Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.

Introduction to Electronic Field Trips

Email Tools
Written by Scott Coletti, Middle School teacher
Crittenden Middle School, Mtn.View, CA.
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Using Electronic Mail to Stay Current

An email service called maillist is available from the LFM project. If you join this free service you will get mail several times a week that is germane to the classroom project. The mail will include three things: updates from the LFM team offering resources for the classroom teacher; field journals from the staff, scientists, students, and teachers involved in the project; a discussion carried on by anyone joining the discuss-lfm list. Also, some of the journals will be written at the 5th/6th grade language level.


Email Tools Defined

Mail List
One of the ways that you and your kids can stay current about events during the project is to join a group of interested people on a type of email service that looks like a group newsletter service. Everything that anybody writes to one common address is published and sent to the people on a list. This type of email is called a maillist. In other words, a maillist is an automatic server (server definition link) of any email traffic generated by those people on the list. The automatic server sends each list member all the mail sent to the server. Some maillists (like updates-lfm) do not allow everybody to send messages but instead limit the sender to a select group of people.

Those on the project doing the support, science and content provide periodic "Journals" and "Junior Journals" of their activities. The journal traffic is rich in content and, perhaps even more importantly, the process of doing science.

Q&A Database
(By the way, using this traffic is a great way to gain a feel for the culture developing around a project.)

There develops a question and answer database that teachers can access. This would be text traffic that you would get off the Internet. You could go to a Gopher site, FTP site, or World Wide Web site. One of the ways I use the Q&A database is to have the kids pose questions that they are interested in getting answered. Then after school I sort the questions by how I think they can be answered:

  1. Do I have a CD-ROM that will address the question?
  2. Is the question big enough to warrant a call to the city library's computer catalog?
  3. Would the student profit from a guided trip online to answer the question?
  4. Do I know of experts or Internet addresses that answer the question already?

Once questions are in their respective piles, I get online. Once at the Q&A database, I have been known to download the whole thing to my computer for perusal by me and the kids off line. Also, I have gone through and matched up my students' questions with any answers already posted.

Strong Student Response

Strong student response to the email traffic for the Q&Q database was observed. One surprise was how strongly the students demanded daily email traffic checks. Each day, first thing in the door...
"did I get any mail from and so...did my question get a reply... anything from New Zealand or Australia yet?" Because of the 7th graders' responses to email traffic, I recommend all new teachers include this in their activities.

Teacher's note: This task is a great reason to have students transcribe questions into an electronic file. The questions can then be copied, edited and uploaded with ease.

Another thing I did with the database was use recurring words to run searches on the Internet (Lycos, Web Crawler, etc.). That way I generated additional resource lists related to the projects. Of course, during the Live From Antarctica trip the kids found and used some servers from Australia and New Zealand to get resources for their product (in that case the product was a slide show produced in ClarisWorks 2.0 or jigsawed team teaching). They also generated email traffic using the email links whose pages they used for their reports. This activity generated a great deal of interest from the students.

Three Ways for Packaging Email Traffic
One of the issues I had to struggle with was how to package email traffic to the kids. My use of paper was limited by the fact that a rationing system is in place on campus and I did not want to use up what little allocation I had.

Another way to get the email to the kids was to make multiple disk copies. The time involved with this task was much more than using the copy machine. Although I will say that the kids related positively to being handed a disk with material differently than being handed paper.

The third way was to send the file out over the network in the Mac lab. Yes, I teach in a Mac lab all day. Of course after downloading the email traffic of whatever sort, I had to tweak the file, usually because some contributors to the email stream did not understand how to get clean copy into an email message. They used too many columns, or a nonproportional font or too large text point size. Because of this I allocated time to clean up the text format so there were no broken lines, etc. Of course an entire forest was saved because I stripped out the email headers before replicating the files.

Another way I tried to handle the email was to get kids to go pick it up themselves. Of course the students who were expecting traffic were never on the two computers with modems, or their skills were limited to AOL. I was using my most robust Internet account to handle the email traffic, but the interface was difficult for the kids to use. So at times I would forward the students' mail to their AOL accounts where they could access their mail on their own time.

| Introduction | Electronic Field Trips a Working Definition | Time Management

| In Class TechniquesTheoretical Underpinnings |

 |Email Tools |Reading List | The Fundamental Tools |
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