Connecting Schools to the Internet

Frances Boyle (
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 20:47:33 -0700

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A few weeks ago every school in NYS was supposed to get connected to the
Internet. In my school Time Warner "promised" to wire the computer room
for Internet access. I'll let you know if it ever gets done. Thought
you might enjoy reading another teachers comments about the "Getting NY
Wired Day"
Fran Boyle

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@ V I E W P O I N T

EDITOR'S NOTE: Veteran New York teacher Ted Nellen leads the computer lab and teaches and course called "CyberEnglish" at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers near Wall Street. In the wake of New York's NetDay efforts to wire the schools and the Board of Ed's announcement that all city schools will be Internet-ready by the end of the year, Nellen turns public policy on its end, arguing that teachers should be at the center of the Board's Internet effort.
Board of Ed's Internet Plan Will Fail Without Teachers
The business of the education of our children is in something of a Renaissance. It began about a dozen years ago when the Board of Education in New York City began installing computer labs into the schools. These computer labs, called MAC labs, so named for their funding source, marked the first step in the retooling of the schools. The most recent happenings on the technological front include a big push to wire the schools and connect them to the Internet. Students need this accessibility because of the state of education in New York City. Here we are without the proper resources: books, libraries, college info, rooms.Through the Internet, many of these shortcomings can be remedied. The Internet will not make better students, but it will provide a place where better students can prosper. I see this every day in my classroom: Students actively engaged in their own education. Students actively seeking out information. But if a change in education is ever going to happen, it is going t
o happen because teachers are involved in the decision-making process. History has shown that educational reform has been mandated by political leaders. Education is told what to do by non-educators. Teachers know best how to implement and what to implement when it comes to educational reform, yet educators are always exempt from the reform process. Tip O'Neill, the late Speaker of the House, once said "All politics is local." This is true of education as well: "All education is local." Educational decisions made in New York City are not followed in the rest of New York. And certainly what is done in New York City will not be practiced in Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, California, or the other states. To consider a national curriculum is ludicrous. This analogy holds true in New York City as it makes the valiant attempt to connect all school to the Internet. The latest surge in education is Internet connectivity. One line into a school library connected to a computer with a 2400 baud modem
constitutes a school connected to the Internet.

If the Board of Education really plans to connect its 1,100 schools, then it best involve the teachers. Teachers are the most important component in the computer-in-education equation. Everyone says this and plans this ... that is, until we can't find the funds to support teacher training. The teachers need to be encouraged to pursue special training so when the Board installs the hardware, it can be used correctly. If the teachers were trained first and encouraged to use the Internet, then they would lead educational reform rather than to be pushed or pulled by the technology. The pedagogical question is: "Does technology lead or follow?" The folks responsible for connecting the city's schools have to deal with 1,100-plus schools. Herein lies the rub. No organization could accomplish such a Herculean task. I admire the well-intentioned people who are attempting this noble chore. But the task is just too vast and diverse. I have heard these promises about connecting to the Internet fo
r a number of years. It is not the fault of the folks trying to realize a goal of total connectivity. It is the fault of the size of the task juxtaposed to the speed of the Internet and its hardware. Once again, the leaders have neglected to do their homework and to do research. If they had they would have found many successful situations, where schools are already connected and publishing Web sites without the Board's assistance. How did they do it? No one from the Board has really asked these questions nor visited these sites. The Board will continue to try to accomplish the monumental task without great success because it can't see beyond itself.--Ted Nellen

Related sites:

Bergtraum High --
Ted Nellen's homepage --