CyberFair Project ID: 1921

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Care and Unite- Conversations About Equity
Category: 1. Local Leaders
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Vermont Institute of Science Math and Technology
    Montpelier, Vermont, United States

30 students, ages from 13 to 18 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 30, 2002. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): VISMT (2002)

Classes and Teachers: North Country Career Center, RiverValley Career Center, Burlington Tech Center

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Vermont is a small, rural state of approximately 500,000 population. It is well known for its green mountains and lakes, maple syrup, and tranquil lifestyle. Students from three different areas of the state participated in this project. The most rural of these were those from the Northeast corner, also known as the Northeast Kingdom. This area is made up of a collection of little towns ranging in population from 50 to 5,000. The southern part of the state was represented by students from Windsor County. Our community reached the eastern most part of the state to one of our largest cities located on beautiful Lake Champlain and made up of a very diverse population of 30,000.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our project aims to create student equity leaders using Internet technology. Although there are many different areas where equity is important, our focus was on gender equity. By working with equity leaders and collecting information from them, we were able to gain the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to become equity leaders ourselves. One outcome of this project was an interactive web site that provides examples and opportunities for others to gain the skill, knowledge, and attitude necessary to become equity leaders in their community. The project includes an online community where you can take part in online chats and discussions about equity. We include samples of our chats and discussions so others can see the benefits of using online tools to develop leadership skills and to increase awareness about equity principles. We created an interactive section of our web project for equity leaders to be recognized in all communities and organized students from three parts of the state to lead the way in recognizing equity leaders in their communities. Our site invites others to add to the list of equity leader profiles. The project organizes some of the advice gained from these interviews into a BEST and WORST practices summary and again invites contributions from others. The site includes a collection of resources for equity leaders and a way for others to add to this collection. The site also features a model activity where we were able to practice our equity leadership skills to help increase awareness of equity using an Annual Career Fair. We hope others will learn from the information we have collected about equity leadership and will join us in becoming equity leaders; but mostly we hope that the members UNITE to make the world a more CARING and ACCEPTING place for both genders.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:4-6

E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):

Internet Access in our rural state has improved. We have statewide access, however, speed is still a problem. Many households can only connect at 28.8. We are, however, fortunate to have labs with full Internet access in our classrooms. In this way schools are helping increase equitable access to technology. We were also fortunate to have been given access to Internet tools through The Vermont Institute for Science Math and Technology (VISMT). This included workspace for chats, threaded discussions, Web Server hosting and Cold Fusion Service. The access to these Internet tools made it possible to learn and communicate in new ways and to use the Internet to COLLECT data as well publish its findings. Currently VISMT is coordinating the availability of broadband tools for our schools in a project funded by VERIZON called Interactive Learning Network. We were able to experiment with this technology during our project.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Technology brings many opportunities and many challenges. Again, our biggest challenge seems to be that as we increase the number of computer tools we have access to, we increase the need for support of that technology. And many schools still don’t have the support they need.—including ours. As usual, “Murphy’s Law” set in and two days before the deadline, our school server blew up. Of course, our work was stored on THAT server. On the same day, winter weather finally decided to kick in and bring the largest snow storm of the winter; everyone was sent home from school, and the threat of a snow day (school cancellation), added to the usual Cyberfair deadline panic. But, we compensated by resorting to the “sneaker network” and floppy disk. We configured one computer to FTP, and were able to download much of our finished work from its remote location to a local computer. We walked the files from one computer to another and made do with whatever programs we could find installed locally on computers in our classroom. With every challenge comes the opportunity for creative thinking, cooperation, leadership development, and innovation. The challenges of this year’s project made us work together as a team, and made us even more determined to succeed. Although our challenges were SMALL compared to the challenges faced by people in New York, Washington D.C., and many other places around the world, they gave us an opportunity to understand how caring attitudes, perseverance, teamwork, combined with a little humor can unite us and help us set and reach our goals.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Our project started with a focus on girls in technology, but soon expanded to a project about equity for both genders in many different careers and activities. Conversations about “why do girls account for only 10% of computer class enrollment?” turned into conversations about “which is more acceptable in our society… for a girl to pursue a nontraditional career or for a boy to pursue a non traditional career?” By expanding the concept, we were able to UNITE both boys and girls to CARE about equity.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

National Educational Technology Standards and Vermont Framework of Standards were used to design this project.

1. Content Standards related to the topic of Equity, included topics such as (a) What practices increase/decrease inequity (b)Where does Inequity Exist? What does inequity look like? (c) Identify equity projects/leaders and their goals

2. Process standards addressed leadership, teamwork, project management, problem solving, and peer review skills.

Planning activities that encouraged conversations about equity (i.e. panel discussions, mentoring, presentations, moderating online discussions) and planning the whole web site helped students develop many process skills.

3. Communication Standards taught students to research and collect data, write, present, telecommunicate, and explore, formulate, synthesize and organize message for an audience.

Students used primary sources (interviews) and web sources to conduct the research for this project. They used writing skills to produce site content and during online discussions and chats. Students also presented at several conferences.

4. Technology standards were addressed including learning HTML, Web Editors, Digital Imaging Tools, Online Communication tools, Research tools, Basic Operation Concepts, Productivity Tools (i.e. Office, Inspiration), Web Site Interactivity, Multimedia, Internet Programming, and web-enabled databases.

This project provided an authentic experience for learning about online communication tools. These tools were used for learning, teamwork and problem solving during the whole project. Throughout the whole project, technology was integrated to solve real problems and most of the technology somehow interfaced with the database.

5. Design standards were supported through the study of Copyright Issues, Web Page Design, Web Site Development, Digital Imaging, and Multimedia.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

Our project used a variety of information tools to conduct the equity leadership activities and to create the web site including scanners, digital cameras, Microsoft Office, PhotoShop, and Dreamweaver. Howerver database technology and online communication tools proved to be the keys to success throughout the project.

We created a database to organize the information we collected. Some information (i.e. career description, gender ratios, salaries) was obtained through Internet sources and inputted directly into the database. Other information was obtained through primary sources (i.e. presenter info and leader profiles) and collected using HTML forms and Cold Fusion Scripts. We used ColdFusion scripts to create dynamic HTML pages for our site and add interactive components to every section of our site, including ways for a global community to add resources, practices, leader profiles, and more. One of the most innovative uses of this combination was when one student figured out how to use the male/female percentages entered into the database to dynamically adjust the size of blue and pinks gifs thus creating self-generating graphs.

Our project explored many different online collaboration and communication tools found on the Internet. We started with online workspace provided by VISMT for online learning. We expanded to more globally accessible tools such as Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Chats, and Web Logs. We were in the middle of an online chat about equity on the morning of September 11. We used WEB LOGS all year long to document our progress. See . We finally selected Community Zero to create an online community for equity leaders around the world. We trained members of our projects to lead and moderate online discussions. We also experimented with broadband technology using Interactive Learning Network to hold conduct online meetings and interviews using video conferencing.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

Throughout the project, students were ambassadors for their school, CyberFair, and technology, and for a more equity-conscious world. We used every opportunity we could to promote our cause “Creating Awareness Regarding Equity” and “Understanding Nontraditional Ideas Through Education.

Students who were veteran Cyberfair participants recruited participants from other parts of the state using online collaboration tools (ranging from chats to web logs). Towards the end of the project, satellite technology was used for video conferences. By the time the project was done the North Country students had introduced their peers across the state to 1) online technology 2) equity topics 3) Cyberfair and community web projects.

Student leaders also involved both younger students and the community by adding an equity awareness activity to the annual Junior High Career Fair. They designed a contest that encouraged presenters to include equity information in their presentations. They also created an online form for presenters to provide additional equity information. Some of the younger students have asked about the types of classes they can take in high school to pursue their interest in technology and actually signed up for our classes.

We used several media to reach out to our community to create the Equity Leaders profiles included in our project. These interviews were conducted face-to-face, on the phone, and via email and satellite technology. Each contact not only spoke well of our schools and their use of technology, but contributed to a more equity AWARE world around us.

Six students participated in a student panel about getting girls involved in computer classes at VermontFest 2001 (a conference for Vermont educators). Also, we submitted proposals to present our project at three other conferences including the National Education Computer Conference. All three have been accepted.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

Our project was designed to have immediate impact by UNITING people who CARE about equity.

1. Students and community members have already learned the value of using online tools to hold conversations about equity. We provided an avenue for different and diverse insights to be shared. Shy members sometimes found their voice in these forums. 2. Equity awareness has increased in younger students. When a junior high girl questioned a sign on a bulletin board that discouraged equity, we knew we were making a difference.

3. Equity awareness has increased among our peers. The heated online chats and discussions demonstrate that our peers have heightened awareness about equity principles as a result of our work.

4. Equity awareness has increased in the community as we have conducted interviews in the community to include equity information in their career fair presentations.. 5. Students that we have mentored have already been inquiring about which classes to enroll in to pursue their interest in technology and some have enrolled. 6. More boys are starting to become involved in conversations about equity. Prior to our project, the dialogue was primarily held among women. 7. We have increased the number of student equity leaders in our schools 8. By making our web project interactive, we have provided a place for a growing collection of equity resources, quotes, and interviews . 9. We have been able to share our insight with many others. Our student panel about “girls in computer classes” at a statewide computer conference filled the room. We have submitted proposals to participate at three more conferences, including the National Education Computing Conferences.

10. We believe that the web site will continue to make an impact as we reach more people using both face-to-face and online discussions.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

Our project included our community in several ways.

Many thanks to the classroom teachers who piloted VISMT’s Internet Technology Equity Project (Jenn Fribush, Jane Donahue-Holt, Nancy McDermott, Stuart Cornell).

Many thanks to the students from the centers who participated in this project.

Many thanks to the men and women who support or participate in nontraditional activities/careers for their gender. They not only serve as role models for us but also provided us with much valuable advice during our interview process.

Many thanks to the presenters of the North Country Junior High Career Fair. Not only did they provide information about careers during the fair, but many filled out our online form to provide us with equity information as well.

Many thanks to the junior high team (Ms. Storrings, Ms. Larose, and Mrs. Majors) and their team of students for allowing us to add an equity perspective to their career fair and for joining the team of student equity leaders.

Many thanks to all who join our online community and keep the conversations about equity moving both on line and in their communities.

Many thanks to all who contribute to our Interactive Web site by submitting interviews, advice, and resources.

Many thanks to Web Designers, Jack Ryniec (Notch Web Design), Tammy Sink (Cyberfair 2001 Winner) and Keith Willey for mentoring us on the design elements of this project and to Deegan Stubbs for his good proofreading eye.

Many thanks to Kathy Johnson, Director of Equity Initiatives for Vermont Institute for Science Math and Technology (VISMT) for supporting this project and other statewide equity initiatives and to our project advisor, Lucie deLaBruere, VISMT Technology and Equity specialist for directing the Internet Technology Equity Project.

Many thanks to our community sponsors for supporting our site and our students.

Many thanks to the community of students for their hard work on this project.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

The project was filled with discoveries, lessons, and even a few surprises along the way. We discovered that even though we have come a long way towards increasing gender equity in our society, that there is still a long way to go. We discovered that the online communication tools help people feel more comfortable and open when discussing sensitive issues such as equity. The screen names make it hard to know if you are talking to male or female participants. This helps it feel less like a GIRLS vs BOYS discussion. It helped focus on the topic instead. We discovered that this is not a “GIRL’S ISSUE” and that boys and girls can UNITE towards improving gender equity in our communities. When we first started our project we were focusing on the lack of girls in computer technology class. The boys didn’t see their role in this type of discussion. Broadening our discussion has allowed us to join forces and understand each other better in creating CARING environments that encourage equity.

We found that there seems to be more non-traditional activities and careers for women than for men. However we discovered that it is less acceptable for a man to pursue a nontraditional gender equity than it is for a woman to do so. We discovered that conversations about equity CAN make a difference. They create an Equity Lens for participants to view the world through. Most people want to remedy inequalities if they exist, our project helped point out these inequities.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 1921)

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