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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: cybrscol.asc

"Cyberspace Schoolhouse" - Maclean's, 94/01/17

Take from: Maclean's Magazine, January 17, 1994.

                        CYBERSPACE SCHOOLHOUSE
                 Written by: Chris Wood in Vancouver

Clinton Wright,  a  Grade 8 student at Beaver Valley Middle School in
Fruitvale, B.C.,  planned  to  spend part of this week working with a
partner on a project to study the activities of North America's First
Nations.  That in itself  is  hardly unusual.  What is more startling
is that the 13-year old's partner is not a classmate at Beaver Valley
or even another student  in  the same school district in southeastern
British Columbia.  In fact, Wright's companion  does not even live in
Canada.  Instead, armed with the  powers  of linked computers, Wright
will be doing his research and writing his report with a partner in a
school more  than  5,000 kilometers  away, in Holyoke, Mass.  "I will
use  e-mail,"  the  Canadian  student  explained to  Maclean's  in an
electronic message over a similar computer link.  "We will be trading
information from  each other's  libraries.   Each  teacker will get a
copy [of the report] and mark it."
   That innovative  assignment  should  earn  the  administrators  of
Wright's  school  district  an A for initiative.  While most Canadian
schools  have  installed  at  least some  computers, those in British
Columbia's  District 11, based  in the  city of  Trail, are among the
first to connect their machines to others  outside the classroom.  As
a  result,  the district's  3,500 elementary,  middle and high-school
students can now communicate electronically with libraries, databases
and fellow students around the world.
   Those new powers expand the large role that computers already play
at Beaver Valley.  School announcements once broadcast by loudspeaker
are  now distributed  on classroom  computer terminals.  Teachers use
the same  terminals  to maintain  students' records,  which are filed
electronically  with  the  school  office  -  and  kept off-limits to
students.   Many  of Beaver Valley's  270 pupils, meanwhile,  use the
computer lab to draft and correct assignments.  Notes Grade 8 student
Ryan Parkinson: "Computers  help because I can type faster than I can
write, and it is much easier."
   Still, the  critical link with other computer users came only late
last  year.  With  $150,000 in  provincial funding and the support of
local   volunteers,   school  administrators  first   established  an
electronic  network  linking all  12  area schools, then opened it to
the  community  at  large.  The result  was  Canada's third so-called
Free-Net,  or  nonprofit  community  computer  network, linked to the
U.S.-based, international  Internet.  The  two-month-old  connection,
says Grade 8 student Jennifer Dunlap, "allows me to travel around the
   For teachers like Grade 8 social studies instructor Darcy Samulak,
the  network  is a potent new tool.  "I've got kids reading congress-
ional  records,"  Samulak  enthuses.  "They think it's just so cool."
Also avaliable  through  the numerous Canadian and foreign government
agencies,  more  than  a  dozen  other   community  Free-Nets  and  a
federally funded  network of educational databases aimed specifically
at schools: the Ottawa-based Canada School Net.
   But  to Wright, the network's appeal has less to do with the staid
goals of  education  than  with youthful curiosity.  "I like to go to
NASA and find out the flight patterns of the space shuttle," he says.
"It takes  about 30  seconds."   For the  students  of Beaver Valley,
tucked into a once-remote cleft of the rugged Selkirk Mountains, such
achievements   affirm  their  wider  citizenship  in  a  world  where
computers are making geography increasingly irrelevant.

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