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Lessons Stateside

Bringing the Internet to School: Lessons from an Urban District

Janet Ward Schofield, Ann Locke Davidson, Jossey-Bass pound;20.50

Bringing the Internet to School is an in-depth account of the findings of the NET (Networking for Education Testbed) project, which was based in the Waterford Public School in the US from 1993-98. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the rollout of networks went into 29 schools and this charts its infrastructure, training and development over the five-year period.

Most of the teachers and librarians involved were novices, but through careful implementation and an almost evangelical zeal, the NET team fostered a grassroots development of computer use in most schools.

The research does not link the raising of academic standards to increased online use of computers, but instead points to the increased student confidence and increasing take-up of professional development among teachers.

The factors for sustained internet use in school are outlined: teamwork, project ownership, collaboration, strong teacher leadership, team cohesion and technical backup. The six main areas of implementation might be familiar: archival research of websites; contacting others online for information; interacting with others to exchange information; getting sustained help from adults or experts; producing curricular materials; and online training.

The researchers do not shirk from the problems such as the mechanics of teaching a small group of children on computers within a whole class; lack of teacher time; limited hardware; technical expertise of some pupils compared to the relative inexperience of most teachers; and inappropriate online content.

The research shows teachers will invest a lot of time and effort in developing a pedagogy for online learning but only if they perceive the training and implementation of the project is locally relevant and coming from them; they are resistant to blanket initiatives imposed from above.

Leon Cych

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