June 30, 1995 By James Evans
Problem/situation: Schools generally lacking resources to hook into the Internet.
Solution: Grants, bonds, partnerships.
Level of Gvt: Local school districts.
Jurisdiction: Mendocino, Calif; Haverstraw, N.Y.; Houston, Texas; Kobe, Japan; Santa Cruz, Calif., U.S. Department of Education, local school districts.
Vendors: Sun Microsystems, Apple Computer, Students Online, American Electronics Association..
Contact: Students Online Inc. 800/258-3517.
by James Evans
The fact that Freda Rose Moon is a high school honors student and star soccer player aren't the only distinctions setting her apart from other students across the country. She also attends a school with fewer than 200 students that offers daily access to the Internet, placing her among a pronounced minority.
"I use the Internet to look for information for school projects," said the Mendocino High School freshman. "I found information about Guyana for my social studies class. I got some of the information I needed, but not all."
Moon, at age 15, has been using the Internet for two years through a computer lab set up by her rural Northern California school district, which offers classes and Internet access to students and anyone else in the community.
"It definitely adds something to classes," she said. "I probably spend about two class periods a week using the Internet. Nearly every student in school has used [it] at some point."
That puts Moon and Mendocino High School at the forefront of a new and expanding factor of elementary and secondary education - integration of the Internet into a school's regular curriculum. Although the Internet has been with us for nearly 25 years, only recently has word spread to school districts that the enormous amount of data - on almost any subject - could enhance traditional methods of study. Schools, like the general population, are beginning to recognize that the Internet has evolved from a relatively private domain of computer enthusiasts to the fastest growing area of information and commerce on the planet.
An irony in education's slow but tender embrace of this global electronic library, composed of networks of computer networks, is that the Internet was conceived in the late 1960s as a military defense strategy. University researchers and their Pentagon bosses realized that computers were destined to assume a very important place in the way the United States communicated during war.
The generals especially didn't want an enemy nuclear warhead to paralyze the nation's war machine by striking the center of its computer operations. The solution was to design a network of many centers. All would be connected, but none would be dependent on the other. If one center was taken out by a warhead, other centers would be able to stay online.
ARPANET TO INTERNET
In 1969 ARPANET was born, but academic use of it increased so rapidly that within a few years the Pentagon separated military and civilian traffic, altered the network's administration and funding sources and changed its name to the Internet. From four initial host computer systems, the Internet has grown to accommodate more than 1.5 million hosts providing access to an estimated 30 million people worldwide, with no signs of a slowed expansion.
Recent studies give a mixed report card to the nation's public schools when it comes to adopting new technology, yet the consensus is that the Internet is gradually winning students, teachers and administrators to its side. A report released last
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