In pushing forward with efforts to expand the use of educational technology, North Dakota hopes to address declining enrollments and to increase distance-learning opportunities for students in rural districts.
But with a slightly lower budget for the 2004-05 school year than the previous school year, the state lacks the money to truly “move ahead,” and that officials “continue struggling to just keep up” with the technology programs and services already offered, says Chris Kalash, the state’s school technology coordinator.
Schools received $3.16 million from the state general fund for technology for the 2004-05 school year, about $400,000 less than the previous year. More than half the money, or $1.69 million, is set aside for the Statewide K12 Network. The network provides broadband Internet access to the state’s 520 public schools, as well as videoconferencing, to allow rural schools to offer a wider array of courses online.
To help support schools in using technology, the state has budgeted some $1.3 million this fiscal year for professional development for teachers and other technical support.
The state continues to encourage the expansion of video-based classrooms—in which courses are broadcast from one location to several neighboring schools through a video feed—through grants to school districts, particularly those in remote parts of the state. North Dakota now has 175 such classrooms.
Dan Pullen, the director of educational technology for the state education department, says state officials have also discussed instituting grant programs to foster technology initiatives in schools, such as one-to-one computing—the availability of one computing device per student—and the use of wireless hand-held computers.
Eight schools throughout the state were awarded a share of $1 million in federal technology funds under the No Child Left Behind Act to support the use of instructional technology in classrooms.
A statewide student database was recently put in place, financed primarily through federal money. State money will be used for operation and maintenance of the system, which includes student demographic information, test-score data, coursetaking information, and other student records.