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This article examines SchoolNets and describes how they are transforming education.

June 2004

SchoolNets are transformative because they combine many different aspects of incorporating ICT into learning. At best they include nationwide or international networks of schools, teachers, parents and resources; forums; databases; teacher training; interaction among students and teachers; collaborative projects between schools and nations and more.

Through participating in SchoolNets, students become engaged in exploration and simulation instead of being passive recipients of information. Teachers can use this form of ICT to enliven their teaching and to share resources, inspiration and challenges with other teachers. SchoolNets, through telecollaboration activities, enable students and teachers to strengthen their skills in collaborating and working in teams.

SchoolNets have connected educators and communities that otherwise would have neither the tools nor the time and money to communicate and form dynamic partnerships.

On a wider scale, SchoolNets can accelerate the technology-based modernization of education systems and schools. They can help to address the digital divide by mobilizing the telecommunication and IT sectors to reduce telecommunications costs and offer free Internet connections to schools.

Such involvement by the telecommunications sectors has led to an expansion in the number of schools which can make telephone calls and connect to Internet; lower student-computer and teacher-computer ratios; and better access for teachers and students to computers.

The UNESCO Bangkok SchoolNet project involves schools from: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam. The project demonstrates that the use of ICT in education can improve the teaching and learning process.

Under the project, each participating country is developing or improving their own national SchoolNet, while working towards a regional SchoolNet that will pool resources and link the nations in collaborative learning projects.

The SchoolNet Toolkit, published in 2004, provides information about setting up and running SchoolNets. It is based on the experiences of six countries in the region (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and Thailand). The toolkit provides an array of information, so that it can be beneficial for countries with varying stages of ICT use and differing needs. Laid out in four substantive guidebooks, the kit is targeted especially towards policy- and decision-makers, school managers, practitioners, teachers and principals.