The Web is big in Texas
From: Yahoo News, August 14, 1997
By Maria Seminerio
Thursday August 14 12:09 PM PST
While many teachers struggle to convince administrators they need the Net, the Houston school district already boasts a multitude of T-l links--to each of its 290 schools, in fact. The K-12 district received this head start thanks to a grassroots efforts. Back in 1995, its staffers launched an aggressive initiative to wire each school and to teach the teachers to use the Internet to its full advantage.
Now, less than two years later, the high school calculus teacher who helped spearhead the project, Cynthia Lanius, points out that it has produced numerous benefits, including some she didn't expect. "My coolness factor among the students has increased by an order of magnitude because I have a Web page," says Lanius.
The Houston schools' teacher training and Internet curriculum project, run by Lanius and sponsored by the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Research on Parallel Computation at Rice University, began an effort to instruct 20 Houston teachers to use the Internet in the classroom, and to increase girl students' interest in math, science and computers.
The GirlTECH program, which gained additional funding from an Austin-based nonprofit educational concern, the RGK Foundation, has now spread through neighboring suburban districts as the original 20 teachers went on to train others. Some 2,500 Texas teachers have now completed the program and learned to use the Internet for research and collaboration and to design and publish Web pages, write HTML code, and formulate girl-friendly Web-based math and science curricula, Lanius says.
In the Houston schools, the result has been a math, science and computer program that gives students hands-on experience with the Web as a learning and collaboration tool. (See a list of lesson plans at http://teachertech.rice.edu/Lessons/.) The program also offers ongoing support groups for teachers, and helps schools establish student technology councils to give kids input on what they learn in computer science classes.
The effort is growing exponentially, as teachers who have completed the training publish their original course ideas on the Web. "Some teachers then choose to go back and make a Web site for their school based on what they learned in the program," Lanius says.
As the program continues, Lanius hopes to increase E-mail collaboration among teachers and to add new Internet training programs for high school counselors and English teachers.
The Houston district may be unique in the extent of its Internet curricula, but a growing number of U.S. schools are moving in the same direction, says Tammy Cunningham, executive producer of K-12 Internet it content for publisher Simon & Schuster and a new media executive at education software publisher Computes Curriculum Corp.
Last year, some 14 percent of U.S. public schools had Internet access in the classroom, but the number may be closer to 20 percent this year, Cunningham says. "Teachers tend to think of the Internet primarily as a research vehicle, and we want them to go beyond that."
At teacher conventions across the United States, interest in Web-based curricula is increasing despite the buzz such programs generated in their earliest stages. "In 1995 and 1996, there was so much hype about using the Web in the classroom that we thought people might get burned out," Cunningham says. "But it's not going away."
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