[appeared in Kyouiku Katei Shinbun September 2000]
In early August this year I accompanied a Japanese delegation led by Mr. Miyazawa Kazuo from JERIC (http://www.jeric.gr.jp) to Germany and the UK that had the mission to find out about recent developments in ICT in education.
We visited people from government related institutions like the
Department for Education and Employment, DfEE
in Britain and its German counterpart, the Federal Ministry of Education
and Research, BMBF (http://www.bmbf.de/).
We received explanations about the British Educational Communications and Technology agency, BECTa (http://www.becta.org.uk/), and the National Grid For Learning, NGFL (http://www.ngfl.gov.uk/), as well as the German Research Net, DFN (http://www.dfn.de/), the German Educational Server, DBS (http://www.bildungsserver.de/), and the European Institute for the Media, EIM (http://www.eim.org/).
Additionally we talked to several public private partnership endeavours in Germany that help to connect schools: "Schools to the Net (SaN)" (http://www.san-ev.de/) on the federal level, "e-nitiative" (http://www.e-nitiative.nrw.de/) in the state of Northrhine Westphalia and the national industry initiative "Germany in the 21st Century (D21)" (http://www.initiatived21.de/).
On the content level we saw demonstrations of educational 3d-worlds at BBC Education (http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/) and of a virtual history museum "LeMO" (http://www.isst.fhg.de/~lemo/) at DFN.
Furthermore we learned about recent strategies by the former telecom monopolists BT (http://www.bteducation.com/) and Deutsche Telekom (http://www.telekom.de/dgo/index_schulen_ans_netz.htm).
In both countries governments now seriously try to connect all schools
to the net as soon as possible - often a sense of danger of falling
behind economically seems to be involved.
Also they are now increasingly addressing the problem of digital divide, which can occur on several levels: e.g. within a country between poor and rich regions and families, old and young people, well and less educated, or also within Europe between northern and southern countries.
We also see that public funds and know-how alone do not suffice to accomplish the huge tasks of providing equipment, good content and professional training, so all sorts of public-private cooperations in this area are evolving.
Educational networking and multimedia content development have become interesting markets economically, so big old telecom and media players try to move parts of their capacities into this area.
A common problem when thinking about further levels of educational networking is the problem of creating and distributing high bandwidth multimedia content. In many countries public broadcasting corporations own the best audiovisional educational content. But this content often cannot be commercialized, because its production has been financed by the public. On the other hand telecommunication companies have the capacities for broadband distribution, but they are still lacking appropriate content. It will be interesting to watch new alliances in this field.
After this brief overview I would like to introduce the example of
German Telekom that earlier this year made a substantial change in its
model for supporting schools' internetworking.
In 1995-96 Telekom had joined forces with the Federal Ministry for Education and Research to create the non-profit organisation "Schools to the Net" (SaN). So far this initiative has connected about 13,000 (out of 44,000) schools.
But in February this year Telekom launched a new initiative "Germany goes Online" (DGO) - now less closely connected to the ministry. While one part of DGO aims at connecting small and medium enterprises, the other part offers a range of new Internet services to all German schools free of charge.
The new services are called "T@School", "T-Cl@ss", "T-Cl@ssroom" and
"Team@School", "T" meaning "Telekom".
"T@School" is the offer to connect all 44,000 German schools to the Internet until the end of 2001. This connection via Telekom's online service "T-Online" will be completely free of charge. Schools that apply will receive at least an ISDN-line. Where Telekom serves DSL, they can also get T-DSL.
In the "T@School" initiative Telekom gives away 20,000 used PCs to schools for the creation of media corners. In 5,000 classrooms they plan to set up media corners of 4 networked PCs each for the students.
"T-Cl@ssroom" is an offer to 30 schools to establish one complete Internet classroom with 20 connected PCs.
Support comes from "Team@School", through which Telekom employees help schools with technical support or teacher training on a voluntary basis. These Telekom trainers are being trained during their working hours, but visit schools in their freetime.
Many schools will surely welcome this move, as it finally gives them a chance to use the net really free of Internet and telephone charges. On the other hand some doubts remain as to whether these services will really remain permanently free as has been promised by Telekom. Also of course Telekom wants to tie customers to their service, so teachers and students will have to stay aware that T-Online is not the only possible provider.