Articles on Professional Development

[remote]Internet World October 95 Table of Contents (Educational Issue)

CU on the Net

The Global Schoolhouse lets K-12 students worldwide meet face to face.

by John R. Vacca

Click here to see IMAGES from article

Picture this: Students in 12 U.S. states and six other countries sharing information and working on projects together across geographic and political lines. They use e-mail, the World-Wide Web, and live video teleconferencing with their PCs.

This is the Global Schoolhouse (GSH), an internationally recognized K-12 project funded in part by the National Science Foundation, Cornell University, the University of Illinois, and corporate sponsors that include AT&T, Cisco, Farallon, Sprint, SuperMac, and Zenith Electronics.

The project's aim is simple and broad: By connecting schools and students nationally and internationally using the Internet, it hopes to demonstrate how the Net can be used as a tool for research and as a medium for interactive--and collaborative--learning.

The original idea for a "global schoolhouse" came in 1985, from teachers in San Diego who linked their students to classrooms on the east coast. But the infant Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN) got its big break in 1992, when the National Science Foundation provided a grant and GSN launched the "official" Global Schoolhouse Pilot Project.

That phase of the project lasted until December 1994 and involved American elementary through high school classes from California, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia, with schools in Washington and Australia also adopting the model.

The GSH students focused on four topics: alternative energy sources, solid-waste management, space exploration, and weather and natural disasters. During the 1993 to 1994 school year, they exchanged messages and conducted live videoconferences over the Internet with students, teachers, and electronic "visitors" (including scientists and government officials) using Cornell University's CU-SeeMe software, as well as audio via the telephone and the Internet.

Senators, members of the White House staff, and a variety of foreign diplomatic personnel have participated in GSH demonstrations, including Richard Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education.

Although this phase of the Global Schoolhouse Project officially ended on December 29, 1994, "the work of building the Global Schoolhouse continues," according to Yvonne Marie Andres, president and director of curriculum of the Global SchoolNet Foundation. Next year, 40 French schools are scheduled to participate, along with classes from Norway, Germany, Japan, the Philippines, and several other countries.

To get in touch with schools around the world using CU-SeeMe video conferencing software, visit our video conferencing mailing list at

click here to contact the Global SchoolNet Foundation and Global Schoolhouse Headquarters


The Global Schoolhouse uses the Internet to bring outside resources into the classroom. Some of the most valuable resources students have identified are the people they meet on the Net. As an assignment, eighth graders at Jefferson Junior High School in Oceanside, Calif. conducted interviews with their friends over the Internet. Following are three of them.

Lyndon Pugeda on Larry Duffy

Larry is an engineer who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which is located in Pasadena, Calif. When he is not on vacation to Maui or sitting down and reading literature, he spends much of his time communicating with the Global Schoolhouse. When it comes to life, Larry Duffy believes it is everywhere, whether it is a human being or just a rock.

I first saw Larry on the Internet when we were having a demonstration about the Global Schoolhouse. During the conference, Larry had been showing up-to-the-minute satellite photos of space, which he receives at JPL. After the demonstration, I just thought he was a fun and fascinating person. With his great sense of humor, Larry shares his knowledge with the Global Schoolhouse and helps out in any way possible. He has even set up a reflector on CU-SeeMe for the Global Schoolhouse called the JPL Reflector [a reflector acts as a distribution point for people who are transmitting or receiving video images with CU-SeeMe]. He created this reflector when he had heard about the Global Schoolhouse and how the Global Schoolhouse had needed a place to meet and exchange information.

Larry has only been using the Internet for about three years now. He basically uses it for electronic mail and for file transfers. Otherwise, he is using it by being on CU-SeeMe and interacting with the students (and sometimes teachers). When I asked him what he thought about the Internet, he told me he thought that it was computer anarchy! Actually, before Larry had become a network engineer, he had been working with microwaves, radios, and spacecraft at JPL.

According to Larry, he did not know what the Internet was three years ago. When he was a child, he never even thought this kind of technology would exist; he was surprised when the technology came around. Larry, like the rest of us participating in the project, believes this is a tremendous opportunity for kids to interact with other students and learn that we are really more alike than we are different.

In my opinion, Larry is a kid at heart. I think when he interacts with us, he wishes he could have had this technology when he was a child. To us, Larry is one of those people that, without him, the Global Schoolhouse would not have been as great as it is to this day. Larry is a great person and if you should ever see him, you should take a while to get to know him. Hopefully, more people like Larry will become part of the Global Schoolhouse and make the project better. Thanks for being there, Larry!

Tim Pak on Dick Cogger

I remember when I met Dick. I was "reflector surfing" and I stumbled on a reflector called Cornell. I asked if anyone could hear me and I heard a voice answer, "Loud and clear." At the time I was talking to him, I did not know Dick was the creator of CU-SeeMe. He is a manager of a team of nine programmers who work on a variety of programs like CU-SeeMe and other stuff. He likes to use the Internet for e-mail and to send notes to his boss.

When Dick first started to use the Internet back in 1978 he did not know that it would lead him to create CU-SeeMe. He likes the Internet because of how big it is, because it always grows, and because it has no limits. The most interesting people that he has met are Yvonne Andres [of Global Schoolhouse] and Don Mitchell from the National Science Foundation. He likes Global Schoolhouse activities "for the chance to find out what is wrong and to fix it."

Dick's definition of the Internet is "a set of networks interconnected to other networks." He thinks the Global Schoolhouse is an important effort to link kids to the network of computers so they can have the experience for the future. He uses the Internet all day every day--at work and at home. His favorite program on the Internet is CU-SeeMe, of course. But other than that he likes to use Mosaic for getting stuff. To get this great job Dick had to go to college and "be at the right place at the right time." I think that our need to play is all part of the expansion of technology, and Dick Cogger is an example of what we all can do.

Jeremy Henry on Don Mitchell

Don Mitchell is a very nice and fun man, and I enjoy talking and working with him on the Global Schoolhouse Project. Don and I met on the Internet through CU-SeeMe, but we didn't really talk a lot before I went to Washington, D.C., and met him at work. There I was able to see his office and meet some of his colleagues. This was interesting because I had seen some of them over the Internet and then I met them for real.

From his office, Don invited [Yvonne] Andres and me to his home for dinner. I was able to meet his wife, son, and very pretty daughter. We talked and ate submarine sandwiches together. (Don has another daughter but I was unable to meet her because she was in New York.) One of the reasons I chose Don for this interview was that I really do want him to know that I really am thankful for his friendship.

Don is one of several people working for Steve Wolff in the Division of Networking & Communications Research & Infrastructure at the National Science Foundation (NSF). He says he just does whatever needs to be done, whether it's communicating with the Global Schoolhouse students, coordinating activities with other Federal agencies, hunting down information, preparing to choose organizations for awards, or overseeing ongoing projects. He has worked for the government for over 25 years (22 of them at NSF) and uses the Internet on a daily basis for about 14 hours a day, seven days a week!

Don has worked on the Internet for about nine years. He first started in 1985 when he began using it for very primitive e-mail. He started using it heavily in 1989. He now uses it for just about everything--from e-mail to monitoring networking and research activities around the world, watching the recent solar eclipse, doing personal research, and helping local school teachers and students use the Internet. (He serves as the technical "angel" for GSH Stenwood Elementary School in Fairfax County, Va.) He also loves playing with new ideas and new tools.

Don is not the only one who uses the Internet in the family. His daughter Mary just used it recently for a report and she also uses it for fun. His son Britt uses it for school and just for fun, along with his older daughter Lara. All of his kids particularly enjoy music from
[remote]MTV's Web site. As for Don's wife, he says she stays as far away from it as she can get--she feels that "one geek in the family is enough!"

Don and his e-mail well, that is a story in itself! Don said that he gets a couple of hundred e-mail messages a day and responds to around 100. Although Don uses e-mail so much, he said that e-mail is not his favorite tool. His current favorite tool is CU-SeeMe because of the face-to-face collaboration. Recently, he was able to see a long-time friend's new baby over the Internet. He can also have meetings with someone in California without them flying across the country.

Don said that to him the Internet is mixing the incredible capabilities of public and private communities together--enabling both to have access to the same vast resources and information. To Don, the Global Schoolhouse is "a powerful and effective demonstration of the utility of properly supported connectivity, computing, and sophisticated networking tools in the K-12 environment." He feels that it is also having a "unique catalytic effect" in bringing together the resources of government (at various levels), academia, industry, and local communities.

GSH helps focus their joint attention on ways to make available to teachers and students the technologies necessary to move the classroom into the community, the community into the classroom, and to create a new ethic of lifelong learning and global citizenship. He also says that international interest in the GSH is growing at a phenomenal rate and that some representation from every continent may be involved in the project next year.

John R. Vacca is a freelance information technology and air-and-space contract writer based in Houston, Texas.

[remote]Internet World Magazine