Telecomputing with AT&T



Résumé, summary

An activity involving e-mail, combining a class-specific research project with an exchange of questionnaires with several other classrooms linked amongst themselves in a Learning Circle, sponsored by the AT&T Learning Network. The AT&T Learning Circle is supposed to work along the same principles as a learning circle within a business consortium - each participant brings his/her own experience to bear on the collaborative learning process. The session lasts 11 or 15 weeks (depending on whether it is the autumn or spring session) The AT&T Learning Network provides a number of curriculum choices, from the choice of which one is attributed to a specific learning circle, with 8 or 9 learning circle partners. The choices offered are Society's Problems (Science & Current Issues), Places and Perspectives (Social Studies & Current Issues), Global Issues (Social Studies), Mind Works (History & Geography), Science and Current Issues (Energy and the Environment) and Computer Chronicles (Journalism & Language Arts). The messages and/or exchanges are sent to the central computer of AT&T, by means of dedicated software which is issued at the time of joining. AT&T is then responsible for distributing the messages by way of an electronic mailbox at each of the participating sites. At one of these sites there is a (volunteer) Circle Co-ordinator, who serves as a role model (s/he has usually participated in a prior session), provides curriculum guidance and monitors Learning Circle progress. Within the curriculum choice made by the participating classes, there is a further choice to be made - that of the individual class project, for which the class is responsible. This can involve local research or a questionnaire to be sent out to the circle partners. At the end of the 11 / 15 -week session, the individual reports are written out by each site, then collated into a brochure which is then assembled from the individual contributions sent out by each of the sites. The Circle Co-ordinator is generally responsible for the cover-page and general organisation of this brochure.

Discipline, subject :

anglais englisch english inglesa english language telematics télématique

Public :

postobligatoire Weiterführende Schulen upper high school postobligatorio

Contacts :

Hurst, Lilliam

Chemin de la Gabiule 78

Tel : 752.50.21
Mail :
Fax : <>

Pédagogie, pedagogy :

Telecommunication activities involve a great deal of work for the learner. There are both reading and writing activities. Since the learner is not writing for the teacher (who is expected to be satisfied with whatever was offered), but for peers in other countries, a great deal of attention tends to be spent on accuracy. Furthermore, there is a shift in the power relationship in the classroom, as the teacher joins the class as a learner and a problem-solver. The teacher is no longer the knower, but one of the group of searchers after knowledge.

Apprentissage, learning :

It is very difficult to hide one's enthusiasm in this learning opportunity, and the teacher's honest excitement over learning from people in other locations is apparent to the students. This enthusiasm motivates student learning. In fact, this notion that the teacher is a member of the teaching-learning team along with the learner, is one of the most beneficial aspects that the learner can get from the total experience.

Enseignement, teaching :

Telecomputing wakes one up. One needs to convince one's headmaster, one's colleagues, the technical assistant on-site, and finally, and easiest of all, one's students. The voluntary giving-up of authority, as far as foreknowledge is concerned, can be a positive means of enhancing student-teacher relationship.

Technique :

We needed to install the AT&T dedicated software, then link the modem to the computer used to send/receive mail. The software distributed by AT&T has one third of the screen used as a permanent 'crib', saying which keys do what. The creation of folders (i.e. sub-directories) is easily done with the dedicated software, so the teacher taking part in this activity wouldn't need to be very conversant in computing.

Société, society :

One of the classes taking part in the exchange was a third-year EFL class, which decided to investigate the question of illegal immigration in Switzerland. The several teams therefore contacted two members of parliament (representing the Extreme-Right and the Socialist parties) as well as a representative of the Executive Branch of parliament, all of whom answered a questionnaire prepared by the entire class and used by the individual teams. The results were reported to other sites on the learning Circle, as our class project.

Culture :

It was an unequalled opportunity to learn about life in other cultures. Aside from the personal-message portion of the exchange, our (relatively) sheltered pupils found some of the information contributed by their American inner-city virtual classmates, for example, quite foreign. The notions of active racial tensions, the high suicide-rate, the teenage pregnancy were notions that had been distant items of information prior to their participation in the Circle.

Institution :

It was necessary to reserve the computer lab for use with half-groups of the class concerned. The fact that our computer lab is a self-access one, open whenever the school is open, meant that the pupils could also go in on their own time to work at their correspondence, or their reports / questionnaires. The teacher needs to be quite available, for questions, for help with the computers, and for uploading and downloading the messages and the files, since, for obvious reasons we couldn't give the pupils total and free access to the password, and therefore to the connection process.

Logistique :

The pupils need to be able to communicate in basic English, and to agree to the experience.

Remarques, remarks :

Although there is a lot of work involved for the teacher, the positive aspects of this experience largely outweigh the negative ones. It also allows us to prove to the students that "a computer is a communications device first, second and third", and therefore, to use it fully as such.