A Tale of Two State Systems: Models of High School Course Delivery

Article excerpt

Missouri and South Dakota, though somewhat geographically removed from each other, have much in common. The most notable of their commonalities is the great Missouri River. The Missouri runs straight down the center of South Dakota, serving as the border between Iowa and Nebraska before entering Missouri. For both states the river is a rich resource of energy and commerce. For South Dakota, the river attracts recreation and wildlife enthusiasts. For Missouri, the river is a major transportation resource.

This recent year, managing the river flow has put the two states at odds. Federal judicial activity has the Army Corp of Engineers-who manages the flow of the river-scratching their heads. In 2002, a federal court in Nebraska ruled that the river must have enough water for barges to navigate and power plants to operate. Last summer, however, a federal court in Washington, D.C. ordered the low flows to comply with the Endangered Species Act, which means restoring the Missouri to more natural high spring and low summer flows to encourage fish spawning and bird nesting by threatened and endangered species like the least turn, piping plover and pallid sturgeon.

For South Dakotans, more water upriver in the summer would benefit fish and wildlife and the lake recreation industry, but farmers and residents along the lower reaches of the river in Missouri worry a spring rise would flood homes and farmland and low summer flows would cut into barge company revenues and require consumers along the River may pay more for power in the summer. The events have all the makings of an old fashioned, old west water rights feud.

There is another contrast developing between the Missouri and South Dakota. This time, the object isn't the river, it's room-based interactive video systems. The question isn't who gets them; it's how the systems are used. Fortunately, these diverging approaches to I-TV use aren't creating any hostilities between the states, but they are defining what may be two very interesting models of interactive video application in K-12 schools. This article briefly profiles the I-TV systems in the two states and analyzes the policy and demographic environments that are encouraging two different approaches to the delivery of high school instruction.


The Digital Dakota Network (DDN) is South Dakota's statewide communications network designed to increase access to education and enhance learning throughout the state. The DDN has 246 fully interactive video sites, including all K-12 school districts, technical institutes, state universities, and select non-educational sites. Through the use of the DDN system, virtual classrooms are created across the state, enabling South Dakota schools to connect with educational institutions throughout the world.

South Dakota's DDN started to take form in 1996 when T-1 connections were placed in every public elementary school and ATM T-1 connections in every middle and high school. In doing so, Janklow provided a telecommunications backbone to which schools could connect. In 1999, Qwest donated $17.1 million worth of two-way video systems (V-TEL) to the state to pave the way for the creation of the statewide video network.

Every public high school and free-standing middle school (not adjacent to or part of a high school) in South Dakota has its own DDN system. All six state-supported universities are connected to the DDN through a federally-funded Star Schools grant. Both Education and State agencies have unlimited access to the network, and the public is also encouraged to use it.

Many South Dakota schools use their systems extensively, others do not. When it is used, the DDN supports a variety of activities. Those include activities of a logistical kind, like seeding wrestling tournaments and bracketing the state volleyball tournaments. Regional consortia meetings between school superintendents or project meetings for state or federally funded projects (i. …