Wisconsin Schools & Colleges Share Curricula Via Fiber Optic Network

Article excerpt

When administrators at two Wisconsin school districts first considered a distance learning network for their region, they recognized the importance of continuous interaction between teachers and students. Thus, when the South Central Instructional Network Group (SCING) went online in early 1993, it featured full-motion video and audio transmission, with all participants able to see and hear each other.

The vision for SCING came from Bob Beaver, district administrator of Adams-Friendship schools, and Marshall Boyd, district administrator of Portage schools. Together, they saw the need to supplement their secondary gifted and talented programs as well as share post-secondary courses.

* Forging Ahead

In January 1992, several members of the distance learning committee visited the ERVING Project in Clintonville, Wisc., which convinced them to rapidly move forward with their plans.

A fiscal agent was chosen and several principals identified courses they felt lent themselves to distance learning or could enhance another school's offerings.

Meanwhile, district personnel attended a meeting to learn how distance learning could improve curriculum and benefit students. Among the presenters there were GTE and Access Wisconsin, both of which outlined the advantages of fiber optic technology.

Officials later paid another visit to the ERVING Project as well as to sites in and around Minneapolis, Minn. The original SCING consortium, formed in October 1992, comprised the Adams-Friendship, Pardeeville and Portage Community School Districts. Mid-State Technical College agreed to provide leadership for the project.

One year later, with an initial cash boost in the form of a $5,000 grant from GTE, SCING purchased equipment from Todd Communications of Minneapolis, Minn., and signed a 10-year lease with Wisconsin Independent Telecommunications System (WITS).

* Membership Grows

Pilot programming began in four classrooms, equipped with Panasonic cameras, Mitsubishi monitors, Shreve microphones, speakers and plain-paper fax machines. As the network grew, Joan Spillner, district media director of the Portage Community Schools, was hired as a part-time project director. …