Teaching at the Speed of Light: The Fiber-Optic Connection

By Mielke, Angela; Phelps, Sandra D. et al. | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), April 1989 | Go to article overview

Teaching at the Speed of Light: The Fiber-Optic Connection


Mielke, Angela, Phelps, Sandra D., Schwartz, David, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Teaching at the Speed of Light: The Fiber-Optic Connection

In the 1990s, change and federal involvement will determine the character of America's educational system. American demographic trends indicate major population shifts that will affect the American labor force. The teaching profession is expected to be hardhit. In 1971, approximately 15 percent of first-year college students indicated a preference for a teaching career. Today, however, only 8 percent of the 1987 freshman class would like to teach. These disturbing statistics, if unchanged, will have both a quantitative and qualitative impact upon the nation's school districts, colleges and universities. The way out will have to be through increased productivity from an attenuated workforce.

A recent case in point involves a Supreme Court ruling that Chapter 1 personnel provision of services on parochial campuses is unconstitutional. Public law (P.L. 97-35 Chapter 1) requires local educational agencies to provide equitable services to non-public schoolchildren. Chapter 1 services must, therefore, be provided but not on parochial properties.

An Alternative

Two Louisiana schools, Breaux Bridge and St. Martinville, have found a novel way to provide Chapter 1 programs to parochial students. The principals of these schools felt it imprudent to transport students daily from parochial to public schools and back again. Instead, they began a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of servicing parochial students through an integrated learning system (ILS) that utilizes a microcomputer/mainframe network. In this system, the mainframe that relays instructional programming is in the public school, and public school personnel serve parochial Chapter 1 students by linkage through computer terminals on the parochial campus. Students are assigned terminals by their classroom teachers, with instruction and progress controlled via computer and by Chapter 1 personnel. This sytem of public/parochial computerized coordination and assessment is acceptable to the federal court.

Gerald Eddlemon, vice president of Statewide Teaching Aids and project director, notes that the general principle is to have a main computer console at the public school that feeds programming into off-site terminals on the parochial campus. Instruction originates at the public institution and is relayed to the private school. Student records are automatically saved on the public school's mainframe. Both public and private personnel receive inservice training on the operation of the system. Students access the ILS through individual log-on procedures, and the pace of instruction is determined by the student's progress.

The Process and The Cost

The Breaux Bridge/St. Martinville pilot program is believed to be the first of its kind to utilize an Apple/Corvus interface. Apple hardware was chosen because there is a deep reservoir of compatible instructional software to draw upon.

The first attempt tried to transmit data via ordinary telephone lines. After two months this system proved unworkable. It could cope neither with the transmission rates necessary nor with the transmission distances and the need to send network signals simultaneously to remote locations. …

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