South Dakota leads the nation in school technology for the second year in a row, according to the 2001 Digital State survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government.
Sponsored by the Progress & Freedom Foundation and Government Technology magazine, the survey rates the progress state governments have made in adopting and using digital technologies to improve the delivery of services to their citizens, including law enforcement, electronic commerce, digital democracy, and education.
Last year, South Dakota ranked first in the categories of K-12 and higher education. This year, the survey compressed the two categories into one. Illinois and Utah tied with South Dakota for the top position in education this year under the new criteria; all three states received a perfect score in the survey.
Rankings were based on an assessment of how many administrative functions can be performed online for state colleges and universities; how many colleges post classroom information online and provide distance education programs; whether progress reports on public schools and students are available online; and whether states have deployed electronic learning (eLearning) systems.
In largely rural South Dakota, online services provide educational opportunities that were not available previously, the report asserts. About 70 percent of the state’s 127,000 K-12 students can be online simultaneously, it says.
In addition, the state’s Digital Dakota Network connects all state schools and libraries, allowing teachers and students hundreds of miles apart to talk in real time.
“We’ve really minimized the educational digital divide,” said Otto Doll, South Dakota’s chief information officer. “We [not only] try to leverage … the subjects that are taught, but we are able to get better teachers and make them accessible to people in small towns.”
Most of the state’s pupils graduate from high schools with fewer than 100 students, he said, which underscores the need for technology to level the playing field.
South Dakota public schools have a computer for every 3.5 students, making them the most wired in the nation, accordin to state officials.
Utah also received a perfect rating, largely because of its Utah Education Network (UEN). Launched in 1994, UEN is a publicly-funded consortium providing internet access and educational technology resources for Utah’s public schools, libraries, colleges, and state agencies. The network was upgraded to a fully-functioning web portal earlier this year.
For teachers, UEN delivers professional development resources, lesson plans, and online tools to help them enhance their skills and integrate technology into their classrooms.
Students can access distance education classes for high school and college credit, and the network’s Pioneer Library delivers online library resources to the state.
Illinois, which also scored 100 percent on the Center for Digital Government’s survey, provides high-speed access to data, video, and audio communications to the state’s colleges, public libraries and museums, governments, and school districts through its Illinois Century Network. Nearly 3,500 schools were connected as of September.
Besides an extensive distance education program for higher education and community members, the state launched the Illinois Virtual High School in January 2001. This year, the online school has expanded its offerings to 69 courses, and 162 high schools have signed up to participate.
In addition, the Illinois Learning Academy provides online training for teachers who wish to develop their technology integration skills via the internet.
Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government, attributes these states’ successes to the leadership of their respective governors.
“If there is leadership and vision at the state level, then that’s a big push. Those states have Gov. [William] Janklow in South Dakota, Gov. [George] Ryan in Illinois, and Gov. [Mike] Leavitt in Utah,” she said. “They are really pushing the ed-tech agenda.”
Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania share the fourth-place ranking. According to the report, Georgia considers itself a leader in “one-on-one computing” and has implemented a unique pilot project in eight middle schools. Each student and teacher in the pilot schools has been given a laptop computer, as well as internet access from their homes. State officials say they might expand the program to other schools if the pilot is successful.
North Carolina has implemented an extensive computer system that tracks information about each of the state’s students. The state is in the process of making this informationwhich includes disciplinary actions, student attendance, and test resultsavailable to parents online.
The report cited Pennsylvania’s seven cyber charter schools as evidence of its digital progress. Students receive computers and internet access and are not required to participate in a traditional school setting. All course work is completed and submitted online.
Rounding out the top 12 states in digital education were Kansas (No. 7), New York (No. 8), and Arizona, Indiana, Minnesota, and Washington, which tied for the ninth spot.
Other Digital State surveys measured areas such as digital democracy, health and welfare, justice systems, and eCommerce. Results were tallied to reveal how states rank in their overall delivery of digital government, and Washington was the overall winner for the third year in a row.
Center for Digital Government
Progress & Freedom Foundation
Government Technology magazine
Digital Dakota Network
Utah Education Network
Illinois Century Network
Illinois Virtual High School