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

Exchange within the Local Community Using a Network

Haruo Usami, Niihama Technical High School

1. Prologue

We're finally beginning to see signs of educational reform in our country. Primary and secondary education are changing as a result of computerization and internationalization, and school curriculums are changing as new subjects are established, current electives become required classes, and as more and more students are taught communication skills at a younger age. The Ministry of Education has announced plans to introduce some type of network system to every school in Japan. This trend will further speed the computerization of education and create new ties between schools and local communities.

For the past three years, the 100-School Networking Project and its phase II have contributed to the computerization and internationalization of education, and the project is daily becoming more entrenched within the everyday activities of participating schools. The project's current focus is on demonstrating the benefits of Internet use for various educational activities. At our school, using the Internet, we developed new ways to teach subjects, improved community relations, taught students about different cultures, and developed a new education system. We did research on new teaching methods, examining them from various viewpoints.

In this paper, we would like to discuss new ties to our local community, built through the Internet, and problems we encountered.

2. School education evolves with the local community

The local community and school education are directly related by the choices and everyday lives of students, by cooperation between schools and homes, and by educational activities related to the community. The local community and schools also share in the responsibility of promoting continuing education. By complementing each other, both school and community can grow together. Based on this idea, we have tried to improve our relations with the local community by holding Internet seminars, participating in various study meetings, and establishing new educational events. In all of these programs, the Internet has functioned, with excellent results, as a communication channel between our school and the local community, producing increased collaboration for education between our school and our community.

(1) Seminars and study meetings concerning the Internet

A. An Internet seminar for citizens of the community

B. Lecture given during National Information Month 1997

C. A seminar on Internet use in high school education, for high school teachers in Ehime Prefecture

D. An Internet seminar for neighboring high school students (an exchange between schools)

E. Participated in the 60th anniversary of Niihama city

F. Debate on environmental problems (a teleconferencing debate using CU-SeeMe)

G. An Internet seminar for the domestic science club (domestic science club members and instructors of five city schools, 40 participants in all)

H. "An Internet seminar for children" in Saijo city

I. Collaboration to solve environmental problems

J. The Software Research Committee of the Ehime Prefecture Technical Education Study Group

K. A training lecture for new employees in the Toyo region of Ehime Prefecture

L. Establishing a volunteer group

We plan to establish a volunteer institution to hold lectures and give consultations in Internet use for children, the elderly, and for schools. Membership will include students and teachers from our school and adults within the community.

M. Organized the "Niihama Internet study group," which has held regular seminars and study meetings for community members since 1996.

(2) Offering school information

Via our home page, we introduce the everyday lives of our students to community members.

Some of the information is produced by students, some by teachers, and some through collaboration. We plan to research the feasibility of making information available to the public.

(3) Communications between community and school (students and teachers)

Following graduation, many students at our school would like to work for local companies. We are fortunate in having many industries and companies in our region, and our students have conducted job hunts and exchanged information with companies through the Internet and other computer networks.

Students gather information from home pages for companies, universities, and vocational schools, and request and receive further information through e-mail. Teachers collect information about companies through our school home page and exchange information through e-mail. The networking system that makes these activities possible suggests new directions for education.

(4) Studying the computerization of local industries

We plan to establish a study group to study the computerization of local industries. (manufacturing, agriculture, and fishing)

3. Future goals

The Internet is developing rapidly. Use of the Internet for educational purposes, computer hardware, and people's computer skills should all be kept current.

(1) Research the potential of establishing a network as part of a community disaster relief system.
(2) Keep up with advances in networking use.
(3) Upgrade equipment and systematize Internet-related curriculum.

4. Epilogue

The Internet has become an element of the societal infrastructure, but schools remain somewhat slow to take advantage of its resources. In my view, Japanese schools lag behind other developed nations in Internet use. But steps are being taken to correct this. The Ministry of Education recently announced that it will provide Internet equipment to every elementary, junior, and senior high school, as well as to special schools. But many problems remain to be solved, including finding the necessary personnel trained in educational Internet use for the schools, creating guidelines and rules for Internet use, protecting students from unsuitable information, and the financial burdens of maintaining and managing networks. These issues involve everyone, and both the government and schools must work together to solve them.

In an information-oriented society, the quality of information is a social issue, whether the information is used for educational, business, or personal reasons. Information regulation will be difficult, as can be seen from the example of the U.S. Communications Decency Act. I believe that teaching computer ethics to both students and adults will be the most effective and practical way to maintain quality of information. In comparison, legal measures will lag far behind.

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