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Introduction

The Internet is a vast global network that links millions of computers ranging from the smallest, handheld, personal digital assistants to the most powerful computer systems ever constructed.

The power of the Internet is that it allows a worldwide community comprising millions of people to communicate, access, and publish information. People use the Internet to access libraries throughout the world, to aid in research projects and cross-cultural studies, to enhance foreign language skills, and to simply exchange ideas and studies with their peers.

Within a few short years the Internet has reached into many areas of activity, often acting as an agent of profound change. Much of the evolution of the Internet has occurred in the university and research environments, but more recently it has entered a larger public arena. It is now making major inroads into primary and secondary (kindergarten through 12th grade) school environments around the globe, creating a new classroom tool to enhance the educational process.

The deployment of networking technology into the primary and secondary education environment has been limited to date. Yet it is in this environment that perhaps the most striking developments can be undertaken and the essential, basic groundwork laid for the longer-term productive integration of information technologies into our society. Accordingly, much needs to be done to ensure that the opportunities these technologies offer to children in the classroom are optimized.

Education and the Internet

The basic "glue" of the Internet is electronic mail (e-mail). Through e-mail, teachers and students can explore the world from their classrooms, exchanging messages and ideas with other schools around the globe.

Even if the scope of the Internet in education were simply that of "key pals" drawn from around the world, it would still be a valuable addition to the school environment. However, the Internet offers far more extensive and valuable educational resources and services. For example, the many electronic libraries available through the Internet greatly extend the research capabilities of both students and teachers. These libraries provide access to information from a wide variety of sources, combining text, pictures, sound, and even video clips.

The Internet also enables students and teachers to become contributors by allowing them to publish their own locally created reports or studies through Gopher and World Wide Web (WWW) servers.

The Internet includes a massive selection of network-mediated projects in which classes can participate. Indeed, the most difficult part of this activity can be choosing which project!

One area of active research and experimentation on the Internet is voice and video transmission. Already the initial results of this work are being used in the school environment through projects such as the Global Schoolhouse, which uses videoconferencing to bring students from different countries together to present research findings. See http://www.gsn.org/gsn/cu/index.html.

The network is a collaborative resource, built up with the help of all its participants. Thus, teachers are encouraged to organize their own projects and share involvement in them with their peers around the world.

The Internet in the Primary School Classroom

The introduction of networking technology can appear daunting in the primary school setting because this environment has traditionally not been technology-rich. However, the combination of communications technology and approachable computing is changing this thinking.

Through the Internet, teachers and students are gaining access to information and people resources that can be easily integrated into all areas of the curriculum. Consequently, the many projects offered on the Internet can be used to enhance a classroom theme or supplement required coursework. The following are just a few examples of the many and varied ways the Internet can be used by imaginative teachers:

· The International Newsday Project --- Students create their own newspapers using local information in addition to information obtained from their peers and other sources across the Internet. The schools publish their newspapers on WWW servers and send copies of the newspapers via postal services. Information is available at http://www.gsn.org/gsn/proj/newsd/.

Many opportunities for classroom activities arise from friendships made on the network. Often the most productive uses of the Internet result from classroom-to-classroom contact where teachers have exchanged e-mail over a period of time and have developed topics of study that are of mutual interest. The following are just a few examples of collaborative activities that have been made possible because of the Internet:

The Internet in the Secondary School Classroom

The Internet can profoundly change the way students learn in the secondary school classroom. Access to computers and networks motivates students and encourages independent learning and autonomy.

A good way to start in the secondary school is to establish a telecommunications club of interested students and provide them with the motivation and training they need to explore specific topics using Internet resources. These students are then in a position to share their acquired knowledge with their peers and teachers. This approach has the added benefit of encouraging students and teachers to work and learn together.

The Internet also lends itself to individual usage. This feature can be beneficial for students with special interests, where teachers may not have the expertise or time to provide the necessary individual attention.

Following are some examples of Internet services that have been successfully used in the secondary environment:

Professional Development

Teachers are using electronic mail and newsgroups to discuss teaching practices with their peers worldwide. Many are also publishing their lesson plans and information about local programs via Gopher or the WWW, as well as downloading these materials from other schools. Several regularly updated curriculum and study guides are available on line to help teachers with current events and science projects. See http://www.gsn.org and http://sunsite.unc.edu/cisco/schoolhouse.

The best way for teachers to meet on the Internet is to join one of the many mailing lists or newsgroup forums devoted to educational issues. They can subscribe to thousands of mailing lists on every topic imaginable, from dog breeding to the study of chaos theory. New topics appear every day.

Before You Start

Some effort is required to establish an Internet connection within a school. These notes are based on observations of how other schools have obtained connections.

A project of this nature is most effective with a school technology "evangelist." A networking advocate promotes the advantages of the Internet environment and acts as a catalyst for initial experimentation using the Internet within the school. Typically, but not always, such a person is on the school's teaching staff. This role has also been performed successfully by a parent, the school board, and even by students.

Technically adept volunteers from the local community can be invaluable mentors to teachers, administrators, students, and parents. For help in locating and recruiting such volunteers, contact Tech Corps at 800 285-6781 or http://www.ustc.org.

Gathering Funding

Funding is a task that becomes larger as the network access program achieves incremental success. A school can obtain initial individual computer access to the network for the cost of a modem, phone line, and Internet account access time. However, this individual access model becomes impractical because it does not scale well, so the next step is to install a school network with a higher-capacity connection. Startup costs for such a facility are higher and they depend on numerous factors, including the extent of the wide-area network (WAN) and the number of connected computers.

Many schools have developed creative fund-raising activities. You might start with Computer Learning Foundation's "Help Your School Build Partnerships and Raise Funds for Technology," at http://www.computerlearning.org/.

Other funding sources for telecommunications and interactive technologies for schools can be found in The Distance Learning Funding Sourcebook, from Kendall Publishing, 800 228-0810, or visit http://www.technogrants.com.

The Internet is an excellent place to search for grants. Tech Corp's website, http://www.ustc.org/resource.html fund, has descriptions and links to several grant sources.

Training

Using the Internet is not a skill that can be taught in a 90-minute group training session. Training is an extended process of personal exploration, fueled by Internet companions gathered along the way. One of the most effective training models is one or two staff members or a knowledgeable parent or community volunteer working with teachers over a period of weeks, introducing them to the Internet applications and resources that are relevant to the grade levels and subjects they teach. Teachers are interested in publishing their lesson plans and accessing other teachers' lesson plans, so showing them how this is done will likely turn them into Internet supporters! Typically, enthusiasm "infects" the school and the first teachers will in turn become trainers for other staff members and interested parents and students.

What doesn't work well is appearing at the door of a school with a truckload of computers and communication servers and expecting that somehow the school will take up the service immediately.

Getting Connected

There are many ways to connect to the Internet. Schools can start "small," but should keep in mind scalable connectivity options that will accommodate an increasing number of users without requiring entirely new networking solutions.

This section discusses the two most common connectivity options available for individuals and schools. A good initial configuration is a single personal computer (an Apple Macintosh, IBM PC, or PC-compatible), a modem, and a connection from a local Internet service provider (ISP). Such a configuration allows a single user to use all the functionality of the Internet at a minimal cost. However, schools that want to connect more than three or four computers to the Internet should consider the shared access connection method discussed in a later section.

Individual PC Access--- Modem Dialup Connection

Using a modem dialup connection is the least expensive and most common method for an individual to connect to the Internet from school or home, using a Macintosh or PC, a modem, and a telephone line on site. Using these components, you can access the Internet by dialing up an ISP. If you don't already own a modem, you should buy the best and fastest modem you can afford. Some popular high-speed modems are ones that conform to V.32bis (28.8 kbps) or V.34 (33 kbps) with V.42 (error correction) and V.42bis (data compression). The V.34 standard is becoming more widely available as a modem connectivity option.


In addition, new 56-kbps modems and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) are becoming popular as much faster ways for individuals to access the Internet. ISDN service is available through your local telephone company.

The Next Step---Shared Access

Once you have established a dialup connection, several things will probably happen. Word will rapidly spread around your school and you may find your modem and Internet access being borrowed throughout the day. You'll also most likely discover that your modem connection isn't fast enough to accommodate the bandwidth needs of the increasingly popular multimedia applications and resources available via the Internet. (Bandwidth simply refers to the speed or throughput of your connection.) Think of your connection to the Internet as a pipe that transports water --- the larger the pipe, the more water (or data) that can be transported. Many of today's Internet applications, such as interactive audio and video, pump a large amount of data through network pipes, more than most modem-type connections can handle.

Realizing that many people at your school will likely desire high-speed multimedia Internet access, you should start planning to build a local-area network (LAN) and obtain a higher-bandwidth connection to the Internet.

A LAN connects the computers in your school to allow printers, databases, and file servers to be shared, as well as enabling intraschool communication using electronic mail and conferencing software. Common LAN technologies in schools include LocalTalk, Ethernet, Token Ring, and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI); they typically operate at high speeds ranging from 230 kbps to 100 Mbps. Computers on LANs use network protocols to communicate with each other. These protocols or standards are simply the languages with which the computers speak to each other. The most popular protocols on school LANs are AppleTalk, Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), and IPX.


Shared Access LAN


When a LAN is in place, an Internet connection can be made by using a local router to link the LAN to the Internet. A router is an integral component of today's networks. It does just what its name implies: it routes information from one place to another or from one network to another. It is a network "traffic cop," directing packets --- or digital chunks of information --- through the internetwork highways. The router connects to your school LAN (or LANs) on one side and the wide-area network (WAN) link on the other side. The WAN link, obtained from your local phone company or a long-distance company (or both), provides the connection to your ISP. Different WAN technologies are available; choices depend on your bandwidth needs, geographical area, and budget. Common WAN speeds range from 9.6 kbps to 45 Mbps (T3 line), and link options include dialup phone lines, ISDN, leased lines, or Frame Relay. After you have made the WAN connection and installed desktop Internet software, the computers on your LAN have "direct" Internet connectivity, meaning you don't need a modem to make the connection.

This Internet access model is comparable to the telephone model of a handset and a telephone network. Within the Internet, your personal computer acts as the individual handset and the Internet is the same as the telephone network. As with the telephone network, where larger organizations use a private branch exchange (PBX) and connect this exchange to the telephone network, larger organizations may also use a LAN and connect this network to the Internet.

In another Internet access model, school districts form their own district-wide WAN comprising individual school LANs connected to the Internet via their district office. Not only is it more economical for individual schools to access the Internet as a group rather than individually, every site on this district-wide network can communicate with every other site. This connectivity not only fosters collaboration between teachers and resource sharing, it expedites district-wide administrative activities.


Choosing the Personal Computer

The IBM PC or Macintosh is the interface between the user and the Internet. In general, the only change required to use your computer on the Internet is installing Internet access software on it.

While almost any Macintosh computer can be used with Internet access software, a system with at least eight megabytes of memory and the Macintosh System 7.0 (or later) is recommended.

Similarly, almost any IBM PC or PC-compatible computer can be used, but a more recent system with at least a 486 processor and 12 megabytes of memory as recommended.

What about Software?

Internet access software is based on the Internet protocol called TCP/IP and is supported on Apple Macintosh and most IBM PC and PC-compatible computers. Fortunately, the software does not have to be expensive. For Macintosh computers, the necessary software is included with the latest version of Mac OS software or it can be purchased separately. For IBM PC and PC-compatible systems, a variety of free software, shareware, and commercial packages is available.

Layered above the basic network device drivers is a variety of client Internet applications such as WWW browsers (for example, Mosaic, Navigator, and Explorer) and audio/videoconferencing software (for example, CU-SeeMe). Many of these applications are available free over the Internet, so there is no need to spend a lot of money on customized packaged software.


Choosing an Internet Service Provider

Choosing an Internet service provider (ISP) is similar to selecting a long-distance carrier: in most areas the choices are many and a wide range of services and pricing structures are available. ISPs can be universities, community colleges, state agencies, small and large businesses, and nonprofit organizations. You can find out about ISPs in your area through local online forums and computer clubs, newspaper and magazine advertisements, and lists published in Internet books and guides.

Factors to consider when evaluating service providers include the following:

Price

Some ISPs offer access at a fixed rate per month or year. Others offer service at an hourly rate or by charging per megabyte of data transferred or archived. Although it is easy to compare pricing structures after a stable pattern of usage has been established, it is often difficult to forecast usage levels.

It's a good idea to use a service provider that offers unlimited access for a fixed monthly or annual rate, as long as the provider's price is within the bounds of reasonable parity with competitors. Generally, school budgets can handle a fixed commitment of a known amount more easily than a variable commitment without a ceiling on expenditure.

Support

If your school does not have its own networking staff, then extra support from the ISP is a necessity. Ask the provider about onsite configuration services, training services, startup software supplied with the service, and whether the provider operates a help desk with phone or e-mail consultation.

In addition, peer assistance can prove invaluable, and some service providers organize user meetings and similar gatherings to assist their customers in using the Internet more effectively.

Access

If the ISP offers dialup access, be sure to ask about the size of the modem pool and the number of clients. If the modem pool is constantly overused, it will prove almost impossible to access the service. Ask the following questions:

Ancillary Services

Internet connectivity requires ongoing network administration configuration and maintenance. Your ISP may offer these services, so be sure to ask.

For dialup users: ask your ISP if maintenance of a user account and mailbox is offered on your behalf, with (preferably) at least one megabyte of mail spool space. The spool space is very important because it holds your mailbox. Ask also about Post Office Protocol (POP) or Interactive Message Access Protocol (IMAP) access to your mailbox --- these technologies enable your computer to retrieve electronic mail more conveniently from the ISP spool area and allow you to use a graphical "point-and-click" e-mail application off line.

For direct access users: ask your ISP if registration of network identifiers, such as Internet domain name (for example, cisco.com) and Internet network number are offered. You will also need an Internet server computer that performs the following functions:

Commercial Internet server packages that run on a variety of platforms are available, or your ISP can assist with many of these services.

Performance

It is important to know how the service provider is connected to the Internet. For example, it is not effective to have a high-bandwidth, leased-line connection from your school to an ISP if the ISP is connected to the Internet by a 9.6-kbps modem connection. Generally, higher connection speeds allow the service provider to accommodate many users and operate more efficiently. It is also reasonable to inquire whether the ISP supplies regular reports to clients on quality of service, including details regarding service reliability, modem availability, and congestion events.

Glossary

CSU/DSU

A CSU/DSU (channel service unit/data service unit) is a network interface device, required at either end of a connection to an Internet service provider, that connects computing equipment to a local digital high-speed leased telephone line.

Electronic mail (e-mail)

E-mail is a simple-to-use yet very powerful communications tool. E-mail usually takes only seconds to reach its destination. Consequently, communication is as fast with someone from another country as it is with someone in the office next door.

Data protocols

Protocols or standards are formal descriptions of rules and conventions that govern how devices on a network exchange information. Simply put, they are the languages that computers and routers speak in order to share information across a local- or wide-area network. Common protocols in use at schools include AppleTalk, IPX, and TCP/IP. The language of the Internet is TCP/IP; your computers must be running TCP/IP in order to communicate on the Internet.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

FTP enables you to transfer files between your computer and a remote computer. A file can be anything --- a text or formatted document created using a word processor; a spreadsheet or software program; or a picture, movie, or sound file. A common use of FTP on the Internet is to download software programs.

Hub

A hub is a LAN device that serves as a central "meeting place" for cables from computers, servers, and peripherals. Hubs typically "repeat" signals from one computer to the others on the LAN. An example of a hub is the Cisco 1500 series Micro Hub.

ISDN

ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. Available from many phone companies, Basic Rate Interface (BRI) ISDN offers two 64-kbps channels that can be used for voice, data, or both. BRI ISDN is becoming a popular choice for individuals and small school LANs as a WAN connection option for Internet access.

Kilobits per second (kbps)

Kilobits per second means thousands of bits of data transferred per second. It is a common way of specifying the speed of a dialup connection; that is, the number of bits (1s and 0s) that can be transmitted over a wire in a single second. Most modem connections operate at speeds between 9.6 kbps (9600 bits per second) and 33 kbps (33,000 bits per second).

Local-Area Network (LAN)

Typically a LAN is used within a single building or set of buildings. It enables communication between computers and the sharing of local resources such as printers, CD readers, databases, and file and video servers.

Modem

A modem is a computer appliance that converts the digital signal from your computer into an analog sound wave that can be transmitted over telephone lines. A modem at the remote end converts the analog signal back into a digital signal that is understood by the computer which you're using.

Megabits per second (Mbps)

Megabits per second means millions of bits per second. It is a common way of specifying the speed of a local- or wide-area network (WAN) connection or the number of bits (1s and 0s) that can be transmitted over a wire in a single second. Many LANs operate at speeds of 10 Mbps; a T1 leased-line WAN connection operates at 1.544 Mbps.

Router

A router is an integral component of today's networks. It does just what its name implies: it routes information from one place to another or from one network to another. It is a network "traffic cop," directing packets --- or digital chunks of information --- through the internetwork highways. It can also segment network traffic, preventing network "traffic jams" (congestion) and providing security. An example of a router is the Cisco 1600 series of Internet/intranet access routers, which links schools together and connects them to the World Wide Web.

Switch

A switch is a network device that enables the easiest, most economical performance improvement of a busy network. A switch segments a LAN so users get more bandwidth. Switching technology works well to make high-speed networks more flexible --- bandwidth gets delivered when and where it's needed. An example of a switch is the Cisco Catalyst® 1900, providing cost-effective connectivity for up to 1024 personal computers.

Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)

TCP/IP is the common name for the suite of protocols developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1970s to support construction of worldwide networks. TCP/IP is the "language" of the Internet.

Web Server

A Web server is a network device that stores and serves up any kind of data file, including text, graphic images, video, or audio. Its stored information can be accessed via the Internet, school district intranet, or via connected computers. Among its various functions, it is used to create Internet Web pages and to "post" information, such as homework assignments, school sporting calendars, and cafeteria menus. An example of a Web server is Cisco Systems' Micro Webserver.

Wide-area network (WAN)

A WAN is a collection of connected LANs. A WAN is typically constructed to span numerous locations within a single city, across a country, or even across the world.

For More Help...

Cisco Systems has established several help resources that provide advice on the use of Internet resources within schools and explain how to learn more about getting schools connected to the Internet.

The Education Helpline number is Cisco's free service of presales technical consulting. Cisco's team can answer your technical questions about Cisco products, explain how Cisco's products would be used in your specific environment, and help you make the best choice for your networking needs. Call 800 EDN TWKS or 800 336-8957, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

If you are already connected to the Internet, you can use a variety of Cisco's online services.

For information on Cisco products and services, consult the Cisco Connection Online (CCO) Web server: http://www.cisco.com.

Send questions regarding Cisco education programs to our education e-mail hotline: edu@cisco.com. An automated response will answer the most frequently asked questions and direct you to contacts or Web sites for more help.

For more information about Cisco's education programs, consult the Cisco Networking Education Web Source (CNEWS): http://www.cisco.com/edu.

Cisco also offers a variety of instructional and technical resources, including:

For information on many of the classroom Internet projects mentioned in this booklet, check out the Global Schoolnet Foundation's Web server at http://www.gsn.org. See also its Internet Projects Registry: http://www.gsn.org/gsn/proj/index.html.

Many books are available to help you better understand the Internet. The Internet Companion: A Beginner's Guide to Global Networking by Tracy LaQuey, published by Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, is recommended.

The Internet offers a plethora of education-related Web sites. A sampling of some of the best, according to Tech Corps, can be found at http://www.ustc.org/resource.html.

Internetworking Seminar Video Series

Cisco has developed a video training program to assist educators in designing and building their school networks. This eight-hour seminar, "Cisco Internetworking Academy for Education," is ideal for technology directors, computer teachers, and students. It provides introductory information about how networks are built using routers, switches, and Category 5 Ethernet cable. Additional topics covered include the OSI model, structured wiring schemes, IP addressing, subnet masking, basic router configuration, and network troubleshooting. This series is available, with extensive handouts, from the Computer Learning Foundation by calling 415 327-3347. An NTSC format is $49.95; PAL format is $69.95. The series can also be ordered through the Computer Learning Foundation's Web site at: http://www.computerlearning.org.

Cisco Educational Programs

The Virtual Schoolhouse Grant Program

The Virtual Schoolhouse Grant Program is available to primary and secondary schools in the U.S. and participating countries (see http://www.cisco.com/edu/ for a list of participating countries). Each year, Cisco awards products, services, and training to selected schools that develop a plan and demonstrate the ability to support and implement an internetworking site. Grants are to be used for curriculum-based applications such as Internet access and in-classroom learning. The Grant Program is announced each October, applications are due in March, and grants are awarded the following June. For grant information and an application, see http://www.cisco.com/edu/.

The International Schools CyberFair

Cisco Systems is a major sponsor of the International Schools CyberFair, a demonstration of WWW publishing in schools and how schools can share knowledge and skills on a worldwide basis. Beginning each October and concluding in May, the CyberFair allows schools to showcase their local communities on the Web and compete against each other for prizes. For more information, see http://www.gsn.org/gsn/cb/index.html.

Who Is Cisco Systems?

Cisco Systems, Inc., (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet. Cisco's products --- including routers, LAN and WAN switches, dialup access servers, and network management software --- are integrated by Cisco IOS software to link geographically dispersed LANs, WANs, and IBM networks.

Cisco actively supports and participates in numerous Internet and educational networking organizations and programs. In addition to sponsoring the International CyberFair, an online contest for K-12 schools, Cisco is an official corporate sponsor of NetDay, a grassroots volunteer effort to wire K-12 schools, providing funding, technical expertise, and volunteers to this international project. In addition, Cisco provides corporate sponsorship of and equipment to GlobalLearn, a nonprofit organization that prepares students for global citizenship by teaching them about the world outside their neighborhoods; and Cisco is a corporate patron of Tech Corps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing K-12 teaching and learning through effective use of technology in the classroom. Cisco Systems financially supports the Global Schoolhouse Project, an internationally recognized program for demonstrating use of the Internet in K-12 classrooms. In addition, Cisco participates in the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the Council of Great City Schools, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and the Internet Society. Cisco Systems is a major participant in the National Science Foundation's Internet2 project to create a very high-speed network to support national research programs by interconnecting colleges, universities, research institutions, and supercomputer facilities.

Company news and product/service information are available at http://www.cisco.com. Cisco's headquarters are in San Jose, California.

Acknowledgments and Thanks


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Posted: Thu Mar 25 15:03:31 PST 1999

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