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

Joint Development and Use of Educational Software on the Internet

Kazuo Tenra, Tokyo Metropolitan Komaba High School

1. Introduction

Installing the equipment needed to use the Internet in schools has the potential to significantly change educational content and methods. Our project, "Joint Development and Use of Educational Software on the Internet," was planned under the assumption that in the near future, every school would be provided with access to the Internet.

When computers were first introduced at our schools, we used the software provided (BASIC and other packages) to create our own programs, as there was little in the way of commercial software, and the software available was in any case too expensive. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of writing our own programs. Then, the release of Windows created the need for more powerful and more complex software. Our software budget increased, as did the range of commercial software available.

Every day, more schools begin using the Internet. We see the need for a system for jointly developing educational software. Commercial software is generally written by large teams. In writing our own software, we should follow suit and rely on the combined efforts of many people. Linked across the Internet, teachers from different schools can collaborate in developing such software.

The Internet is nearly ideal for software distribution. Formerly, we distributed our software by copying it to floppy disks and mailing them. The Internet lets us access software merely by going to the desired home page.

In this project, we examined several ways to proceed in co-developing and distributing our own software across the Internet.


2. The project

In this project, we examined how teachers can cooperate to develop, operate, control, and use educational software that can be used on the Internet.

Group leader

Kazuo Tenra, Tokyo Metropolitan Komaba High School

Committee member

Junji Sumi, Tokyo Metropolitan Kokusai High School

Committee member

Nobuhiro Kinase, Shibuya ward Sasazuka Junior High School

Committee member

Takahiro Haga, Junior High School attached to Faculty of Education at Chiba University

Consultant

Saburo Oono, Nihon Sun Micro Systems K.K.

Consultant

Hidetoshi Ogata, Microsoft Co., Ltd.

Table1. Members of the study group

The research
Figure 1.A Screeen from the software controlling system to register software
URL: http://www.cec.or.jp/kenkai/touroku/js-ysinsei.html
We established a project study group, in which we discussed project contents and operating procedures.
We started inviting people to participate in our project in July, 1997. Forty-five people chose to participate, participating as individuals rather than as representatives of a particular school. Participating teachers came from elementary, junior, and senior high schools, twenty-three schools in all. Also participating were university professors and people with no direct ties to the educational community.
We introduced home pages targeted at the participants and conducted study meetings on Java and ActiveX. We invited lecturers from computer-related companies. During the study meetings, we developed software for use on a home page and did research on future computer trends.

Project URL: http://www.cec.or.jp/kenkai/jsoft/jsoft.html
We established a control system on the server to register and search JAVA applets, HTML, including scripts, and server software. Figure 1 shows an HTML screen used to register software written by individuals. Registering software in this screen automatically sends information for the software to examiners, using e-mail. The examiners determine the appropriateness of the software, after which it is either registered or rejected.


3. The potential of software operating on a web site

Java is attracting attention as a language for web software development. Below are listed some benefits of using this kind of software for education:
Using educational software running on a web site, such as a Java Applet, will dramatically change information education. If a computer has a web browser, each student is able to use software without having to install it on his or her own computer. If various educational software, information, and teaching materials are collectively controlled on a server or connected to the Internet, each student may choose his or her own software from a browser. Programs written in Java have good security features and are stable and safe when running on networks. Using Java should facilitate lessons held in a school computer room.


4. Developing software for use on a web site

The joint development and use of educational software on the Internet requires some advanced techniques and methods, including modular software and software that can function with VRML or CGI. I would like to discuss what I consider a significant topic, developing modular software.

When distributing self-made educational software, you don't have to think about developing it in separate parts, as long as it's used for a single purpose. But when people collaborate in developing and using software, as in our project, many find that modular software is easier to use. For example, software written expressly for the purpose of teaching functional relations can be used only in teaching mathematics. But create a separate module during the development process that works with graphs, and you have a program that can also be used to graph data for natural phenomena, for science lessons, or social phenomena for social studies classes.


5. Conclusion

In this project, we've discussed ways in which teachers jointly develop, manage, and use software written for use on the Web. The rapidly changing nature of the technology involved in this project has produced many difficulties. Some of the unresolved problems include changes in the Java language, obtaining tools and instruction manuals for software development, delays in developing a system for controlling software, and greater demand for the educational server client system than anticipated. We believe that the need for educational software for use on the Web will grow by leaps and bounds. We continue to strive to resolve the difficulties, with the ultimate goal of improving Internet use in our schools.


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