Integrating Productivity Tools in Primary and Secondary Education
Baker Demonstration School, National-Louis University
Bob Davis Associate Director
Computer Services National-Louis University
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
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
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
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
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. Baker1.nl.edu
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 baker1.nl.edu 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.
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.
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