VOL. 110 | NO. 198 | Friday, October 11, 1996
Tennessee will be first state to connect all public school students to the Internet
By GABRIELLE C.L. SONGE
The Daily News
Providing access to the World Wide Web for 900,000 students and 50,000 teachers is a feat no state in the union has done until now. But Thursday, public schools across Tennessee celebrated the existence of a state-of-the-art computer network that connects Tennessee students to the Internet.
"The vision was to make the libraries, museums and databases of the Internet available to every child at every school in the state," said Al Ganier, president of Connect Tennessee Students (ConnecTEN).
Gov. Don Sundquist and Department of Education Commissioner Jane Walters had the idea of making Tennessee the first state to provide equal access for all public school children from kindergarten through high school. No matter how isolated a school might be, Ganier said, it was the governors direction that all Tennessee public schools would be on line.
"The governor and Commissioner Walters set this in motion 14 months ago. Its incredible. We installed the first system in late June, and I think we have a record day of doing 30 schools in one day," Ganier said.
In most Tennessee schools, Ganier said a single line, dial-up telephone connection existed. However, this allowed only a few students to have access to the Internet.
What makes ConnecTEN unique is the use of high-speed connections that allow dozens of computers to be simultaneously connected to the Internet, Ganier explained.
"So that means that the schools can grow and connect enough computers so that its not limited to just the a few techies. Its available for all the children," he said.
"It will take a little while but well probably bring up about 15,000 computers on this network, and it is enormous what were doing," Ganier acknowledged.
"We believe that there will be no other state that will be connected the way that we will be from border to border," the governors press secretary, Beth Fortune, said. "Were using some technology that apparently other states havent. So, were very excited about this."
Tennessees network surpasses systems in other states in several respects:
All Tennessee public schools will be on line with Internet access.
Tennessees system uses state-of-the-art equipment and configuration providing a model for other states.
High-speed connections potentially allow 15,000 computers to have Internet access.
There are approximately 1,560 public schools in Tennessee. "Well have about 1,100 done by the end of this year and all schools by the end of the school year," Fortune said. "There are apparently 800 right now that are hooked up."
The design connects all Tennessee schools to one computer network through a central server in Nashville. The Nashville server provides gateways to the Internet. The connections are made through six regional hubs that feed into Nashvilles central server.
But it is the high-speed telephone lines provided by BellSouth and dozens of other telephone companies that have made it possible for students and teachers to view text and graphics found on the World Wide Wed at speeds from four to 25 times faster than through ordinary telephone lines.
"Its a step forward as far as walking into the 21st century," observed Mrs. Rubye Dobbins, Shelby County Board of Education commissioner. From the city schools, Board of Education Commissioner TaJuan Stout Mitchell said, "Every child will benefit from this exposure, and it will better prepare them for tomorrows work challenges."
Presently in the Memphis City Schools, there is one work station located in each of the 162 schools libraries. Hardware is on order for additional workstations to be in place by the end of the 1996-97 academic year.
Largely funded by the state legislature, the total investment so far is estimated at $136.2 million. The breakdown is: $100 million in state appropriations for 21st Century Classrooms, $25 million in state appropriations for the infrastructure, $5.6 million from the Department of Educations budget for hardware and installation, $3.6 million from the departments budget for technology, $1 million from the departments savings and $1 million donated by business partners.
"Im glad that Memphis City Schools, as well as schools across the state, can be a part of technological changes, and we can introduce our children to that," Commissioner Peggy Prater-Harvey said. "Thats truly the epitome of 21st century learning. So, Im very excited about the prospect. Im very proud that Memphis City Schools can be a part of that."