|Integrating Productivity Tools in Primary and Secondary Education|
GrassRoots, as the article's title implies, serves as a catalyst. Below are answers to the frequently asked questions (FAQs) we have encountered.
What Is GrassRoots?
GrassRoots is a Virtual World that
has emerged from the integration of text-based virtual reality
and the World Wide Web (WWW) to harness the Information and Communication
potential of the Internet. GrassRoots is an experimental community
that attracted talented people from diverse backgrounds, whose
focus was on human service and learning.
GrassRoots provides a learning environment where K-12 children are creating their neighborhoods and students from four universities are involved in collaborative study and research. The Library of GrassRoots has a foundation of over 260 electronic forums directed to Education, Medicine, and Psychology, and Disability. GrassRoots contains a cultural center that features works such as the music of Wagner, the writings of Eliot and Whitman; it also contains museums dedicated to the 12th century, to Jerusalem, and to Brooklyn NY.
GrassRoots places a special emphasis
on inclusion for those with educational and physical disabilities.
What Is the History of GrassRoots?
GrassRoots was started on a Pentium
100 computer provided by St. John's University. The core database
of an established MultiUser Dungeon (MUD) that was Object-Oriented
(MOO) was stripped of its individual features and the initial
GrassRoots structure developed. On September 9, 1996, there was
an official announcement of the creation of an L-Soft Listserv
List called GrassRoots, one of over 260 such lists devoted to
education, psychology, and support that are part of the GrassRoots
Information Center at the St. John's University domain, STJOHNS.EDU.
Within 3 months of the initial announcement,
children from Alaska, Canada, and Finland were creating their
individual neighborhoods; students from New York and Tel-Aviv
were building virtual university campi; a simulation of a Civil
War battle was emerging, as was the Hall of a 12th Century Bard.
During the next 3 months the actuality of GrassRoots was expanding
beyond the original education orientation to embrace a Global
Community with foci on education, culture, and support.
The only costs associated with GrassRoots
are the use of the Pentium computer and access to the Internet
provided by St. John's University. The Coordinators of the project
are working on a volunteer level and no special incentives are
given to participant teachers and students.
What Is the Mission of GrassRoots?
The overriding goal of GrassRoots
is to develop a virtual community that will foster the growth
and development of all its citizens. There are 3 specific objectives
aimed at this goal. To:
1. Enhance teaching, learning, collaboration
and research on an international level
2. Provide community support for
those in need and foster universal inclusion
3. Use 21st century technology to
develop the cultural components of community.
What Has It Done to Attain That
The overriding goal of the GrassRoots
experiment was to develop a functional community that encompasses
education, culture, and support, where distance is not a barrier
to cooperation and collaboration. There were 3 specific goals
under the major objective and substantial movement to each of
those goals was evident.
Learning and collaboration projects that span the educational
a. Three Virtual Communities--Alaska,
Canada, and Finland--are currently functional. You can visit 5th
grade children in Barrow, 9th grade students in New Brunswick,
and 11th grade students in Finland. The students have created
virtual representations of their neighborhoods in the MOO and
are available for chat at specific times during the school day.
b. St. John's University, the University
of Missouri Kansas City, Warsaw University, and the University
of Tel-Aviv have each developed a presence on GrassRoots on the
GrassRoots University Campus and are involved in several projects.
c. A representation of the University
of Tel-Aviv has been created as a WebTree and it is possible to
tour the campus in pictures and text as you attempt to solve a
puzzle. This representation is mirrored in text on GrassRoots
Text-Based Virtual Reality (TBVR).
d. A student at the University of
Tel-Aviv has initiated research aimed at evaluating the use of
TBVR for learning.
e. Graduate and undergraduate Students
at St. John's University and at the University of Missouri are
collaborating on a research project aimed both at individual differences
in mental imagery and at the use of the Internet in collecting
f. The Schools of Education of St.
John's University and Warsaw University are developing a collaboration
to teach English to Polish students, to use distance learning
to facilitate teacher education and staff development, and for
Provision of community support for those in need and foster universal
a. Community support for universal
inclusion is a guiding spirit of GrassRoots and an ombudsman has
been appointed to ensure accommodation to the needs of everyone.
b. The library of Email lists located
on the SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU site is a major source of information
on disability and rehabilitation.
c. Screen displays that accommodate
voice synthesizers for the blind and for individuals with certain
kinds on learning disability are being developed and are undergoing
d. Graduate neuropsychology students
at St. John's University are communicating through email and on
the MOO with survivors of brain injury.
e. There is a close connection with
Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI)
f. Support groups for children with
Attention Deficit Disorder and for survivors of abuse have been
developed both on Mailing Lists and in real-time TBVR.
Development of the cultural aspects of community and support for
the creative uses of 21st Century technology. Unique cultural
resources have been developed to provide alternative paths to
learning. These include the:
a. Simulation of the hall of a 12th
century bard, simulations of Brooklyn NY, and of Jerusalem
b. Milan as virtual museums. The
music of Wagner's and the poetry of Whitman and Eliot have been
transposed to the medium of TBVR.
What Makes This Project Unique?
Four factors make GrassRoots a singularity.
1. GrassRoots is unique because it
is a prototype. Nothing like it has ever existed. This is not
because GrassRoots is at the cutting edge of technology, but because
it has integrated the most commonly accessible tools into a unique
2. The seed from which GrassRoots
sprung is itself unique. St. John's University is the site of
over 260 Electronic Forums based on an L-Soft Listserv, most of
which are devoted to education, psychology, disability, and medicine,
and serve as a pool for information for the developers of GrassRoots.
3. TBVR is educationally unique.
It teaches reading and writing in a natural way, in the same way
we learned to listen and speak. Students see a MOO as a game.
Reading and writing become fun and the creativity of the student
4. GrassRoots is a community that
has been planned from its inception with a universal inclusion
perspective that stems directly from the seed of the electronic
forums. Efforts are made to attract and accommodate to the needs
of the physically and mentally challenged.
Why Has GrassRoots Been So Successful
GrassRoots has been successful because
of the people who are creating it. The students, the teachers,
the developers of GrassRoots are all responsible for its growth.
This project has been successful because it is a truly grassroots
community, launched by individual teachers and educators who were
exploring the medium. They have pride in ownership that no preconceived
"top-down" organization can engender. Key elements of
the project include flexibility, growth, and change; the community
is in constant flux as the pattern of the dance changes with new
How Do I Visit GrassRoots?
There are two ways to reach The GrassRoots Project. The best way to review GrassRoots
is to experience it in the form of
a WWW guided tour. Point to http://rdz.stjohns.edu/grassroots.
You can also telnet by using the
following steps. First, telnet to: rdz.stjohns.edu Then, log in
as: grass. Use the password: changeme. This will allow you to
have the advantage of the Tiny fugue client for easy screen reading.
When you reach the login screen for TBVR, type: co guest
We look forward to seeing you on
GrassRoots. If you have any questions, please send them to the
Web Master via WWW, or write to one of the authors listed.
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