Developing a Unified Internet Interface for K-12 Education Communities
Project Number 07 – 1993
Director, Regional Teacher Education Center
System Administrator, The GC EduNET Project
Georgia College School of Education
CBX 034, Georgia College
Milledgeville, GA 31061
Fax: (912) email@example.com
Other Individuals And Organizations Associated With The Project
University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Office of Information Technology
Georgia Department of Education
Turner (Broadcasting) Educational Services
some 20 other content-oriented educational organizations and approximately 180 Georgia school systems.
The GC EduNET Story (Our Reason for Being). To deal with the many problems teachers face, they need to have free and open access to appropriate teaching materials and professional development opportunities. To develop from a novice teacher to a master teacher, one must have free and open access to one’s peers on a statewide, and even nationwide, basis. It is the sharing of experiences, aspirations, strategies, materials and ideas that fuels professional growth in any field. Teaching is no exception.
The traditional means of pursuing these goals (teacher conferences and workshops, and the dissemination of teaching materials via print media) has not been particularly effective because such efforts are typically so woefully underfunded. There is just not enough money available to do these things well enough and on a scale large enough to have much of an impact. It is most unlikely that the financial picture for education will change in the near future. The prospects for traditional strategies yielding effective solutions to these important problems are dim indeed. However, there are other, more effective, and less costly alternatives to consider.
The GC EduNET project, in continual operation since 1988, has demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of providing solutions to educational problems through the use of telecomputing technology, using modem-equipped computers and the ubiquitous telephone system to allow teachers to communicate and share materials at little or no cost to themselves or to the school systems they are associated with.
No charges for teacher use are levied, even the cost of the phone call is provided for through the use of multiple incoming toll-free telephone lines or PeachNet (Internet) access. PeachNet is now available to teachers as a free dial-up service to those located within local calling distance of a university system site. More non-university system sites are being added to the system.
Once connected to the GC EduNET system, teachers may engage in a great many activities. They may communicate with other individuals by electronic mail or with whole groups of people with similar interests and concerns in an electronic conference. They may obtain information they need to implement their curricular objectives or even acquire an entire “turn-key” curriculum unit, like the daily CNN Newsroom Curriculum Guide. They can do these things at any time of the day or night, seven days a week using any kind of modem- equipped computer from anywhere in the state or anywhere in the world where they can obtain Internet access.
Currently, there are over 6,000 GC EduNET members. An Internet e-mail facility is being installed to compliment the local (members only) e-mail system and a remote Gopher client is next on the list. The remote Gopher client will provide document search and retrieval, file transfer, and telnet capabilities to our largely modem-bound constituency. As Gopher capabilities are enhanced (data base searches, surveys [ask blocks] and conferencing), we hope to upgrade the remote Gopher client apace.
- NSF Interoperability: GC EduNET is accessible by Internet (gcedunet.peachnet.edu) and uses its connectivity on behalf of a large constituency (the K-12 education community) that is generally not so connected.
- Exploring the sharing of information: GC EduNET is an ongoing experiment directed toward finding ways to make information and communication opportunities more accessible and more useful. Unlike the passive bulletin board concept where the information base is strictly a function of what the membership posts, GC EduNET proactively solicits the involvement of educational information providers and assists them in adding value to information by making it easier to find and make use of.
- Collaboration: GC EduNET serves as a broker which brings information providers and information consumers together under one electronic roof. Further, GC EduNET assists both groups to easily and conveniently carry out their respective roles and interact successfully with one another. As such, GC EduNET is more than a collaboration, it is a collaboration engine. Currently, GC EduNET has brought major information providers such as the state department of education, Turner Educational Services, the statewide Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) and the University System of Georgia together with some 180 school systems in Georgia.
- Doing more with less: The GC EduNET system has managed to develop and provide a statewide educational information and communication system for the Georgia K-12 education community (and many teachers outside the state w/ Internet connectivity of some sort) for less than $200,000/year. This figure does not include grant funding which has averaged $50,000/year or the value of contributions in kind by the University System of Georgia and others. The GC EduNET constituency, too, has been able to avoid significant costs by using the INWATS and PeachNet/Internet dialups provided. Because any modem-equipped computer with standard telecommunications software can access the GC EduNET system and use its local and Internet facilities, significant savings are realized. Indeed, for most this makes the difference between getting permission to use a telephone line in the school or not.
- Replicable and viable: Because of its low cost/high output design, use of off-the-shelf hardware, and extensible system software, the GC EduNET system has been able to remain in continuous operation since 1988 despite a reletively low level of funding. With the software developed here and a small dedicated staff whose primary expertise is in handling information (as opposed to computer system operators), any school or college of education could replicate the GC EduNET system and achieve similar success.
- Macintosh II level Color System, OS: System 7.1, with color LCD projection capability (LCD Panel & low heat O/H Projector or LCD/Projector combo).
- Internet connection (ethernet/TCP) with appropriate system software extensions (MacTCP) properly configured for that site.