The following article appeared in the January 15, 1995 issue of The Seattle Times.
If you live in the Puget Sound area, and have grade-school children or teach them, there's a good chance your school or school district is using the Internet. And even if it's not, there's a world of educational resources for teachers, parents and children to use on their own. Come see for yourself. Don't have your own Internet wheels? No problem, we'll show you how to get there via local public libraries and provide other help here and inside this section.
Having spent most of his professional life teaching music, Currie Morrison now spends his work time with computer networks that lets Nathan Hale High students reach out across the world via the Internet.
Mark Ahlness, whose background is in special education and art, takes his Arbor Heights Elementary students on visual tours of the Louvre and Smithsonian via the worldwide computer network.
Tollie Porter taught physical education for 23 years but now is helping Martin Luther King Elementary become part of an "electronic village."
Andy Smallman, a former radio DJ, now takes his students to a "virtual dorm" for lessons on how to use the Internet.
Five years ago these folks, like most of the world, had little or no experience with the Internet. Now they're on the cutting edge, using the worldwide computer network for teaching. They're using electronic mail, sure, but they're also moving further out by creating databases, publishing online and hanging out in virtual dorms.
None is a rocket scientist. Yet their experience shows that if you've got the drive, some help from peers and support from school administrators, the Internet can be a viable teaching tool.
Granted, the Internet is not the only online source for education. Subscriber-based online services have valuable resources, but in most cases you also pay for them by the hour.
The beauty of the Internet, for schools as well as individuals, is that access is low-cost, particularly for school districts that can spread use across dozens of schools. That's why schools nationwide are wiring themselves for direct access. And it may help explain why, in the Puget Sound area at least, public schools are ahead of private schools in building onramps.
Come along on a field trips to see what local schools are doing that goes beyond e-mail and into electronic publishing. We tried to be comprehensive, but let us know if we've left anyone out.
As we tour, you'll see pointers, with each item: (G) shows a gopher address, (W) a World Wide Web address and (E) and (P) show the e-mail address and good old phone number for more information.
For those without their own Internet wheels, the accompanying article "Online via public libraries" explains how to follow along using terminals at any local public library.
For those with wheels but still learning how to drive, some tips:
Gopher. Of the big three subscriber services, only America Online connects to "gophers" (thousands of information sites worldwide linked seamlessly by special software). But its access is indirect; you cannot type in an address to go someplace. AOL does, however, have an education folder within its gopher menu that will take you to many sites.
World Wide Web. No doubt about it, this is the Internet's future--information sites that come to life with graphics and audio files reached with the ease of a computer mouse. It's still a challenge to gear up for that access, but it's getting easier.
One way is to check out the downtown Seattle Public Library, where two PCs provide full multimedia access. Prodigy says it will offer a gateway to the Web starting this week, making it the first major commercial online service to provide full multimedia Web access. Small, local companies provide full Web access and the better ones will guide you on. And software products such as "Internet In A Box," IBM's OS2/Warp operating system, and Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 95 are helping ease entry.
But what to do if all you've got is a plain vanilla access that can't provide sound and video? As long as you have gopher access you also have access to lynx, a program that lets you read the text contained in files found in Web databases. If you have your own account, type lynx at the command line -- that should get you started. If it doesn't or if you're using the public libraries to access the Web, see the accompanying article about access via public libraries for instructions.
Finally, a warning. Because many of the Web sites listed below are under construction they may be down when you try to access them. Just check back a few hours later.
While several schools have so far worked individually to create gopher and Web sites, the Seattle public school district is wiring up to provide basic Internet accounts to teachers districtwide. A longer term plan hopes to connect schools to each other and to provide full multimedia Web access. The schools bond issue next month would provide money to wire 20 schools if approved by voters, leaving 60 still to be wired at an estimated cost of $16 million.
(P) 281-6876 Paul Robaidek
Nathan Hale High
Backed by 1991 technology levy funds and nine student technicians, technology coordinator Currie Morrison has wired the school from top to bottom so that each classroom has a Macintosh with full Internet a access, including the Web. Vice Principal Kathy Purcell says the school is also looking at using the network to create electronic student assessment portfolios.
The school has its own gopher and Web site with a section for the student newspaper. Plans include posting homework assignments, giving each teacher his or her own place on the Web, and maybe even putting the yearbook online.
Already, a few students have their own Web pages; 250 of the school's 1,000 students have e-mail accounts; and about that may have taken gopher classes. History students have gone out in search of background and special-education classes have used the access to reach beyond their rooms.
Arbor Heights Elementary
Mark Ahlness had dug into his own pocket to put his school on the Web map. Each of his third graders gets half an hour a week to explore sites such as the Louvre and the Smithsonian Institution. School information online includes the PTSA and student newsletters. The school itself also has a classroom where 5th graders work mainly on laptop computers.
Ahlness hopes to use the Seattle School District's Internet gateway once full Web access is ready, but for now relies on a private account he pays for himself. The newsletter editor, teacher Gretchen Thompson, also is paying for her own full-access account. Both are seeking hardware-software donations to beef up their system.
Martin Luther King Elementary
Computer teacher Tillie Porter is helping implement a City of Seattle grant to create and "electronic village" for teachers, students and community members. McCaw Cellular has donated 14 IBM ThinkPad computers with cellular modules for wireless data connections.
Later this month, it hopes to add e-mail and gopher access to its computer lab, which is open to the entire community Monday through Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m. A Web site is planned for this spring and volunteer helpers are always welcome.
(P) 281-6895 Jay Franco
Funded by a grant from McCaw Cellular, this gopher is still under construction.
Technology coordinator Andy Barker and six student technicians have helped wire the school to the point that it now has a gopher and Web page. Barker has also looked into using a Multiuser Simulated Environment (MUSE) to allow kids to learn by role playing in a live chat area.
(P) 440-2798 Andy Barker
The Bush School
The school has provided Internet accounts to some teachers and students at neighboring M.L. King. It is also creating a Web site where initially seven students plan to put up information. The school has issued some 300 Internet accounts to teachers and students.
St. Philomena Elementary
Still under construction, but this Des Moines Catholic school is preparing student artwork to display online.
(P) 824-4051, Dale Beasley
The district itself is taking the lead, and has an impressive Web site that it plans to make available to all of its 37 schools. Kent Meridian is the furthest along, with students creating their own Web pages. Right now the focus is on training teachers to use Internet tools and create Web pages.
Technology manager Rick Feutz says the district uses a "teacher toolbox" metaphor to pitch the network as a way to assist teachers. Plans are to place student assessments online for teachers to use and lesson plans that can be tailored to individuals.
(P) 813-7591. Rick Feutz
The district, one of the first to offer e-mail accounts and have its own gopher, plans to have its own Web site within nine months, and will add more Northwest history resources to its gopher within the next six weeks.
(P) 455-6200, John Newsom
New Horizons for Learning
This group works closely with the Bellevue School District. What makes it unique is that it sells Internet accounts for $100 a year and caters to teachers, parents, students and educational groups that want to get online. In the future, it hopes to offer full Web access as well as build its own Web site.
Subscribers have access to conference areas and information organized by "floors." The group also has great print material for newcomers and those still learning.
(P) 547-7936, Teri Howatt
The district plans e-mail and Web and gopher sites for student publications by late winter.
(P) 670-7104, Steve Goodwin
Mount Rainier High
The district plans to put a gopher at Mount Rainier High School, which now uses a private account to house a Web site that includes the student newspaper. A November article explains how a PTA member pushed the school to get online.
(P) 433-2201, Jay Davis
Student have put together Web pages for the district. By the end of the school year, the district hopes to have a gopher and a dial-in bulletin board with Internet access.
(P) 361-4225, Dick Stucky
Still under construction, includes links to sites about animals.
Under construction, but has lots on extracurricular activities.
Backed by a network advisory team of teachers, administrators, community members and GTE, the district expects to offer Internet connections within the next nine months.
(P) 489-6435, Mike Massengill
Puget Sound Community School
Andy Smallman is using the Internet as a tool for an innovative idea: a school that has no set location but meets at places like parks, libraries and bookstores. It's an attempt to mix the best of home schooling with the advantages of traditional schools.
Each of his 11 students has an Internet account via the Bellevue School District. And each Tuesday at 8:15 p.m., students get Internet training via a "virtual dorm" in Ohio. You need what's called telnet access to get there; the address is bigbird.stark.k12.oh.us 7777. If you get lost, type the word prof and hit the return key to get in touch with Smallman.
Smallman is looking for volunteers to help him create a Web site.
Lummi Island Beach School
Still under construction, but the start is promising for this school off Bellingham's coast.
(P) (360) 647-8181, Robert Keller
Other northwest online K-12 resources
The state Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington Information Procession Cooperative have teamed up to create several gophers and Web sites. The INSPIRE gopher contains grant information, training guides and links to some of the schools listed here as well as many outside Washington. The links include one to an archive of K-12 newsgroups on Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board.
The team also provides Internet accounts for teachers via nine statewide Educational Service Districts and sponsors online discussion lists for classrooms on topics such as Native Americans, media impact, poetry, dinosaurs, Washington history, state Legislature, and weather.
If you work for or have children at a local public school but can't find out what online resources are available to you, contact these folks. All in all, this site is probably the best place to start your field trip.
(P) (360) 664-3111
KCTS-TV, Channel 90, offers Puget sound-area educators free access to Internet e-mail, topic forums, CNN lesson plans and much more. The site is open to educators whose school districts are part of the Learning Services Cooperative. Check with your school or call KCTS to see if your district is authorized.
University of Washington
The UW's Project DO-IT runs what it likes to call a "gopher garden," where folks can sow and reap information on disabilities. It's particularly good for special-education programs and has great links to Internet guides and lesson plans.
Seattle Pacific University
Funded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a catalog database for K-12 science, math and technology teachers will be going online soon. The site will include links to statewide and national resources.
(P) 281-2504 Shirley Riley
Offers educational research and development aimed more at Northwest teachers than students or parents. Areas include drug-free schools, Indian education, race/sex equity and rural education.
(P) (503) 275-0665
NASA is funding a three-year, $900,000 project to provide high bandwidth connections to Seattle, Lake Washington, Bellevue and Northshore school districts. By next year, four pilot classrooms are expected to have fast Web access to detailed NASA images. The Web site already looks pretty nice.
(P) (360) 664-3111
Area schools take kids and teachers on electronic field trips
Online via public libraries
Each King County and Seattle Public Library branch has at least once public terminal with gopher access to the Internet. These gateways do not allow you to type in a gopher address, but you can search for sites you know about. The library gateways list several places you can start. The Library of Congress (LC) is one that opens doors to the rest of the Internet in four important ways:
- Navigating geographically. From the Library of Congress main menu, follow this path of menus: Internet Resources/Gophers/University of Minnesota. From there move to North America, then USA, then Washington. There you'll find 40 sites, including the state's INSPIRE gopher for schools.
- Searching by keyword. To search the Library of Congress menus, at the main menu go to the search all LC menus option. Typing in a keyword such as K-12 will get you started. To search beyond the Library of Congress, from the LC main menu follow this path: Internet Resources/gophers/Veronica. Use Veronica to search gopher directories worldwide by keyword or words.
- Navigating by subject. At the LC main menu, select Global Electronic Library. That will take you through broad, and then more specific, subject menus.
- Getting to the Web. From the Library of Congress mainmenu, follow this path: Internet Resources/World Wide Web/NJIT. Whereas most other public sites are restrictive, this one allows full Web access. Once logged in as www, type g, hit return, and you'll be asked for an address. Type in any of the ones listed in the main story.
Both library systems also provide other Internet services:
- Access to e-mail. Via the library gateways, you can get to the Seattle Community Network. which issues free e-mail accounts.
- Free Internet workshops are also offered periodically. For Seattle Public, call 386-4636, For King County, call 684-6605.
- Dial-in by modem: For Seattle Public, 386-4140; for voice help, call 386-4134. For King County 382-2116 (Seattle area), 788-2659 (Woodinville), 630-2898 (Covington), 313-9159 (Issaquah); for voice help, call 462-9600.
Other free or local resources:
- ASKEric. Talk to a real person at this great reference desk for teachers and parents. Tips on printed material as well as Internet resources. (800) LET-ERIC.
- Math/science. Dial-up database and conferencing for K-12 math and science teachers. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Modem number is (800) 362-4448. Voice (614)292-7784.
- Local users group. The Macintosh Downtown Business Users Group has a K-6+ special-interest group that meets periodically. Call 624-9329.
- TV program. Cable channels 27 and 28 will air "Tools for Technology," a half-hour program about schools. Channel 27: Jan. 23 and Feb. 6 at 5 p.m. Channel 28: Feb. 2 and Feb. 9 at 8:30 p.m. and Feb. 13 at 5:30pm.
- School technology conference. Statewide meeting will focus on networks, human and computer. Jan. 26-27 at SeaTac Red Lion. Call 439-6903 for details.