i2 in WNC
Executive Summary: I2 Features and Issues
What if there was almost unlimited bandwidth? High bandwidth computer networking is opening the door to new levels of teaching, learning and economic activity. The premier exploration of such opportunities is Internet2 (I2), the next generation Internet. School budgets have forced a slow migration towards the I2 capacity now available. In preparation for this, the College of Education and Allied Professions (CEAP) has put significant leadership, infrastructure, curriculum and strategic planning in place seeking to leverage these new developments. Internet2 will serve as training ground for the public education, business and entrepreneurial uses of the future. Many of its potential features are already well defined. This document is an executive summary of a web site reviewing I2 features and issues and starting a digital I2 community (http://ceap.wcu.edu/houghton/i2/).
I2 is a significant cultural achievement. Just as our transportation system went from walking to space, our information system has gone from a few bits per second to the rocket leap of Internet2, running at 600 megabits per second and faster, speeds exceeding standard broadband by a factor of hundreds. Full length videos transmit in the time it took email to transmit with initial Internet speeds in the 1980's.
CEAP's Digital History and Cutting Edge
On the WCU campus, the College of Education and Allied Professions, led by Dean Michael Dougherty, has a completed a decade of work in positioning digital curriculum, skills and leadership. CEAP was an early supporter of the NC agenda of certifying that initial teachers are highly qualified with digital skills. All K-8 and secondary education mathematics teachers are currently required to take an in-depth Computers in Education course in which, among other topics, all students experience high bandwidth video conferencing and compose high bandwidth video projects for CD, DVD and the Web in preparation for the day in which school networks can handle such traffic. CEAP has had a full time Director of Instructional Technology, a position held by Dr. Ben Coulter throughout this period. For off-campus outreach, supported by significant Federal support, the college has also carried out an in-depth digital inservice program for regional teachers through the outstanding Adventures of the American Mind initiative, led by Dr. Beth Coulter, which accents digital multimedia in study connecting regional and national history.
Within the last year a number of developments have kept the college on the cutting edge of strategic digital activity. The college added an endowed chair, the Distinguished Professor in Educational Technologies position, held by Dr. John LeBaron. CEAP also pursued broad reaching policy development. As part of the many presentations of the i7 Futures Forum on WNC regional development in April, 2005, CEAP faculty provided a full-day set of panels and presenters, and papers on "Education and the Creative Class: Connecting the Dots". In i7 Forum research by Dr. Houghton and Dr. David Strahan, Taft B. Botner Distinguished Professor in Elementary and Middle Grades Education, the great potential was recognized for enterepreneurial curriculum, digital literacy, constructivist activity, and for a merger of leading economic development and educational thinking.
Allied with the Service Learning program, use the eCROP web site for facilitating problem solving was extended in a pilot partnership with the Marcia Crites, Director of the Mountian Heritage Center which supports area nonprofit development and problem solving. In alliance with the Center for Regional Development, a grant was submitted to the Golden Leaf Foundation to lead a research agenda into the digital economy and the potential development of school curriculum and teacher certification. Further, CEAP is actively involved in supporting Swain West Elementary's NC 1-2-1 Tech Grant grant (which eventually puts a networked connected laptop in the hands of every student in grades 3-5) with workshops, consultation, and efforts to synchronize videoconference equipment for master teacher demonstrations to methods classes and intern supervision.
I2 Application Futures
This larger set of possibilities can be divided into five basic areas, though new areas will surely be invented as the number of Internet2 participants continues to grow: teleconferencing (video and videoconferencing); remote control of scientific instruments and sensors; tele-immersion or immersive VR (spell out what is "VR"); haptics or digital touch and pressure; and simulations of social and scientific considerations; shared research, and highly engaged student learning.
Teleconferencing - Video and Videoconferencing
High bandwidth enables implementation of the longstanding vision for a digital hallway or virtual educational community that provides seamless connection between the auditoriums, lecture halls and classrooms of the university and regional schools. Activities will include master teacher presentations from the school to CEAP methods classes, collaborative workshops, and student intern supervision. CEAP has three videoconference systems awaiting connectivity with regional schools. Just as important, I2 opens the school door for the same high levels of connectivity to a much larger global community of specialists and educators via the I2 Commons and Access Grid. (Briefly explain what these two terms mean.)
Remote Control of Scientific Devices
Numerous opportunities exist with I2 speeds for remote data collection and study in science and math classes using models such as the Jason Project which put students in control of submersible craft collecting scientific data in oceans around the world, and currently taking place only within major cities that have I2 speeds into city science museums.
Tele-Immersion (immersive VR)
I2 brings tele-immersion to classrooms, enabling students to feel embedded inside a three-dimensional (3D) space, expanding educational capacity for scientific visualization, making abstract concepts and oceans of numbers become more concrete and tangible spaces and places. This is becoming increasingly important to medicine, advanced science and mathematic research, and product creation and design.
Though requiring the transmission of large of amounts of data, haptics brings a unique new expansion of digital technology through digital touch and pressure. Such technology enables students to understand and think about issues such as those faced by engineers for production creation and design, medical personnel remotely treating patients and carrying out surgical operations requiring specialists during emergency situations with telerobotics, and designers in discussion with a global community for creating textures in clothing and furniture design.
Experience with advanced simulation software is a requirement of the national secondary education computer literacy standards. High bandwidth enables large sets of students to participate in a variety of existing simulation programs including GlobalEd Simulation, USUHS Web-Based Patient Simulation, United Nations World Food Program Educational Game and the Virtual Marine World Exploration.
Teachers typically work in isolation from one another and from the sources of human support that can improve their performance and motivate a desire for continuous professional development. Through shared access to media-rich knowledge bases, interactive expert systems, skilled human expertise, and scholarly information professionals, educators can establish learning communities that nurture their need for ongoing professional contact and the substantive resources to contextualize the problem-solving process. This same principle applies to students at all levels of scholarship.
Highly engaged student learning
Higher education professors, administrators and policy makers are coming to realize the enormous potential of high bandwidth computer connectivity to promote 24/7 access to highly engaged, richly-mediated, deeply resourced learning environments. Such access is not possible through traditional, site based classroom settings. Thus, the University's core mission of teaching excellence is advanced through region-wide participation in an I2-supported community of institutions. At the moment we are merely scratching the surface of this potential. In order to lead effectively, the University and its diverse constituency require rapid upgrading to the requisite broadband network capacity.