Governer King claims a first for Maine: Every public school, most libraries and private schools now computerized & on line
Bell Atlantic leads creation of Maine School & Library Network.
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AUBURN, Maine -- Students are doing science projects and studying the Constitution. Guidance counselors are tracking down financial aid. Libraries are extending their hours and teachers are teaching other teachers what technology can do.
People who've used it can't say enough about the Maine School & Library Network.
Today, Maine Gov. Angus King announced a milestone for the project and a first in the nation -- the linking of more than 1,000 sites to the Internet, including 100 percent of Maine's K-12 public schools, most public libraries and many private schools.
"This network is linking Maine students to unimagined knowledge and information," King said today during a demonstration of the network at Edward Little High School. "Now it's up to all of us - students, parents, teachers and other leaders - to explore the full potential of what this computer network can offer."
"Completion of the $20 million network marks not an end," King said, "but a beginning. It's the beginning of an incredible journey in which the educational resources of the world are literally at our fingertips. We can all share the excitement in knowing that our state is at the forefront of the new distance learning opportunities the Maine School and Library Network provides."
The Maine School and Library Network is a high-speed telecommunications system that links computers in all schools and public libraries to one another, as well as to worldwide databases and the Internet. The project is managed by Bell Atlantic and includes subsidies for computer upgrades and free Internet access.
A year ago, only nine percent of Maine's public schools had access to the Internet, compared with 50 percent of public schools across the country. Today, 100 percent of Maine's schools are connected, compared to 65 percent nationally.
In Jackman, Maine, a remote town near the Canadian border, students are now tapping into NASA online to learn about science and space exploration. Kids in Corrina now race to the public library after school to be first to use this new resource.
"The level of excitement and creativity being generated by this new learning tool is truly amazing," said Duke Albanese, Commissioner of the Maine Dept. of Public Education. "Students in Maine now have the powerful ability to explore all the wonders of the world from their own schools."
Gary Nichols, Director of Maine State Libraries, said, "Almost overnight, we've given libraries of every size the same resources previously available to only the largest institutions. At the same time, we've opened the doors to these resources to every citizen in Maine."
The impetus for the Maine School and Library Network predates the federal requirements of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It resulted from a May 1995 decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) allowing NYNEX, now Bell Atlantic, to become the project leader in developing a five-year, $20 million plan to benefit the state's public educational institutions.
Following the PUC's 1996 approval of the development plan, computers were purchased and network connections were installed through mid-1997. The Maine Department of Education, the Maine Library Commission, the Maine Library Association, and the Maine Educational Media Association have collaborated in the effort along with other telecommunications providers.
The network plan, led by Bell Atlantic, allows for various forms of network connections, with the standard package consisting of 56 kilobit per second frame relay access to a statewide shared backbone network.
"In addition to offering high speed data connections to every school and library in the state, Bell Atlantic also is providing each site with training and support, free network and Internet software, and free Internet accounts with e-mail," said Ed Dinan, Bell Atlantic-Maine president and CEO. "We also funded grants of up to $2,000 per site for those locations requiring upgraded or new computer hardware. In addition, we are planning for the network to continue to grow and evolve to more powerful high-speed telecommunications technologies."
So what do people do with the Maine School & Library Network? How do they like it?
Charlotte Elementary School (Charlotte), Ann Luginbuhl
"We are a small school, with just 48 kids, and this has opened up the world for them. We have no library to speak of. Now the world is their library. We're very, very happy -- you've really made a difference."
Cony High School (Augusta), Fred Kahl
"By using the Internet the guidance office has found so much financial aid for students that it has probably paid for the equipment ten times over."
York Middle School (York), Ronnie Emery
"It's going really well -- the 5th through 8th grades are doing projects for science fairs, oceanography, studying the Constitution -- I could go on and on. We're completely networked with 130 machines. We're thrilled."
Bass Harbor Memorial Library (Bernard), Fay Lawson.
"So many children are coming in ... it's wonderful. The atmosphere is bustling. Library usage has increased. We are very grateful."
Houlton High School (Houlton), Joe Inman
"Fantastic. Kids are lined up six-deep to use the computers."
Vose Library (Union), Lynn Allen
"Absolutely dynamite. Best thing that can happen to a little library. The connection is invaluable. Now we can research contemporary topics."
Dr. Lewis S. Libby School (Milford), Ellen Small
"Wonderful. Grades 6 through 8 are particularly wild about it. Quality of research work they are doing is excellent. Teachers love it ... and are teaching other teachers. All classrooms are linked now."
Forest Hills Consolidated School (Jackman), Nancy Paradise
"Can't say enough good about it. Students are on every hour of the day. The project makes a world of difference to us, being so far away from things. We had no idea how fast and excellent it would be."
Stillwater Montessori School(Old Town), Joe Alex
"The kids are using it. They researched information about countries. In the fall we held a mock Presidential debate with information from the home pages of both parties."
Mountain View School (Sullivan), Lillian Brenton
"We can't say enough good about it. Students are enthusiastic and we've pulled down tons of information. We're e-mailing with a 4th grade class in Alaska."
Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library (Presque Isle), Marilyn Clark
"We've found reference information we never would have found. This system is great."
Weld Elementary School (Weld), Sal Giacomazzo
"Things are going very well. All networks are up, both Macs and PCs. Exceeding my expectations ... I'm surprised at what 56K can do, sometimes 40 students are up at once, and it's fine. Support has been great."
Calais High School (Calais), Mike Chadwick
"We now have to peel the kids off of the computers. It's been super for the whole state."
Jonesport Beals High School (Jonesport), Colleen Haskell
"It's going great ... up-to-date research is now possible. All students had a two-day workshop -- it's a great way to teach everyone. Now have coverage in lab before and after school. It's wonderful."
Raymond Village Library (Raymond), Sandy Levy (volunteer, not spokesperson)
"Things are going amazingly well. People crawling out of the woodwork, Thirty volunteers trained. Teenagers signing up, doing real work and cooperating with us. For 8-18 year olds, we have their parents choose restricted or non-restricted access, most are giving unrestricted."
Morse Memorial Library (Greene), Patricia Rose
"More and more youngsters are coming in. We appreciate it no end. People are starting to say "I got it at the library on the computer." Sad that so many people are still afraid of it. I tell them to just come in and use it."
Soldiers Memorial Library (Hiram), Daniel Hester
"We now have two computers in use for the Internet and they're always busy. We've opened the library a few extra hours to accommodate everyone."
Woodstock Elementary School (Bryant Pond), Bruce Bell
"Going very well. Already have a use policy. Putting the schools and libraries together was very smart. Now we have a better relationship between the Library Committee and the School Board ... We're sharing resources and can make better use of them through improved communications."
The new Bell Atlantic - formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX - is at the forefront of the new communications, information and entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone access lines and 5.5 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 21 countries.