Integrating Productivity Tools in Primary and Secondary Education


Bonnie Thurber

Baker Demonstration School, National-Louis University

Bob Davis Associate Director


Computer Services National-Louis University

The "Designing a Server for a K-8 School" project is an expression of the continuing philosophy that guides the teaching of K-8 students at the Baker Demonstration School of National-Louis University (FLU). To facilitate this project, the BDS technology coordinator, an NLU computer services administrator, and high school students from the USA, Australia, and England created a World Wide Web server and a Multi User Simulation Environment (MUSE). The presentation, Designing a Server for a K-8 School, describes the steps taken to expand and enhance hardware and software resources, and to install and set up servers. It also defines guidelines for students to follow when creating home pages and MUSEs.


Baker Demonstration School (BDS) is a private nursery through 8th grade school that is the demonstration school for National-Louis University's (NLU) College of Education. Its enrollment is about 300 students. Class size varies from about 14 to 24. Because Baker is a demonstration school, university students observe and help in classrooms daily. Baker also has access to the technology resources of NLU.

The "Designing a Server for a K-8 School" project is an expression of the continuing philosophy that guides the teaching of K-8 students at the BDS of NLU. Content and process skills are integrated throughout the curriculum, even though individual teachers and classes may be identified as science, technology, social studies, or other subject areas. Students construct their knowledge in a collaborative environment. The culture of this environment includes peer collaboration, cross-grade student interactions, and faculty-faculty, faculty-administration, and student-faculty collaboration.

In the past three years, BDS students in kindergarten through 8th grade have designed and published many projects using technology. Older students have constructed hypermedia presentations about the environment, science fact-myth, Pompeii, Roman architecture, mammals, chemistry, and physics. These projects have been used internally for curriculum integration and cross grade peer teaching and collaboration. This year BDS is extending the cross grade peer teaching and collaboration to include student exchanges in rural and urban areas. In order to facilitate this, NLU needed to enhance its internet resources.

To expand and enhance hardware and software resources and install and set up a server, thereby upgrading resources, the BDS technology coordinator, an NLU computer services administrator, and high school students from the USA, Australia, and England created a World Wide Web (WWW) server and a Multi-User Simulated Environment (MUSE).

In 1993, National-Louis was connected to the Internet as part of an NSF grant instituted by NetIllinois, the internet service provider for the State of Illinois. A 56 kb circuit was connected and installed from NetIllinois' internet point of presence and a Cisco router connected to NLU's wide area network. This connection was installed and managed through CICNet, a regional Internet network. At the present time NLU's four Chicago area campuses and the academic center in McLean, Virginia, are directly connected via WANs. Off campus access is provided by a Telebyte terminal server for VT100 and SLIP access. Faculty and administrative offices are connected to LANs, which support both Macintosh and IBM platforms.

As Baker's needs for an enhanced internet connection were being evaluated, NLU first considered purchasing a Sun Server to enable NLU to provide the full range of Internet services, including an on-line email directory for internal and external access. As the project developed it was decided that a Sun Classic Server NLU would have a greater range of internet tools, offer VT100 terminal access, provide email phone directory services, internet relay chat capabilities, VT100 email such as Pine and Elm, and a world wide web (WWW) server, providing all the necessary internet resources for Baker School.

Funds were allocated, with support from NLU's faculty senate and Faculty Senate Technology Task Force, and approval by Senior Administration. After purchasing the Sun Server and making arrangements for installation and configuration of the appropriate software, CICNet scheduled times for staff training.

While approval and funding were being arranged, a beta test server was developed, using the Linux operating system, because it is a public domain version of Unix, one that is used and supported world wide and could be installed on a Personal Computer. Linux was installed on a 50 mghz IBM clone with 40 MB hard drive and 4 MB of memory. When it quickly became apparent this configuration was not adequate, an additional 4 MB of memory and a second 120 MB hard drive was added. This configuration was sufficient to install the necessary Linux software in order to connect the server to NLU's WAN and install and test the internet utilities being considered: Gopher, Telnet, FTP, Email, MUSE, IRC, Lynx, and WWW.

The internet server software BDS specifically wished to utilize was an IRC server and client, a WWW server, and a MUSE. In the previous year, Baker students had used kidlink irc for many exciting projects. However, Kidlink irc was limited to students aged 10-15, and Baker wanted to include some younger students in its projects without getting into more adult irc. Several Baker students used MUSES and expressed an interest in doing some building on their own. The web server seemed to be an exciting expansion of already developing inhouse technology-oriented projects.

Using this beta server to check various versions of utilities, try them out, experiment and decide which would best serve Baker School's purposes, BDS selected three utilities: NCSA Unix server as the WWW server, TinyMUSH instead of MUSE software because of ease of installation, and IRC version 2.8.16 as the IRC Server. As an essential element of their studies this year, the BDS students are designing home pages and a MUSH so that they can access information using Mosaic and they can simulate experiments in a text- based virtual environment. The home pages will represent student projects or simulations designed by the students. The purpose of the project is three-fold: first, the student projects will be used to assess how effectively the student authors understand the information; second, on an in-house level, students will use their simulations to introduce younger students to their projects. The simulation is a preview for an actual investigation the younger student will perform under the guidance of the older students. Third, through distance learning, specific groups of students in other schools will go through simulations using Mosaic, have real time interactions with students using the MUSH, try the simulations in their own schools, be involved in distance learning activities, and eventually meet each other.

Three highly motivated high school students volunteered to help with the server project. These students were from the USA, Australia, and England and were already involved in international exchanges with BDS students. One of them had his own personal internet Linux server. The other two students had various Unix and other programming experiences. The time, input, answers, and knowledge of all three students made the project successful.

To quote two of them:

Bev, age 15, U.S., "You can do more with a mush, they are more fun, they are easier, they have more commands, they have a bigger programming language."

Ben , age 15, U.K., "I've really enjoyed helping you out, it's always a pleasure to have a chance to pass on some of things that I've learned!"

Nathan, age 15, Australia, "The people involved in the project spanned 3 countries and 3 continents, England, Australia, and the United States of America. Such an achievement would never have been possible through conventional methods and certainly not without large amounts of expenditure and cost. This project has further strengthened the point that it is possible to work on the net and produce a final product. Also the added benefit of time zones allowed around-the-clock-work to be carried out and kept work consistent. is the first of many projects that this team plans to do. Thanx."

These students helped select, install, and configure the software, as well as recommend changing the original plans from a using a MUSE to using a MUSH. Working as a team on a project at the best of times is a drain--psychologically, physically, mentally, and in many other ways. The concept of working on a project via the Internet has been utilized multiple times by the same people involved in the project. Although there were some problems, the team managed to work efficiently and quickly to produce a final functioning piece of equipment that conformed to a specific set of guidelines/goals.

This project continues to extend the boundaries of educational practice within BDS. The ongoing support for such projects serves as an illustration of the dedication to learning and teaching that make the Baker School the special place it is. As this project continues, additional resources and involvement by other members of the faculty will grow in order to fully integrate technology into the curriculum. One important outgrowth of this process is the development of global awareness and participation on the part of the students and faculty of BDS and NLU.


Author Biographies

Bonnie Thurber is the Technology Coordinator for BDS at NLU in Evanston, Illinois. She holds the rank of Instructor, is currently serving on several University committees, and teaches some university classes for the Technology in Education Department. Her Demonstration School responsibilities include working with faculty to integrate technology into already existing classroom curriculums, helping faculty use internet and other computer resources, and teaching K-8 classes about the use of computers and the internet. She is the current president of Northern Illinois Computing Educators and is on the governing board of Illinois Computing Educators.

Bob Davis is the Associate Director of Computing Services for NLU. He has a Masters of Science in Management. He is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Management and Business at NLU where he teaches at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His responsibilities include supporting both administrative and academic computing environment at all campuses and academic centers of NLU. He has done numerous Internet presentations and technology in-services for NLU faculty. He has served as a network consultant for North Suburban Library System in Illinois.

All material within the HORIZON site, unless otherwise noted, may be distributed freely for educational purposes. If you do redistribute any of this material, it must retain this copyright notice and you must use appropriate citation including the URL. Also, we would appreciate your sending James L. Morrison a note as to how you are using it. HTML and design by Noel Fiser, ©2006. Page last modified: 7/21/2003 12:22:31 AM. 21874 visitors since February 2000.