Big Sky Telegraph: Vision And Summary
"Growing an Innovation Support Testbed"

Contributed by: Frank Odasz <>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 96 9:19:32 MDT

Here's a 3 pg summary of BST for the archive.

For over eight years, Big Sky Telegraph (BST) based at Western Montana College of the University of Montana, has strived to create an online educational community supportive of grassroots innovations and experimentation focused on 'Real Benefits for Real People.' BST functions as a service to the college, and all Montanans, providing free online resources and training to reduce the risk of creating rural information have-nots, or know-nots. BST offers free access, and free online lessons, to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

BST demonstrates how an educationally-focused community network can support K-100 lifelong learning. BST will customize its services to support grassroots innovations and projects.

BST no longer offers Internet access subscriptions due to widespread availability of flat rate Internet offered by multiple sources, but continues to offer and develop online training opportunities and resources.

Big Sky Telegraph's World Wide Web home page is from which our interactive BBS is accessible.

Big Sky Telegraph promotes teleliteracy for rural citizens for self-directed online lifelong learning by offering free public access to a summative clearinghouse available to anyone, anywhere, anytime via dial-in modem and direct Internet by either Telnet or WWW.

Serving as a Public Interest Network Testbed, BST advocates citizen teleliteracy and lifelong learning by providing a clearinghouse for the best Internet resources for:

- Internet training lessons, tutorials and courses
- School technology planning guidelines
- Community networking resources, models and studies
- Tutorials and resources for web page design and development
- Parenting, kids and home learning resources

Apple Computer has donated a Macintosh web server and Macintosh workstation to support BST's transition to Internet multimedia distance learning delivery.

Big Sky Telegraph has been cited for excellence by the White House's 1992 Agenda Report on the National Information Infrastructure and by the former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment's report "Making Government Work; Electronic Delivery of Federal Services." BST is featured as a model educational and community network in dozens of books and publications and enjoys a widespread reputation as an innovative bottom-up grassroots network.

The BST PHILOSOPHY: Value bandwidth and human bandwidth will ultimately prove more important than volume bandwidth. By demonstrating how all citizens can be both learner and teacher, we're demonstrating how ongoing knowledge access skill training, and citizen evaluation of highest value resources, can become a vehicle for rehumanizing and revitalizing communities of all descriptions.

BST is currently conducting the following major national collaborative programs:

1. The Electronic Model Congress (TEMC)
Funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education is a "K12 Electronic Model Congress" project including 80 High School teachers from 19 states, supported by 23 congressional offices. This project dovetails with a Salmon Fisheries Environmental project including 60 teachers from 19 states, Finland, and British Columbia. These two projects will be collaborating around environmental debate, electronic information gathering, and advising our elected leaders on policy issues, electronically....the exact same skills all citizens will need to acquire if they are to participate in an electronic democracy. One hundred forty teachers were trained via BST's online course, mentored by a talented teacher in Oklahoma.

This project is the result of BST's longstanding partnership with the Columbia Education Center, of Portland, OR, which has worked with over 450 rural and small town teachers.

2. Reach For The Sky
Funded by the Annenberg/CPB Math and Science project, and the US WEST Foundation, BST's "Reach for the Sky" rural telecomputing project has demonstrated how providing rural teachers with laptops, and online training, can produce teleliterate teachers able to integrate many components of the Internet into their curriculums. The 20 first year trainees mentored an additional 80 teachers across a five state region demonstrating a scaleable "teacher mentoring" program suitable even for the most remote rural teachers. The economics and ergonomics of this project are of national significance, as are the methods used to teach telecollaboration. The original 20 teachers stand ready to train others, and can speak to the effectiveness of this project.

3. BST, in partnership with the Big Horn Network formerly operating in Cody, WY, offered a online High School course in Chaos Theory taught by a professor from MIT. As a direct result, two Cody HS students are now at MIT.

Executive Summary Of Bootstrap Coalition Proposal:
In 1995, as part of the process of gathering information on community networking, Big Sky Telegraph prepared and submitted "The Bootstrap Coalition," a grant proposal (unfunded) for the National Telecommunications Information Agency that articulates a plan for support of community networking.

The Bootstrap Coalition is a detailed plan to create measurable optimal collaboration models between multiple networking projects, using a decentralized workteam, to include selected experts, in the creation of a Rocky Mountain clearinghouse to engage and support small local rural citizen, school, library, medical, and community telecommunications initiatives.

For copies see the Bootnarratives file available via anonymous FTP at Directory:/u1/ftp/pub/franko

Director's Biography:
Originally from Cody, Wyoming, Frank received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Davis, in 1974, then worked in Wyoming as an oilfield roughneck, independent carpenter, and dude ranch manager until receiving a Master of Science in Instructional Technology from the University of Wyoming in 1984. Frank has been an assistant professor of computer education at Western Montana College since 1985, where in 1988 he founded Big Sky Telegraph, an online educational community network.

BST was created primarily through the efforts of Director, Frank Odasz, who wrote a small grant to establish the system in 1987, and continued to write successively larger grants as the project demonstrated real benefits. Western Montana College received the grant funds and utilized BST for preservice teacher training as well as inservice training, via modem, for K12 teachers in the field. Big Sky Telegraph is one of the oldest and best known rural networks in the country and is a unique Internet resource and vocal advocate of rural telecomputing.

For more information search the World Wide Web for:
1. Big Sky Telegraph - 50,000+ citations
2. Frank Odasz - 500+ citations

My prime personal goal is to create a center focusing on providing ongoing online training and technical support for citizens, first in Wyoming, and potentially worldwide, with an emphasis in entrepreneurship and multiculturalism, potentially in a guest ranch environment.

Essentially, I believe our country needs a 'Camp David of Rural Community Networking Strategy,' serving as a leadership teleliteracy training center, a high level thinktank, and hosting a free public access web site offering the best self-directed learning opportunities on the Internet. Big Sky Telegraph is a working prototype:

** Note the international trade training links in the 'Community Networking' clearinghouse, and the many online courses listed under the 'Self-directed Learning' section.

Recent Conference Presentations:
For the past five years I've been averaging three national conferences a month. During the past year, I have presented keynote speeches on community networking for the following conferences;

- University of Missouri's first Community Networking Conference, March 6th, 1996
- National Public Library Association's preconference on community networking, March 26th, 1996
- Taos Community Networking conference sponsored by NTIA, Kellogg, Apple, and the Morino Institute. Three plenary presentations and two panel discussions, May 14-17, 1996
- National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) first Community Networking conference, June 26, 1996
- Benton Foundation/NTIA "Up for Grabs" conference, Washington DC June 9-10th, 1996 (discussion participant, only)
- Southern Illinois Regional Library Assoc. conference on community networking, Aug. 1st.

Last year I presented on "Leveraging the Public Good, Electronically" (presenting visions for lifelong learning, community networking, and electronic democracy) for:

- The Council on Foundations in San Francisco, CA, May 1995
- The Michigan Council on Foundations, Kalamazoo, MI, Fall, 1995
- A Kauffman Foundation Seminar, Washington DC, Fall, 1995

BST has a demonstration school/community networking clearinghouse up at (Including pointers to the best self-directed Internet training materials.)

BST is lauded as a pioneering network for K12 online instruction and community networking by the following books:

The Virtual Community; Homesteading the Electronic Frontier, by Howard Rheingold, published by Addison Wesley
New Community Networks; Wired for Change, by Douglas Schuler, published by Addison-Wesley.
Learning Networks; A Field Guide to Online Learning and Teaching, by Linda Harasim
Netlearning; Why Teachers Use the Internet, by Ferdi Serim, published by O'Reilly Associates.
The Educators' Guide to the Internet, by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, published by Addison Wesley.

Chapters on BST are included in:

Public Access to the Internet, published for the Harvard University Information Infrastructure Project by MIT Press, edited by Kahin and Keller.
Empowering Computer Networks in Education, by Michael Waggoner, published by Educational Technology Publications.

Other Publications;

Congressional Office of Technology Assessment Study; "Making Government Work; Electronic Delivery of Federal Services."
US Distance Learning Association Journal; Online Teaching; A Significant New Pedagogy, by Frank Odasz (article.)

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