Programs offer valuable lesson in how to bring technology resources to schools

Programs offer valuable lesson in how to bring technology resources to schools

Imagine a classroom of Ohio 10th-graders conducting an interactive videoconferencing session with a history professor at Ohio State University and a representative at the state General Assembly.

That scenario is almost possible thanks to a variety of programs under the Ohio SchoolNet umbrella, the latest of which will let the state's schools tap an asynchronous transfer mode backbone connecting all state government entities.

'When it's all said and done, we'll have one statewide network that provides for all school networks by the end of the biennium in June 2001,'' SchoolNet Commission executive director Sam Orth said.'Ohio hatched SchoolNet in 1994, initially to provide low-income school districts with technology resources. The program brought one computer per grade to each school in 153 of the state's 611 school districts.

But that was just the start:

• SchoolNet is in the final stages of bringing copper or fiber connections to all 100,000 classrooms statewide.

• SchoolNet Plus, launched in 1995, is in its fourth funding cycle. The first three brought one computer for every five students in kindergarten through fourth grade, and the fourth will do the same for fifth-graders.

• The SchoolNet Telecommunity Program has provided $26 million in grants to 300 high schools for videoconferencing.

Then there's Ohio OneNet, whose goal is to join all state agencies, branches, higher education institutions and school districts on one ATM network. The SchoolNet network will merge voice, video and data, and will provide minimum T1 connections to all 3,800 Ohio school buildings.

'That should not only drive down costs greatly but also widen the opportunity for applications we can provide,' Orth said.

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