The RTVS Digital Classroom:
The Regional Vocational-Technical School System (RTVS), in collaboration with the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium, is changing the nature of instruction in vocational-technical high school classrooms by establishing a digital classroom model and piloting it in 10 schools across Connecticut.
The RTVS digital classroom will be completely wired with access to Internet and Web resources with a 1:1 student/computer ratio. these "digital classrooms" are being established in each of four academic areas; English, Math, Science, Social Studies and in each of the RVTS three major Trade Clusters; construction, service and manufacturing.
The RTVS Digital Classroom model will change the traditional classroom arrangements and will demand a change in instructional pedagogy. Students will be the center of instruction. A constructivist model of instruction will transform the role of instructor and the work of RTVS students. Instructors will become facilitators, designers, and guides for students who will be challenged to create their own meaning of the problems and inforamation with which they will be involved. The direction of this restructuring will be to connect technology and instruction in an integrated fashion. Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it effectively and professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions, as accessible as all other classroom tools.
Professional Development is an essential ingredient to the success of the Vocational-Technical Schools Digital Classroom Program. The Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC), in conjunction with the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) and the Regional Vocational-Technical Schools (RVTS), has offered training in online instructional design for RVTS teachers. Currently 47 instructors have been trained and many have produced on-line learning units that reside on the Consortium's server. Teachers were introduced to online curriculum design in a two-day workshop, and then developed learning units based on a constructivist model. Many of those instructors will be the first to pioneer digital classrooms in their schools. They will also serve as mentors to others in their schools building the capacity for this change effort to succeed on the site-based level.
Currently, all 17 RTVS high schools are completely wired with cable outlets in every learning area and a networked server that allows for Internet access through T1 lines, intranet operations including email, voice and data access for up to 30 student computer units in every classroom. They are bringing the digitized world of knowledge to the desks of students through desktop computers assembled and maintained by their students and instructors. Currently 200 computers have been assembled at the Ellis Tech staging area for under $550 each. The ability to purchase computer parts and assemble their own desktop computers for students in the pilot classrooms will cut hardware costs by two-thirds. Computers will be distributed to 8 more digital classrooms before the end of the 2000-2001 school year. Students and staff build the computers, wire the rooms, build the furniture and maintain the equipment as a part of the curriculum in their technology areas.
As feedback is obtained from the pilot efforts in year one, a process will be established for going to scale across all our classrooms by year 3. As a regional school system RTVS sees themselves providing training resources to the public schools across the state both in terms of how to integrate technology and instruction as well as how to design, construct and maintain the hardware and infrastructure for maximum cost efficiency and instructional effectiveness.