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For Immediate Release: May 16, 2006
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

Pilot schools selected for South Dakota’s Classroom Connections project

PIERRE, S.D. – Twenty school districts, serving 5,046 students, have been selected as pilot sites for South Dakota’s Classroom Connections project. (See list next page.) The project provides incentive money to school districts to initiate one-to-one laptop programs for their high school students. It is part of Governor Rounds’ 2010 Education Initiative and uses technology funds provided by Citibank.

“We are excited to begin working with this pioneering group of educators,” said Gov. Mike Rounds. “Using the technology funds made available by Citibank, we can offer high tech tools to teachers and students in this pilot project. Dedicated teachers and bright, young students deserve the opportunity to succeed, using these modern tools in the high school classroom.”

Use of laptop technology is expected to enhance students’ 21st century skills, according to Secretary of Education Rick Melmer. These skills include critical thinking and problem solving; research, writing and communication skills; and technology literacy.

Thirty school districts applied to be pilot schools. The 20 selected were chosen based on their ability to demonstrate a funding source; providing a plan for ongoing training of teachers; and demonstrating the commitment of their staff, school board and community to the project. In addition, the selection committee sought a cross-section of schools. The selection committee consisted of representatives from the Department of Education and Bureau of Information and Telecommunications.

Through South Dakota’s Classroom Connections project, the state will provide $1 for every $2 invested by the local school district toward the purchase of the laptops. The state’s funding is made possible by a $4 million Citibank donation designated for technology-based initiatives. Districts will purchase their laptops directly from the vendor, and the state will reimburse them for one-third of the cost. Districts will pay $1,207 per laptop, which includes the hardware, warranty and standard software package, as well as training for teachers.

“The training component is absolutely critical to the success of this program,” Melmer said. The Department of Education has partnered with Dakota State University, a recognized leader in technology, to provide training at all levels. The Department of Education also has partnered with the state’s Bureau of Information and Telecommunications to provide technical expertise and support for the pilot schools.

Training will be offered in three phases. In June, an initial training for all of the districts’ technology coordinators will be held at Dakota State University. This training will focus on technology and applications. During July, intensive training for teaching staff will take place on location at each pilot site. These trainings will focus on content development and classroom management appropriate to the use of laptops. In August, the third phase of training, all participants will return to Dakota State University for a final session.

“This project is a perfect example of the education and business communities working together for the good of our children,” said Gov. Rounds. “We have state agencies, school districts, universities, and local and national businesses bringing their expertise to the table, in order to make this project a success.”

Citibank is leading the way with its monetary donation. Gateway is providing its convertible notebook at a discounted price. The PC gives students the option of using a full-sized keyboard or a digital pen for handwriting notes directly on the display, resulting in more dynamic and interactive learning sessions. Microsoft is the software supplier, while Cisco Systems is offering a discount on the wireless equipment schools will need. SDN Communications, based in Sioux Falls, will provide wireless site surveys at a discounted rate. Technology & Innovation in Education, based in Rapid City, will lead the evaluation component of the program. School districts not participating in the pilot program may still take advantage of the special pricing.

“The classroom of the future will – and should – require that technology be immersed within lessons. That day is coming, whether it’s two years from now or 10 years from now,” Melmer said. “By providing laptops to students, South Dakota is providing its young people with a competitive edge as they prepare to enter today’s fast-paced, technologically advanced world.”


South Dakota’s Classroom Connections Pilot Schools - 2006-07 School Year

Bonesteel-Fairfax (43 students)
Castlewood (91 students)
Chamberlain (303 students)
Chester (115 students)
Corsica (60 students)
Deuel (175 students)
Dupree (75 students)
Faith (80 students)
Flandreau (210 students)
Frederick (70 students)
Hamlin (192 students)
Hill City (200 students)
Kadoka (105 students)
Lemmon (105 students)
Mitchell (820 students)
Newell (125 students)
Spearfish (700 students)
Wagner (199 students)
Watertown (1,275 students)
Wessington Springs (103 students)