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Getting Started And Happy Endings

Stories from the "early days" of on-line computing. Lone teachers struggled mightily to participate in telecommunications.

Fortunately, now you can go online and get help from your friends.

From Pat Hector on INET, 2/6/95

Saga of Starting Computer Mini-Lab At My School

...The following sequence of events takes place from September to January...

The counselor who previously used IBMs as motivational tools working with students in her office transfers to another school. I request and get permission to set up computers for Renzouli model we are piloting. Principal says it cannot be done in my room which is a trailer, because of temperature (no AC)and lack of security. Get permission to use art teacher's space in special teachers' room which is air-conditioned and has security bars in place.

I contact new state level computer wiz about helping me set up computers. I had never done this before and don't feel competent at this point in time. State level wiz makes appointment with me for a week later but does not appear. When I call him back, he tells me that subsequent to talking to me, he went to a meeting and was reminded that his focus should be on junior and senior high but he may be able to get back to me in a few months. I politely tell him no thanks, I'll go to Plan B.

Plan B involves going on Freenet and begging for a volunteer to come and set up these two computers. Nice volunteer comes a week later and spends 20 minutes setting everything up. We can't find printer cable, and there is no modem.

A team member contacts volunteer wiz about getting modem for Mac available to teachers. Two weeks later, wiz brings modem and turns it on. Red lights come on and he says it is ready to go.

Printer cable is borrowed from friend; it will be returned at the end of the year.

School-based management team allots me $1500 to buy software out of Chapter 2 funds. Vendor says software will arrive by next school year.

Next hurdle is key to room. Office finally makes copy for me. I meet with other members of Renzuli team and iron out rules for using computers. Turns out only one other teacher wants to do anything this school year.

Team leader lends me directions for accessing communications program. It is then I discover that modem is plugged into socket and phone line but there is no cable to connect it to the computer. Despite what wiz says modem is not ready to go. I call wiz who admits he knew modem didn't have cable when he connected it.

Finally get kids onto computers but we are not online yet. I promised them email and email they will get.

We are notified that we have $42 additional monies to spend for Title I. Get permission to order printer cable, modem cable and box of diskettes which, again, is guaranteed to arrive by the beginning of the next school year.

Friend agrees to loan me modem cable to be given back at the end of the year.

Four months' work to get 6 kids and computers online...

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Tales from the Electronic Frontier

Tales from the Electronic Frontier: First-Hand Experiences of Teachers and Students Using the Internet in K-12 Math and Science (Mayumi Shinohara and others) presents first-hand experiences of teachers and students using the Internet in K-12 math and science, as well as articles on getting the right hardware, choosing an Internet service provider, designing an online project, and fostering acceptable use.

While much of the technical information (circa 1996) is now dated, the steps they took and the issues they faced are timeless.

A free download from the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).

Have a challenge or overcome an obstacle? Sharing your stories on-line can help others.

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