Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

'Wired for Learning': Lessons from a Distance Learning Partnership

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

'Wired for Learning': Lessons from a Distance Learning Partnership

Article excerpt

In 1992 a group of educators in East Texas "shook hands" and formed a collaborative known as ET-LINC. The East Texas Learning Interactive Network Consortium began defining the needs of small, rural schools for the coming century. Looking toward the digital age that is rapidly changing the way people live, the schools wanted to utilize the broadband fiber optic cable that was being laid by two independent telephone cooperatives in a 125 mile swath of East Texas. In order to do so, they had to develop a process "to build a distance learning partnership" and "to train educators in the distance learning environment." A model emerged from this process that enables educators and community members to design networks and to determine the uses of a digital broadband telecommunications network. The success of the distance learning partnership is being used to change communities and the way we learn and teach in East Texas.

A series of grant awards have allowed the distance learning partner schools to implement innovative programming. The award of each grant can be attributed to the partnership building activities and the training of educators in the distance learning environment.

The schools have focused their attentions on "building distance learning partnerships" and "training educators to utilize the networks in creative and innovative ways." The model used by ET-LINC is applicable to any group of schools and communities wishing to determine the uses and benefits of distance learning networks. As broadband telecommunications become more available to public schools an understanding of the build-out process is critical. Additionally, the process draws upon a large body of research dealing with change and on becoming a change agent as a member of a distance learning partnership.

Results of the Collaborative Building Process:

Success Number 1: ET-LINC's work was accelerated when the partnership received a 1994-95 Planning Grant from the Texas Education Agency to pursue their vision of solutions that advanced switching technologies could provide for the rural and small communities Fiscal agent consortium, Gladewater Line Independent School District, received the 1994 Project for Educational Technology planning grant award of $25,000 from The Texas Education Agency. The award allowed the consortium schools to begin the multi-year process of identifying the uses and applications of the digital broadband fiber to link schools in numerous northeast Texas counties. The TEA grant provided the impetus to strengthen the process to build partnerships for distance learning networks and to provide training for educators as well as for community members, students and parents. From tips alliance, the participating schools and university members drew up a comprehensive partnership plan.

Success Number 2: The outcome of the planning grant was the award of the 1995 Implementation Grant Award from TEA -- Projects for Educational Technology, East Texas schools partnered in the Implementation Award Grant, known as "Creating Connections." Twelve East Texas school districts received funding for installation of the multi-media, distance learning classrooms. Other schools in the East Texas area participated in the training component. An additional seven school districts from Limestone, Hudspeth and El Paso counties joined the consortium to participate in the wining for teachers. The schools in the Central and Far West Texas schools either had video conferencing systems or were planning for full-motion audio-video networks. Their need focused on training. The final estimated total of the project including contributions from all partners including the two telephone companies was over $6,000,000. TV 12 East Texas schools now have state of The art technology in the classrooms and access to full broadband services, including audio-video, Internet and data services. Texas A&M University -- Commerce built its classroom along with Jarvis Christian College. …

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