emissia.offline ART 765

May, 2000
Andrew Akhayan, Al.Herzen State Pedagogical University, St. Petersburg, Russia
Marina Goryunova, Experimental School 157, St. Petersburg, Russia
Jack Hassard, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Wayne Robinson, The Walker County School District, LaFayette, Georgia, USA
Vitaly Sychev, Russian State Hydrometerological University, St. Petersburg, Russia

e-Science Projects: Georgia/Russia School-University Partnerships:
The Global Thinking Project & The Walker County/Russian Innovative Project

Note: This paper was presented at the GSTA Annual Conference, Macon, Georgia, USA, February 17, 2000


For nearly 20 years educators from Georgia have collaborated with Russian science educators to support teacher and students exchanges and to develop web-based ("network science") teaching materials. We will describe two web-based teaching projects explaining the curriculum, the development and evolution of the projects, and the problems and challenges facing each project. The Global Thinking Project (GTP):) began in 1989 and is a web-based environmental science program that provides a framework for collaboration among teachers and learners at a global level. We will explain the content and explain how students and teachers in Georgia and Russia have used face-to-face collaboration, the GTP website and print materials to participate in online and nearly a dozen exchange projects. The Walker County/Russian Innovative Project (WCRIP) began at a 1999 summer institute in Chicamauga, Georgia. Twenty American and Russian teachers worked together to author constructivist-based web teaching materials. Four environmental science modules emphasizing social responsibility were constructed by American/Russian authorship teams. The modules are being field tested in six American and six Russian classrooms during the current school year and will be revised based on student and teacher feedback at a summer institute in St. Petersburg in June, 2000. The project website and an explanation of the modules will be presented as well as the future plans of the project.


Once upon a time it was nearly impossible to make a voice phone call to any of the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union. Now the free flow of information via faxes, voice, e-mail, web and video technologies is common place. Yet the history of this growth shows that the steady increase in the flow of communication could have been abruptly stopped by the forces of authoritarianism. Ironically, it was these new technologies that prevented this attempt to stop "glasnost" and the democratization of the NIS. It was during this time period that Georgia and Soviet (now Russian) educators collaborated beginning with a series of face-to-face exchanges of first educators and then students, followed by the integration of telecommunications to foster the development of one of the first telecommunications projects among American and Russian educators (Hassard, 1997).

In this paper we will describe the foundational project of our collaboration (the Global Thinking Project), and the emerging project (the Walker County/Russian Innovative Project). Both are intertwined, and were developed by educators from Georgia and Russia who believed that global collaboration was important to themselves as educators and to the students they taught. We will explore the nature of the content that underscored each project, how teachers separated by vast distances, culture, government and language could work collaboratively to achieve a cooperative curriculum, and how these groups used telecommunications to further their goals.

The Problem

Telecommunications has had a profound impact on nearly all aspects of human communication, including the desire of educators to create environments in which school science can be presented in a global context. Yet, schools have been slow to incorporate the Internet, and indeed other technologies, as an integral aspect of classroom instruction.

Recent research on the potential effects of telecommunications on classroom learning has been mixed. For example, Dunkerly-Kolb and Hassard (1997), Hassard (1997), and Hassard and Weisberg (1999) have shown that environmental projects involving students from Russia and the United States impact students and teachers attitudes about the environment, and result in authentic projects designed by students with teachers assistance. These researchers also reported that telecommunications (e-mail, e-mail mailing lists, bulletin boards, and web sites) are powerful tools to augment student and teacher research. Yet Fabos and Young (1999) in a review of telecommunications projects in the classroom argue that much of the current research of telecommunications exchanges is contradictory, inconclusive, and possibly misleading. They point out that technology-based projects are problematic in light of the larger, exceedingly complex role of technology in society.

Robinson (1996) reported on the effects of a web-based curriculum on student attitudes and found that participation in an environmental project (The Global Thinking Project) had a positive change in students' attitudes toward the environment and behaviors toward the environment, as well a positive change in students' environmental literacy. McIveene (1996) investigated American and Russian students' interests and concerns about the environment. According to this researcher, knowledge about students' perceptions of environmental issues is needed to improve the quality of environmental education programs. McIveene concluded by identifying students' environmental concerns, and showed that there is a high degree of commonality between American and Russian students' environmental concerns.

Dunkerly-Kolb (1998) reported on the concept of community understanding which is critical to the development of social responsibility. She developed an instrument to measure community understanding and concluded that interdependence, awareness of sustainability issues and ones connection with nature provided the foundation for community understanding. These constructs are important in the development of web-based environmental teaching materials.

Feldmanm Konold, and Coulter (2000) report on the slowness of telecommunications projects to take hold in the classroom. In their report, which was an extensive study of three major telecommunications projects, they state:

  • "Our thinking has evolved during the 4 years of research leading to this volume. We are less convinced today that the Internet will provide an easy route to improved learning; we have come to believe that people-to-people connections and especially face-to-face communication play a central role in learning" (Feldman, Konold, and Coulter, 2000, p. 132).
  • They also point out that the Internet is a powerful resource and possibly can be used for the improvement of education. But they report that "the understanding of how to make good use of these resources is only slowly emerging."

    In this paper we report on two telecommunications projects developed in Georgia in collaboration with educators in Russia. To what extent do these projects contribute to our understanding of the use of telecommunications in the classroom? What characterizes these projects? Are they unique, and what contributions have they made to the learning of science. And what problems and challenges are faced by these projects, and how can an understanding of the challenges help other educators in their quest to implement telecommunications in the classroom.

    Tale of Two Projects: Contexts for Collaboration

    The Global Thinking Project (GTP) and The Walker County/Russian Innovative Project (WCRIP) are two telecommunications projects that have emerged from collaboration among Georgian and Russian educators. The GTP emerged in the late 1980s, and developed as a viable telecommunications project during the 1990s. The WCRIP emerged in 1999, and will continue its development into the new century.

    The GTP is the starting place for a discussion of these two projects. The GTP created a people-to-people context by supporting the exchange of teachers and later students between cities in Georgia and cities in Russia. These exchanges, which began in 1983, continue to this day. The most recent exchange was in July, 1999, which marked the birth of the WCRIP.

    Table 1 summarizes some of the key characteristics of each of the projects. Following Table 1 is a discussion of each project in which we comment on the curriculum, the project development and evolution, and problems and challenges faced by each project.

    Table 1. Summary of Two e-Science Projects


    Global Thinking Project (GTP)

    Walker County/Russian Innovative Project (WCRIP)

    Grade level Field-tested in grades 4 - 12; recommended grades 6-12 Field-tested in grades 6 - 12


    Availability Online at www.gtp.org

    Published version of print materials available as: Environmental Science on the Net: The Global Thinking Project by Hassard, J. & Weisberg, J., Parsippany, N.J.: Good Year Books

    Online at www.gsu.edu/~wwwmir

    Web-based units currently in a field-test through May 2001

    Project Type and Structure Web-assisted teaching program. Eight "Projects" which can be used in conjunction with the GTP website or as stand alone projects. Enough material for a full year course, or projects can be used flexibly. Four web-based modules designed to be used with the ongoing curriculum; four additional modules to be developed for next year.
    Content Environmental science with focus on local environmental investigations; content includes indoor air pollution, ground-level ozone, river monitoring, solid waste, and soil. Environmental science with an emphasis on character education; content includes acid rain, solid waste, air pollution, and water pollution. Additional topics will be developed for next year.
    Data Sharing Data submitted on Internet using web-based forms. Data posted on GTP website for retrieval by other classes. Submission of data on web-based forms using CLEO. Data posted on website for retrieval by other classes.
    Data Analysis Tools Locally chosen. In the early history of the GTP, the ALICE Network Software was used by most GTP schools. Locally chosen.
    Internet Use GTP Projects accessed online at website; extensive use of web-based collaboration (message boards, chat rooms, video conferences), e-mail and group e-mail. All student and teacher materials available at the website; use of message boards, group e-mail, and video conferencing (using GSAMS).

    The Global Thinking Project

    The Global Thinking Project is a "hands across the globe" education project which provides a paradigm for students and teachers to participate in environmental study and to use new technology tools with peers around the world. During the course of the project, students learn to monitor and analyze important physical and biological aspects of their environment such as the environmental quality of their classroom, the quality of air and water in their community, as well as the study of solid waste, acid rain, tap water, and the creation of local community-based environmental topics.

    The skills and knowledge that students construct are then applied as students engage in collaborative learning projects that link classrooms globally. In so doing, students learn that problems that are typically addressed as science problems have social, political, economic and ethical aspects, as well.

    Currently the GTP is being implemented in more than 50 schools in seven countries including Australia, the Czech Republic, Singapore, Spain, Russia and the United States. Students in grades 6 - 12, in a variety of urban, rural and suburban regions participate in the project. Teachers are using GTP in a variety of settings, including the "regular" school curriculum, particularly in science and social studies classes, as after school or club activities, and also in community groups such as the Girl Scouts. Some schools have created a special required or elective course, called Global Thinking.

    The GTP has created cross-cultural teaching materials in the form of a book (Environmental Science on the Net: The Global Thinking Project) that has been field tested in more than one-hundred schools and with thousands of students over the past nine years. Teachers from several continents have participated in the writing of the materials, as well as in Summer teacher preparation institutes in Atlanta.

    The Curriculum. The Global Thinking Project integrates environmental education, cooperative learning, and technology, enabling teachers and students to become part of a community of global thinkers. They will look at the environment from local as well as global perspectives, learn how to investigate environmental problems, and be exposed to ways to take action on the problems they consider to be important.

    From the student's perspective, the concept of global thinking is explored through a series of projects. Each project is a module of learning focusing on one aspect of the environment. In these projects, students are active learners, constructing their own knowledge about the environment. Not only are key environmental questions identified that students can explore, but also learning processes (such as collecting data, communicating, and inferring), and themes (such as energy, systems, interactions) that students might utilize to construct knowledge. The scope and sequence of the GTP in Table 2 provides a content analysis of the curriculum.

    Participation in the GTP indicates that teachers are interested in linking their students with other students and teachers by means of various Internet tools. Teachers and students will benefit most from the GTP if they have access to a web browser and email. All communication in the GTP is done over the Internet.

    The GTP curriculum is implemented in the classroom by making use of:

    Table 2 Global Thinking Project Scope and Sequence Chart




    Learning Processes






    Environmental Education Focus of the Project

     Project Hello Collecting data




    Systems & Interactions



    Find out what is global thinking.

    Learn how to use the Internet to send e-mail

    Evaluate global environmental problems.

    What is global thinking and how is it related to environmental education?

    Is Earth a living system? What are the most pressing environmental problems facing humankind?

    Project Green


    Collecting data




    Systems & Interactions



    Describe the physical, biological, and geographical characteristics of their environment.

    Evaluate the environmental quality of their class room.

    What is our environment like? Hoe does it compare to the environment of other schools? How can we improve the environment of our school and classroom?
    Project Clean Air Collecting data




    Systems & Interactions

    Patterns of Change



    Investigate patterns of atmospheric pollution. Learn techniques to monitor particulates and lower atmospheric ozone.

    Design a research project based on questions and inquiries about air quality.

    What do you know about atmospheric pollution? Why is atmospheric monitoring important to our understanding of weather and climate?

    How does atmospheric pollution (particulate matter and ozone) in our community compare with other communities?

    Project Solid Waste Collecting data





    Patterns of Change

    Systems & Interactions




    Classify and measure solid waste.

    Identify ways to reduce solid waste.

    Determine rates of decomposition of solid waste.

    Evaluate solid-waste disposal methods.

    Why is it important to study solid-waste disposal methods?

    How is solid waste handled in my community? How long does it take for materials to deteriorate? What can be done about the solid-waste problem?

    Project Water Watch Collecting data






    Patterns of Change

    Systems & Interactions




    Collect data on the physical & chemical characteristics of a river.

    Collect and identify macroinvertebrates of the river.

    Analyze the physical, chemical, and biological qualities of the river.

    Learn how to take action to protect bodies of water.

    Where does our river come from? Where does it go? What are some indicators of water quality (Physical, chemical, biological)?

    What can pH, dissolved oxygen levels, and the types of macroinvertebrates tell us about a river’s quality? How can we protect bodies of water?

    Project Soil Categorizing





    Systems & Interactions

    Patterns of Change



    Investigate the nature of soil and how it is formed.

    Use a variety of methods to monitor and describe soil.

    Collect, categorize, and analyze soil in the local environment.

    Compare soil in different regions of the world.

    What is soil? How is soil formed? What are the major characteristics of soil?

    How can soil be monitored? How can soil be protected?

    Project Earth Month Categorizing





    Systems & Interactions

    Patterns of Change


    Scale and Structure

    Identify an environmental problem or issue, and design an action-taking project to help resolve the issue.

    Participate in action-taking projects designed to focus on environmental issues and problems.

    What are some environmental problems and issues that are important to our community? How can we find out about these issues? What can we do to help resolve these problems?

    Project Development and Evolution. The Global Thinking Project grew out of a series of trips to the (former) Soviet Union sponsored by the Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP). With no official invitation, a group of 30 educators and psychologists visited Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and Tbilisi (Georgia) for 17 days in September 1983. Rooted in the concern for the well-being of the planet, and for improving the relationships between the people of the United States and the Soviet Union, this delegation laid the groundwork for the development of the AHP Soviet Exchange Program. From this emerged the Global Thinking Project, dedicated to helping students learn to think globally by acting locally.

    From 1983 to 1990, the AHP sponsored 12 delegations to the USSR, and received nearly a half-dozen delegations of Soviet colleagues. These exchanges fostered official agreements between the USSR Academy of Pedagogical Sciences (now the Russian Academy of Education) and the AHP that focused on humanistic and creative teaching methods, cooperative learning and teacher education. Through seminars, classroom visits, lab demonstrations, and other informal experiences, a powerful network was established. Georgia State University (GSU) emerged as the focal point for the AHP's educational activities with Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. An international conference on Soviet and American education led to an agreement between GSU and the APS that was signed in Moscow in May of 1989. Both parties agreed to collaborate to develop strategies, methods, and teaching materials to help students think globally. It was agreed, given the present state of the world, to develop teaching materials that would:

    • Empower students and teachers to get involved with important global problems and concerns.
    • Introduce students to collaborative methods and strategies of inquiry that can be used to solve problems locally, and provide the knowledge and technological means needed to deal with problems globally.
    • Develop computer literacy in students that will allow them to use microcomputers as a telecommunications tool to collaborate with counterparts in other nations.

    The GTP has created a framework within which schools can implement Internet-based science activities, has fostered the implementation of "network science," the exchange of teachers and students, and the creation of a research agenda for doctoral students and colleagues. With funding initially from the Eisenhower Higher Education Program (1990-1996), and then from the US-Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Information Agency (USIA), the GTP now makes its materials available to any school by accessing the GTP website.

    Several aspects of the GTP's framework are worth noting to gain a fuller understanding of the project. These include student and teacher exchanges, initial use of telecommunications, and the emergence of the GTP as a Web-based program.

    Student and Teacher Exchanges. The GTP emerged out of teacher exchanges, as noted earlier. These exchanges were initiated by American and Russian educators under the leadership of faculty at Georgia State University (Hassard, 1990, 1997). The teacher exchanges enabled educators from these two countries to learn to work together on teaching and curriculum issues prior to the development of the GTP. These educators visited each others schools and lived in each others' homes, thereby creating bonds of friendship and professionalism. During this period (1983-1990), the project had no funds to support the exchanges or the development of curriculum. These were carried out by financial contributions by individual teachers and professors who believed strongly in what they were doing. In 1990, the GTP received its first grant from the Eisenhower Higher Education Program to support the initial implementation of the project.

    Student exchanges began in 1989 and were fostered by a relationship of GTP teachers and administrators from Dunwoody High School, Dunwoody, Georgia and Experimental-Gymnasium 710, Moscow, Russia. Raising funds locally, these two schools supported six student (and teacher) exchanges in 1989, 1991 and 1993.

    In 1995 the GTP received the first of three grants from the United States Information Agency that supported the exchange of 100 American and Russian students and 30 teachers each year from 1995 - 1998. These large scale exchanges involved the students in three-week periods of cross-cultural living experiences, participation in school activities, and the involvement in the Global Thinking Project research experiences in each country. Students also participated in environmental summits which were held in Moscow and Atlanta as the end of each exchange period (Kolb and Hassard, 1997).

    Telecommunications. The GTP represented one of the first telecommunications projects that brought together American and Russian educators and their students. In 1990 the initial curriculum was implemented between five American and five Russian schools. It was called Global Thinking: A Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Problem Solving Curriculum and Telecommunications System. In the initial project, schools were paired with each other (one American school paired with a Russian school) and linked together by means of the Applelink Telecommunications System. In order for this to work, a small team of educators from Georgia and a representative from Apple Computer brought Macintosh computers, modems and printers to Russia and installed them in the five Russian schools (2 in Moscow and 3 in St. Petersburg) in the Fall of 1990. The first GTP network was established through modems that were linked via satellite and telephone lines to the Applelink mainframe computer in Cincinnati, Ohio. The initial field-test of the curriculum took place from February - May, 1991.

    The system was used for two years, and then in 1993 the GTP project was moved to the Institute for Global Communications (IGC) and telecommunications accounts were set up on Econet. This proved to be a very effective move because during this time, the GTP expanded to include schools in Barcelona, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore and the Czech Republic. Many of these schools had access to the IGC, thus making it easy for schools to join the project. The project also made arrangements with TERC to obtain the ALICE Network Software enabling teachers and students to connect to IGC to send and receive e-mail. ALICE also had tools built into the program that enabled students to create data tables, analyze data by making graphs, and it had a mapping tool that enabled GTP users to plot data on maps. The GTP used the IGC Telecommunications system and ALICE tools from 1992 - 1996.

    When GTP shifted from Applelink to Econet, it also changed the way schools were organized in the project. By this time, nearly 50 schools in several countries had joined the project. The project developers discovered that pairing schools was not an effective means for organizing a telecommunication project. Thus in 1993, the project organized the schools into teams of about ten schools called "global communities." One teacher was identified as the facilitator for each "global community" and it was the facilitators role to keep open lines of communication among the community schools, and to remind schools when data was to be shared. Data during this period of time was sent embedded in email messages to each of the schools within a "global community." When the email arrived at participating schools, the data was entered into classroom data charts, as well as into data tables, created with the ALICE Software. Students, with the aid of their teachers, could use the data provided by other schools to extend their analysis and understanding of environmental topics.

    The World Wide Web. In 1995, the World Wide Web impacted the GTP project. It was now possible to develop web pages, and indeed to develop web-based forms into which students could enter data. We collaborated with TERC again, and they developed three web-based forms (Air Pollution, the Green Classroom, and Water Watch---which corresponded with three of the GTP projects)---and data tables from which data could be retrieved. We established a website at Georgia State University at www.gsu.edu/~wwwgtp.

    Interestingly when we made these forms available to projects schools, very few of the schools used them (less than 10%). Instead, GTP schools continued using e-mail to send data to each other. A follow-up questionnaire revealed that many of the schools still did not have a browser available to use, or in many cases teachers did not feel comfortable using the web.

    By the fall of 1997 however, many GTP schools were beginning to use the Website that we had developed. During this time, the GTP migrated its files to its own domain name (www.gtp.org) using Mindspring as its web hosting company. Also, many of the high school students in the project were familiar with using the web, and they provided the impetus for an increase in the usage of web-based forms that were developed. Although we had hoped for a much higher level of participation, the percentage of schools making use of the website was only 40%. We also noticed that schools would join the project, but the attrition rate was such that the project lost schools each year. In a number of cases (even when a teacher attended one of our GTP Summer Institutes in Atlanta), participation in the project was minimal.

    However, there were many teachers who embraced the environmental projects that the GTP had established. These included teachers in Rome, Georgia, Dunwoody High School, Chattanooga Valley Middle School and Lafayette Middle School in Walker County, Georgia, Salem High School in Conyers, nearly a dozen schools in Barcelona, Spain, the Melbourne Girls Grammar School, in Australia, three schools in the Czech Republic, Moscow School 710, St. Petersburg Schools 91, 157, and 239, School 1 in Yaroslavl, Russia, School 2 in Puschino, Russia, and Lycee 93 in Chelaybinsk. In each of these schools there was a dedicated teacher or team of teachers willing to learn to use telecommunications with students, and in many cases these teachers turned much of the work of sending and receiving email over to the students. But there was another factor that seemed to characterize these schools, and that was the involvement of the school principal. Because the project directors made many site visits to these schools (including the schools in Russia and Spain), it became evident that when there was a school administrator supporting the teachers, the level of participation was higher than in schools where this was not so.

    Another factor that played a strong role in the success of the GTP telecommunications project was face-to-face meetings among teachers. For example, in the Barcelona, Spain region a GTP organization was created in which teachers came together two-to-three times each year to discuss issues with the curriculum and share experiences. In Russia, School 710 in Moscow assumed the leadership and provided on-site training to schools that were interested in using the GTP materials. School 710 also invited Russian educators to their school to observe first hand the use of the GTP with students and teachers. In Australia, Roger Cross, a professor a LaTrobe University and collaborator on the GTP organized a cadre of teachers who began to implement the GTP in schools in Melbourne. The GTP also conducted several summer workshops from 1992 - 1996. Teachers from Georgia as well as the Australia, Czech Republic, Russia and Spain attended these sessions and provided the face-to-face contact that proved to be effective in helping teachers implement the GTP in the following school year.

    In the 1998 - 1999 school year the GTP project was conducted as an online project. There were no teacher institutes nor student/teacher exchanges. During this year we had schools participate from Argentina, Australia, Singapore, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. We expanded the GTP website and also made print materials of the GTP text (pre-publication format) available to all of the schools. The website included interactive/threaded message boards, chat rooms, and a group e-mail function. Each of the projects was online, and each had its own "homepage." During this time, six new schools joined the GTP from St. Petersburg, Russia. Three of the schools joined with the assistance of a professor of telecommunications and ecology from the Hydrometeorological University of Russia (Dr. Vitaly Sychev), and the other three worked directly with the Emissia Laboratory at the Al. Herzon State Pedagogical University of Russia (Dr. Andrew Akakayan). While the GTP project directors were in Russia in April, 1998, they met with professors from these two universities leading to the expansion of the GTP. This also laid the groundwork for the other project (The Walker County/Russian Innovative Project) discussed in this paper.

    Problems and Challenges. The GTP has been a viable telecommunications project for ten years. During that time it received grants from various federal organizations to provide support for curriculum development, telecommunications support, teacher enhancement in technology and environmental science, and coordination among distant schools. Its biggest challenge will be to maintain its website as an effective tool to foster global collaboration among schools, teachers and students.

    The GTP website was visited by individuals in 46 nations around the world. Table 3 shows the distribution of visits from various regions of the world over the past 4 1/2 months. Although the highest percentage of views is from North America, Europe and Asia are represented, as well as some visitors from Australia, South America, Central America and Africa.

    Table 3: Pageviews to the GTP Website per Region of the World (October 5, 1999 - February 15, 2000

    Number Region Number of Pageviews Percentage
    1 North America 467 34.67
    2 Europe (including Russia) 182 13.51
    3 Networks, Organizations 136 10.1
    4 Asia 56 4.16
    5 Australia 13 0.97
    6 South America 8 0.59
    7 Central America 5 0.37
    8 Africa 3 0.22
    9 Unknown 477 35.41
    Total 7 regions 1,359 100

    A challenge for the GTP is to deal with the multiplicity of languages that are represented in Table 3. At this time, the GTP website is available in English, Russian and Spanish. Although most correspondence via e-mail is in English, the project encourages students and teachers to use online translators to send messages in ones native language, as well as using the language of the receiver of the message.

    The GTP has been published commercially (Hassard and Weisberg, 1999), yet there is no publisher support for the GTP website. The website contains all the tools for schools to use in a network science environment. However, management of the website will be the most critical factor in ensuring any success for the GTP over the next few years. Georgia State University has been supporting the project with graduate student assistants who monitor the website and work directly with the GTP directors.

    One of the biggest challenges to projects such as the GTP is how to encourage and support teachers at distant sites in the implementation of a telecommunication curriculum. One of the main lessons that the GTP learned, and a lesson reported by Feldman, Konold and Coulter (2000) is that the local classroom environment should be the locus of control for participation in telecommunications projects, not the Internet. Feldman, Konold and Coulter (2000, p. 132) report this finding in this manner:

  • "For the curriculum to use the Internet effectively, it should employ the Internet as a supportive context for extending student inquiries. Students can now investigate almost any topic using resources available on the Internet. However, teachers and curriculum developers should anchor initial investigations in local phenomenon so that the concepts involved remain comprehensible and meaningful for students."
  • The GTP has addressed this issue in its text by making suggestions to teachers concerning the establishment of a web-based classroom. One of the important concepts here is that the GTP is a web-assisted curriculum, with the emphasis being placed on local environmental investigations and action taking. Thus the content of the GTP curriculum must be linked to local environmental concerns. The GTP framework makes it possible for teachers to select the projects to implement, and in so doing make them relevant to students at the local level. The web-assisted nature of the GTP enables teachers to use the website to collaborate with interested teachers, and to extend their local research by tapping into the web-based lessons that are presented at the website. Furthermore, the tools that are part of the website makes it possible for teachers to collaborate with other schools via message boards, chat rooms, and e-mail. Follow up research will shed light on whether this will happen.

    Another challenge will be to enable teachers to make use of the GTP materials in a variety of ways. There is not one single best way to use the GTP curriculum. Some teachers might be comfortable participating in only one of the GTP projects, simply to give their students an experience with telecommunications and network science. Some teachers might opt to implement the entire GTP curriculum in a full year course. Other teachers might benefit by participating in some kind of teacher development experience such as online chats, message board discussions, or e-group discussions. The GTP contains a variety of resources that can be used in multiple ways. Providing insight and specific suggestions will be a challenge to the GTP directors.

    The Walker County/Russian Innovative Project

    The Walker County/Russian Innovative Project (WCRIP) is a work-in-progress and is developing web-based modules for middle and secondary school students with a focus on character education, by linking social responsibility with environmental issues. The modules are interdisciplinary in nature and involve students in local and global scientific investigations. Through the project, on-line collaboration with other students and experts in the field will be provided via the Internet. The project is an international collaboration among teachers and administrators in Walker County, Georgia and St. Petersburg, Russia, Georgia State University (GSU), the State Pedagogical University of St. Petersburg, and the Hydrometerological University of St. Petersburg, Russia.

    Currently the project is field-testing the first four modules that were developed in the summer of 1999. Using its website (www.gsu.edu/~wwwmir), the project directors are facilitating collaboration among 12 Georgia and Russian schools as they implement the modules with middle and high school students in their respective classrooms.

    The long range goal of the project is to produce a model of staff development and a telecommunications-based science curriculum that other Georgia School Systems or RESA’s with Internet access will be able to replicate. All instructional modules developed will be published on the Internet, and a Web site will be designed that will accommodate all interested teachers. Although the proposed collaboration will be between schools in Walker County, Georgia and St. Petersburg, Russia, we believe that this project can easily be expanded to involve students and teachers throughout the world.

    The Curriculum. The central premise of this project is the development of web-based environmental teaching materials that will help students develop the knowledge, skill and effective qualities to take responsible citizenship action on environmental issues. Wiesenmayer and Rubba (1990) reviewed many studies and reported that significant changes occur when students are involved in action-oriented environmental projects.

    The curriculum as of February 2000 consists of four web-based modules focusing on the following environmental science topics: acid rain, air pollution, solid waste and water pollution. Each module consists of four-to-six web-based lessons that were co-authored by Georgia and Russian teachers. Working face-to-face during the summer of 1999, four cross-cultural teams of approximately five teachers participated in a curriculum development staff development training program. The emerging curriculum was based on the content of environmental science with an emphasis on character education. The design of the modules was to consist of several web-based lessons, each of which was based on a constructivist model of learning.

    Each web-based lesson was comprised of the following elements:

    • Title of the web-base lesson
    • Introduction
    • Objectives
    • Materials
    • Invitation activity
    • Exploration activity
    • Explanation activity
    • Take action activity
    • Conclusion

    For example, Figure 3 shows the menu bar from the Acid Rain module. The module consists of six lessons. Students can point their browser to any of the lessons to go to the detailed web-based lesson plan. Once there, students work in cooperative teams within their own classroom to participate in the web-based activity. Note that there are three additional communication hyperlinks including "conferencing" (bulletin board for students to post messages), "E-group mail" (for teachers to send and receive e-mail), and "chat" (project chat rooms for real time discussion).

    Table 3: Menu Bar for Acid Module

     Lesson 1: Make Acid Rain  Lesson 4: Acid Rain Producers  Conferencing---message board
    Lesson 2: Weather Patterns Lesson 5: Effect on Plants E-group mail
    Lesson 3: Precipitation Monitoring Lesson 6: Rain that Ruins Chat

    The overall structure of the curriculum developed so far is shown in Table 4.

    Table 4: Walker County/Russian Innovative Project Scope and Sequence Chart

    Module Number of Lessons Objective Learning Processes Environmental Education Focus of the Project
    Acid Rain 6 Learn how to make "acid rain," study the patterns of weather in North West Georgia and the North Western part of Russia, as well as find out how acid rain is produced. Collecting data





    Communicate with your peers in America and Russia to discuss what responsibility citizens have to solving this and other environmental problems.
    Air Pollution 5 Monitor ground-level ozone and solid particulates, two pollutants that are responsible for many health related diseases. Collecting data





    Demonstrate ways that air pollution can be monitored and thereby be able to take action as citizens.
    Solid Waste 4 Learn how to separate & classify garbage, build a compost pile and study the effects over a long period of time, and find out about recycling Collecting data





    Communicate with your peers in America and Russia to discuss your ideas about resolving problems associated with solid waste management.
    Water Pollution 5 This module will introduce students to water quality standards and allow you to explore some water pollution problems that might exist. Collecting data




    Demonstrate ways in which citizens can be good stewards of water resources.

    Project Development and Evolution. The project history began as an extension of work that was started with the Global Thinking Project, and developed into a cross-cultural collaboration among schools and universities in Georgia and Russia. In the Fall of 1998, the Walker County School District, in collaboration with Georgia State University, Al. Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, the Hydrometerological University of Russia, and six schools in St. Peterburg submitted a concept paper to the Georgia Department of Education Innovative Division. The concept paper outlined the goals and activities of a proposal whose aim was to develop web-based teaching modules for middle and high school students with a focus on character education, by linking social responsibility with environmental issues. The concept paper was reviewed and the proposal moved to the next stage in which a team representing Walker County and Georgia State University made a formal presentation to the Innovative Division review panel in Macon, Georgia. In the Spring of 1999, the Georgia Department of Education awarded the Walker County School District a grant to fund the Walker County/Russian Innovative Project. The project was informed later that funds would be committed for two years thus funding the project from June 1999 - June 2001.

    The work of the project was organized around the following goals.

    • Develop web-based modules for middle and secondary students with a focus on linking social responsibility.
    • Provide strategies and tools necessary for effective collaboration between teachers of various cultures.
    • Enhance teachers and students knowledge about environmental concepts and issues, their inter-relatedness and their relationship to social responsibility.
    • Teach monitoring, data collection and data analysis techniques to students and teachers for monitoring local environments.
    • Provide Internet-based technology tools and skills necessary for students and teachers to collaborate about environmental issues and problems.
    • Integrate the environmental science modules and Internet-based technologies with classroom instruction.
    • Enhance student’s attitudes and behaviors involving social actions to improve the environment.

    The outcome of the project will be the creation of a website containing web-based modules, as well as a model describing how others can implement and replicate this type of telecommunications projects in other Georgia schools districts partnering with countries around the world.

    The developmental plan of the project is organized around two-cycles of work involving the authoring of web-based modules followed by the implementation and assessment of the modules in American and Russian classrooms. Table 5 outlines the activities to accomplish the goal of the project.

    Table 5: WCRIP Development Plan, 1999 - 2001

  • Date
  •  Development/Implementation Activities

    May, 1999

  • Initial meeting among American teachers in Walker County, and Russian teachers in St. Petersburg

    Focus: Introduce Internet communication tools (email, e-group, bulletin board and chat rooms); organize several communication activities from May &emdash; July in which American and Russian teachers use the Net tools to discuss issues and develop an "Internet Habit of Mind."


    July 8 &emdash; July 20, 1999

    • Summer Institute I and Staff Development Program---in Georgia
  • Focus: Development of the first set of web-based modules for secondary students with a focus on social responsibility.

    Themes: The Summer Institute will be organized around the themes of: a) Using the tools of Internet to enhance communication and research; b) Enhancing teachers knowledge of environmental science; c) Understanding how to use low and high technology tools to explore the environment; d) Integrating these themes to develop Web-based modules.


    September &emdash; December, 1999

  • Pilot Testing, Phase I

    During this phase, Pilot Testing centers will be set up in Walker County and St. Petersburg, Russia. Teachers in each center will begin pilot testing the modules in their classrooms. During Phase I, two of the modules will be pilot tested. Each module will be pilot tested in at least four classrooms (two American and two Russian).

  • Pilot Testing Center Meetings and Evaluation Data

    During this phase, the American and Russian teachers will meet under the leadership of project staff to discuss issues and problems related to the pilot testing of the web-based modules. Evaluation data will also be collected related to the implementation of the modules in American and Russian classrooms.


    March &emdash; May, 2000

  • Pilot Testing, Phase II

    During this phase, the two remaining modules will be pilot tested in at least four classrooms. Pilot test center meetings will be continued and evaluation data on these modules will also be collected.


    June, 2000

  • Summer Institute II and Staff Development Program---in Russia

    Focus: Evaluation of the Web-based Modules, and the Development of additional Web-Based Modules.

    The Summer Institute 2000 will take place in St. Petersburg, Russia. The same teams of teachers that met and worked together in the Summer Institute 1999 will meet to evaluate, modify and finalize the first set of modules. They will also develop another set of modules for the 2000-2001 school year. Russian professors and teachers will organize the Institute and arrange for field excursions related to the new set of web-based modules.


    September &emdash; December, 2000

  • Pilot Testing, Phase I

    During Phase I, two of the modules will be pilot tested. Each module will be pilot tested in at least four classrooms (two American and two Russian).


    January &emdash; April, 2001

  • Pilot Testing, Phase II

    During this phase, the two remaining modules will be pilot tested in at least four classrooms. Pilot test center meetings will be continued and evaluation data on these modules will also be collected.


    May &emdash; July, 2001

  • Evaluation of Implementation Program

    Using the teacher’s feedback and the evaluation data, project staff will finalize the web-based modules.


    July - September, 2001

  • Final Evaluation and Report

    Project staff will prepare final report and assemble all relevant materials for the set of web-based modules.

  • Problems and Challenges. The WCRIP is in its formative stage and is challenged to deal with a number of issues that will impact the success of the project.

    The project began with face-to-face collaboration among American and Russian teachers. Although previous research supports the importance of face-to-face communication in telecommunication projects, the WCRIP must work very closely with the teachers in the project who are just beginning to use technology in the classroom, and may be unfamiliar with an inquiry or project-based approach to teaching. The project directors have worked with each American and Russian school to ensure that at least one computer with a connection to the Internet is available for the pilot classes. For the schools in Russia, the project provided funding to support Internet connectivity for each Russian school for the duration of the project.

    So far the evidence is positive that the pilot classes are accessing the website and posting messages on the web-based modules' bulletin boards. For example, since October 5, 1999 when the WCRIP website was put online, there have been 482 pageviews (number of times the website was visited). During the period of the first field test of the Acid Rain and the Solid Waste Modules there was an average of 32 pageviews per day. An analysis of visitors to the WCRIP website is shown in Table 6. Although 31.68% of the hits were of unknown origin, nearly 70% of the hits show that US and Russian schools were visiting the site. When we look at the period when the first two modules were being field tested, the average visits to the site per day was 31.

    Table 6. Pageviews to the WCRIP Website per Domain Name (October 5, 1999 - February 15, 2000

    Number Domain Pageviews Percentage
    1 Russian Federation 102 21.12
    2 Network 100 20.7
    3 US Commercial 86 17.81
    4 US Educational 22 4.55
    5 United States 11 2.28
    6 USSR (former) 6 1.24
    7 China 1 0.21
    8 Canada 1 0.21
    9 Ireland 1 0.21
    10 Unknown 153 31.68

    An area that will need attention will be the nature and frequency of messages posted to the web-based module message boards (Table 7). Each web-based module has a message board which students and teachers use to post, read and reply to messages from each other. In the first field test, students posted 140 messages to the Acid Rain message board, and 108 messages to the Solid Waste message board. The fact that the majority of messages came from American students can probably be attributed to more Americans participating in the field test.

    In the Acid Rain module, 93% of the postings were content oriented, and 24% of the postings deal with social responsibility. Examples of social responsibility included students identifying ways they could stop or reduce acid rain and deal with its effects. Most of the social responsible postings dealt with the specific problem of acid rain in St. Petersburg.

    In the Solid Waste module, 41% of the postings were content oriented, while 59% were coded as social messages. However many of these social messages were of the "hello" type and "wishing you the best in our work together." Of the messages posted 13.8% were coded as socially responsible discussions. In most of these cases, students were responding to the societal implications of sorting garbage (Activity 1 in the module).

    Table 7. Analysis of Message Board Postings for the Acid Rain and Solid Waste Modules

    Attribute of Message Acid Rain (message board) Solid Waste (message board)
    Number of Messages 140 108
    American Students Postings 64% 75%
    Russian Students Postings 36% 25%
    Teacher Postings 1.3%  
    Content Related to Module Topic 93% 41%
    Content Social 7% 59%
    Content Related to Social Responsibility 24% 13.8

    A challenge to the project will be to overcome the results of previous research examining the nature of student writing in telecommunications projects. Fabos and Young (1999) reported that many telecommunications projects make the claim that writing to a distance audience (students, for example in Russia) makes the writing process authentic, increases motivation, and leads to increased learning. However, they point out that researchers in the field of writing suggest that the writing process is more complicated, and quote Finders and Graham (1992):

  • "The emerging notion that learning to read and write are meaning-generated, context-rich, and both personal and social processes rather than rule-governed, contextless, impersonal, and solitary tasks. Experience in such classes would also affirm the importance and complexity of the role of teacher and support a vision of teaching as a relationship, dialogue, reading, writing, and continual learning." (p.82)
  • The challenge is for the project to focus on the role of the teacher in the classroom in creating a context in which students begin to write about meaningful topics and issues. This supports an earlier contention of Feldman, Konold and Coulter (1999) that the classroom, not the online community, must be the primary learning environment.

    Another challenge for the project is to work with the teachers on the pedagogy that underlies the project-based nature of the WCRIP web-based modules. Project-based learning is by its nature inquiry oriented. The teacher must know how to support student inquiry by encouraging questioning, helping students understand how to monitor and collect data, and how to extend their understanding by analyzing and interpreting data. The project will need to facilitate discussion among the American and Russian teachers, at first in an online environment using chat rooms and e-mail discussions, at test center meetings during Phases I and II of implementation, and then when they meet again in the summer of 2000 in St. Petersburg.


    Educators in Georgia have demonstrated, through collaboration with educators not only in Russia, but other countries including Australia, the Czech Republic, and Spain that telecomunications can be used to engage students and teachers in network science activities. However, our research has shown that without an inquiry-oriented classroom that puts the emphasis on local environmental research, telecommunications activities may not result in the meeting the goals of the projects. Over the past decade the role of the Internet in enhancing classroom learning has evolved to its present state where the role of this tool a decade from now is difficult to project.


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