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

Familiarizing Students with the Internet
—Exchange among Student Councils via the Internet—

Masahiro Matsuda, Nobeoka Commercial High School

1. Introduction

The best way to familiarizing students with the Internet, I thought, would be to have students teach each other. This was the impulse behind my project, "Exchange among Student Councils via the Internet," in which students are permitted to participate freely as part of our student council activities.

I hoped that students would be able to exchange information and resolve problems concerning student council activities by discussing such issues across the Internet. By exchanging views with other student councils, students from our school would better represent their ideas in student council activities. I also hoped that such participation would raise student interest in student council events.

In the past, meeting a student council from another school generally required detailed research into the particular school's activities, choosing a school to visit, and communication by mail and phone to set up detailed visit plans. Given the amount of time required by the meetings, they occurred infrequently, with students visiting only three or four schools per year, and the visits themselves involving merely looking around at each school and brief exchanges of opinions. To get the most out of the actual meetings, we thought it might be better to discuss issues beforehand. We also decided to allow students to draw up meeting plans themselves. As part of this plan, I and members of the student council decided to learn to use the Internet, with the intention of spreading its use throughout the whole school. Using the computers available to us, our student council began corresponding with other schools over the Internet.

2. Outline of Exchange among Student Councils via the Internet

Along with three former members, our student council members planned and ran the project. My role was limited to teaching the most basic computer and Internet skills, after which students taught themselves by reading books and instruction manuals and by proceeding under the credo that practice makes perfect.

In this project, students learned the basics of computers, the Internet, and information processing, then created their own home pages and sent e-mail to schools, inviting them to participate in our project. Students corresponded with and befriended students from other schools. Once our project becomes more firmly established, I hope our students will initiate correspondences with and visit students from our schools. If this project is successful, I also plan to get in touch with elementary schools, junior high schools, and schools overseas. Given the opportunity to advise student councils of elementary schools, students will develop leadership skills, which should serve them in the future when they represent all of us within the international community.

3. Our student council

Our student council has five tenth graders (two from the information processing course), five eleventh graders (three from the information processing course), and three twelfth graders (ex-members, one from the information processing course). Most of the tenth and eleventh graders had never used a computer, and even students from the information processing course were unfamiliar with Windows 95 or the Internet, since their curriculum focuses primarily on COBOL.

Recently, our student council has been very active in planning new school events, including "The Shopping Street PR Project," as part of the Ohka Festival (school festival), taking advantage of our position as a commercial high school rooted in the community. Thanks to help from local store owners, this event was a great success. (Please see our home page for details.)

In the past, students tended to show little interest in serving on our student council, with candidates generally nominated against their will. In contrast, most recent candidates have actively sought election, giving enthusiastic campaign speeches. Motivated, skilled at running the council, and having real leadership ability, the students are still unfamiliar with the process of forming plans and communicating with other schools. It is my hope that the Internet will help teach them these skills.

4. Activities

I taught students computer basics before we began communicating with other student councils. By searching home pages and creating a guide to events and award certificates in a word processor, students quickly picked up the material on their own initiative. Teachers also participated in these activities, with the result that student interest increased as time went by. Since the information processing room was locked after school, we bought a computer for Internet use in the student council room, which students had access to even after school.

By the beginning of September, as students logged more computer time and steadily developed their skills and knowledge, we decided to create a home page to introduce our activities and to propose the "Exchange among Student Councils via the Internet" project to other schools. Software for creation of a home page is not helpful for students, as they will not be creating it themselves. I therefore decided to teach them HTML. After initial lessons in HTML, our students quickly outstripped us, creating one home page version after another, referring to reference manuals, and steadily growing more skilled. When their HTML lessons were completed, as part of their training, they installed software and created a home page called "Hotall 4.0." The ease of installing and using the software boosted student confidence. On their own, they installed and deleted software and learned file management. Our instruction also included lessons on copyright law, emphasizing rights governing creative work. The project also included training courses for teachers, to show them how to log into UNIX and to issue e-mail IDs and passwords for students.

In October, our prefecture's high school festival was held in Nobeoka. Members of our student council planned and operated the debate on school regulations in the student council communication section. Their first plan was to use the Internet to obtain regulations for each school. But we quickly discovered that much of this information was unavailable from these sites. I taught them how to use e-mail to request information directly from the schools. In late October, our students completed the council home page, further boosting the confidence of our students, and attended a class on information security and "Netiquette."

In November, we began searching home pages to draw up a list of mail addresses for system operators and schools, to prepare for exchanging e-mail with other student councils. We asked students from the information processing course to help us create the list and to draw up a questionnaire to send to other student councils.

We completed the mailing list in December. Student council members received individual mail addresses. We updated our home page for the first time and began drawing up an invitation to send to schools for participation in our exchange program.

In January, we completed the letter of invitation and sent it via e-mail to 120 schools. So far, ten other schools are participants.

5. Conclusion

The student council is responsible for planning and running eleven annual events. Due the time required by these events, we had little time to teach students how to use a computer. But students proved to be more enthusiastic about learning on their own than expected and quickly picked up much of the material on their own. Provided with required materials, the students planned and ran the events by themselves. Some of the pros and cons we experienced:

1) Students should have been provided with individual e-mail accounts from the beginning of their training.

2) The purchase and installation of the computer for the student council room should have been made earlier.

3) Finding the mailing addresses of schools took far more time than expected.

4) The project increased student knowledge of and interest in computers and the Internet.

5) Project effects included increased enthusiasm for council work, and increased computer use at our school.

6) We established a foundation for exchange with other schools, which should make future work much easier.

7) Most importantly, the project provided students the opportunity to develop confidence in using computers and the Internet.

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