XChange: Unique Service Brings the Real World Into Classrooms

XChange, an educational information service that provides a continuous flow of current events and other data directly into a PC, is an exceptional teaching and learning tool. Formerly known as X*PRESS X*Change, the service is offered by Ingenius, of Denver, Colo., now jointly owned by TCI and Reuters New Media. (Previously, the firm was called X*PRESS Information Services.) Designed just for education, XChange allows teachers and students to get up-to-the-minute news and information from over 20 information providers and wire services around the globe, including ones in France, Mexico, Japan and China, plus U.S. news wires. Additionally, XChange supplies support materials for Cable in the Classroom programs, such as CNN Newsroom Daily Classroom Guide, C-SPAN, Discovery Channel's Assignment Discovery, MTV, ESPN and more. For financial data, which changes hourly, users can check in three times a day: at market opening, midday and close. How D'es It Work? How is the signal brought into the schools? XChange's signal is carried via cable TV lines or satellite. Use of the service is free to schools whose cable companies carry the signal and participate in the TCI Education Project. (Students whose parents are TCI cable subscribers can also access XChange from their homes.) Schools outside the reach of cable TV may also get the service if they have an appropriate satellite system. These schools must purchase INFOCIPHER software, a special program (Mac or DOS) that decodes the cable signal and makes it readable to a computer. In this process, all of the information is placed in a database, thus making it easily accessible. There is a one-time cost and minimal yearly access fees for INFOCIPHER. Even with the fees, XChange represents a dramatic savings for school districts struggling with budget shortfalls as it provides a wider range of information for students than d'es the antiquated format of printed textbooks. While XChange is currently text-based, multimedia is due to be incorporated quite soon, enhancing its "seductiveness" factor. Examples From the Classroom The use of XChange is limited only by one's imagination. All subjects and grade levels are suitable ground. Following are just two examples. Darla Winholz, a home economics teacher in Rawlins, Wyo., utilizes XChange as a textbook substitute. Her students access current information and statistics right from the classroom. Mimi Gilman, director of an Instructional Materials Center and technology coordinator for Carbon County School Districts #1 and #2 in Wyo., is a "teacher champion" for Ingenius. One of her innovative uses are lessons she created for Spanish teachers using XChange and HyperCard. A stack named "Geograf’a de Sud América" holds data on the 13 countries of South America and is designed to teach students about each nation's geography, topography, products and culture. As they learn about each country, students use XChange to create "clipping folders" (a feature of XChange software) to collect information. In this study unit, XChange can be used in two ways. One is to gather contemporary articles for class presentations. The second is to collect news coming in from the Mexican News Agency, for example, and then import those captured clippings into a word processor that has a Spanish dictionary and grammar checker, such as ClarisWorks. This latter approach allows the content to be analyzed for grammatical correctness and spelling. Interestingly, in some schools where XChange is heavily used, certain textbooks are not being replaced. Instead those funds are reallocated for technology, thus placing more information materials in the schools' library or media centers. Under this approach, students get unlimited, guaranteed-current statistics rather than textbooks with statistics that were outdated before their ink was dry. New Contest Now Underway "Diplomatic Resolution. It's the Solution," a brand new contest now underway, challenges students to create peaceful solutions to the world's most pressing problems. Students choose any conflict with international implications in a specific geographical region and develop a diplomatic solution. XChange is used by the students to gather background and track events as they develop scenarios for resolving a conflict peacefully. Each semester targets a different region. The Winter '95 challenge, for example, focuses on Africa; entries are accepted through March 31st. Entrants are supplied a Diplomatic Dispatch Kit of contest information and diplomatic technique tips. Entries can be submitted in many forms: essay, videotape, on diskette or CD-ROM. Judging is done by a board of retired diplomats, educators, international news reporters and representatives of participating organizations. "Diplomatic Resolution. It's the Solution" is open to individual students as well as classroom and extra-curricular groups. The grand prize is $1,000, a multimedia PC and a trip to Washington, D.C. Ten second-place winners receive $500 and multimedia PCs; 25 third-place winners get $100, CD-ROM drives and a multimedia product from Ingenius. (See end of article for how to get entry forms.) Ever Expanding XChange is an innovative service that belongs in every classroom. Currently, more than 17,000 schools have it. And as the world of electronic news and educational cable TV programming expands, so d'es the value of this unique service. By its very nature, XChange promises to be an unlimited source of "right now" information -- as current as is technically possible -- for all ages and needs. And all it takes is the touch of a fingertip.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.