Matthew A. Kollasch, Director
Instructional Resources and Technology Services
The communication age, according to David Thornburg, is here (Betts,
1994). The prevailing evidence supporting Thornburg's assertion is the
vast interest and growth of the Internet and the concurrent interest among
K-12 educators in integrating this computer network into school life.
Evidence of this keen interest can be found in the many Internet articles
in the popular and professional literature, the rapid growth of commercial
Internet vendors, and in communities developing and expanding community
networks to provide citizens access to the Internet.
Schools, it seems, always get mentioned when the issue of Internet arises.
America Online has numerous features for teachers and students and cable
and phone companies tell us, via sophisticated ads, that the future is
with them. And here in Iowa we have the Iowa Communications Network, a
fiber-optic communication network that hopefully will allow K-12 schools
greater Internet access.
Amidst this great array of potential resources are the educators of Iowa.
Many of whom are exploring how they can utilize the Internet in their
schools. As educators meet the challenge of providing Internet access to
students and staff, a variety of questions and concerns naturally arise.
Because the use of the Internet often becomes a community project,
questions and concerns should be addressed by the educational
community--including Area Education Agencies (AEAs), parents, PTAs, and
the Iowa Department of Education, as well as the community at
large--including public libraries and businesses.
To promote a team approach on a local level, conference planners decided
to invite teams from six Iowa school districts to a working conference on
the use of Internet in K-12 schools. They were Cedar Falls, Garner, Iowa
City, Spirit Lake, Tri Center, and Waterloo. Members of these teams
consisted of an administrator, teacher, technology person (often the
school librarian), board member, AEA representative and community person.
In addition to these schools, representatives from the Iowa Department of
Education, State Library, and two public libraries were in attendance.
University of Northern Iowa staff members also participated.
The purpose of this invitational working conference was to explore how
integration of Internet resources has the potential to change the nature
Develop better working relations among school and community leaders. The
potential opportunities and consequences, both good and bad, of the use of
Internet seem limitless. Therefore, schools should involve the community
in the planning, implementation and evaluation stages of Internet's use in
Develop a knowledge base relating to the identified critical issues to be
shared with others interested in effective integration of the Internet in
the K-12 setting. This information will also be disseminated on the
Internet via listserv and newsgroups.
Provide the team participants with common data with which to approach K-12
Internet applications in their communities and schools.
Develop an action agenda for use of Internet in the school culture.
Six critical issues were identified for examination. During the three day
conference the participants worked in assigned critical issue groups to
identify, define and prioritize critical issues within the broader issue
area; develop options for resolution of critical issues; and to reach
consensus on recommendations relative to the critical issues. Throughout
the conference, all of the participants gathered to share thoughts, ideas,
and recommendations identified by the issue groups.
1. Curriculum Integration: How Will It Be Done?
The Internet should be used to support and extend existing
curricula. It should, like all technological tools, be used for projects
that are developed from existing curricula and viewed as one of the many
information resources available. Educators and students have the
opportunity to share knowledge they create with others via the Internet.
What will be the effect Internet integration may have on the current
curricula? How will Internet be woven into the current curricula?
2. Staff Development: How Will It Be Structured? Who Will Be
Responsible for the Training?
As citizens of the Information Age, educators must have the
knowledge, skill, and ability to use the Internet in their professional
and personal lives. To realize this level of involvement with the
Internet, staff development for educators is imperative. How will
educators be prepared to lead and guide students in the use of the
3. Community and Democracy: How Does Access to the World Change the
Way We Teach about Our Community?
Schools engaged in citizenship education must integrate the
Internet into their curricula with the goal of creating active involvement
and engagement with regional issues and local life. Schools should strive
to create active and responsible citizens through the use of the Internet.
How will the Internet help to create involved citizens?
4. Vision/Purpose: How Will the Internet Change the Focus of
To some, the Internet is like Mt. Everest, we climb it because
it is there. In the school environment, this is not sufficient reason to
dedicate large amounts of limited resources. How will the Internet help
prepare our children to be lifelong learners and contributing members of
society, well into the 21st century?
5. Access: Who Will Have Access? How Will It Be Accomplished?
The many aspects of access include: funding (getting
financial support and how this will affect other school programs);
technological "friendliness" (barrier or vehicle); determining the best
connectivity model for your school; expanding access beyond one terminal
to full school access and remote log-in; time restrictions; and access
equity - who gets the access and when - teachers, students,
administrators, secondary, elementary?
6. Ethical and Legal Concerns: What Are They and How Will They Be
The Internet is an information/communication system for
everyone and about everything. How can we provide access to that world
within an open context that allows students to explore the system with
freedom? Is it our responsibility to teach students the etiquette that
has evolved among users of the Internet?
Each participant prioritized issue areas and was invited to write a
position paper on the area of greatest interest. Papers were submitted
prior to the conference, copied and sent to participants in the same issue
area. This monograph is a compilation of the position papers in each
issue area as well as the consensus reports developed by the six groups
during the three day conference and written by each group's facilitator.
Representatives from the Iowa Research and Educational Network (IREN)
provided participants information into various models of providing schools
connections to the Internet.
In addition to Iowa participants, educators from Kennedy Elementary School
in Mankato, Minnesota, were invited to provide insight on their experiences
in providing Internet access. Kennedy School provides full Internet
access for students, staff, and parents. They did this through a panel
discussion and by participation in critical area groups. Their
contribution was not only informational, but also inspirational. They
were able to accomplish what they have because it became a community
The concept that the entire community should become involved in K-12
Internet projects was reinforced by the dialogue among participants.
Public librarians discussed issues with university professors and members
of the business community, while classroom teachers debated the impact of
the Internet with school board members. In the process, each gained
insight on how others perceive issues surrounding K-12 Internet use.
Conference planners wanted the ideas generated at this conference to
become an action agenda for Iowa school districts. Recent reports from a
participating team, Spirit Lake Community Schools, indicates that this has
been the case for them. The Spirit Lake team combined ideas learned at
the conference with their own to plan and initiate an Internet project in
their district. Teachers and students there now have access to the full
array of Internet resources.
There is an old saying about how the village raises the child. With the
Internet, it will be the global, as well as the local village, that
participates in raising and educating the child. The papers included in
this monograph can provide educational leaders a practical resource for
understanding the varied complex issues raised when a school and community
focuses on providing the opportunity to include the Internet as a resource
for learning and teaching.
- Betts, F. (1994, April). On the birth of the communication age: A
conversation with David Thornburg. Educational Leadership, 51 (7),
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