Distance-learning vision rewarded
- By Nicholas Morehead
- May 07, 2001
South Dakota Gov. William Janklow has
been recognized for his efforts to bring technology to his state's schools.
The United States Distance Learning Association (www.usdla.org) presented Janklow with its 2001 Eagle Award in recognition
of his creative use of and support for technology in South Dakota schools,
most of which are small and rural.
The Eagle award is given to someone in the public sector who contributes
creatively to distance-learning efforts, said Bill Wagner, spokesman for
"Sure it takes money," Wagner said. "But for the people to find the
solutions and bring them to the classrooms, it shows some real imagination,
and [Janklow's] that kind of guy. He was a huge catalyst for wiring the
whole state and for bringing educational institutions and businesses together
for the achievement of that goal."
In 1996, Janklow tried to initiate an estimated $100 million program
to wire South Dakota schools with advanced technology applications, but
state budget requirements did not permit such a program at the time.
Instead, Janklow pushed ahead with a Wiring the Schools program by enlisting
prison inmates to do the wiring, providing a valuable service to schools
while teaching prisoners important skills to be used upon returning to society.
Janklow also brought the state's school districts together with universities
and phone companies to form the Connecting the Schools partnership that
ultimately led to the creation of the Dakota Digital Network.
To complete the vision, Janklow created the Technology for Teaching
and Learning Academies in 1997. The program sought to provide teachers the
training needed to use technology.
"In a lot of states, the governor takes credit for other people's work,
but in this case, he truly was the brains behind the operation," said Ray
Christensen, secretary of the Department of Education and Cultural Affairs.
Christensen, who managed the Wiring the Schools project, emphasized
that many parties had to be brought together for this to work. Several departments
including education, commerce and corrections had to coordinate their
activities. Telecommunications companies had to be contracted, public support
had to be won, and then funding had to be approved by the legislature.
"This isn't just about wiring, this is a mature, well-thought-out program
from the top down," Christensen said.