Magazine article Technology & Learning

E-Mail Bridges to School Collaboration

Magazine article Technology & Learning

E-Mail Bridges to School Collaboration

Article excerpt

I'm dismayed when I hear teachers bemoan the fact that "all" the computer-based telecommunications service they have available is e-mail. Despite the press to gain World Wide Web access for schools, most of the traffic on the Internet is still electronic mail, and e-mail is a major reason for having an online connection. Since the Internet is linked to thousands of smaller networks, e-mail can reach people and resources around the world. and bring powerful dimensions to your classroom curriculum. Here is how a group of Connecticut schools got started.

A consortium of school districts in Bristol, Canton, Plainville, and Burlington/Harwinton decided to take the plunge while developing a series of science units for grades 3-8. They wanted these to be cooperative in method and interdisciplinary in content. Each unit featured a scientist visiting classrooms to share original research, with follow-up student investigations related to the topic. Students sent experiment results to a central database, and the complete data were returned to each class for interpretation. In the Acid Rain unit for Grades 5-6, for example, students measured the pH (acidity) of common liquids, investigated the effect of water acidity on radish seed germination, and measured the pH of rainfall.

To facilitate the sharing of student data across towns, each school system secured an Internet account from The University of Connecticut--at a cost of $200 per year--and scheduled "how to" workshops for administrators and teachers. The project facilitator used e-mail to communicate with participants, and students and teachers quickly took to the system to send messages as well. In short order, a multitude of Internet applications had developed, all through e-mail, including these:

* Discussion groups: The facilitator monitored several online education discussion groups (e-mail subscriber lists united by common interest), and forwarded interesting messages to individual teachers. As a result, teachers began joining discussion groups themselves (see join-up instructions below).

* Online projects: Through the discussion groups, participants discovered additional online programs such as the "Electronic Emissary Project" at the University of Texas in Austin, which matches K-12 classes with subject matter experts. Through e-mail, each of the classes in the Acid Rain unit found an online "mentor" who provided guidance throughout the unit. You can get Electronic Emissary Project information from the director, Dr. …

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