George K. Loftus
Senior Network Analyst
Computing and Information Services
115 Waterman Street Campus Box 1885
Providence, RI 02912 USA
v: (401) 863-7352
f: (401) 863-7FAX
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Local commitment to network- based activities; Volunteer contributions of time and energy; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Video (may have a video available soon); Slides/photographs
Story Site (if other than location listed above):
Newport, Rhode Island
My name is George Loftus. I am a network planner at Brown University and the father of two children attending RI public schools. I am cheerfully submitting the following story as an example of the kind of fundamental changes that can occur with the use of telecommunications in the classroom. I hope you will find it acceptable for your publication.I have still photos that I will forward to you also, and may have a video available soon.
In addition to completing the form you provided I have provide single sentence points below the criteria section of your call for papers. I hope this will help you in determining what area I attempted to address with the story.
I am looking forward to your response, initially to ensure that I have submitted the material correctly, and also to answer any questions you may have. My signature at the bottom of this message will give all of the pertinent information for contacting me.
Good luck with project, I think your goals are admirable.
CRITERIA for Publication
To be included in the database, stories must describe how access to or use of the Internet for education, research, health care, libraries or manufacturing resulted in one or more of the following:
- Innovative or improved ways of doing things —
The Teachers found that they could eliminate the geography book.
- More equitable access to technology or electronic information —
Please refer to the section which describes how this project helped foster free telephone access to the Internet from all K-12 classrooms statewide.
- Creation of new ideas, products, or services —
Please refer to the section of the story that identifies the project between hearing and hearing-impaired students communicating via electronic mail.
- Local investment in, commitment to, and control of network-based activities and leverage of public funding —
Along with the free K-12 telephone access please refer to the section of the story that highlights the financial support received from local merchants for this project.
- Volunteer contributions of time and energy —
All of the Brown employees that assisted in this project did so on a voluntary basis.
- Partnerships between public sector and private sector organizations
Again, please refer to the statements about financial support from local merchants and New England Telephone for a new tariff structure.
In March of 1992 four third grade classrooms from Newport, Rhode Island participated in and educational experience that changed the way they view other communities and the people in them. Geogame, an on- line geography exercise conducted by the Free Educational Electronic Mail Network (FrEdMail Foundation), was the first exposure to the power of networks for the students, as well as their teachers.
Geogame asked students to answer several geographical questions about their community, such as the latitude of their city, the nearest waterway, time zone, and for what their town is famous. The students sent their “clues” to the game coordinator in Bonita, California via electronic mail on the Internet. The game coordinator collected “clues” from over twenty communities around the globe. Once compiled, the clues were sent back to the students, but with a slight twist. The names of the cities or towns of the participating schools were at the top of the list and the clues followed. Students were required to use the clues to determine which described the locations. The third graders used atlases, maps, encyclopedias and a computer program called PC USA to assist in hunting down the answers to the clues.
The Geogame project was brought to the attention of the Newport Public Schools’ technology coordinator, Jean MacMillan, by George Loftus of Brown University. Brown offered guest accounts on the network and several Brown employees volunteered to configure computers and software, and provide instruction for the teachers’ first use of instructional telecommunications.
The teachers, who were hesitant to employ technology in the classroom at first, soon became telecommunications evangelists. The teachers eagerly took on other side-projects such as creating “key pals” among the four third grade classrooms in Newport. Later, a project was started that allowed Newport third graders to communicate,via electronic mail, with their hearing-impaired peers at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf.
The students enjoyed Geogame immensely. In an electronic letter of thanks sent to Brown they voiced their enthusiasm :
“We learned about latitude and our country and Europe. We used big maps, encyclopedias, and our brains. It was so much more fun than just using our books and maps and it was neat to get mail from other classes each day. We are now in the process of writing to the other schools that we played Geogame with. We’re learning so much from each other.”
The students seemed to especially enjoy the experience of working with and learning from peers. A favorite example of this is the story of Roger, a third grader who was performing at first grade reading and math levels. During the Geogame project it became apparent that given two longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates, Roger could tell you in which U.S. state they lay. Initially, his fellow students scoffed at his answers to the “clues”, but time and again Roger’s classmates found that he was right. He soon became known as the geography “wiz” and was the primary source for latitude and longitude queries, much preferred over the atlas and even the computer software. Roger’s teacher beams when she recounts what this did for his self-esteem and admits that it changed her opinion of the young man also.
Requests were made of several Newport businesses to help cover the estimated $500 in telephone charges for long distance telephone calls from Newport to Brown in Providence. The businesses responded with over $1500, enough to purchase modems as well.The entire project was funded without the use of scarce school department funds. It became clear, however, that the cost of telephone lines in the classrooms was a major obstacle throughout the state.
Realizing that phone line costs were a barrier for all K-12 schools in Rhode Island, Mr. Stephen Carmody, of Brown University, worked with the R I Department of Education and New England Telephone to draft a proposal that would allow all K-12 schools to receive telephone lines in the classrooms and in-state Internet calls free of charge.Carmody cited the Newport Geogame project when he testified before the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (RIPUC), in May 1992. He requested that they adopt the free K-12 network access proposal. The proposal was adopted by the RIPUC and is being implemented statewide.
As of March 1993 there have been requests for over 600 classroom phone lines from over 100 schools statewide. Its exciting to see how a project,whose objective was to bring children together electronically from around the globe, has bolstered efforts that are bringing students in our small state closer together.