II. A Networked Education and Life-Long Learning Model
for New Jersey Schools and Libraries
Exposure to computers has changed both the type of student I am and my methods for attacking problems. I now learn from multiple media, gain a far greater concept of the topics I pursue, and discover links and connections between them. My computer skills placed me in [the] job market doing work far removed from typical teenage job opportunities. I'd like to see every student get the same opportunities I have had.
--Brian Sullivan, student, Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology, Bergen
County Technical Schools Hackensack
Technology is challenging the boundaries of educational structures that have traditionally facilitated learning, from the school room as the place where learning occurs, to the time limits of the school day, the academic year, and the role of the teacher as a unique source of wisdom.
Educators, politicians, community activists, and representatives of American business all agree that an education system must produce students with basic competencies in academic disciplines and problem-solving skills to create the workforce of tomorrow. Perhaps even more important, such an education system must motivate students and create incentives for them to be lifelong learners. Creative uses of the new communications technologies, i.e., broadcast and cable television, video cassette recorders, computers, CD-ROM, e-mail, the Internet, multimedia and new wireless technologies have the potential to engage people and instill a new excitement about learning.
This cost model for schools and libraries covers a five-year period and includes initial equipment costs, software costs, connection and access charges, ongoing operational costs, and the costs of providing support and training.
A. Technology for New Jersey Schools and Libraries
The elements of the comprehensive model for New Jersey schools and libraries will provide public access to the vast information resources of the Internet and support life-long learning by all community residents by providing computer access, Internet access, and distance learning for schools and libraries. As such, the plan is consistent with the State's Distance Learning Network initiatives. The details of other assumptions upon which this model is based are included in Appendix A, Assumptions, and Appendix B, Educational Telecommunications in New Jersey.
1. SYSTEMS FOR NEW JERSEY SCHOOLS:
Under the terms of this plan, at the end of a five-year period, one Internet-capable, multi-media computer will be available for every five students and one for each two teachers in all public K-12 schools throughout the state. A full distance learning capability also will exist in all school districts. Although the mix of technology based products and supporting applications and services enumerated below may differ by grade, an equal amount of money will be invested per student regardless of grade.
Data communications systems:
Specialized distance learning systems:
Training and support:
2. SYSTEMS FOR NEW JERSEY LIBRARIES:
To provide computers and Internet access in New Jersey libraries, this plan proposes using similar technology to that proposed for use in schools, but implemented on a smaller scale. In addition, the library systems do not include the specialized distance learning systems proposed for use in schools. At the end of this five-year plan, there will be an average of six computers per average public library that will provide access to e-mail and information available on the Internet as well as from other library research resources.
Data communications systems:
Training and support:
B. Effective Use of Technology
1. COMPUTER AND NETWORKING SYSTEMS
The architecture of the model described within this report follows the "star" configuration, in which many schools in a district are connected through a single hub. In this way, costs can be aggregated and the architecture will reflect the administrative design of the school system, with individual schools reporting to a district office. The specific services/products described were selected because they use tested technologies that can be deployed immediately. Finally, the ratio of one computer to five students was selected in consultation with the Department of Education, which has concluded that this model provides the most cost-effective use of advanced telecommunications services for educational use.
Within a district, there are three major components of computer networks:
This network technology provides the following educational benefits and cost savings for computer systems in schools:
Computers and networks can play a crucial role in promoting distance learning in New Jersey.
Through district-wide computer networks and the Internet, teachers and students can exchange information, collaborate on work, and communicate directly with other schools throughout the State and the world. High-speed access to the Internet brings a wealth of information resources to students that goes far beyond what school systems themselves can afford to provide.
District-wide networking allows libraries to share the benefits of the technology used in schools.
By connecting computers in libraries and the school computers to a single community-wide network, libraries can access the Internet through the same high-speed connection that serve the schools. Furthermore, libraries can make use of the support and training resources that are used in district school systems.
2. SPECIALIZED DISTANCE LEARNING SYSTEMS
This plan provides access to one full-motion, high-quality video-based distance learning classroom for every New Jersey school district. Such systems already are being implemented in some New Jersey schools, with industry, local, and state government support. These classrooms allow students to take classes that would not otherwise be available to them, and can be used by teachers for professional development and faculty conferencing. Distance education systems are an important tool for developing equal educational opportunities for students throughout the state. However, the rapid evolution of digital technology, and the rapid reduction in costs of such systems is also a factor to be considered.
New Jersey schools should consider using advanced Internet-based video distance learning systems as they become available. With such systems, schools might use their existing computers, computer networks, and Internet connections to provide video-based distance learning to any classroom in a school, thus saving both equipment and telecommunication costs associated with specialized distance learning systems.
Systems currently in place in some schools may not prove to be cost-efficient compared with Internet-centered networked education delivery systems, which will be available and increasingly affordable within the next few years. Although Internet-based video conferencing systems available today may not perform well enough for interactive classrooms, several recent technology advances will improve this situation: better video compression techniques, faster computers, and computer networks that can better support video transmission over the Internet. The computer networks proposed for New Jersey schools will have sufficient capacity to support these advanced video and multimedia conferencing technologies and provide distance learning capabilities integrated into a networked education technology platform.
It is recommended that every new personal computer purchased by a school before the year 2000 be capable of receiving and sending video and multimedia content, at minimal additional cost (i.e., addition of video cards and low-priced cameras). In fact, costs may be significantly lower. While this may seem optimistic, the trends in cost reduction and capability increase for computers and networks suggest that there is a real possibility of reduced costs and that one would be remiss not to include this eventuality in current consideration of future plans for distance education as part of networked educational systems.
The specialized distance learning systems used today cost a school $25,000 to $50,000 for equipment and an average of $16,000 per year for transmission costs for a single distance learning classroom3. It is estimated that in the near future, the use of existing computer and network equipment in schools to provide an equivalent integrated distance learning capability, even without affecting the costs of educational distance learning programming and content, would save approximately half of the total distance learning costs represented in this plan.
In estimating the cost of distance learning, school districts also need to incorporate the cost of subject matter content. Schools currently share distance learning resources; others exchange or barter teachers' services; and still others obtain content without cost as part of experimental distance learning programs. Consequently, it is difficult to estimate accurately the future costs of distance learning content. It is only possible to say that, as distance learning matures, there will be content costs as well as hardware costs.
3. Telephone Systems
Modern telephone systems can provide important benefits to teachers and students, including voice mail that allows teachers to stay in touch with parents and students, better communication within schools, and access to fax machines (to send/receive homework and assignments for distance learning classes). Unfortunately, at this time, most classrooms lack even the wiring for basic voice-grade telephone systems.
Along with installing computer network wiring in classes, this plan proposes installing wiring for telephone systems (adding little to the overall wiring costs) and installing a telephone system, or making provision through local telephone switching centers, for each district that would connect every classroom in every school.
4. Support and Training
Using computer and Internet systems in New Jersey schools at the level that this plan proposes represents significant changes to the education process in schools. Successfully carrying out these changes requires the primary involvement of educators, who will require training in using these systems and in integrating the technology into their curricula. Without adequate training for teachers and librarians, the promise of networked education will be significantly limited. Consequently, teacher training is an essential component of this educational technology model, and represents a significant cost to schools.
This plan budgets for teacher training in proportion to equipment costs, allocating $27,500 per school per year. By utilizing new regional Educational Technology Centers and community resources, districts can maximize use of training funds.
These Educational Technology Training Centers will be established in each county of the State beginning this summer as part of a grant program developed by New Jersey Department of Education. The Centers will provide staff development opportunities and technical assistance for K-12 educators.
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3 The system described provides full-motion interactive video provisioned over DS-3 fiber optic
transmission medium by Bell Atlantic-New Jersey. Source of Information: NJ Dept. of Education.