June 16, 2019

Private school blazes information highway

BETHEL (AP) — While many schools struggle to equip classrooms with computers, students at private Gould Academy this summer have been linked to the world through the global computer network Internet.

In a matter of months, the private school arranged for unlimited free use of the Internet to its entire school community.

Lauren Withers, a freshman from Woodland, was agile enough on the network during her second lesson to find a conversation between teen-agers in an area known as “news reader.”

“It’s just a bunch of kids talking,” Withers said, scrolling by a greeting from a 13-year-old named Stephanie from Hermosa Beach, Calif. “It’s cool.”

Schools elsewhere are reaching for the same tool. School officials have received calls from all over the country, as far away as Colorado, from others who want to replicate the Gould system.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who has a system quite as sophisticated as theirs,” said Richard Goldsmith, executive director of the Independent School Association of Northern New England, which counts 55 members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. “This electronic switch in education is just getting under way.”

Harry “Dutch” Dresser, Gould’s associate headmaster, invited summer school students at an Internet training class to make personal use of the network’s electronic mail system.

“If you have friends in funny places, and they have Internet mail, go to it. You’re welcome to do it all you like,” said Dresser.

Gould students aren’t the first in Maine to fetch electronic information and communicate with students elsewhere by computer. What makes the academy’s system unusual is that it has a direct feed into the Internet.

The typical user enters the network through the telephone lines, paying an entry fee to a commercial computer information service such as America Online or CompuServe.

Gould, by contrast, is wired directly to the University of Maine at Farmington. That feed runs to Augusta, which connects to Portland, which is connected to Cambridge, Mass., location of a private company that acts as caretaker of the Internet in New England.

Gould pays a flat fee of about $6,000 a year to the University of Maine System for access. “It’s a steal,” Dresser said.

Dresser estimated the system cost the private school about $225,000, although public schools can apply for grants.

To use the Internet from the dormitories, students have to supply their own computers. Computers are available elsewhere on campus for students who do not have their own.

Now that many parents can send electronic mail from their workplaces, the Internet access at Gould gives them a whole new way of communicating with their children.

One parent and teacher used E-mail last semester to shame a student into doing his homework.

“The teacher E-mailed the parent, and the parent E-mailed the kid,” Dresser said. “It drove the kid crazy, so he just did his work.”

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