Robert D. Carlitz
Physics and Astronomy
University of Pittsburgh
39410 Hara Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260 USA
v: (412) 624-9027
f: (412) 624-9163
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Local commitment to network-based activities; Leverage of public funding; Volunteer contributions of time and energy; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
KIDSNET Mailing List
Early in 19891 circulated a few messages to such Internet newsgroups as misc.kids and comp.edu to ask about the possibility of connecting schools to the Internet and letting students and teachers make use of a medium with which I was familiar in my work as a research physicist. Several people expressed an interest in this topic, and on May 8,1989, Patt Haring sent out a message which inaugurated the -SNET mailing list. The message headers were as follows:
Date: Mon, 8 May 8920:05:27 EDT From: patth@CCNYSCI.BITNET From: Patt Haring <email@example.com- subject:="" private="" mailing="" list="" :="" kidsnet="" to:="" kidsnet-cnysci.bitnet="" message-id:="" <8905090005.aa1163-cnysci="">
The original “private” list contained eight names. After announcements were posted to misc.kids and comp.edu and other Internet newsgroups, readership grew rapidly, and the enlarged public list was moved to the University of Pittsburgh in September of 1989. The readership include 5 students, teachers and administrators from the schools – educators, scientists and sociologists from the universities – programmers, hardware designers and network architects from industry – people from foundations and funding agencies – children and parents.
The challenge which animated the group’s discussions on the outset was the idea of creating an international network for children and their teachers. Many of the readers have become involved in projects contributing to this overall aim. Some of these projects – such as the international projects – are far larger than the group itself. Discussions on the list have influenced funding trends, federal and state legislation and the professional outlook on K-12 networking. The Consortium for School Networking had its roots in discussions on KIDSNET, and the Consortium now provides on-line services nearly as extensive as those of KIDSNET.
Throughout its history the focus of the KIDSNET list has been on teachers, classroom activities and the school curriculum. This has made the list an ideal place for teachers new to the network to find projects in which to participate. Several hundred such projects have been initiated and organized through this mechanism, with the participation of thousands of teachers from schools around the world.
Here in Pittsburgh, KIDSNET was used to introduce local teachers to the Internet and its resources. This process began a grass-roots movement which spread through the Pittsburgh Public Schools and several other school districts in the region. A formal project known as Common Knowledge: Pittsburgh has been developed with a goal of providing access to the network for all students and teachers in the city schools and for integrating use of network resources in the school curriculum.
The experience of KIDSNET shows the ability of the network – and the virtual community built around the network – to respond to n opportunities and develop important new resources for our schools. There appear to be no major technical obstacles to the realization of the original goal KIDSNET to develop an international children’s network, and even the political obstacles to such a goal do not appear to be insurmountable. Insofar as the ideal addresses educational needs, technological development and interactional communication and understanding, it is both an attractive and timely activity to pursue.
A final footnote to this story should give the electronic, e-mail address for subscriptions to KIDSNET. It is currently firstname.lastname@example.org. This will change shortly, since a clearinghouse for children’s television claims a copyright on the name. The clearinghouse is backed by the major television networks. It could be that the conflict over use of the name may be symptomatic of a deeper conflict and a deeper change that is taking place as computer networks challenge the dominance of traditional broad cast media in education and other spheres of activity.