Global Schoolhouse Project

Table of Contents (toc)

The Global Schoolhouse (toc)

In recognition of National Science and Technology Week 1993 (April 26-May 1), the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering is sponsoring the Global Schoolhouse project, an activity that will demonstrate how the Internet can be used to allow students all over the world to work and learn together, by communicating with each other, teachers, scientists, and even national and international leaders.

The technologies involved are videoconferencing, electronic collaboration and distance learning which use the Internet to join together multiple locations. In the first occurrence of Global Schoolhouse, students in fifth through eighth grade classrooms in California, Tennessee, Virginia, and London, England will work together in a study of the environment. Over the course of a six-week curriculum, they will read the book "Earth in the Balance", by Vice President Gore, conduct independent research on ground water pollution and its sources in their individual geographical locations, and exchange messages and information on their findings with each other over the Internet. The messages will be composed and sent using FrEdMail (Free Educational Electronic Mail), designed especially for classroom use in elementary, middle and high schools.

As a high point of their six-week project, the students and teachers will engage in a videoconference with a prominent national leader, presenting their research findings and discussing the issues and concepts involved. The national leader invited to the first Global Schoolhouse special video conference is Vice President Gore. If he is able to attend he will work with the students, asking and answering questions and giving the students and Vice President a chance to learn from each other.

Also present at the Arlington, Virginia, school with the two leaders will be several new recipients of the prestigious "National Science Teacher of the Year Award." The National Science Foundation is working with major universities and industrial firms as well as the local schools involved in the project to develop the government/industry/university partnership to facilitate this demonstration project. This partnership brings together the key technical components and personnel to integrate the technologies needed to make the Global Schoolhouse a current reality. It is contemplated that the project may expand in future years to include additional classrooms, other guests and further advanced and improved technologies.

Eventually, this leading edge effort in technology integration and use could form the basis for exciting educational opportunities such as lifelong learning and even an Internet Town Hall, where ordinary citizens can listen to their leaders and where the leaders can listen to the citizens. .

Status Report 1 (toc)

For the past ten weeks, a team of volunteers from 30 organizations have donated time, money, equipment, software, and bandwidth to make the National Science Foundation's Global Schoolhouse Project a reality. This note briefly explains the project and its significance.

For the past six weeks, schoolchildren in grades 5-8 have been conducting original research on the environment in their communities. With the help of a curriculum developed by the FrEdMail Foundation, they have conducted surveys and tests, have prepared videotapes and other materials, and have read Vice President Gore's "Earth in the Balance." The children are located in schools in Oceanside, California; Knoxville, Tennessee; Arlington, Virginia; and London, England.

Using the Internet, the children have been exchanging messages with each other using FrEdMail. They have also been using Cornell University's CU-SeeMe videoconferencing software and Sprint audioconference bridges to communicate with each other.

On April 28th, they will conduct a videoconference on the Internet to brief each other and national leaders on what can be done about the environment. Several prominent leaders have been invited to participate, and a variety of dignitaries and members of the media have been invited to observe.

Technically, the April 28 videoconference consists of CU-SeeMe running on Macintosh computers donated by Apple equipped with a camera. CU-SeeMe sends a video stream to a Sparcstation donated by Sun which acts as a central reflect or, sending the video from one site to the other sites participating in the conference. Xerox Parc has modified the NV software to read CU-SeeMe streams, allowing the April 28 videoconference to be rebroadcast to the MBONE. (Note that the 4-site conference is our top priority and if we sense network problems, the MBONE link will be cut.)

Each of the schools has been equipped with a local network, with all of the resources donated or furnished on long-term loan. This equipment includes Cisco routers, Cayman Gator boxes, David System UTP hubs. The network connectivity for the Global Schoolhouse has been furnished by SprintLink, CERFnet, the NSFNET, ICMnet, Suranet, Metropolitan Fiber Systems, Pacific Bell and Bell Atlantic. Local loop connectivity uses either T1 lines or SMDS.

Each of the schools has a teacher or group of teachers that has worked hard on the curriculum and on using the technology. Working alongside these teachers have been Internet mentors. We are grateful to CERFnet, SNMP Research, the University College London, and Dave Staudt of NSF for taking time out of their schedules to work with these schools.

It has been remarkable to see how all these organizations have pitched in to give children the opportunity to use the network as part of their education. The National Science Foundation is contemplating expanding the project in future years to include additional classrooms, other guests, and further advanced and improved technologies.

There are several lessons that can be learned from the Global Schoolhouse. First, affordable (though not yet cheap) technology is available that allows K-12 groups to join the Internet. Second, business/government/university partnerships can be a valuable tool for bringing connectivity to new groups. Third, because we have a general-purpose infrastructure in the Internet, we were able to very quickly make this project happen.

The list of vendors mentioned here is not exhaustive and is meant only to illustrate the breadth of sponsorship. The summary of this project should not be taken to reflect the official views of the National Science Foundation or any of the project sponsors.

My organization, Internet Talk Radio, sees events like the Global Schoolhouse Project as the beginning of an Internet Town Hall, a place where national and international leaders and citizens can hold a continuing dialogue. Internet Talk Radio, in cooperation with other organizations, will be placing a 10 Mbps link from the Internet into the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. We hope that this centrally-located site will be a place where we can bring our leaders onto the network to talk to us on a regular basis.

For more information:
 About NSF:
 About CU-SeeMe:
 About FrEdMail:
 About This Message:
 Carl Malamud Internet Talk Radio . 

Status Report 2 (toc)

The Global Schoolhouse Project

April 28, 1993

I am sitting in the back of the room here in Oceanside, California watching a wonderful example of new Internet technology. The school here is participating in an environmental study of their local environments and then collaborating with students in Tennessee, Virginia, and London who have done similar studies. The Macintosh screen projected in front of me contains 4 windows. In each window is live video feed from each of the sites. There is a separate audio feed over a phone line. The video is being passed over the Internet *LIVE* with Cornell University's CU-SeeMe software. The curriculum that the students are using was developed by Yvonne Andres of the FrEdMail foundation who teaches at the school in Oceanside, CA.

The format of the meeting is that the teacher in Virginia leads the meeting by asking questions of students and scientists at his own and each of the other sites. Each of the students has read VP Gore's book Earth in the Balance in preparation for this project. Students have tested water locally and are reporting on their findings to each other.

First Dr. Michael Nelson of VP. Al Gore's office greeted the students and then Dr. Robert Watson commented on how critical these issues are. Dr. Watson is an advisor to the VP on Ozone and global warming. He spoke of the immenant dangers of global warming, ozone depletion, and the increasing loss of biodiversity. He spoke of how this is affected by automobiles, energy consumption, agriculture, etc.

Students in Oceanside studied the San Luis Rey river near their school. This river has a serious problem with agricultural runoff and oil pollution. This leads to nitrate level of 44 parts per million which is devastating to many life forms. The students used a device that tested the amount of light that comes through water. They tested PH and Oxygen levels as well.

The students in Tennessee tested a river under the authority of the TN Valley Authority. TVA was established by congress in 1933 to help to conserve the natural resources in the area. There seems to be some good news from this site. The students studied records from the TVA and found that oxygen levels had increased over the last 13 years and that the aciditiy level was decreasing. The students participated in a trash pickup day which net 40 tons of trash. This was somewhat good news too, since there was less trash available to be picked up than in years past.

Students in Virginia studied the Potomac river that has suffered greatly due to a recent 400,000 gallon oil spill.

A student named Sarah from London spoke of the Crane river where they did rubbish surveys, nitrate tests, and fauna counts. There was some good news at this site to showing that progress can be made.

A Mr. Eggington from the London Ministry of Science asked the students in TN what their most distrubing finding was. The students said that it was urban runoff. The students felt that national leaders should designate a national water day to focus attention on these problems. They also felt tougher laws and heavier fines for polluters were in order.

There were several other questions passed back and forth. These included comments on how important the internet had been in the research and collaboration parts of this project. .

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