Your Virtual Comes True!
The Day an Elementary School Was Connected to the Internet
Nearly ten years ago I had my first experience with personal computer correspondence, which at that time was attractive because the grassroots networks were small enough that you could "see the faces" of the people you were exchanging information with. I first met most of the people who are collaborating today on research for the educational uses of the internet through local, grassroots hosts. There are elementary school teachers who are active nationwide in educational uses of the internet, and most of them are people I either met directly or knew their handle names from before the internet had become widespread. Teachers whose computers were connected to networks, and who shared a culture of using their computers as communication tools, are the ones who are today supporting the practice of educational uses of the Internet.
1) Suzuhari Elementary School UUCP Connection Project and the 100-Schools Project
In 1994, I worked together with Suzuhari Elementary School in Hiroshima Prefecture in a trial to connect the school directly to the Internet. In 1995, the 100-Schools Project of the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Education was started. The Chugoku/Shikoku Internet Utilization for Education Research Group was organized and various collaborative projects were developed.
2) Thousand Cranes Project and Children's Thousand Cranes Project
In 1995, fifty years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the Thousand Cranes Project, which had started with the exchange of messages between Suzuhari Elementary School and Alianza Elementary School in California, had spread to become a project among many schools through which students could study peace. In 1996, during the Children's Thousand Cranes Project developed by Nagatsuka Public Elementary School in Hiroshima, tens of thousands of folded paper cranes were delivered from around the world to fill the hall at a Peace Conference.
3) NTT's "CoNETion" Plan and Internet Haiku Get-together
NTT's "CoNETion" Plan was begun last year. The 100 schools of Suzuhari Elementary School and CoNETion's Kure Public Sansakachi Elementary School were linked in a real-time Internet haiku reading.
For children, the Internet itself is a "virtual" medium. The communication goes through steps in which messages that arrive from a correspondent are then printed out by a teacher and shown to the children. This exemplifies that we have entered the realm of the virtual.
Children sent out calls through the Internet, and the results were clearly evident at that time when folded paper cranes filled an auditorium, or when the haiku one child wrote provoked instant impressions from students in a distant classroom. What these instances present us with is not the void of the virtual world, but rather the emotions that accompany true feeling. "Your virtual comes true!" The possibilities for the educational use of the Internet lie in the creation of emotions, through the person on the other end and from the virtual world. The student can benefit from using the internet by being able to have a virtual experience. This virtual experience holds the key to inspiring the student's pursuit of further learning.