In recent news, the shortage of teachers throughout the State of South Dakota has really been on the radar. Jim Holbeck, a Harrisburg School District Superintendent explains, “People might tell you that it’s not real. It’s real. There’s a teacher shortage in South Dakota and it’s serious.”
In the midst of such a crisis, one BIT service may be able to offer an alternative solution. Who should you ask? The Digital Dakota Network (DDN) staff.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, Digital Dakota Network is a statewide interactive video communications system that uses compressed digital technology to provide a “meeting pipeline” across the State of South Dakota and the global community. DDN services a wide variety of cliental, ranging from executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government all the way to K-12 schools throughout the State of South Dakota.
So…How does this relate to the crisis?
One of the features that DDN offers is the ability for students to receive virtual interactive courses that they otherwise wouldn’t have access. With visual and audio components at both the student’s location and the teacher’s location, students are able to interact with their virtual teacher in just the same way as they would in any typical classroom setting.
New this year, Digital Dakota Network has teamed up with the Great Plains Zoo. One of the classes offered allows kids the opportunity to be introduced to a zookeeper and indulge in an animal chat with animals from the zoo! Not one for animals? Another program lets students partake in virtual tours of the historical Badlands, exploring the layers of sedimentary rock and the fossils they may discover buried within them!
[Take a brief pause to pout about the fact that they didn’t have classes like this when we were in school!]
Now for the kicker? The equipment and network is provided by DDN and it’s free! To the 200+ K12 schools who are already a part of the Digital Dakota Network, this is a resource they can utilize at no cost to them! The only part of the equation that the schools need to take care of is selecting and covering the cost of classes. Rather than not being able to offer a class due to lack of staffing, K12 schools within the network are able to purchase the courses online and then utilize the equipment and network for free!
Jay Etzkorn, a Technology Engineer Manager for DDN, explained, “Now more than ever is the time for schools to really take advantage of this great resource they already have. A wide variety of courses are offered and we are committed to delivering high quality programing via distance learning to meet needs throughout the state. My hope is that in the midst of this shortage, schools would be able to look at us as an alternative solution.”