Articles on Professional Development

Global SchoolNet Foundation Testimony
Senate Select Committee on Information Services
August 6, 1996, Sacramento, California

Presented By
Al Rogers, Executive Director
Yvonne Marie Andres, President

Note: this information was formatted and printed as an HTML document located at Underlined items are hypertext links to additional background information and illustrative examples.

A. Overview of the Global SchoolNet Foundation

How well is state educational technology money spent? Twelve years ago, during the very first round of California Ed Tech funding, TECC 15 placed a dozen modems with promising teachers throughout the San Diego/Imperial County region. I was the computer specialist at TECC 15, and Yvonne Andres received one of those 300 baud modems. That California Ed Tech-funded event started both of us on a collaborative journey which is still unfolding.

This project led directly to FrEdMail (Free Educational Mail), America's first K-12 telecommunications network, which demonstrated that communications technologies can transform and improve learning. In 1990, Yvonne and I founded the Global Schoolhouse, a dedicated to helping teachers use communications technologies... from electronic mail, to the World Wide Web, to video conferencing to improve the quality of learning in classrooms. Today, GSN offers one of the finest collections of educational resources anywhere on the Web, and is a leader in helping teachers wade through the thicket of Internet use in their classrooms. We are funded by grants and corporate sponsors.

In the next few minutes, we'd like to tell you about a few of the truly exciting things that are going on in growing numbers of California's classrooms.

B. Overview of Internet Style Learning

Connecting schools to the Internet allows for a new style of learning that can be referred to as Internet Style Learning, which is different than traditional learning in that there is a focus on three new R's:

Research, Relationships & Real Time

Internet Relationships which teaches students how to collaborate and work in teams, typically including people of all ages... adults as well as children... and in many different locations, all learning together. Internet Style Learning encourages students and teachers to learn new things together, "side-by-side," where teachers actually model learning and problem solving strategies.

Internet Style Learning supports an environment where schools, universities, business, government and the community share resources and work together to solve problems, as in International Schools CyberFair project and the Scientist-on-Tap program. It is also based on strategic partnerships, such as GSN's Global Schoolhouse® which is sponsored by Microsoft.

Internet Research allows individuals access to the most up-to-date information and source materialssuch as the latest maps, laws, and scientific findings... information which will not appear in text books for years.

Internet Learning also provides students with Real Time learning experiences, called Explorer/Adventurer projects. For instance, children can follow and communicate with ex-Marine aviator Roger Williams as he explores Africa or Sandra Hill Pittman as she climbs Mount Everest or follow a group of explorers investigating Mayan ruins and culture in MayaQuest. When each day brings a new real-life, unexpected adventure, students are curious and motivated to become engaged and actively participate in the adventure.

Currently, most technology funding is being spent on equipping and connecting schools. While these are essential expenses, it is clear that not enough money is being spent on teacher training. According to the 1995 Office of Technology Assessment report:

  • 55% of technology funding is spent on hardware
  • 30% is spent on software
  • Only 15% of technology funds is spent on training

Teachers need more training - not on just how to run the machines - but how to integrate technology in the classroom and organize activities around it.

C. Examples of Internet Style Learning Projects that Work

There are several projects in existence that exemplify Internet Style Learning and create models that teachers can follow.

  1. ThinkQuest
    ThinkQuest is a national contest which challenges students in grades 7-12 to think and learn in the Internet Style of Learning. This contest, with over a million dollars in prize money, has students designing and building their own web pages. With over one thousand teams this first year of the contest (with over 170 teams from California), we fully expect that many of these students will create Web sites with significant intrinsic informational and educational value. For the first time, on a large scale basis, we expect to see students moving from being simply consumers of knowledge and information to actually being credible producers of knowledge.

    One of the resources that we produced at GSN to support ThinkQuest was a Web tutorial which shows teachers how to organize "Internet Style of Learning" and how to publish their own Web pages in support of this approach. Last year we gave away 75,000 copies on CD-ROM to teachers around the U.S. This fall, we expect to hand out over 150,000 copies of our revised CD.

  2. International Schools CyberFair
    CyberFair, funded by Cisco and other companies, is an Internet Style Learning project based on the theme of "Share & Unite."

    This year, competing against 360 schools representing 30 countries in the first worldwide contest of its kind on the Internet, teens from a Southern California high school walked away with top honors. During a virtual awards ceremony on the Internet, Rancho Buena Vista High School of Vista, Calif., won first prize in the "International Schools CyberFair '96" competition.

    Rancho Buena Vista was one of 25 California schools participating in the competition and one of three California schools chosen as finalists. Other finalists from California were Jefferson Middle School of Oceanside and Palm Middle School of Moreno Valley.

    CyberFair 96 involved more than 10,000 students ages 6-18 from around the world, who competed to create the best World Wide Web site promoting their local communities in the global village.

    In remarks transmitted during the online award ceremony, Vice President Al Gore said, "The International Schools CyberFair is an inventive way to encourage students, educators and communities from around the world to create and share educational resources. This project has created hundreds of student ambassadors. Young people that have captured something about their communities that is worth sharing with rest of the world and who have brought us together by doing so." remarks transmitted during the online award ceremony

    International Schools CyberFair '96 is under consideration by the authoritative Guinness Book of World Records as possibly the largest educational event of its kind ever held over the Internet.

    The following short video will provide a glimpse of the CyberFair story. This segment is from a winning elementary school from Austin, Texas.

  3. California Web Project
    The California Web Project is the final example of students engaged in Internet Style Learning. CalWeb is a new Web site sponsored by Computer Using Educators, a professional organization of California teachers. CalWeb is an interactive database on the Web listing World Wide Web learning projects produced by California students about California themes. Already there are 29 projects listed, and as you browse through these sites you begin to realize that these students... once again... are not just consuming knowledge... they are actually creating it. The CalWeb site promises to become a valuable resource of new and useful information about California... produced by children and their teachers.

D. Conclusion

Senator Kopp and others, this is an exciting time to be in a connected classroom. We have showcased only a few of the many real examples of teachers and their students working together to make technology work effectively. And you don't have to just take our word for it. The World Wide Web now gives you your own windows into these new Internet Learning places, where you will see amazing things taking place..

As you look through some of the Web portals that we have cited here, you will see teachers being learners, and students being teachers. You will see students creating works of value and making useful contributions to their schools and communities. You will see new relationships developing between the community and teachers and students within the schools.

As we see these changes taking place, we are more convinced than ever that the key to better technology use is better professional development. Teachers need help in becoming the better teachers that Internet Style Learning needs.

Unfortunately, our time here today is limited. However, we have already published this very document on the World Wide Web with links to further examples, ideas, and arguments which will support our testimony before this committee.

We thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Presented live on August 6, 1996; Updated August 4, 1998