Friday, December 1, 2000

Georgia Learning Connections: Serving Georgia Schools

By Sara Pitts

Do you know how to best demonstrate cellular mitosis to your students? What about explaining the election rules for the District of Columbia? Teachers who use Georgia Learning Connections do; they know to just log onto, perform a search for "cell" or the "Constitution," and the results pop right up on the computer screen. But teachers using a regular search engine... well, who knows how long it may take? With the advent of the Information Age, the world of education has become a much easier and much more exciting place to work. Distance learning has opened an array of opportunities, educational sites are showing up all over the World Wide Web, and teachers are able to access an incredible amount of information to use in the classroom through the Internet - but only if they have the patience to sift through all the results most search engines (such as Yahoo and Excite) retrieve.

About three years ago the Georgia Department of Education recognized the need to minimize time-consuming research work for teachers in order to free up their time for students. Georgia Learning Connections (GLC) was created, and in October 1999 the GLC web site,, made its debut on the Internet with over 8,000 curriculum standards, links to 18,000 educational web sites, a database of lesson plans, and a bulletin board as big as the state.

Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) standards are the guidelines Georgia teachers use in the classroom and are the foundation upon which GLC has been built. GLC was first conceived as an online repository for these QCC standards, making them instantly available to all teachers in Georgia. And in order for the standards to be most effective, the GLC staff attached teaching tools such as web links and lesson plans, so teachers can easily access resources when they teach specific standards. As a result, the GLC web site became a showcase for both the best educational sites on the Internet and the best lesson plans in Georgia. Now, English teachers looking for a new way to explain the impact culture has on literature can bypass a lengthy search at an online search engine. Instead, the teacher can go directly to the GLC web site, pull up the QCC standards for American Literature and Composition, and find 14 web links attached to Standard 33 to teach this concept to students. And, not only can teachers find web links, but they can also find lesson plans written by Georgia teachers, teacher-recommended assessments for ideas on how to test students, and assessment correlations matching that standard to standardized tests such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Teacher Resource Center (TRC) is another major component of the GLC site, and the material found here is a supplement to the QCC standards. The TRC is organized into Curriculum Resources and Educational Resources. While the web links found in the QCC standards are very specific, Curriculum Resources is a listing of broad, general web sites for each subject area and are not connected to any one QCC standard. With the links in the TRC, a geography teacher can research facts about all of the 50 states at once with her students, instead of focusing on just one state. Educational Resources has a wide array of material with subheadings such as Georgia Treasures and Teacher Tools. Georgia Treasures is just what it sounds like - links to information about Georgia's museums, parks, libraries, government agencies, and historical sites and figures. Teacher Tools is a database of activity sheets, like calendars and rubrics, and software resources, like mini-manuals to guide new users in the basics of computer applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Netscape Navigator.

Finally, Bulletin Board is the last of the three original modules on GLC and is a listing of education announcements from all over the state. It is organized into seven categories such as Conferences, GLC Highlights, and Celebrating this Month plus an archive of past announcements. The postings on the Bulletin Board range from announcing the revised QCC math standards to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution's Honor Teacher Awards to instructions on how to use GLC itself.

With the constantly changing face of education and technology, the staff knows that the site will never be finished, that it will only keep expanding and improving to serve Georgia's teachers and students for years. With that in mind, GLC has added two more features this year to the big blue arrow that is the hallmark of the GLC home page. The additions are Georgia Education Initiatives and Lesson Plan Builder.

Georgia Education Initiatives is a showcase of educational programs in Georgia that work with the GLC staff to correlate their educational material with QCC standards. One example is Junior Achievement, a group that teaches children about the intricacies of the business world while they are still in grade school. Gifted Education, a division of the Georgia Department of Education, will have a module featuring a virtual library, a teacher's forum, and a bank of educational resources all geared toward teachers and parents of gifted children.

All of the lesson plans on GLC have been written and tested in the classroom by Georgia teachers - none were bought or gathered from an outside or commercial source. To continue this standard of excellence and consistency, GLC created the Lesson Plan Builder, an online tool for teachers to build effective lesson plans. Teachers are invited to use this step-by-step guide to write lessons for their classroom and to submit for possible inclusion on GLC. As they write these lesson plans, teachers can add worksheets, answer keys and web resources right into the lesson. Once the lesson is finished the author can submit it to GLC to be reviewed by GLC staff and possibly be posted to a specific standard on the web site. This feature is an important aspect not only for the builder but also for education in Georgia; because of the builder, teachers are using GLC to share their expertise with every other educator in Georgia.

The GLC staff has spent the past year spreading the word about the web site to teachers across the state, spending time doing hands-on training sessions, and sending out informational material to superintendents and principals. The GLC staff wants the Internet to be useful, not an unwieldy research tool that is eventually abandoned because it's too time consuming. The resources should benefit all teachers: Whether they choose to use the resources word for word in the classroom, modify them for their class's needs, or just use them for new ideas, the ultimate goal should be to improve student achievement in Georgia.

Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Video On Request

Video on Request is one of PeachStar's most popular services to Georgia schools. Have you ever missed a PeachStar broadcast because of equipment failure or other technical difficulty? Or, perhaps you were all set to record a program when the bell for a fire drill rang. Or maybe you just didn't know about a broadcast until it was over. These are the types of problems that Video On Request was designed to remedy. The service allows library media specialists and classroom teachers to call PeachStar and request a special rebroadcast of programs that have been missed for whatever reason. And that's not all; you can also use the service to request customized Theme Packets of programming. Say you are building a lesson plan around the topic of the Revolutionary War. You can call Video On Request, tell us what you are looking for, and we will go through our entire tape library and identify all the programs that pertain to your interest. Then we would blockfeed all of that programming at a time convenient to you.

Making a request is easy - just phone (404) 685-2580 if calling from the Atlanta area. Our toll-free number is 800-222-6006, Ext. 2580.

Before you make a request:

You might want to take a few minutes before making a request to scan the program listings in your current Pipeline, or search the database in the Broadcast Schedule section of PeachStar's web site, to determine whether the programming you are interested in is already scheduled for airing on one of PeachStar's channels in the near future.

Please allow a 72-hour turn around for requests of rebroadcasts. If you are requesting a Theme Packet, it may take longer. Also be aware that PeachStar does not have the rights to rebroadcast some series and programs (for example, the GALAXY Classroom series and Reading Rainbow).

Video On Request is a valuable resource for Georgia classrooms. Please take advantage of it!

Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips

Explore our early American heritage through Colonial Williamsburg's Electronic Field Trips. The series uses today's technologies to discover the past. During the live, interactive broadcast events, students speak by phone to historic characters and experts. Throughout the school year, students participate in web site activities and Internet forums.

Georgia schools may watch, record and use the programs in the classroom at no cost. Schools that wish to actually participate in the live broadcasts and access the many support materials must register and pay a fee. (The fee is $100 per school per program. Discount options are available.) Support materials include a Teacher's Guide, including lesson plans, primary source documents, glossary, time lines and historical background; Web site Access, featuring web adventures, discussion forum, online voting, and email; access to the 1-800 number for call-ins during the live broadcast; colorful poster; introductory video; and tips for teacher booklets. To register call 1-800-761-8331 or visit

Seven live field trips are scheduled to air on PeachStar's Channel 410 this school year. The first is "Missions To America," which airs 1-2 PM, Thursday, October 5. On this field trip, students travel to America's first English settlement, a French Great Lakes trading post and a Spanish mission in the Southwest to explore how different European nations colonized America.

Saturday, October 21, 2000

Experiencing Technical Difficulties?

Help Is Available

The PeachStar Satellite Network reaches more than 2,000 locations across Georgia including public schools, colleges, universities, regional public libraries and other state agency offices. All PeachStar sites are provided Help Desk and Maintenance services supporting the operation of the local satellite receiver system. These services are provided through Convergent Media Systems (CMS), a private vendor under contract to PeachStar.

What Your Help Desk Services Include
All technical problems with the satellite system should be reported promptly to the Help Desk. Technical Service Coordinators are available to provide help by telephone from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. The toll free number for the Help Desk is 1-800-877-7805.

In most cases the Technical Service Coordinator will be able to solve problems over the telephone. In instances where the problem is not resolved by phone, the Technical Service Coordinator may order a field service call.

Field Service Calls
If the Technical Service Coordinator determines that a field service call is required, a technician can be dispatched to the site pending whatever proper approval is required at the local level. Schools may or may not be required to pay a fee for the service call, depending on whether the technical problem and the services rendered are covered by PeachStar's contract with CMS.

What Is Covered:
Under normal wear and tear, the following components are covered for repair or replacement:

* Ku-band LNB
* C-band LNB
* Corotor
* Actuator Arm
* IF and RF cable connectors
* Chaparral or Drake analog receivers
* General Instrument DSR 4200C digital receivers

The service also covers re-peaking, realigning or reshaping the parabolic of the satellite antenna as necessary. All labor associated with repairing or replacing covered items is included.

What Is Not Covered
("Out of Scope" Services)
The following items or situations are not covered:

* Damage due to the installation of any video distribution or satellite-related equipment if that installation was not performed by a CMS technician
* Damage due to servicing of the satellite equipment in any way by other than a CMS technician
* Damage due to renovations or construction
* Vandalism
* Negligence
* Force Majeure or Acts of God (lightning or storm damage, etc.)

Again, if a field service call is ordered, and the service technician discovers that the problem is due to an "out of scope" cause, the site may be charged for material and labor, as applicable.

Help Desk

If you ever have questions about what work is covered or if you would like more information, feel free to call John Fawcett, Project Manager at Convergent Media Systems, at (404) 231-8697 or 1-800-877-7805, the toll-free Help Desk number.

You may also call Bix Doughty of PeachStar Education Services at (404) 685-2566; outside the Atlanta area call toll free at 1-888-501-8960.

If you need help with your satellite receiving equipment, call The Satellite Help Desk. Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-877-7805.

Saturday, October 7, 2000

PeachStar's Neighbors

Reminder: Georgia Public Broadcasting is not the only source of quality instructional programming on satellite TelStar 4. South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) and Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) also use T4, and, thanks to a mutual agreement between GPB and the other states, your IRDs should already be mapped and authorized to receive the South Carolina and Louisiana schedules. To check out the educational programming offered by these agencies, just change the channel on your IRD.

* SCETV channels are numbered in the 300 series.
* LPB channels are numbered in the 200 series.

Friday, October 6, 2000

PeachStar Survey Summary

Customer satisfaction is extremely important to PeachStar, and we are constantly seeking comments, criticisms and suggestions from educators, to help us determine ways to better serve Georgia classrooms. In March 2000, PeachStar mailed surveys to Media Centers at 1,874 Georgia public schools. The purpose of the survey was to determine use of, and satisfaction with, PeachStar programming and services. More than 1,200 media specialists completed and returned the questionnaires - a return rate of approximately 65 percent. We received surveys from 734 elementary schools, 216 middle schools, 220 high schools, 14 middle/high schools, six K-12 schools and 11 schools whose grade levels we were not able to determine.

* 90 percent of all schools indicated they use the PeachStar Satellite Network receiving equipment which the state installed in Georgia public schools seven years ago. As for the 10 percent who do not use the equipment, three main reasons were given:
1) Their equipment is broken
2) Their school doesn't have the equipment
3) They don't know how to use the equipment.
* According to the survey, Georgia Stories is by far the most popular series offered over the satellite network. Fifty-nine percent of all the responding schools and 95 percent of middle schools use the series. SALSA, Count On It!, Transitions, GALAXY, Integrated Science, NASA Connect, and Teachers' Workshop also fared well in the survey.
* Media specialists were asked to judge how their teachers would rate PeachStar programming. Zero percent said "Poor," 5 percent said "Fair," 32 percent said "Good," 46 percent said "Very Good," and 18 percent said "Excellent."
* Media specialists were asked to judge how their students would rate PeachStar programming. Zero percent said "Poor," 5 percent said "Fair," 37 percent said "Good," 44 percent said "Very Good," and 14 percent said "Excellent."
* Forty-two percent of the responding media specialists said they had used PeachStar's Video On Request service. Of those who had used the service, 2 percent rated it "Poor," 3 percent said "Fair," 20 percent said "Good," 34 percent said "Very Good," and 41 percent said "Excellent."
* Virtually all of the responding media specialists said they received their annual PeachStar Program Guide. Zero percent rated the Guide "Poor," 5 percent said "Fair," 22 percent said "Good," 40 percent said "Very Good," and 32 percent said "Excellent."
* Virtually all of the responding media specialists said they received their monthly bundles of PeachStar Pipeline. Zero percent rated the newsletter "Poor," 5 percent said "Fair," 22 percent said "Good," 40 percent said "Very Good," and 33 percent said "Excellent."
* Sixty-two percent of the responding media specialists said they had visited PeachStar's web site. Of those, zero percent rated it "Poor," 2 percent said "Fair," 23 percent said "Good," 42 percent said "Very Good," and 32 percent said "Excellent."

In addition to answering our specific questions, respondents were asked to write down any comments they wished to offer concerning PeachStar services; nearly 700 media specialists did just that. Some findings:

* PeachStar's blockfeed scheduling format is very popular.
* The ID slates that we have put at the beginning of every program are helpful.
* Some schools receive PeachStar print materials late. (Based on this response, the print and distribution schedule for Pipeline has been revised. We hope every school is now receiving Pipeline well before the first of the month.)
* There is a need for more programming designed for grades 9-12. (This will be a priority for us as we begin to line up programming for next year.)
* A special thanks to the 91 folks who simply told us to "Keep up the good work!"

We appreciate everyone who took time from their busy schedule to complete the questionnaire and return it to PeachStar.

Thursday, March 16, 2000

PeachStar Programming in Georgia Classrooms

Two months ago Pipeline invited Georgia educators to write a short essay telling how their schools use PeachStar programming to enhance classroom instruction. We received several excellent responses and would like to share a few excerpts with all our readers.

"Chestnut Log Middle School has used PeachStar as a major component of our science program for over three years. We tape Integrated Science each week for three 20-minute segments for each grade level. Each segment presents instruction and demonstration interspersed with graphics, animation, and live action.

Our Spanish students enjoy reviewing vocabulary and pronunciation using the elementary SALSA programs. These 15-minute programs use puppets and animation to tell classic children's stories. In exploratory, our student media and career teacher is using segments from several new programs being broadcast this year to encourage students to look to their future in a more positive and open way. Selections taped are The E in Me/The Entrepreneur in You, Against All Odds, Only in America, World of Work, and Great Black Innovators.

The cornerstone of our eighth grade social studies videos has been the Georgia Stories series. With a new emphasis and a new curriculum this year, teachers have needed materials on U.S. history and government. Eighth grade has requested The Story of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, American Revolution, and Westward Expansion. Other grade levels have used Geography Skills and Great Cities of the Ancient World.

This month, math teachers have requested Want This Job? Do Your Math. So often students complain, 'Why do I have to learn this? I'll never need this!' These programs will show our students interesting high-tech jobs where science and math are necessary.

Although we tape and show many other PeachStar programs, this sample shows many ways the programming enhances and supplements our regular curriculum."

Susan Bissell, Media Specialist, Chestnut Log Middle School, Douglas County Schools

"... I feel that all children need to be exposed to other cultures. For them, learning another language, like Spanish, is not only fun, but it allows them to develop a sensitivity to others. I have used SALSA since its publication to enhance my third grade classroom's goal of learning a Spanish phrase or word each week. I choose words or phrases within a content area and focus on them. SALSA adds native reinforcement and enhancement to my classroom curriculum. For a city school system as small as mine which can't afford a foreign language program, SALSA is a wonderful supplement for a bilingual teacher who would like to share the gift of a different culture."

Candace Oliver, Third Grade Teacher, Commerce Elementary School, Commerce City Schools

"At Camp Creek we have some science and social studies teachers who faithfully look through PeachStar Pipeline each month and send us requests to tape selected programs for them to supplement their curriculum topics in areas where our school and county video libraries are lacking. We are also a special education center for our half of the county, and we are able to obtain elementary videos from PeachStar for many of our hearing-impaired or autistic self-contained students and other special education students. We have two full-time Spanish teachers for our middle scholars, and they both teach a 6th grade exploratory class and a regular Spanish I class (for high school credit) for 7th and 8th graders. The Spanish teachers came and asked me to request the free SALSA set for their classroom use. They are both imaginative and creative teachers who I am sure would make excellent instructional use of the series in their classrooms."

Lynn Bradley, Media Specialist, Camp Creek Middle School, Fulton County Schools

For taking the time and trouble to write to us, each of the schools noted above (plus others that responded) will receive a free SALSA I video set. In addition, we are now offering to give away a limited number of Irasshai Explorer Kits to schools that send essays. Please check out the "PeachStar's Spring Sale" notice on page 4 of this Pipeline for details.

Wednesday, March 1, 2000

News Flash! The GALAXY Classroom is Now Online!

Beginning immediately the GALAXY Classroom Web Site is available to expand teacher support and offer new dimensions for student learning. Through the web site GALAXY Classroom hopes to provide an expanded gateway to the world of teaching and learning. Now participating in GALAXY is a great reason to be on the web. Special areas have been set up for teachers as well as students. In the teacher area you will have access to literature connections, additional hands-on investigations to enhance your classroom inquiries, newsletters and monthly calendars, and direct access to GALAXY curriculum staff via e-mail. In addition, you can register to be a part of the GALAXY teacher listserv, which makes communicating with teachers throughout North America as easy as sending an electronic letter!

In the student areas students will find scores of opportunities to expand their investigations. A separate area is set up for each curriculum. Your students will have access to the characters on the programs through "fan e-mail." Even parents will find take-home investigations that relate to what their children are doing in their GALAXY Classrooms at school. Student work from all over North America is posted on the site, providing an exciting opportunity for students to see their work as well as the responses from their peers all over the GALAXY.

To enter the web sites you will need the user names and passwords listed below. Log on and see for yourself how dynamic the GALAXY web site is:

user name: galaxy
password: learn

S.N.O.O.P.S. -- 5th grade science
user name: galaxy
password: weird

The House -- 4th grade language arts
user name: galaxy
password: read

Fixer Uppers -- 2nd grade science
user name: galaxy
password: whatif

Finders Seekers -- kindergarten and 1st grade science
user name: galaxy
password: science

Visit the GALAXY Classroom web site and get GALAXY information delivered directly to your desktop.

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

In Perpetuity Programming

For the past two years, PeachStar has been acquiring programming that Georgia schools may record and keep in perpetuity - that is, you may keep a copy in your school library and check it out to teachers, parents and students forever. Some of the series were either produced or bought by PeachStar and are permanent additions to our collection. Those are always available to you to tape, keep and use for as long as you wish. Other series we are leasing for a certain period of time. Schools may use these leased series in perpetuity too, but only if they are taped from PeachStar before the end of the period covered under the lease agreement. Below you will find a list of series that schools may tape from PeachStar and keep in perpetuity. Those that are being leased are so designated. The leased programs will not be aired by PeachStar after May 31, 2000, so be sure to tape them before that date.

If there is other programming you would like to add to your in perpetuity collection, let us know and we will contact the producers or distributers to see if that is possible.

Marketplace: Explaining the Stock Market
Gr 9-12, 1 Program (Lease)

Money Maze
Gr 6-12, 12 Programs

Foreign Language
Gr K-3, 42 Programs

Ultimate Choice
Gr 6-12, 1 Program

Driving Ambition
Gr 9-12, 1 Program

Multiple Choice
Gr 9-12, 1 Program

The Parenting Principle
Gr 9-Adult, 1 Program

The Great American Christmas Tree
Gr K-12, 1 Program (Lease)

American History Collection
Gr 3-8, 4 Programs (Lease)

The People's House
Gr 3-12, 1 Program

"We the People": The Story of the Constitution
Gr 4-8, 1 Program (Lease)

Georgia Stories I & II
Gr 4 -12, 37 Programs

The Declaration of Independence
Gr 5-8, 1 Program

The New England Colonists: Pilgrims & Puritans
Gr 5-8, 1 Program

The American Civil War
Gr 5-9, 4 Programs

George Washington Carver
Gr 5-12, 1 Program

The American Revolution
Gr 6-12, 1 Program (Lease)

America's Westward Expansion
Gr 6-12, 1 Program (Lease)

A More Perfect Union: The Three Branches of the Federal Government
Gr 6-12, 3 Programs (Lease)

We Shall Overcome: A History of the Civil Rights Movement
Gr 6-12, 1 Program (Lease)

Colonizing The American West
Gr 7-12, 1 Program

Great Black Innovators
Gr 7-12, 1 Program

Electing A President
Gr 8-12, 1 Program (Lease)

The Holocaust: A Teenager's Experience
Gr 9-12, 1 Program

Reading the Newspaper Intelligently
Gr 8-12, 1 Program (Lease)

Language Arts
Favorite Author Collection
Gr 3-8, 5 Programs (Lease)

Famous Authors
Gr 9-12, 10 Programs (Lease)

Count On It!
Gr K-3, 20 Programs

Coastal Naturalist I & II
Gr 5-12, 10 Programs

Saturday, January 1, 2000

The Going the Distance Tele-Learning Consortium

A strategic partnership of Georgia Public Broadcasting, institutions of the University System of Georgia, and Georgia G.L.O.B.E.(Georgia Learning Online for Business and Education)

A 1998 study commissioned by Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and a 1999 study commissioned by Georgia G.L.O.B.E., confirm the need and the opportunity to deploy technology on behalf of learning for Georgians. A survey of 500 registered voters statewide revealed:

* 50 percent of all respondents (including 30 percent of Georgians over age 60) were interested in attending a college or university during the next three years either to earn a degree or to take non-credit courses;
* 62 percent expressed interest in pursuing a degree in computer science or information technology during the next three years;
* 66 percent of respondents indicated that they had access to the Internet from home, work or both, and 55 percent expressed a willingness to take college credit or professional development courses via the Internet if offered by one of Georgia's 34 public colleges and universities; and
* 52 percent would take a video-based college credit or professional development course if offered over GPB's educational network.

Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and the University System of Georgia are planning together to improve access to postsecondary learning for Georgians statewide by using existing and emerging technologies, including open air broadcast, cable and satellite television and video delivered over the Internet. One effort under discussion is the Going the Distance Tele-Learning Consortium. Individual institutions in the University System will coordinate telecourse offerings based, in part, on content provided by the Public Broadcasting Service's (PBS) Going the Distance and Ready To Earn initiatives and broadcast over GPB's expanded broadcast network. Initial course offerings scheduled for summer 2000 will satisfy most of the freshman and sophomore requirements of the University System.

The consortium will provide all support services needed to assist students enrolled in telecourses. In addition, four-year institutions will work with two-year campuses to ensure that students have access to services nearest the students' homes or places of work.

Georgia G.L.O.B.E., an initiative of the University System, and GPB will collaborate in providing marketing throughout the state to increase awareness of the expanded availability of postsecondary learning from the University System institutions. The two organizations will work together to secure a statewide broadcast license from PBS, thereby avoiding the costs of individual institutional licenses. GPB will provide production and broadcast services for the consortium.

The consortium builds on and compliments the Board of Regents June 1999 directive launching Georgia G.L.O.B.E. to use technology-based learning to:

* expand access to quality postsecondary education and thereby increase the numbers of Georgians earning degrees in occupational fields of strategic importance to the state's economic development;
* pool and leverage Georgia's educational and technological assets; and
* avoid unnecessary duplication of effort among University System institutions and among state agencies.

PeachStar Education Services looks forward to its very active involvement in the work of this new and exciting consortium.