Assignment#7: Communications Aspects of the Internet
Communications Aspects of the Internet,                              Jerry Garfunkel  
Report to Administration on
Benefits and Precautions of Internet Communications in the Classroom
 

There are many benefits and some liabilities to Internet Communications in the classroom. By far, the benefits out-weigh the liabilities.  I've addressed these issue separately below in three specific scenarios for using communications in the classroom
a) interactive videoconferencing (in any format, structured/unstructured, formal/informal, professional/amateur equipment)
b) internet telementoring (distance learning) 
c) telecollaborations between two groups of students

Benefits:
> Enables multicultural learning
> enables prejudice reduction,
> Provides potentially exotic experiences with places, with people (telementoring)
> appreciation of multiple perspectives.
> Potentially puts everyone on the planet in touch with everyone else on the plan
> Telecollaboration allows students in classrooms around the world to work on collaborative (and cooperative) projects without regard to physical location.  Naturally issues of time and language differences must be addressed. They are addressed in a separate paper I wrote on this subject.
> Choice of international collaborative projects for the two sets of students to work on is important (ISTE's Journal of Research on Technology in Education (Vol 37, Number 1, Fall 2004)
Frequent written exchanges between the students on both sides of the collaborative portal are essential.  Research shows that carefully planned Critical thinking exercises must be employed to fully benefit from cross cultural education.
> distant learning
>
real-time collaboration across schools, across continents (Classroom-to-classroom collaborative projects.)


Liabilities:
>  puts physical distance between teacher and learner or between two learners. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the electronics facilitates collaborating that might not otherwise have occurred.
> Potential issues of in-class IM chat and email, etc. This can be easily controlled by such systems as NetOP (a review of the NetOP system) and other Class-pc management systems.  (As we have installed at CWP)
> Privacy, security issues are looming large in many schools  - New private networks, maintained by many states and restricted to academic use have been created.  Ultimately this becomes an issue for the local community to deal with.  One can easily become paranoid about the safety of one's children, but there are methods to protect our children's security while provide them valuable experiences on the itnernet.
> Also Internet2, (http://www.internet2.edu)  a new secured internet protocol, addresses many of today's internet security/privacy issues. Perhaps, LIU should become involved in actively participating in the formation of this new protocol standards that is meant specifically to meet the needs of universities, and K-12 schools.
> Inappropriate web site surfing
> violation of AUP
> personal (misuse)use of computer
> There are substantial differences in a) hardware b) application c) conclusions, between video conferencing in K-12 classroom vs telementoring between Irv and the Montana college classroom.Reading Videoconfeencing  for K-12 Classrooms, Camille Cole, Kecia Ray, Jan Zanetis, ISTE publication: AProgram Development Guide, Copyright 2004. Very Practical Book, from page 1.

Technical issues raised for video conferencing is wether identiclal CODEC's must be used on either side of the portal connection.  Must each side of the conference agree to common CODEC and /or use common O/S and/or O/S Version and/or O/S Version Build, etc.

 

 
Resources
 
Videoconfeencing for K-12 Classrooms, Camille Cole, Kecia Ray, Jan Zanetis, ISTE publication: AProgram Development Guide, Copyright 2004.
However one must question if there are substantial differences in a) hardware b) application c) conclusions, between video conferencing in K-12 classroom vs telementoring in university environments. 
 
http://www.vseelab.com/ - developed by Milton Chen (Stamford)
 
Another video converencing facility that we have on campus at CWP. These systems are quickly becomeing obsolete as new and cheaper technnologies are developed.
   

 

 

  Video Conferencing - The Internet as a Communications Tool  

As mentioned many times throughout various forum discussions, the communications aspects of the internet is one of its chief assets.  Many new hardware configurations are being created that allow sophisticated multi-party videoconferencing without too great a cost.  One such configuration is offered by Citrix, which allows the use of very inexpensive (and often old) pentium based computers to be used in an online internet eperience.  The Citrix system uses "thin clients" allowing all applications and application processing to reside on the main (Citrix) server and to use the "dumb-terminal" simply as an imput/output device (i.e. keyboard/mouse and monitor).  My first reaction to this efficient use of thin client technlogy was skeptical since I imagined that the on-going support of these comuters, especially those place in students' homes, would be a nightmare for tech-support personelle in the schools.  But after talking to varioud technology coordiators at various school districts that do indeed use a Citrix architecture, the problems are much more manageable than I imagined.  I wold have expected that the use of older equipment, even refurbished, used as a dumb-terminal in a thin client environment would cause tech support staff to be busy supporting parents and children who are not familiar with computer basics.  But the experiences I have heard from my colleagues and fellow graduate students tell me otherwise. 

In my investigation of various interactive videoconferenceing (IVC) packages, I found a few worth noting.  The VSEE system  creates a video wall for a telementoring environment.  In this configuration the mentor sitting at his/her computer can watch a wall with each streaming video of all the participants.  The mentor can control "who has the floor."  It is a wonderful system - ironically invented by a graduate student named Milton Chen (no relation to the GLEF Milton Chen whom most of us know).

    
 


The Columbia University Teachers College Center for Technology and School Changes is a wonderful resource for internet applications particularly internet communications projects.The approach applied at the CUTC CTSC is to use the technology to teach the technology.  I strongly believe in this educational philosophy.

One important point stress at the CTSC and in many discussions I've taken part in is the rapid change of technology.  It hardly pays for schools to invest in technology equipment when they fear it may be obsolete before they've finished paying off the "loan."  This issue I believe is not getting nearly enough attention in educational forums. 
Two forces are at work here.  One, is (forgive my prejudice) the natural "greed" for businesses to make as much money as possible. Short product life cycles translate into more profits.  After all, most of them define their raison d'etre as being to maximize shareholder equity - often at the expense of other priorities, like sound educatioinal systems.
Second, applying Moore's famous rule for doubling capacities and speeds every 18 months.  I am beginning to rethinkg this postulae and conclude that 18 months is too long a period of time and state-of-the-art technology remains state-of-the-art for less than a year perhaps.  The equipment may still be functional, but it will very quickly become "last year's technology."
I believe that this issue of "manageing technology evolution" will become an important part of Ed-Tech curriculum as well as other industries that have the same dilema.

 

   
Jerry Garfunkel