest need is improved internet connectivity in our community.
“Unfortunately, we still have areas in our county where families do not have the option to have high speed internet access,” said Phyall. “If anything, the pandemic showed everyone that the need for high-speed internet access is more than a school system issue, it is something that impacts everyone.”
Phyall said the award is testament to the hard work of the entire technology department at NCSS.
“This is a team award,” he said. “The library media specialist, school technology assistants, technology specialist, instructional specialist, network team, and my instructional technology coordinator all play an invaluable role in the successful implementation of a 1:1 program. They ensure that the devices are working properly, and everyone knows how to use these tools to ensure that all students are well rounded and prepared for the future.”
“I am incredibly proud of our technology team, and Dr. Phyall’s leadership during what has been the most challenging of educational environments,” said Samantha Fuhrey, NCSS School Superintendent. “Dr. Phyall has worked diligently to bring to life our 1-to-1 initiative while at the same time advocating for universal access to the Internet. It is of the utmost importance that, no matter where you live in Newton County, families have access to reliable Internet service. Hopefully universal internet access will soon be a reality for all residents.”