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Monograph Series Volume IV, Number 3

Executive Summary

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Issue Area One: Curriculum Integration: How Will It Be Done?

Issue Area Two: Staff Development How Will It Be Structured? Who Will Be Responsible For The Training?

Issue Area Three: Community And Democracy: How Does Access To The World Change The Way We Teach About Our Community?

Issue Area Four: Vision/Purpose: How Will The Internet Change The Focus Of Schools?

Issue Area Five: Access: Who Will Have Access? How Will It Be Accomplished?

Issue Area Six: Ethical And Legal Concerns: What Are They And How Will They Be Addressed?

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Executive Summary

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 of schooling.

Conference Outcomes

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 their schools.

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.

Critical Issues

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 Internet?
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 Schools?
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 Addressed?
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 project.

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.

Resource List
  • Betts, F. (1994, April). On the birth of the communication age: A conversation with David Thornburg. Educational Leadership, 51 (7), 20-23.

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