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Two years ago when Bell Atlantic, now Verizon, made a $20,000 grant to Colby College to enhance math and science teaching in area schools, both Colby and Verizon anticipated a one-year program that would help teachers introduce the resources of the Internet to their students. But between cost savings realized in the first year of the program and leveraging the original grant with some matching funds, Colby’s Partnership for Science Education more than doubled the length of the project, opening doors to new information technology resources to scores of teachers and, subsequently, to their students in four area school systems.
The grant, made by Bell Atlantic before it became part of the global telecommunications company Verizon, provided in the first year home Internet access to 75 teachers of grades K through 12. For those teachers without computers, Colby provided 10 Compaq laptops using funds from another source. Workshops on computers, e-mail and Internet basics were held the first year, and more advanced workshops the second year addressed use of the Intenet in the classroom, Internet searching and the construction of Web sites.
The Verizon grant was made recognizing that teachers cannot effectively teach use of the Internet and World Wide Web unless they are familiar with those resources themselves. Without time during the school day to explore the Internet, teachers needed the home-based Internet service provided by the Colby and Verizon project in order to make enough sense of information technology resources to use them effectively in the classroom.
“The only time I have to explore the vast educational resources of the Internet is at home,” said Roger Brainerd, computer integration coordinator at Messalonskee High School in Oakland and one of the beneficiaries of the Verizon and Colby partnership. “Considering all the time our students have to spend exploring the Net, we need all the help we can get to keep up,” he said.
Colby’s Partnership for Science Education, begun in 1988 to allow Colby professors and students to work with area schools to improve science curriculum and instruction, served as the platform for the Verizon program, initiated in 1998. Chemistry Professor Whitney King, who managed the program, explained that the cost of services, provided by local Internet Service Provider MINT, allowed Colby to extend the program for a second year for the 41 elementary and secondary teachers who wished to continue.
“The idea was that we would empower the teachers by allowing them to become sophisticated Internet users, which in turn makes them better teachers,” King said.
Marianne Knauff, a Waterville High School teacher, said the grant allowed her to correspond by e-mail in Spanish with her students. She also learned Java script to build a Web site used by students to practice Spanish grammar and to find Web sites related to class material.
Nancy Pike, a special education teacher, explained that she used the Internet for research, both to find lesson plans and additional information on classroom topics. Terry Hiltz said, “I’m much more adept at computer use; I have even decided to get my master’s degree in educational technology!… The best way to train teachers to be more computer literate so that they can pass the knowledge on to students is to let them have the Internet at home.” Several other teachers reported building Web sites that they used in their classes.
The grant program lasted two years instead of one, and it continues to benefit teachers and students in the four area school districts. Besides the laptops computers, which are still available for loan, two iMac computers and video cameras recently were purchased with grant money and were added to the Partnership’s inventory of equipment that is available to the schools, King said.