"Schools to the Net" initiative in Germany

[appeared in Kyouiku Katei Shinbun March 1998]

In a few German schools the Internet has been used by active individual teachers and their students since the end of the 1980s in grass root projects like the UUCP based ODS (Open German Schoolnet) or the European Schools Project (ESP).

Compared to countries like the USA or Japan, a national initiative to connect schools to the Internet started rather late.
In 1995 the Ministry for Education and Research together with German Telecom, Apple Computer, the magazine STERN and other corporate sponsors announced a plan called "Schools to the Net" (SaN, http://www.san-ev.de/) to connect 10,000 general and technical schools to the Internet within the three years 1996-1998. This is about 1/4 of all German schools (44,000).

The basic equipment provided consists of one multimedia PC, an ISDN line, basic software and telecommunication costs for the first years. Internet connections are sponsored by the German Research Net (WIN) and several Online Services (AOL, Compuserve or T-Online).
In the first project phase 60 Million DM have been spent by the ministry and Telecom, and in December 1997 an additional effort to connect the rest of all German schools beginning in 1999 has been announced. So in the second phase Telecom and the ministry will provide schools with another 100 Million DM, and other sponsors will help with hardware, software, telecommunication costs etc.

But only hardware proved not to be enough. On the organizational and pedagogical side many problems were not taken care of enough:
Initially many teachers were not well prepared for actually using the net, let alone for teaching their students what meaningful applications could be. There was no systematic teacher training, and system administration had to be done by teachers in their free time. A single networked PC per school was not enough for letting students actually work with the net etc. So some of the initial enthusiasm turned into frustration.

Now SaN tries to improve the situation for the third application phase ending this March: School applications are now categorized into "initial projects", "model projects" (including teacher training) and "special projects" (sponsored by individual companies). Teacher training projects can be sponsored seperately as well, and there even is a program called "Teach your teacher!", where experienced students are encouraged to teach their teachers basic network knowledge and skills.

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Irene Langner, http://www.irene-langner.de/,
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Last modified: 1999-10-20