Education First: California Connectivity

Demonstration Sites Bloomington Junior High School, Bloomington Bryant Elementary School, San Francisco Century High School, Santa Ana Juarez-Lincoln Elementary School, San Diego Los Angeles Harbor Community College, Wilmington Martin Luther King Middle School, Seaside McLane High School, Fresno Mendocino School District, Mendocino Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena Sacramento Central Library, Sacramento West Valley Community College, Saratoga Education First, launched December 13, 1994, by Pacific Bell, is the largest private-sector initiative to date to connect all California schools and libraries to the information superhighway. More than 20 vendors support the effort. Eleven schools and libraries serve as demonstration sites and as "incubators" for developing applications, training and curricula packages for participants. Pacific Bell Leads Effort Phil Quigley, chair of Pacific Telesis, heads a public/private coalition pledged to advance systemwide integration of technology into teaching, learning and school management. Part of that commitment is ensuring every California classroom and library is equipped for full "highway" access. ISDN, or switched digital service, plays a starring role; the high-speed lines make online activities and interactive video-based telelearning practical enough for everyday instruction and collaboration with peers. Pacific Bell is providing $100 million in communications services. Through the end of 1996, the firm is offering to install up to four ISDN lines for free and waive one year's usage charges for all 7,400 public K-12 schools, public libraries and community colleges in their service territory. With CPUC permission, they'll widen the offer to 1,200 private, non-profit K-12 schools as well. AT&T, MCI and Sprint are also supplying free or discounted ISDN services. In addition, Pacific Bell is working with the CPUC to formalize an "educational access rate," to ensure affordable connectivity. The company will also install intra-building wiring at up to two locations&emdash;a computer lab for telecomputing and a location for interactive telelearning&emdash;at each public school and library. Their "seed money" totaling $5 million will help raise funds needed to wire remaining classrooms. Finally, dedicated resource teams from the firm work directly with schools and teachers to help them fully exploit all the new capabilities. Support From Other Vendors Other vendor participants in Education First offer educational discounts from 5% to 50% on computers, videoconferencing equipment, communications-related hardware, software and services. Some are seeding the demo sites with donated equipment and/or services as well. AT&T is the largest supplier of hardware and switched digital services for the project. For example, they have installed a total of 36 AT&T Vistium Personal Video Systems at demo sites, which lets users simultaneously talk, see and share software applications with each other. PictureTel Corp. has given its System 1000 group videoconferencing systems to four demo sites: two public libraries and two community colleges. Compression Labs and Intel also gave hardware. Remaining vendor supporters tend to cluster around a specific focus and offer either free or discounted products and services: Computers, Software and Connection Hardware: Apple, AT&T and IBM; Internet Access: BBN BARRNET, CERFnet, Performance Systems International, The Internet Connection and Internex; America Online is donating one AOL account to each demo site. ISDN Connection Products: Adtran, Ascend, AT&T, Combinet, DigiBoard, Gandalf, IBM, NEC, Network Express, NRC, Shiva and Tone Commander; Videoconference Hardware: AT&T, BT Visual Images, CLI, PictureTel and Sony Electronics; Desktop Conferencing: Intel. It's All About "Enabling" Already, at each school specific student projects are underway involving online activities, video telelearning and more. The community colleges are being set up to supply and receive distance education courses and training for local industry. The libraries are being positioned as public "portals" to cyberspace and distance learning. "The objective of Education First is to provide a comprehensive information technology solution for California education, from equipment for students to training for teachers," says Quigley.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.