Vladimir Batagelj, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Vision and Reality
Alenka Žibert, Primary school of Cvetko Golar, Škofja Loka, Slovenia
Vladislav Rajkovič, University of Maribor, Faculty of Organizational Sciences, Kranj, and
Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Borut Čampelj, National Education Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia
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Initially the main goal of educational networks was a distribution of educational
materials; but later the communication and connection among educational
users started to prevail. In the paper some existing educational networks were reviewed,
their contents and services were critically compared. The intention of the analysis was
to identify their strenghts and weaknesses and to articulate the guidelines for
educational network developers. These experiences were also applied to redesign
of Slovenian education network.
Besides the local/national networks a global international educational network
should be established.
Keywords: information technology, education, networks,
The first educational services on the Internet were established around 1989?.
They were based on the protocols such as FTP, Gopher and Veronica.
The appearance of HTTP protocol and GUI based browsers (Mosaic and later
Netscape, ...) in 1993 resulted in rapid growth of the use of Internet.
Among others several educational networks were established in different
parts of the world. For example:
Initially the main goal of such networks was a distribution of educational
materials; but later the communication and connection among educational
users started to prevail. Beside this the following goals: Internet as a
teaching tool, curricula informatization, active network usage (take and
contribute), computer mediated communications, collaboration among schools,
teachers and students, are also important (Johansson, 1996; Oertel, 1995; Walker, 1995).
Services and Contents of Educational Networks
The goals of an educational network (EN) are reflected in services and
contents that it provides. Usually the following categories can
Provides basic information on goals and concept of the network, including
instructions and hints for its efficient use.
There are two basic types of links: links to institutions (servers) and
links to contents (subject pages and materials).
Besides connecting schoolnet servers and materials on them, an educational
network provides connections also to other ENs,
servers at institutions related to education (ministry, museums, archives, art galleries,
libraries,...), news and media services. An important component are also
institutions supporting the informatization of schools (technical support,
manuals and instructions,...)
Links are usually organized in indexes or catalogues.
In catalogues the information is searched by search engines.
An essential building block of an educational network are websites of
individual schools. Common elements of such websites are:
addresses, staff, school council, school calendar and time table, contact hours,
curricula, health care, safety regulations, school and free-time
Distribution and exchange of resources
There are two different views on resources:
Beside this other classifications can be important, such as:
commercial/demo/free; format (text, picture, sound, ...).
- by user: teachers, students, parents;
- by subject: (math, history, language, arts, ...)
Educational network should provide easy access to resources needed by
users. The process of finding of appropriate materials can be alleviated
by collecting additional information about quality, ways of
use, users opinions.
Educational network should provide an effective platform where teachers
exchange their experiences, opinions and materials.
The content and communication possibilities are offering new challenges
of professional development.
Internet is a rich source of tests (with answers),
short lecture notes and of information for students projects.
It also gives a lot of opportunities for entertainment and communications with friends.
Parents should find on the EN general
information about the school and its activities.
The support of communication with teachers, advisory services and other parents
is also a part of the service.
Internet offers different possibilities for communication:
mail, mail-lists, bulletin boards, conferences (notes, chat, video),
hypertext (passive, active, interactive), cooperation tools.
On this basis special user services can be established, such as
communication with experts, parents corner, projects communications,...
An important activity animating international communication among kids are
projects such as:
I*EARN - The International Education and Resource Network,
ESP - The European Schools Project,
On-line communications and interactivity opened new dimensions in distance learning,
which became complementary to other learning possibilities.
Info on the net consists of frequently required information about:
instructions, manuals, guidelines (computerization of school, Intranet)
events (competitions, contests, performances).
A special part of Info are different
Statistics, where data are centrally condensed and graphically presented:
number of schools with server or web site; web news paper;
educational materials and projects; clicks (number of visits of the site).
Free time activities
Free time activities make an EN more attractive for kids
and supports learning by playing. Forms:
lumber room, games, web news papers, competitions, entertainment.
For nonenglish based networks it is important to have an english window into
Forms of network administration
In establishing and maintenance of an EN the following
areas of activities are important: technical support, concept and strategy,
coordination with users and supporters (education of local server administrators),
promotion and animation, collection and analysis of information about the usage of EN
in order to improve its performances.
There is no ideal organization form. It depends on network goals, strategy, concepts and
the environment in which
the network is established (financial support and trained staff).
The design of network structure should be flexible to allow easy growth in different
An EN should be attractive. This can be achieved by different
animation activities such as: quizzes, competitions, events, contests, projects,
hot news, schoolnet newspapers, on-line meetings, ..
The quantity, quality and extent of information provided by an EN
is expected to reach 'critical mass'.
An EN is not merely a collection of links
and information - its organization should be simple and structured providing
in a standardized way a
quick and easy access to frequently used data and services. This contributes towards
increased user's sense of ability of effective use of EN.
An important dimension of an EN are interactivity and openness to contributions of users.
The implementation of EN should consider limitations of available browsers and
diversity of users.
EN provides connections among schools, educational institutions and other
ENs thus encouraging to exchange ideas and to motivate its active use.
On the other hand students should be properly directed in network use and informed about
Nonenglish ENs have usually the language and alphabet problem.
Unicode combined by the OpenType fonts and the FACE attribute in the HTML tag FONT
is the right solution for the alphabet problem. The language problem is more difficult.
On one hand nonenglish users sooner or later come across with english based
materials. Here comes an opened question about the right mixture between the native
and english based materials. On the other hand the use of network somehow determines
the way and the structure of communication what influences the changes in language
habits, which can lead to the impoverishment of the language.
Redesign of Slovenian Educational Network
In 1994 the Slovenian government started the six years project Information Technology in
Slovenian Schools (Batagelj and Rajkovič, 1996;
Batagelj et al., 1997). The aim of the project is to rise the level of computer supported
informatisation mainly in elementary and secondary schools. To support the project
aims (collaboration among schools; collection, evaluation and distribution of educational
materials; distance learning, ...) we started in October 1995 to organize Slovensko
izobraževalno omrežje - SIO (Slovenian Education Network)
(Batagelj, Brodnik, and Lokar, 1996).
Already from the beginning we started with the idea that every user should also contribute
to the growth of a network. To support this idea we developed Trubar - a system of programs for
Windows to build, search and maintain the catalogues -
collections of units described by list of properties (dictionaries, directories, lexicons,
catalogues, inventories, glossaries, ...). Trubar is freely available at:
Tools, like Trubar, automatize the life of catalogues. Also
users-nonprogramers can easily establish catalogues with data of her/his interest
on her/his server.
This year analysing our network according to guidelines, presented in the previous section,
we reached the conclusion that the organization scheme of SIO should be redesigned in order
to better match user's needs. The new SIO can be found at address
What is the goal? We believe that it is in the circulation of information without
boundaries. For this purpose the following preconditions are needed:
Educational process on all levels can significantly contribute to the operationalization of
this goal. Internet is a widely offered educational tool which embraces educational networks
as its specialized services. ENs enable the realization of educational goals in full
potential as well as to show young people how to work and live together in a global
community with existing differences and equalities.
- free access to information;
- free access to information technology;
- free expression of individual opinions.
Since the Internet is global by its nature it presents a natural framework for
realization of these ideas and concepts. On the local / national level
ENs provide a platform for better teaching and collaboration. But for a global
level a Network of educational networks is needed.
In the paper we also wanted to provide some guidelines for ENs and their possible
- Batagelj V. and Rajkovič V.:
Information technology project in Slovenian schools.
In: van Weert, T. J. (ed.): Proc. First Euro Education Conference,
Aalborg, 1996, 9-15.
Batagelj V., Rajkovič V., Skulj T., Valenčič T.:
Informatization of education in Slovenia: Continuous vision.
Proceedings of International Conference on Computers in Education ICCE'97
International Conference on Computers in Education ICCE'97,
Dec 2-6, 1997, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia;
Universiti Malaysia, Sarawak, 1997, 665-672.
Batagelj V., Brodnik A., Lokar M.:
Slovenian Educational Network. INTERMED'96, Barcelona, Jan 19-20, 1996.
Towards a European electronic network for Schools.
Bruxelles, Dec 17, 1996,
Vom klassischen Unterricht zum Lernen in einem
SchulWeb, Apr 1995,
Making an Internet Project Work.
SchoolNet, Nov 1995,