Friday, May 30, 2008

Ultra-High Speed Internet2

Sometimes, the main obstacle between your middle schoolers and that absolutely amazing videoconference, collaborative project, or virtual field trip is your school's Internet connection. Meris Stansbury, assistant editor of eSchool News, reports on a solution: Internet2. More and more K-12 schools are connecting to this 100 gigabits per second network.

The Internet2 network was expanded 10 years ago to allow K-12 schools to gain access to Internet2 through partnerships with any of the 206 universities currently members of the network. Last year, about 4,300 districts total were in partnerships with member universities. Schools do need to have the right network infrastructure. But the investment yields a lot of great benefits for the district, the schools, the teachers and especially the students. The ultra-fast connection makes everything easier and finally possible. At the March conference of the Consortium for School Networking, presenters showcased some of the projects happening in schools, including:
  • In Barrow County, GA, K-12 schools "have used a high-definition video link to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to control cameras and view images of sea life remotely from their classrooms; learned calculus from Georgia Tech instructors using a "virtual whiteboard" application; and interacted with researchers on the ocean floor near Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary just off Sapelo Island, Ga."
  • The National Library of Medicine has created the Visible Human Project that has "complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies." In addition, the University of Michigan "created two- and three-dimensional navigational browsers through which students can take a virtual tour of the human body."
  • Project Lemonade brings students in grades 3-8 together from across the world to engage in "real-world problem-based" activities.
Universities also collaborate more with K-12 educators, offering assistance with using Internet2 in the curriculum, professional teacher development, and collaborative opportunities between university faculty and K-12 educators. Students love it, too. Ron Saunders, superintendent of Barrow County (GA) Schools, said, "We've found that kids are glued to the Internet2 presentations, and participation is at a high. We're trying to get them interested in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics], and this seems like a great way to do it."

SOURCE: "Internet2 expands schools' possibilities" 05/27/08
photo courtesy of Ack Ook, used under this Creative Commons license

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