Role of the Internet and JASON Online Systems

You don't need access to the Internet in order to use the JASON curriculum, but several investigations involve experiments which can be enhanced by using Internet tools and the three JASON Online Systems components: JASON News and Discussion Groups, JASON Project Gopher and the JASON Project Homepage. The curriculum emphasizes the role of the Internet as a communications tool. Like ROVs and telepresence, scientists use the Internet in their research to communicate, collaborate, and share resources. For JASON VII, students will use the Internet to communicate with other students and take part in collaborative investigations that relate to each major scientific topic in the program.

Online collaboration between students basically means sharing of ideas and work. You can think of the JASON Student Discussion Group as a publication space for student work. The focus questions in each curriculum investigation provide a framework for student discussion. Based on the research questions of the JASON host researchers, many of the focus questions are open-ended and subject to discussion. Therefore, just as students are encouraged to record the answers to their focus questions in their JASON Journals, they can also post their answers online for other students to read and respond.

Most collaborative investigations in this curriculum can be done using e-mail, the lowest level of connectivity available to almost everyone with an Internet connection. In some cases, additional resources or activities that involve use of graphics or access to online forms will be available using other Internet tools such as gopher or the World-Wide Web (WWW).

Connecting to the Internet

If you do not have access to the Internet, you should explore possibilities for getting one. Connecting to the Internet requires two things. The first thing you will need is a connection between your computer the Internet. If you have a personal computer and a modem, your connection to the Internet may take the form of an account with an Internet service provider. To get connected, you dial the provider with your modem, and "log on" to your account. There are a variety of organizations that can act Internet service providers. These include colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, as well as a range of commercial providers. Among commercial providers, there are several large, national companies as well as smaller local providers.

The second thing you need is software that allows your computer to communicate with other computers on the network. There are many different types of communications software, suited to different tasks. If you use a modem, you probably have a version of terminal software which controls that modem. Other types of software include various forms of electronic mail, Internet navigators (also known as browsers) and file transfer programs.

Given the many types of Internet connections and software available, and variety of organizations that provide Internet access, you may need advice about the best and least expensive Internet connection in your area. A local representatives from an Internet Service Provider may be able to give you an explanation and demonstration of Internet connections and tools available to teachers in your area. Some Internet Service Providers (especially colleges and other non-profit organizations) make free accounts or e-mail addressees available to teachers. Local experts may be able not only to demonstrate, but also to provide access solutions including software, free access, and technical support.

Strategies for Use

Most teachers do not have Internet access in their classrooms. The US Department of Education estimates that approximately 35% of schools have access to the Internet; but only 3% of "instructional rooms" (classrooms and computer labs) are connected. In many cases, the connection is in the school library or an administrative office. This means that in order to take part in online activities in this curriculum, teachers will have to develop strategy make the most of limited Internet access.

Successful online communication between students really depends on the quality of the interactions, not necessarily in the quantity. If many people contribute small pieces of work, the volume of material will be great. Consequently, students do not necessarily need to have daily access to the Internet in order to participate in online investigations. They can spend time offline, working through local curriculum experiments and thinking about focus questions. Then they can go online occasionally to "upload" their work and browse the discussion posted by other students.

Technically this can be accomplished by having students compose messages offline and save them to disk to be uploaded later. If you cannot access the Internet in the classroom, you can arrange to go online periodically, and print out new material to post in your class or hand out to students. If many classes in your school are participating in JASON and sharing an Internet connection, perhaps you can designate one person (a teacher or technology coordinator) to download information periodically, and make it available for everyone else.

JASON Online Systems are designed to facilitate collaborations among teachers as well as among students. Before your students post messages to the Student Discussion Group, we strongly recommend that the teacher spend some time reading postings to the JASON Teachers' Discussion Group. Participating in this online forum will give you a sense of who else out there is participating in online investigations this year. It is also a place to share ideas and experiences about teaching this curriculum. If you are new to the Internet and electronic mail, reading messages and posting mail to the Teachers' Discussion Group is a good way to learn the ropes in advance of your students beginning to share information online.

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Gene Carl Feldman ( (301) 286-9428
Todd Carlo Viola, JASON Foundation for Education (
Revised: 17 Oct 1995