Emerging Synergies: Schools and Community Networks; Getting Schools Online

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Frank Odasz, Melanie Goldman, Bill Coker

Frank Odasz
"There are a lot of changes afoot....[with] the new media," says Frank Odasz. We may know the technical side of the new media, but we don't know how to apply the new media. Odasz specifically presented on the changes occurring in schools. Odasz sees the walls of the classrooms "disintegrating." The new media -- the computer networks -- are bringing down the walls. Odasz sees a future, not far from now, in which schooling will be a lifelong process ("K-100"). Learning will occur more often in businesses, homes, and public libraries. In this future, according to Odasz, students will not only need to know the 3 R's (Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic), but also two additional R's (Research and Relationships). Odasz concluded his presentation by showing the audience members around the recently constructed Big Sky Telegraph (BST) web site. Odasz is the Director of BST.

Melanie Goldman
Melanie Goldman, currently the Co-Principle Investigator for the National School Network Testbed, presented results from studies she has done on the National School Network Testbed Projects. Like Odasz, Goldman also sees schooling and learning changing as a result of the new media. "Learning will be drastically changed," said Goldman. In addition, Goldman said schools can not exist in isolation, they must be involved in the community. In her studies of case studies of schools and communities working together, Goldman arrived at three general findings.

  1. School/community projects are in their infancy.
  2. Schools are taking a proactive stance to building infostructure for community.
  3. Visionaries are needed to get these types of projects off the ground--Visionaries are able to get support and are also able to articulate in an understandable language a shared vision of a project to community members. The visionaries are the change agents that help bring about the innovation of the new media in a community.

William Coker
William Coker is the Superintendent of Animas Public Schools in Animas, New Mexico. In his presentation Coker talked of linking his school district and the community of Animas via computer and video technology. Animas is community of 2,200-2,500 people with a student population of about 600 in K-12. Animas has no local newspaper. The closest public library is 80 miles away. The new media technology is beginning to bring the world to Animas. Coker has had the opportunity to design, bid, oversee construction, install equipment, provide staff training, develop system security and implement the usage of district-wide network system that includes audio, video, data and voice for the entire district. While this system is in its infancy, the district has completed this task in just over ten months. Coker is now working with a prominent local business in Animas to complete the community wide network system linking the school to its patrons. As was noted by Goldman, Coker noted the important partnership that is needed between local businesses and schools. Local businesses want schools to train their future employees; in turn, businesses provide funds for the telecommunity infrastructure. All three presenters noted that there is a synergistic relationship between the businesses and the schools in a local community. Coker can be reached at: voice (505) 548-2299 and via fax: (505) 548-2388.

Reported by Will.