PLANO, Texas - Snorkeling the shark-infested waters along the Great Barrier Reef to learn how coral spreads and peering into the eye of a tropical hurricane to see which way the wind blows isn't for even the most brave of heart.
But starting today, hundreds - and ultimately thousands - of K-12 students in the Plano Independent School District can trek to the world's most remote locations, practice their verbal and mathematic skills, "participate" in an archeological dig for a stegosaurus and work on other classroom assignments all from their home. Students can take advantage of volumes of educational resources located on the district's computer network by using high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) connections to the Internet from Verizon.
"The Plano community has supported our need for a high-speed, wide-area network that connects all our campus sites," said Dr. Doug Otto, Plano ISD superintendent. "This project is our way of making certain that the investment in the network infrastructure, along with our instructional software, is utilized and enjoyed by students at school and at home."
This collaboration between the Plano school district, Verizon and leading software developers represents the nation's largest and most comprehensive test extending classroom curriculum to students while they are at home.
Students from Mathews Elementary, Schimelpfenig Middle School and Jasper High School are the first in Plano to have access to the content rich network known as "MyPISD.net." Other schools will be added over time. Only students currently enrolled in a Plano ISD school and their parents, plus PISD staff members, are eligible to subscribe to the service which has password-protected access. Families who want to access the district content from home will pay $47.50 per month for the high-speed Internet connection from Verizon.
Being able to access the district's educational curriculum online and complete classroom assignments at home maximizes technology and takes advantage of the growing emergence of broadband connections nationwide. Students will enter the MyPISD.net network from home the same way they do at school making the interaction familiar and user friendly.
"Before the advent of digital subscriber line service, a lot of outstanding educational content was created," said David Russell, vice president of external affairs in Texas for Verizon. "However, much of that content couldn't be used because it was either too cumbersome to download using a dial-up connection or it was limited to classrooms where schools had large data connections that were not available to students at home.
"DSL liberates the learning process and makes teaching even more fun for teachers and parents. Further, students will benefit by being able to extend their learning time beyond the typical school hours while still using Plano school district resources," Russell said.
If the pilot is successful, school officials intend to make the data located on their computer network accessible to every family in the PISD district where DSL, cable modem or other broadband service is available within the next two years.
Verizon's DSL service is currently offered to more than 40 percent of all homes in the Plano school district and has 1.2 million customers nationwide. Plano is the most populated city served principally by Verizon in North Texas.
MyPISD.net includes access to a large selection of Web-based software customized for different age groups and interactive and other tools that provide a wide range of information at students' fingertips. Key applications and elements of MyPISD.net include:
- Digital video library containing more than 1,000 streaming media titles and 12,000 indexed clips categorized along grade levels and curriculum content areas such as chemistry, history, science, biology, social studies and physical science. Media controls in the software allow students to stop and start the video stream and make images larger or smaller.
- Reference database containing more than 20 databases including newspapers, magazines, periodicals, encyclopedias, photo archives, almanacs, maps, poems and literature collections and more.
- Flying Rhinoceros applications and activity sheets for use by K-5 students. Using this interactive teaching tool, younger students can learn to read, count, make charts and graphs, and develop social skills and more.
- Curriculum software that exposes students to compelling ways of learning more about core topics such as grammar, biology, mathematics, history and chemistry.
- Productivity tools such as Microsoft Office that are used in all Plano ISD classrooms.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 128.5 million access line equivalents and 28.7 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with 256,000 employees and approximately $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.