Who Will Build the Global Schoolhouse?
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
Navarre, FL 32566
A new kind of road is being built. This road should not be thought of as
connecting two points because it will connect all points. It will not go
from "here to there" because there will be no more "there."
We will all be "here," on a road where the speed limit is the
speed of light (Graziadei,
Today, much public and professional discourse on the role of technology
in K-12 mathematics and science education reform is focused on technical
issues, especially Internet access and network topology. We believe that
as teachers, students, and parents gain access to the Internet and its vast
information resources, questions of meaning, equity, and value will take
center stage in this discourse: the meaning of education in a global economy;
the autonomy of the learner; and opportunities for collaboration. When that
happens, a number of traditional notions about education will come under
close scrutiny. This paper begins by examining one such notion: Our current
approach to education is a reliable way to transmit knowledge and culture
from one individual to another and from one generation to another.
Trapped in Tradition
Formal education in the 20th century attempted the impossible ... to strip
knowledge of its complexity, linearize its presentation, and schedule its
understanding, all without killing its appeal. Metaphorically, this approach
places students in a rapidly moving stream of knowledge and instructs them
to swallow as much as possible. Really good students pride themselves on
swallowing the entire stream without spilling a drop. The problem with this
approach is that knowledge is not like a stream. Knowledge is like a limitless
ocean. This pernicious misrepresentation spoiled science and mathematics
for millions of students (most now adults) and created a mathematically
and scientifically illiterate workforce and electorate. This situation must
not continue. In a global economy, talent, information and capital are essential
to the success of any business venture. Corporations lacking the necessary
talent at every level of their organization cannot compete. Nations lacking
competitive corporations cannot grow economically. At the same time, meaningful
public debate on the environment, natural resources, community and economic
development, health care, and education cannot take place in an electorate
incapable of understanding the issues. More than ever, nations need mathematically
and scientifically literate and technologically competent citizens. In recent
years, it has become painfully clear that the average United States worker
does not meet this standard. In a disturbing demonstration of collective
cognitive dissonance, the public response to this crisis is a demand for
curricula that are more real (like the ocean) and schools that are more
orderly (like the stream).
Imagining a genuinely new approach to education is no easy matter. Try as
we might, our inventions usually turn out to be untried permutations of
our present approach in disguise. The root of this shortcoming is a lack
of perspective. For instance, students instructed to define the word "universe"
then give two examples may lack the necessary perspective to complete the
task. Until recently, educators have had few conceptual means for achieving
At the first World Telecommunication Development Conference in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, Vice President Al
Gore (1994) advocated the development of a Global Information Infrastructure
(GII) fully integrated with the world's political, economic, and social
systems. That vision fired the imaginations of millions of people around
the world interested in bringing the world into the school and the school
into the world. In time, their thinking may produce fundamentally new approaches
to education that free learners to develop their unique talents to the fullest
extent possible, celebrate the diversity of human potential and achievement,
and open all of human knowledge for study.
The National Infrastructure for Education
Over the next decade, the GII and its institutions will have revolutionary
effects on mathematics and science education. In the United States, serious
efforts to facilitate the development of K-12 networking infrastructures
are already underway. The National
Infrastructure for Education (NIE) program of the National Science Foundation
(NSF) seeks to:
The NIE also encourages planning grants to either:
- Establish testbeds, implementation models and prototypes that explore
the role of electronic networks (the Internet and others) in support of
reformed education, or that demonstrate sustainable approaches to educational
- Support the R&D needed for large-scale, cost-effective implementation
of educational networking, including infrastructure, policy, training, curriculum,
reform, school organization, tools, materials, and mechanisms for technology
- Strengthen collaborations between groups that are developing services,
technical assistance, and national connectivity and the larger educational
communities, such as states and school districts;
- Build on existing technological infrastructure in a manner that demonstrates
effective educational reform and deployment to a wider community.
- Establish appropriate consortia and partnerships, or
- Supplement existing awards for innovative and creative activities aimed
at either integrating educational applications into networking systems,
or integrating networking applications into systemic education reform efforts.
Montana Project (NMP) is a statewide collaboration focused on the development
of a lasting K-14 educational telecommunications infrastructure. Network
Montana seeks to:
- Build and maintain a state-wide coalition of partners from academia,
government, and the private sector responsible for directing a wide variety
of K-14 educational networking activities during the period of NSF/NIE funding
and in subsequent projects;
- Support and enhance a number of nationally significant systemic mathematics
and science education reform projects underway in Montana;
- Develop multimedia network-based materials and delivery systems integrating
mathematics, science and technology to enhance access and usability of many
Network Montana is building a level playing field where representatives
from education, government, and business may meet to discuss and create
partnerships focused on the development and delivery of life-long educational
services to the people of Montana. The appointment of a Network Montana
representative to one of three permanent positions on the Advisory Board
of SummitNet, the State's TCP/IP multi-protocol network, is one measure
of the support Network Montana has won in State government. Network Montana
now has a formal role in the formulation and administration of State policy
regarding K-12 computer and telecommunications networking. Network Montana
also collaborates with a number of private sector partners (including Microsoft,
Cisco, IBM, TCI, and US West) on the development and testing of a variety
of network-based information and educational services. Finally, Network
Montana collaborates with leading K-12 mathematics and science teachers
around the country to develop, test, and disseminate network-based mathematics
and science education curricular materials on CD-ROM and on the WWW.
- Investigate adaptations of educational and informational telecommunications
required to serve populations with special needs, including those that may
be visually or hearing impaired; and
- Develop a workable, rural, community networking model that promotes
teleliteracy for rural citizens to enhance their involvement with lifelong
learning, entrepreneurship and local/state governance.
While NMP and other projects are developing new models for collaboration
in K-12 networking, these efforts do not begin to model the full potential
of a global educational network.
Partnerships in the Educational Marketplace
Driven by both government and private sector investment, the GII is being
built as a global
information and economic marketplace.
This marketplace will evolve as fast as ordinary people are empowered to
acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to use the GII wisely
and productively. As individuals recognize the importance and value of such
skills, new, symbiotic relationships between businessmen, parents, educators,
and political leaders will be needed to create and deliver a diversity of
network-based educational services and products. The market for these services
and products will be much larger than the K-12 public schools. As the GII
makes low cost life-long learning an option for all citizens, the "student"
population will gradually grow to approximate the population of the world.
Education will become a gigantic global industry serving the life-long learning
needs of billions of people.
- Governments around the globe have come to recognize that the telecommunications,
information services, and information technology sectors are not only dynamic
growth sectors themselves, but are also engines of development and economic
growth throughout the economy ... Taken as a whole, this worldwide "network
of networks" will create a global information marketplace, encouraging
broad-based social discourse within and among all countries. (Brown,
Irving, Prabhakar, Katzen)
Creating the curricular materials and other intellectual properties necessary
for a global educational network will require the creative talents of thousands
of educators, writers, and multi-media wizards. Training millions of teachers
to use these resources effectively will require the combined instructional
capabilities of hundreds of colleges and universities. Obtaining and maintaining
the technologies involved will require the continuous support of the communications
and computer industries. As a ward of state and local government, public
K-12 education will never have the resources to pay for these services.
Before the global educational network can become a reality, education must
become a partner with business and government, offering business a genuine
opportunity to recover costs, generate profits, and grow market share.
Recommendations for reform, such as the SCANS/2000
School-to-Work and Goals 2000 reports,
are normally addressed at the state and local levels by asking schools to
implement technology dependent goals and programs without the necessary
technology, support systems, or staff development. This amounts to putting
new wine into old wineskins, which then burst at the seams. Without the
cooperation of the local community, business, and government in providing
the necessary financial and technological support needed for the new wineskins,
the old ones will continue to burst and our children suffer. What might
a new "wineskin" look like? Community, business, and education
must cooperate to develop models that recognize the needs of children without
introducing misleading and unnecessary discontinuities with higher education
and the world of work. Business and community can and should cooperate with
educators in the development of technologically sound educational settings
in which students develop skills and attitudes that are portable to the
workplace and higher education upon graduation.
Students in technology-rich classrooms currently have access to on-line
tools and information resources that extend the scope of their investigations
and connect them with teachers, students, and researchers. These classrooms
could become community centers for life-long learning in which students
of all ages engage in research and development activities that integrate
mathematics, science, technology, social studies, and language arts skills
in real world contexts. Safeguarding privacy and other fundamental rights,
classrooms could serve as educational laboratories in which educators and
business and community partners assess the intellectual, social, and economic
opportunities associated with educational products and services. In these
laboratories, teachers and students would participate in the development
of state of the art educational and information tools adapted to their individual
learning styles and talents. As we all begin to appreciate the paradox of
a unity of purpose amid a diversity of needs, a new symbiosis will be forged.
It is difficult to anticipate what education-business partnerships will
look like. At this point, the best we can do is attempt a scenario. Imagine
a partnership focused on the development, marketing, and support of network-based,
interactive, multi-media mathematics and science education products. Assume
the following make-up: a group of leading mathematics and science educators;
a group of leading mathematicians and scientists; a world-class multi-media
production studio; a publisher with a global distribution system; and a
global telecommunications network. The mathematics and science educators
participate because they want to help create exciting educational products
and services, test them with their students, and share them with their peers.
Chosen on the basis of their proven abilities as educational authors and
classroom teachers, they know what teachers want and what students can do.
The mathematicians and scientists participate because they care deeply about
education and want to share their love of science and mathematics. Chosen
on the basis of their communication skills and specific content expertise,
they know what is happening on the frontiers of science and mathematics.
The multi-media production specialists will make the products and services
exciting and rewarding. Chosen on the basis of their proven abilities in
educational multi-media and entertainment, they bring both magic and a reality
check to the table. The publisher and network specialists will market and
support our products and services. They bring expertise in finances and
The products and services produced by this partnership will set a new standard
of excellence in education, raising the expectations of teachers, students,
and parents while creating a demand for more and better offerings. In order
to meet this objective, all products and services will be created with a
commitment to truth like that of PBS science programming, produced with
a commitment to quality like that of Disney Studios, and backed with a "money-back"
commitment to customer satisfaction like that of Walmart. Will people respond
with their checkbooks? Ask Disney. Ask Walmart.
When Business Comes to School
Many concerned citizens fear that a partnership between business and education
will come at an unacceptably high price to children, that of unrelenting
psychological manipulation by subtle in-school advertising designed to link
self-esteem to product loyalty. We share that concern and believe that successful
education-business partnerships can be fashioned that do not abuse children
in school in this manner. Businesses that partner with education must have
a larger vision of their opportunities than selling products and services
directly to children.
At some point, the issue of advertising in education will separate into
two parts, policies and practices pertaining to minors and policies and
practices pertaining to adults. Some adults may elect to pay a higher price
for products and services not subsidized by advertisers. Most adults will
probably elect lower cost products and services that include various sorts
of advertising. As long as the educational content and formats of the products
and services are similar, most people will regard the options as valid.
For instance, the same educational programming used at school by students
and teachers would be available at home, with or without commercials, for
students and parents to share. The decision would be made by the family
at home, just as families today decide which cable television services to
purchase, whether to support public television stations, and so on. Seen
in this light, the true market for educational services and products is
essentially the same as the market for all other GII activities, with low-cost
licensing of uncommercialized products and services to K-12 schools acting
as a showcase for potential advertisers.
Consistent with national reform movements in mathematics and science education,
the student activities will be organized around themes of interest to students
rather than abstract disciplinary hierarchies. Possible topics include the
environment, how machines work, how computers work, the origin and future
of the universe, and so on. Products will have multiple points of entry
and multiple uses depending on the goals of the teachers and students. Activities
might take the form of a virtual field trip or treasure hunt; a directed
investigation involving the collection and analysis of data; a tutorial
on the use of the National Educational Supercomputer; a review of current
articles on some topic of interest; and so on. The point is to accommodate
different learning and teaching styles, thereby making the product or service
useful to as wide an audience as possible.
To make the use of these products and services as convenient as possible
for teachers, background reading, supplementary materials and activities,
related products and services, assessment strategies and procedures, and
suggestions for classroom management will be available. Distance learning
courses offered through cooperating colleges and universities will prepare
teachers to use the student materials effectively as well as satisfy the
continuing educational needs of K-12 teachers.
The first partnership to create and market educational products and services
of such quality will become a focus of world-wide attention. Millions of
teachers, students, and parents are waiting for the global schoolhouse to
become a reality.
Inside the Global Schoolhouse
Schools are more than training centers offering information and skills.
They are nurturing environments that inspire children and give them the
freedom to question, discover, research, and grow. The Internet and computer
technology bring global dimensions to local classrooms where inspirational
teachers make content relevant and meaningful. Guided by a historical perspective
of the development of man and his technologies, such teachers provide that
spark that makes life long learning a personal value on the part of students.
The following scenario illustrates a few of the possibilities.
The Wilson twins, Jimmy and Mike, hammer away at the keyboard of their Macintosh
computer between slurps of cereal and orange juice. Thousands of miles from
their home in Seattle, WA, Mary Alexander of Glasgow, Scotland is holding
up her end of the Internet chat on a PC.
The three teenagers, high school students, engage in the serious business
of planning their term projects. They "met" the previous week
on the Internet in an electronic forum created to promote collaborative
science projects among high school students around the world. Their objective
is to measure the distance from their respective cities to the moon using
surveying equipment and a popular educational product called How Big Is
It? Used to teach fundamental concepts of measurement, modeling, and computation,
students all over the world use How Big Is It? routinely as a data modeling
and analysis tool. In a bigger sense, however, How Big Is It? and its associated
curricular materials open windows on a host of mathematical and scientific
topics, connect students and teachers around the world interested in similar
teaching and learning objectives, and provide a forum for review and publication
of student research projects. A true meta-product, How Big Is It? exemplifies
versatility and adaptability.
As with many other products developed for the global educational network,
How Big Is It? is licensed to schools, with at-home use available on a subscription
basis. The Wilson family has four children in school and finds it both convenient
and productive to make the same educational products and services available
to their children at home, leaving little room for homework excuses.
As Mike drops a spoonful of cereal into his keyboard, Mary types "Listen,
my teacher said we had to pick a spot on the moon that 'made sense.' What
could that possibly mean?"
Jimmy shoves Mike away from the keyboard and replies, "I say we go
for the middle, dead center on the lunar disk. "
Mary thinks a moment then types, "And how do we know exactly where
that is? Don't we have to pick some obvious crater or something that is
clearly visible from Earth using the surveying equipment?"
As the discussion continues, the students launch another educational meta-product
called AskMe to begin a search for an on-line map of the moon. Using the
same tool at both "ends" of the conversation, they quickly agree
on a focal point for their experiment. After setting a time for another
chat the following day, the boys leave for school while Mary goes back to
AskMe does more than connect people to information. It also connects people
to people, using teleconferencing and a variety of other communication technologies.
The real power, however, of AskMe is its artificial, natural language interface.
Even a small child can use it successfully almost immediately. Something
of an electronic information and talent agency, it is one of the most popular
meta-products in use.
Later that day, the boys meet with Mr. James, their science teacher, to
devise a procedure using surveying equipment to simultaneously measure the
elevation of the moon above the horizon at Seattle and Glasgow. After modeling
and analyzing the data using How Big Is It?, a report will be presented
at next month's on-line student cyber-science fair. Mr. James approves the
project then calls a local surveyor willing to help the twins and Mary with
Along with the other teachers at his school, Mr. James relies heavily on
educational products and services such as How Big Is It? and AskMe. Small
schools have always had problems providing information and educational resources
comparable to those available at larger schools. Since the global educational
network became a reality, his students have access to essentially the same
resources as students everywhere. The same technologies bring advanced training
and information to him and his colleagues. As a result, he continues his
own professional growth through distance learning courses offered by a university
hundreds of miles away.
The global educational network makes a big difference in everyone's lives.
Students graduate into the GII already adept at its fundamental operating
principles. Best of all, they graduate life-long learners.
This familiar phrase and symbol epitomize the condition of the GII. The
new road being built connects all points at fiber optic speed. Discussions
of network topology, access issues, the meaning of education in a global
economy, and opportunities for collaboration abound. Economic and political
forces are sweeping aside time-honored traditions in the school and the
workplace. We are in the midst of a global educational, cultural, and economic
metamorphosis. A commonly held belief about this metamorphosis is that investments
in the education of our youth will pay rich academic and economic dividends.
Properly nurtured and challenged, our youth can help corporations to flourish
in a global economy ... but, so can retrained older workers. As our well-trained
youth age, they will need to update their skills continuously to remain
productive and competitive in the job market. Life-long learning must become
available to all citizens where they live, when they can do it, and at a
cost they can afford. In an evolutionary sense, our ability to meet this
challenge tests our fitness to survive and thrive in the face of global
change. We dare not fail.
If we succeed, this generation will witness the emergence of new partnerships
and infrastructures focused on the development and delivery of life-long
education and training for all citizens. Visionary research and development
programs like NSF's National Infrastructure for Education have seeded a
variety of testbeds in which new models for K-12 networking are growing.
These testbeds nurture essential research and development. Our future holds
large scale models cultivated by business, education, and government in
symbiotic relationship. In these models, education participates as a partner
rather than a parasite and business will look beyond direct sales to K-12
students to the profitable panorama of life-long education. The products
and services produced by these partnerships will set new standards of excellence
in education, raising the expectations of teachers, students, and parents
creating a demand for more and better offerings. Products and services created
with a commitment to truth, quality, and customer satisfaction will succeed
in the global schoolhouse and the global marketplace.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of
little minds." It is time for business, education, and government to
create a global schoolhouse in which all of our minds for all of our lives
are free to grow to the limits of our abilities and extent of our vision.
Brown, Ronald H., Irving, Larry, Prabhakar, Arati, & Katzen, Sally
(1994). The Global Information Infrastructure Agenda for Cooperation. U.S.
Department of Commerce.
Goals 2000: A Progress Report (1995). U.S. Department of Education.
Gore, Al (1994). Speech delivered at the World Telecommunication Development
Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina. March 21, 1994.
Graziadei, William D. (1995). 21st Century Classroom-Scholarship Environment:
What will it be like? New Learning and Teaching Challenges For a World in
Transition. Proceedings of the Conference on Instructional Technologies.
Utica, NY. May 31 - June 2, 1995.
Packer, Arnold & Pines, Marion (1996). School to Work. Eye On Education,
P.O. Box 3113, Princeton, NJ, 08453.
Acknowledgments The author wishes to thank Network Montana Project
Co-Director Dr. Lynn Churchill of the University of Montana, Missoula, MT
for the map images used in this paper.