Electronic Networks. ERIC Digest.



ERIC Identifier: ED254211
Publication Date: 1983-12-00
Author: Garnette, Cheryl Petty
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.

Electronic Networks. ERIC Digest.

Three devices are necessary to access an electronic network: (1) a computer (terminal, microcomputer, or communications word processor); (2) a telephone; and (3) a modem (modulator-demodulator). The modem, the communication device between the computer and the telephone, converts computer information into telephone signals and vice-versa.

To access the network, the computer is connected to an information utility (known as the "host" computer) which stores the information on a powerful mainframe or minicomputer system. The Source and CompuServe are two information utilities commonly used by educators to store information and facilitate electronic networking. After subscribing to a utility each user is assigned an account number and a password permitting access to the network.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FEATURES OF ELECTRONIC NETWORKS?

Most electronic networks include features that help users retrieve information and share experiences, concerns, and ideas on topics pertinent to education, business, news, and entertainment. A computer menu guides the user to the various components of the network.

Electronic Bulletin Boards

Electronic bulletin boards permit users to review statistical data and literature on topics of interest. Information on upcoming conferences, meetings, seminars, job opportunities, and school practices is also provided. This information is most frequently accessed by typing in a one-word title or single number associated with the topic. The computer screen will then reveal the contents of a specific bulletin board.

Electronic Mail

Electronic mail is one of the interactive features of the electronic network that has proven to be particularly useful to network users. This feature permits users to send messages to others on the system. The length of the message can vary from one or two words to several pages; messages can be sent to one individual, to a group of individuals, or to all network users.

A message is typed using the computer keyboard, sent, and stored in the recipient's "mailbox" until requested. After reading the message, the recipient may file it, respond to it, delete it, or ignore it.

Computer Conferencing

Computer conferencing permits each participant in a conference to attend at a time convenient for that individual.

The meeting agenda, report, or items of concern are typed and stored in the computer. Participants access the network and subsequently the conference, using commands similar to those for accessing a bulletin board. The comments of preceding participants are read; each succeeding participant may respond to the issues at hand or the comments of preceding attendees. Computer conferences can be held over several hours, several days or longer depending upon the purpose and need of the "conference sponsor."

Electronic networks are easy to use. Often a user's manual is provided for the new account holder; in addition, directions are usually presented online, and "help" files can be "called up" at any time while using the network.

The main advantage of using an electronic network is convenience. Messages can be transmitted at any time. When an inquiry is made via electronic mail, the user has time to think about a response; a telephone call may not offer this flexibility.

WHAT IS THE COST OF JOINING AN ELECTRONIC NETWORK?

The costs vary from one network source to another. In most instances, the initial fee is minimal, considering the resources that become available after joining the network.

Connect time or online charges (the hourly cost of using the host computer while processing information) are not usually included in the initial fees. Online charges vary according to the type of information requested. In some instances, long distance charges may be accrued if the host computer does not have a local telephone number in a particular city. Using cost saving long distance services such as Telenet or Tymnet can reduce direct dialing charges if local numbers are not provided. Some utilities also offer WATS numbers.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES FOR EDUCATORS AND DECISION-MAKERS?

Often the information needed by educators is not found in periodicals or texts, but in the minds of other educators who have experienced the same frustrations or who can explain a new development. Electronic networking provides immediate access to these individuals. Local networking also has been used to provide training for teachers in local school districts and current information on a rapidly changing field in a timely and efficient manner.

WHAT KINDS OF NETWORKS ARE THERE FOR EDUCATORS?

Most networks tend to be content-specific or targeted to a particular audience.

ChieFFile, for example, is the network developed and used by the Chief State School Officers in the 50 states and United States territories; it provides immediate access to national news and legislative issues.

SpecialNet is targeted to special educators and others interested or working in the area of special education. DeafNet-DCI is devoted to the hearing- impaired population. TechNet is intended for use by educators and others interested in using the information technologies for education and training.

Many networks have been established by state Departments of Education and school board associations to meet the needs of educators in a particular state, including Penn-Link in Pennsylvania, Electro-lert in Alabama, and WIS/NET in Wisconsin. Several of these educational networks are on Edline, formerly EdNet, the electronic news and information network established by the National School Public Relations Association, which serves as the umbrella for Penn-Link, TechNet, ChieFFile, and others.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Garnette, Cheryl Petty, Henry Thomas Ingle, and Lewis A. Rhodes. "BEST NET: Electronic Mail as a Medium for Educational Information Exchange and Networking." In a USER'S GUIDE TO PROJECT BEST PRODUCTS: PRINT AND NONPRINT, edited by Henry T. Ingle. Silver Spring, MD: Applied Management Sciences, Inc. and Washington, D.C.: Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1983. ED 235 794.

Institute for the Future. CHOOSING AN ELECTRONIC MESSAGE SYSTEM: A GUIDE FOR THE HUMAN SERVICES. Menlo Park, CA: Institute for the Future, 1980. ED 213 397.

Johansen, Robert, Barbara McNeal, and Michael Nyhan. TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED PEOPLE: EVALUATIONS OF AUDIO CONFERENCING, PERSONAL COMPUTERS, COMPUTER CONFERENCING, ELECTRONIC MAIL. Menlo Park, CA: Institute for the Future, 1981. ED 227 819.

Lukas, Terrence. "How to Set Up an Electronic Bulletin Board." T.H.E. JOURNAL 8 (September 1981): 50-55.

Norman, Donald A. "The Computer Always Rings Twice." PSYCHOLOGY TODAY (October 1983):46-50.

Petty, Cheryl. "Questions and Answers on the B.E.S.T. Approach to Electronic Mail." INSTRUCTIONAL INNOVATOR 28 (February 1983):6-7.

Rothfeder, Jeffrey. "Electronic Mail Delivers the Executive Message." PERSONAL COMPUTING (June 1982): 32-40, 118-120.

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