The KidNet Movement: A Model of Innovation in Education

Brett Hwi-Gook Song <>
Michigan State University

Hae Un Rii <>
Dongguk University

Mija Moon <>
Jinahn Elementary School



We are observing unprecedented rapid advancement in information science and technologies that have transformed almost every facet of human society in the last decade of the 20th century. Although the Internet began in 1969 in the United States as a means to strengthen research in the defense sector, the Internet is now widely applied in non-military government sector, businesses, and non-governmental organizations not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world.

The Internet plays an important role in education since it can reach a large number of students, teachers, and related educational institutions with costs much less than conventional means of distribution, exchange, and utilization of knowledge. Particularly in developing countries such as Korea, use of the Internet can make a significant contribution to the globalization of education and democratization of educational administration.

There is a need to initiate an educational movement that aims at provision of the Internet for schools and school children, especially for those who are unable to have access to Internet if market mechanism is the primary means of acquiring Internet.

This paper explains the evolution of the KidNet movement in Korea as a broadly based educational campaign that diffuses innovation in education with a focus on elementary schools in Korea. KidNet started 4 March 1996 as a joint venture between GYN (Global Youth Network for Peace and Justice) and the Chosun Ilbo (the largest circulating daily newspaper) in Korea. The brain trust of this movement is GYN, which was established on 26 January 1996.

Historical background, purpose, and philosophy of KidNet campaign

The History of KidNet is as follows:

In January 1996, GYN was formed under the auspices of the Program on Humanistic Globalzation at Michigan State University and began its first project, The Internet for Elementary School Children in Korea. There are two headquarters, one in East Lansing, Michigan, USA and the other in Seoul, Korea. GYN, then conveyed its plan to governmental, educational, and civic leaders including the Prime Minister, Minister of Information and Communication, Minister of Education, several university presidents, and key business people of Korea in January and February 1996.

In February 1996, GYN representatives had a meeting with President Sang-Hoon Bang and staff of the Chosun Ilbo to discuss mutual cooperation. On 3 March 1996, KidNet was announced by the Chosun Ilbo as a cooperative venture among the Chosun Ilbo, GYN, the Ministry of Information and Communication, and the Ministry of Education.

Broadly speaking, the purpose of GYN is to provide

  1. philosophical,
  2. organizational,
  3. material (hardware and software), and
  4. educational

supports needed to fully utilize Internet and multimedia education for not only the younger generation (children and youth) but also other people (all Korean and other ethnic groups) around the world.

As a pilot project of the first stage, GYN is engaged in the provision of Internet and multimedia education to elementary schools in Korea. Then, it will create a global network for all the Korean youth (in South Korea, North Korea, and other countries) connected to the youth of the world. GYN plans to include elementary, middle and high schools, and universities and colleges. GYN will also work with people and organizations in other countries who share similar ideas. Our ultimate goal is to nurture peace and justice for all the people on our globe. Currently, GYN is able to communicate with a number of educational and civic institutions around the world. It is also working with selected schools in Michigan, USA. Proposals have been made to work with schools in other states and countries.

There are several important philosophical aspects that GYN strives to utilize in implementation of the KidNet movement:

  1. mutual learning to develop and implement plans--learn from each other and plan together;
  2. a grassroots approach--nonbureaucratic and starting with ordinary people;
  3. volunteerism--seek self-initiation and self-service;
  4. humanistic value oriented--quest for peace, justice, love, and affluence for all; and
  5. pan-disciplinary integration and application of knowledge--utilize broad-based knowledge and make practical application for real outcomes which improves people's well-being.

Plan for the project

The entire length of the project to provide at least one Internet connection for all elementary schools is ten years. The first year (1996) is the preparation period. GYN will make a long-term plan (10 years) for providing the Internet and setting up hardware and software at 20 schools as model cases.

Then, from 1997 to 1999, GYN will embark on the first 3-year plan to provide Internet for 500 schools in Korea. GYN will ask for cooperation from Korean colleges and universities to support two or three elementary schools in their communities. We will rely on the concept of "University initiated educational community." Under this concept, a university or college will organize a group of elementary, middle, and high schools in its neighboring community to provide educational outreach services including Internet and multimedia education.

During the second 3-year plan (2000-2002), GYN will provide Internet for more than a half of the elementary schools in Korea. The final stage is the third 3-year plan (2003-2005). The goal of Internet for every elementary school will be completed. Also a new project will be mapped out.

Along with the Internet for the Younger Generation Project, we are also planning an Internet project for children in North Korea and overseas. Evaluating the effects of the initial action plans during the first 3-year plan, GYN will make adjustments for the long-term plan. GYN will also consider Internet for children in other countries.

Implementation scheme: six models and participants

Below are the six models of supplying Internet for elementary schools. These models are intended to utilize non-market, voluntary, mutual support, and cooperative activities by people who are concerned with the future of our children and human beings.

  1. Alumni Model: Alumni can support the school they attended.
  2. Parents Model: Parents can support a school that their children attend.
  3. Company or agency Model: A company or any agency, including NGOs, may set up an Internet system for a school of their choice.
  4. University Model: A university can work with a school(s).
  5. A private person Model: Any person can support GYN activities.
  6. GYN direct supply Model: The GYN headquarters may support schools in critical areas and for experimental purposes.

It is possible to have a combination of the above models. In any case, a self-initiation by a school is most critical for a successful implementation of our plan.

Various individuals, public agencies, and private sector leaders can help set up Internet for elementary schools to accomplish this project. For example,

  1. Anyone can participate in this project by providing a school, such as their alma mater, a local school, or a school that their children are attending, with the equipment and expenses.
  2. Any companies or organizations can take part in this project by helping any schools, particularly schools where a large number of their employees are sending their children.
  3. Supports from various public and private foundations are necessary.
  4. Supports from newspapers, broadcasting companies, and magazines are highly appreciated.
  5. Universities and colleges can support this project by volunteering services in their communities. The professors and students who have professional knowledge in the field can volunteer with their services.
  6. Encouragement and support from the National Assembly and local assemblies are essential.
  7. This project will be effectively implemented with the encouragement of and support from the central and local administrations.
  8. This project needs the support and cooperation of agencies and organizations related to telecommunication.
  9. The Office of Education at each school district can actively support the project, acknowledge the condition at their schools, and manage the execution of this project.

Organization and operation

The organizational components consist of two umbrella entities: the Consortium on Development Studies, Seoul, Korea (CODS) and the Program on Humanistic Globalization (POHG), College of Social Science, Michigan State University. Under CODS and POHG, there are two headquarters: Korean headquarters and USA headquarters. GYN has a chairperson, vice-chairperson(s), planning and implementation committee, expert committee, and advisory committee.

The Expert Committee, composed of scholars and practitioners in various disciplines including social science, natural science, humanities, fine arts, and engineering, function as a think tank to offer new ideas and join in the development of methodological framework, programs, educational materials, and institutional process. The Planning and Implementation Committee, of which the chairperson and vice-chairpersons are ex officio members, is responsible for long-range planning, crisis management, and financial and personnel decisions. The Advisory Committee is a group of leaders in the public and private sectors who have distinguished careers and have interests in education and social development.

Membership is open to all those who agree with the philosophy and purpose of GYN and have enthusiasm and energy for a social campaign intended to improve quality of education.

KidNet campaign: the case of Jinahn and Murphy Schools

One of the most valuable events undertaken by KidNet campaign is the Internet connection between a Korean and an American elementary school. On 12 March 1996, Jinahn Elementary School in Chollabuk-Do, Korea, made a connection with Murphy Elementary School in Haslett, Michigan, U.S.A., through the Internet. It was a historical event because it was the first Internet formal connection ever made between a Korean and an American elementary school. The event became a headline article for Chosun Ilbo. It opened new opportunities for students who can communicate through Internet with students on the other side of the globe and learn about each other's daily life, schools, family, and culture. It was a truly innovative educational activity that started to transform the thinking of students, teachers, and parents of schools in remote rural areas who would not have had opportunities to learn about the world.

Jinahn Elementary School is located in Jinahn-Gun, Chollabuk-Do. In Korea, "Gun" is equivalent to county in the United States and "Do" is similar to state or province. Jinahn-Gun is 280 kilometers from Seoul, the capital city of Korea, and is 50 km from Cheonju, the capital of Chollabuk-Do. Jinahn is mostly rural and has been losing its population due to migration to cities or urban areas. In this context, it was an impossible dream for the students and teachers in Jinahn to have any contacts or communications with children in the United States and any other foreign countries. Murphy Elementary School is situated in Haslett, Michigan, U.S.A. It is on the outskirts of Lansing, the capital city of the state of Michigan. Haslett is not a highly urbanized, although it is close to Lansing, which is urban in its characteristics.

Since March 1996, the two schools began communicating by e-mail. Student groups were guided by two highly dedicated teachers: Margaret Holtzsclag at Murphy and Mija Moon at Jinahn. Under their supervision, daily e-mail exchanges between Murphy and Jinahn children were conducted. They were also assisted by the expert members of GYN who provided technical services, lectures, and cultural activities.

The first Internet connection made it possible not only to allow children to have confidence but also to open their eyes to the world. Children on both sides were eager to learn about each other's history, culture, language, community, school, family, and individual life. There were questions such as "What kind of language do you speak?", "What kind of food do you eat?", "Is it easy to learn Korean?", "Do you have a pet?" Through these communications, children who never met each other were building a strong sense of friendship and understanding.

They were becoming friends in the global village. Another major step in the Murphy-Jinahn relationship was Jinahn's visit to Murphy in August 1996. GYN arranged a two-week visit for the Jinahn group. Eleven members of Jinahn Elementary School--a teacher, eight children, and two parents--and a reporter from Chosun Ilbo visited Murphy Elementary School. They stayed with families of the Murphy school children, had classes together, spent time in playgrounds, and performed at the auditorium of Michigan State University.

The story was reported in the newspapers in the Greater Lansing area. Upon returning from the trip, the Chosun Daily had full-page coverage of Jinahn's visit to Murphy as a pioneering effort to globalize Korean education and to make human use of information science and technology.

It was a very brief visit but created a highly positive educational impact, because of the tremendous understanding developed prior to the visit through Internet connection. But without communications and learning between the two schools through Internet, the children would not have been able to gain deep understanding about each other within such a short period of time. Learning through Internet may never substitute for real, face-to-face education. However, Internet reinforces the effectiveness of conventional education and also opens new possibilities of learning. In this connection, GYN has been developing educational materials to be used through Internet. During 1996, a group of GYN scholars developed nine different educational materials which were put on KidNet and POHG home pages.

Now students and parents at Jinahn Elementary School are learning English and American culture more diligently than ever before. Likewise, Murphy Elementary School is now having Korean classes. Students, their parents, and teachers all agree that the KidNet campaign has indeed transformed not only their level of knowledge but also their consciousness about education, particularly global education. They realize that friendship and understanding among younger generation is the best--maybe the only--way to achieve "Peace and Justice" for all the people around the world. In this regard, KidNet is no doubt a successful social movement in the Korean educational sector which can be referred to as a model for utilizing information science and technology in other countries.

For more information, see and

Selected bibliography

Browning, Graeme. 1996. Electronic Democracy: Using the Internet to Influence American Politics. Wilton, Connecticut: Pemberton Press.

Gelernter, David. 1994. The Muse in the Machine. New York: Free Press.

Grenier, Raymond and George Metes. 1995. Going Virtual. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Jubak, Jim. 1992. In the Image of the Brain: Breaking the Barrier Between the Human Mind and Intelligent Machines. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Company.

Lim, Gill-Chin, 1996. "Value Revolution: Moving Toward a Civil Society in an Era of Information Society" presented at International Conference on Toward a Creation of New Humanity for an Era of Information Society, Hanbek Foundation, 8 May.

Kaplan, Robert. 1966. "Cultural Thought Patterns in Intercultural Education," Language Learning, 16:1-20.

Koelsch, Frank. 1995. The Infomedia Revolution. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Moravec, Hans. 1988. Mind Children. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Rii, Hae Un. 1995. "Future Trends of Geography Education in Korea," Geographical Journal of Korea, No. 25, pp. 23-38.

Rii, Hae Un. 1996. "Globalization and Role of Education," Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 11, Dongguk University, pp. 31-49.

Tapscott, Don. 1996. The Digital Economy. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Tiffin, John and Rajasingham, Lalita. 1995. In Search of the Virtual Class: Education in an Information Society. New York.