Conference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase II)
Junior high school meeting

Benefits and Problems of the 100-School Networking Project
—What We've Learned after Three Years of Working on the Acid Rain Research Project—

Takeshi Nagasawa, Attached Fukuyama Junior High School, Hiroshima University

1. Introduction

With help from Professor Kaneyuki Nakane of the Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University, the Acid Rain Research Project began in August 1995 as a project within the 100-School Networking Project. Acid rain is an important topic in environmental education. The Acid Rain Research Project itself is an experiment that take advantage of the wide area networking system in school education. In response to an invitation by people in charge of the project, 40 schools in FY1995 and 47 schools in FY1997 participated. Results were better than expected, thanks to the participation of various kinds of schools from all over Japan and the research done by participants in the 100-School Networking Project. The database also functioned nicely.

I think the reasons for schools participating in the project can be classified into two categories:

1) Schools wanted to practice using the Internet to learn how they could use the Internet in their educational activities, with the primary motive of testing the potential of the Internet.

2) Schools wanted to use the Internet to motivate students and improve their environmental education, with the primary motive of improving the quality of their environmental education courses.

When the research program was being planned, we expected interest from a greater number of schools in improving environmental education courses. After three years, we analyzed the present state of the project and answers to a questionnaire sent to all participating schools. It now appears that the project has been more important as an experiment in using the Internet for educational purposes, and for gauging the potential of such use. Needless to say, the activities of some schools did prove to be valuable in proving that the Internet could be effectively used to teach issues concerning the environment. We would like to report on present state of and problems using the Internet for educational purposes at our school, based on data acquired over three years of research. We'd also like to propose ways to integrate its use into a school curriculum.


2. Progress report for the past three years

August 1995
Notified schools all over Japan about the Acid Rain Research Project. (an October deadline for applications from schools wishing to participate)

October 26, 1995
Established a mailing list. acid-member@cec.or.jp

December 1995
Established a home page for the Acid Rain Research Project.

January 1996
Participating schools began entering data. The project officially starts.
Studied the question of what each school could do for the project.

April 1996
Drew up a basic plan of activities for FY 1996.

July 1996
The project was selected as a joint use program of the 100-School Networking Project.

August 1996
Invited other schools to join the project.

October 1996
Participating schools took samples of rainwater to be analyzed by an ion-chromatograph. Each school prepared and sent us a frozen sample.

December 1996
The samples were analyzed by Professor Kaneyuki Nakane at the Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University.

February 1997
Established an English version of our home page.

March 1997
Reported the analysis results on our home page.

April 1997
Drew up a basic plan of activities for FY 1997.

July 1997
The project was selected as a CEC-initiative program for the 100-School Networking Project Phase II.
It was designated an experimental program in which data would be shared with other schools as part of a plan to improve use of network systems.

February 1998
Prepared a report on our research.

March 1998
Drew up a research plan for the future, including the next year.
Revised our home page.


3. Present state of the project

We sent questionnaires to 47 participating schools in October 1997 to learn about their progress. We received responses from 33 schools. At the beginning, this project had various types of schools and groups participating in it, all with different reasons for joining the project, with a common one being improving education by using a computer network. We would like to present our results and the problems we encountered in our research.

a) Reasons for school participation in the project and derived benefits
Many schools participated in the project as part of their club activities. Many schools also asked to use the research as teaching material for science and environmental courses. Every school expressed interested in learning how to use the Internet and using it for educational purposes. At the beginning, this seemed to be the main reason for most schools for joining the project. Some of the benefits of project participation mentioned by schools included hopes that students could learn more about problems resulting from acid rain, experience working with other students from all over Japan, and getting a first-hand experience of the benefits offered by the Internet.

b) Difficulties experienced during the project
For both students and teachers, it's difficult to make observations on a daily basis over a long period of time. The cost of repairing damaged observation equipment is also quite high. A school's curriculum is planned for each new school year, so when a teacher who has been in charge of the project is transferred or when enthusiastic students graduate, the continuity of the project suffers. Some project improvements are definitely needed.

c) Creating a back up system for the project
Most of the participating schools were satisfied with the way that we ran our home page and the methods we used to make data available. Some schools wanted to revise their data after it had been sent and to communicate with us more often. We also feel that there should be more opportunities for participating schools to exchange their views. The mailing list didn't work as well as hoped, because teachers in charge of the project at some schools failed to check their e-mail regularly. For the future, we recommend checking e-mail more often.
We didn't originally plan to carry graphs of our research results on our home page. Now we think that creating a summary once in a while may improve the project and promote use of the Internet for educational purposes.
In February 1998, data stored in the server at the Center for Information Infrastructure was lost when the hard disk crashed. Restoring the database took a long problem, and presents an obvious problem concerning servers that needs to be addressed.

d) Exchange between schools
Relatively few schools interacted with each other during the course of the project. We believe this project will be more effective if students and teachers communicate with each other more frequently. Supporting this is part of our responsibility.


4. Use of observation data for educational activities

Among regular study, special education activities, and the teaching of ethics, the Internet is used most often with special educational activities. In contrast, it's hard to use the Internet in regular subjects and to find information useful for a lesson, although teachers have begun using the Internet on a trial basis.

In the project's third year, some schools participating in the Acid Rain Research Project began using the Internet in teaching regular subjects. This shows that use of the Internet in lessons requires time and effort.

Our school has used the Internet in a number of activities. We added courses on environmental issues in 1991, with the aim of making students more aware of the environment in which they live. Once a week, we tackle environmental issues in eighth-grade science classes. We observe the weather and study acid rain daily, and participate in the Acid Rain Research Project and the Earth Observing Program to Protect the Environment (GLOBE.) Since 1997, our school has been designated as a research school for a project that uses data about the environment (EILNET). The participation of our students in the Acid Rain Research Project as part of their theme research has broadened their perspectives and enabled them to work with people from all over the world. Using the Internet is changing the way environmental education is taught.

The saying goes, "Think globally, act locally." The Acid Rain Research Project offers teaching material that helps in acting locally.


5. Summary

Environmental education, including the Acid Rain Research Project, requires activities that need to be continued for a sustained period. Through this project we found that having a system that supports school educational activities is very important. A practical, effective support system should be developed. An effective way of running it needs to be examined in the future as part of the 100-School Networking Project Phase II.


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