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

Using the Internet at an Agricultural High School

Tatsunori Orihara, SYOUNAI Agriculture High School

1. Introduction

Established in 1901, our school is the only agricultural high school in the Syounai region of Yamagata Prefecture. Agriculture has changed rapidly in recent years, and agricultural education has followed suit. Throughout the first and second phase of the curriculum reorganization at our school, we added courses in advanced technology, especially on computer use. In 1992, during the second phase, we established the course *"Production Information."* These changes now allows us to teach information issues and skills using a systematic approach, which is rather unusual for an agricultural high school. In the future, we expect computers to play a larger role in agriculture. The goal of our *"Production Information"* course is to increase the number of students who are able to use computers to do research and to communicate with others over a network. When this course was established, we also established a new information education system and a BBS (Syounou net) to give students the opportunity to study using a networking system. Since participating in the 100-School Networking Project in 1995, we've participated in a number of Internet activities. As a result, we've improved our skills in taking advantage of a network for study and picked up some key points about using the Internet for education. I would like to give some examples of how we used the Internet in our *Production Information* course.


2. Our school network, before going online

Before going online, our school operated an in-classroom LAN and a BBS, based on a UNIX server. The in-classroom LAN had file server functions and could be connected to our school BBS. As an introduction to computer networking, students became familiar primarily with sending and receiving e-mail and files.


3. Starting to use the Internet

Our school was connected to the Internet in June 1995, but with only one client computer, the range of available activities was somewhat limited. We couldn't connect the client computer to the existing school network, because the systems were incompatible, so students took turns using this computer to become familiar with the Internet.


4. Examples of using a network

(1) Results of the project study (theme study)

Theme studies teach problem-solving methods. Students proceed by selecting a theme (goal) ® planning ® implementing it ® doing self-examinations and evaluations. This kind of study emphasizes initiative and independent study and thinking. The general purpose of theme study is to cultivate the ability to grasp a problem, then to find a solution. Using the Internet as a study, students proceeded as follows. They

1) selected a study theme and drew up a research plan

2) collected information (collected information on the WWW, searched for information using a search engine, and collected and saved the data)

3) arranged and examined the data
processed image data
performed analyses on data

4) summarized their research using HTML
created a home page

5) presented results and saved the data to the server
made their research results available on the Web

The students appeared quite motivated by the project, selecting their own themes and using the Internet to solve their problems, then summarizing their results. They quickly came to look forward to learning something new every time they went online. Finding the data they sought, at first, took a while, but with time their proficiency increased. Creating a home page for their own research developed presentation skills.

(2) Putting weather data on our home page

Although our school is equipped with weather measurement equipment to allow direct observation of the weather, this data cannot be sent to the Internet directly. We need to collect the data, recast it in HTML form, and send it to the Internet server. We are collecting weather data in order to offer a local weather report for people who live in our area.

(3) Use of CU-SeeMe

At *the Prefecture's Industrial Education Fair*, we connected the fair to our school using the CU-SeeMe video conferencing system, allowing fair visitors to communicate with our students. The conferencing went off without a hitch, and students from other schools greatly enjoyed being able to see the face of their conversation partners. One school visitor who saw the conferencing system in action contacted us to start a relationship using CU-SeeMe. We continue to communicate with each other and to exchange information, though we remain in the experimental stages.

Through this project, students had the change to enjoy communicating with people not associated with our school, gaining a sense of the real people behind networks and learning now to communicate with them. They also learned the difficulties of self-expression in this format, and the importance of etiquette while doing so.


5. Conclusion

We started using the Internet with one client computer, but later installed two more. A system update in January 1998 connected all our computers to the Internet, giving every student free access to the Internet. As a result, their skills in navigating the Internet improved significantly. At the same time, the improved access made it necessary to provide moral and ethical education concerning use of the Internet. It's wonderful that we can receive the latest information about agricultural problems, management, and technology so easily, but information coming into the school via the network is not filtered, and in this way the Internet removes barriers between school and the rest of society. This can expose students to the real world, outside the protection of the school's environment. In using the Internet, it's important for users to know what they want to find and to go about it in an ethical manner. Moreover, both teachers and students need to get better at selecting precise information.

From production to sales, people involved in modern agriculture receive a lot of information, which they process and use in management. We believe that the Internet will play an integral role in agricultural management in the future. We are currently conducting research at our school into using the Internet to develop agriculture in our local area. We hope to use the Internet as a communication tool, offering useful information and creating opportunities for communications between agricultural managers or supporters. We've begun by building a network with graduates of our school. Exchanging information with them via the Internet is a great help to our students. We believe that this human network will significantly contribute to stimulate agricultural growth in our area.


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