Examples of ARC Telecommunications Projects
Connecting Schools and Community: The ChattoogaNet Project
In Chattooga County, Georgia, local businesses, government agencies, and community groups have joined forces in support of ChattoogaNet, an Internet service provider (ISP) run by local students. The program not only teaches participating students the mechanics of operating an Internet server, but also provides free Internet access to all segments of the community, including businesses, local government agencies, and residents. The students receive intensive technology training and fully participate in helping manage the ISP's day-to-day operation. As part of their training, students learn Web page development, a talent reflected in the Chattooga community Web page. In addition to improving technical skills, the program also teaches students the importance of learning partnership skills, sharing resources, and contributing to the community.
Expanding the Classroom: Towns County Middle School Laptop Computer Project
With only a few computers in the library, students in Towns County Middle School had little opportunity to develop computer skills or use the Internet to research projects. In 1998, in the first year of a pilot program, Towns County gave every middle school student a specially designed laptop computer. The school also offered training for teachers, students, and parents, and provided access to the Internet from school or home through a school-based network. Computers are now as ubiquitous as books in the classroom. Students, their parents, and teachers have found their lives enriched in unexpected ways. Since every student has access to online research, teachers can assign more interesting and demanding projects. Parents are also learning computer skills and communicating with their children's teachers through email. Students and parents both report that the children are spending less time watching television and more time doing homework. A number of parents have been inspired to resume their own education. The successful project has led to similar investments in middle schools in West Virginia and North Carolina. In May 2001, Time magazine ranked Towns County Middle School among the most innovative middle schools in the country.
Linking Networks to Improve Education: Leatherstocking Telecommunications Consortium What is now the Leatherstocking
Telecommunications Consortium began as several distinct networking efforts linking classrooms in multiple school districts. It evolved into a sophisticated telecommunications system providing Internet access, distance learning, telemedicine services, and mobile teleconferencing for local governments and businesses. Over the last decade, quickly evolving technology has presented challenges and opportunities for regional telecommunications planners. Students continue to benefit from "distant" classes while new technology expands the network's capabilities. The consortium also has helped local governments set up Internet sites providing citizen access to government information. An associated health care telecommunications network provides links to hospitals and outreach clinics that support nursing education and provide telemedicine assistance to public school nurses. The consortium is now in the process of expanding the network to nine counties. Plans include delivering health education to schools, storing training on a video server, and linking college classrooms to a video network.
Creating New Campuses on the Information Highway: Alleghany Cyber Site
Students in Alleghany, Wilkes, and Ashe Counties in North Carolina have not always had direct access to the resources of the state's university system. North Carolina is now leveraging those university resources by making information and classes available to students throughout the state. Alleghany High School is one of seven cyber campuses to be equipped with multimedia interactive computer equipment linked to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and the Internet through the high-speed, fiber-optic North Carolina Information Highway. The campus is also linked to Wilkes Community College and provides distance-learning classes for high school students, teachers, and the general community. On-site computer training is also provided. The cyber campus, which is open evenings and weekends for general public and business users, served approximately 6,886 students and over 1,430 adults (including businesspersons, government workers, and the general public) in 1998, its first year in business.
Wiring for Business, Education, and Health: Big Sandy Regional Telecommunications Center
Determined that the information highway not bypass Pike County and the Big Sandy area of eastern Kentucky, community leaders created the Big Sandy Regional Telecommunications Center. Operated by the nonprofit Big Sandy Telecommuting Services, Inc., the center currently provides a variety of services, including hands-on computer, network, and Internet training and certification; coordination of remote teaching and teleconferencing; and business support services. Partners in the telecommunications center include the Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine, whose Telemedicine Services and Learning Center at the site will soon serve faculty, students, and the public. In addition, to support new business development, the new facility is taking on the additional role of business incubator, providing office space and access to shared personnel and equipment to several new, emerging enterprises.
Providing Greater Internet Access: WMDnet
Beginning with initial efforts to provide distance-learning opportunities to western Maryland high school students, WMDnet helped develop Internet access for the public sector in three counties. It stimulated entry of private Internet service providers into the region and has been the focal point of various computer and telecommunications projects that benefit students and improve the use of public information. In Hagerstown, a fiber-optic network links numerous agencies and the Internet. In Allegany County, Allconet links agencies, schools, nonprofits, and colleges while providing Internet access. The system has successfully demonstrated Internet linkages via a wireless hookup and is building now to expand those services across the county. In Garrett County, the Garrett Rural Information Cooperative provides Internet access to private and public sectors. The Western Maryland Internet Lab at Frostburg State University is one of a number of associated initiatives that continue to evolve from this ongoing work.
Using Technology to Expand Health Care: TeleHome Care Project
In southeastern New York, home health care can be costly for those with limited mobility due to chronic or terminal illnesses. Community-based nurses cannot provide the optimal number of home visits because of heavy caseloads, strained resources, and long distances. With the help of a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Delaware, Otsego, and Schoharie Counties are working to remedy the problem. Using televisions and telephones, homebound patients and their nurses will soon be able to conduct telehome visits, allowing health care professionals to monitor a patient's condition via a video system. These video visits require only a fraction of the time and money needed for at-home monitoring, allowing nurses to consult with a greater number of patients over the system. The grant provides funds to train more than 70 health care professionals at four clinics and three hospital emergency rooms for this service, which continues to benefit over 100 chronically ill patients with diverse needs. This is of value not only to community health nurses but also to nurse practitioners and physician's assistants working in primary care.