California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 36, No. 1
December, 1995-January, 1996

NetDay96--Promise or Peril?

Technology: Ambitious project aims to connect all classrooms to the Internet.

Warren Williams, Grossmont Union High School District

To a Technology Director, and a Maintenance and Operations Director, their worst nightmare--scores of community volunteers climbing in and out of classrooms, drilling through walls and attempting to install Category Five cable, fully terminated and tested. To students and teachers, a dream come true--scores of community volunteers connecting them to the information superhighway at no cost. To superintendents, trying to balance the need for community participation with union and other legal requirements--a need for Solomon-like wisdom. The rumors of NetDay96 are true. NetDay96 has arrived! Will NetDay96 be an opportunity to test the resolve of the schools in California to find new and creative ways to help educate students? Or will technology and organizations frustrate the idea? Different scenarios will be the outcome depending upon how individuals, districts, companies and the State of California react to the challenge.

The challenge was the creation of two California businessmen who mulled over the possibility of creating a statewide voluntary effort to wire some of California's classrooms for connection to the Internet. The rationale for such connection was already well established by the educational and industrial leaders in the state. What was needed was some vehicle to bring the effort to closure, hence the creation of NetDay96. Hastily detailed on a sheet of paper were the musings of John Gage of Sun Microsystems and Michael Kaufman from KQED in San Francisco. In a perfunctory description for the possibility for massive volunteerism, Gage and Kaufman drew the attention of Whitehouse and Congressional leaders. So impressed was President Clinton that a national counterpart to NetDay96 has been initiated called Tech Corp - but that's another article. In a short period of time that even stunned technologists accustomed to rapid change, NetDay96 moved from the pale of possibility into the realm of actuality. Both men were elated yet daunted by the enterprise of focusing the vitality, bureaucracy and energy of California's populace and institutions to wire its schools on a single day that was less than one year away.

For the reader of this article, who may be asked to help implement NetDay96, you have less than ninety days until March 9, 1996 - NetDay96. On November 21, the statewide taskforce met to forge plans that would assist schools in getting the information necessary to make NetDay96 realize its promise. To cite a letter from Delaine Eastin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, "A broad consortium of public and private technology and utility firms, unions, and utility companies, together with the California Department of Education (CDE), are planning NetDay96 for Saturday, March 9, 1996. The goal is to enlist volunteers to assist with the wiring of every public and private school in California." The original concept for wiring all classrooms has been pared to a manageable five classrooms and the library for all schools. Eastin continues, "The sponsoring companies will contribute their equipment, their testers, and their skilled installers to survey the schools and design the installation, in cooperation with local school organizers. Local school organizers, together with sponsors, will raise the funds for the wire." For Information Systems managers and network designers, the list of questions raised--about how community volunteers with little or no training are going to install sophisticated wiring schemes in classrooms--becomes almost too long to consider. Who will design the network? Who will install the wiring? Whose tools will be used? Whose standards will apply? Who will terminate the wire and test it? What kind of wire, punch-down blocks, patch panels, conduit and inserts? The answer to all of the above is the hope that the people, parts and procedures that normally make a network functional will work with volunteers on one Saturday in March to connect five classrooms and a library or a computer laboratory in as many schools in California as possible. For schools and districts without networks, it is the hope that experts from around the state will work with local volunteers to assist them in their initial foray into networking and Internetworking. No one working on organizing NetDay96 is lost in a sanguine vision of mass cooperation. Rather they ask the question, in the absence of "NetDay 96," what better way is there to reach so many classrooms?

Much of the groundwork has already been done through the efforts of Gage and Kaufman. A NetDay96 homepage has been established which allows anyone to register and assist a local school. The URL is http://www.w3.com/netday96. Another goal of NetDay96 is to keep as much of the whole process as possible on the World Wide Web. Says Kaufman, the Web facilitates the process with everyone involved being able to virtually join and organize NetDay96. Because NetDay96 focuses on the school not district or county offices it is imperative that the venture be focused on providing a vehicle for voluntarism that allocates individuals and resources to school sites. The Web pages are organized in such a fashion that sponsors can volunteer for six levels of participation.

For individuals, there are also a variety of choices, ranging from "provider of doughnuts" to organizer to "champion" (someone with evangelical zeal who will make the enterprise a success) to "installer of wire." Volunteers can indicate their level of expertise and provide contact information.

Every public and private school in California is listed and a short visit to the home page for the school will provide most of the information necessary to expedite NetDay96 activities. Schools are individually identified and will be rated on a map as to the current level of network infrastructure. At a glance, anyone accessing the Web pages for a school will see who has volunteered, what companies are providing services or equipment and who is donating money for the project. While names are displayed, only the site organizer, who is appointed by the principal, will have access to census information like address and phone number. In addition to the Web page there is a help line for Fax-on-demand NetDay96 information at 1-800-556-3896 (55NET96).

For district administrators, NetDay96 may be a daunting challenge but there is an aura of "Web energy and enthusiasm" that permeates the entire enterprise and the closer one examines the potential the closer that person will come to accepting the challenge. No one in the educational infrastructure from schools to the Department of Education is blind to the myriad of obstacles and concerns, but consider this. For the first time, the California School Employees Association has blessed such an enterprise. It is recommending to local affiliates that employees be allowed to volunteer for NetDay96 activities. CSEA is even helping to plan for the statewide event. This unprecedented action alone will eliminate much of the concern from union officials and administrators. If unions can put aside their parochial interests to assist with the endeavor then perhaps all organizations and departments can likewise find a way to assist.

In January, each school, district and county office will receive NetDay96 packages. Each package will address many of the issues and offer helpful suggestions to assist schools in their planning for "NetDay 96." There will also be six regional meetings to assist schools and districts with any additional concerns or ideas. The six regional meetings will be at the County offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Kern and Shasta with exact times and dates to be announced soon. Helpful planning tips and strategies will also be posted on the NetDay96 home page. The NetDay96 packages will focus on three levels: school, district and county. Listed above are just some of the planning activities that these agencies will need to address.

The CDE Publications office produces the K-12 Network Technology Planning Guide which can also be of assistance to schools and district offices for planning network and Internet access. Contact the CDE Publications Office at (800)995-4099 or download the information from the CDE Goldmine server at http://goldmine.cde.gov/WWW/NTPG/NTPG.html. CDE offers some coordinating and technical assistance. Call either Carole Teach, Manager of the K-12 Network Planning Unit at or Ann Evans, Director of the School Facilities Planning Division at

In the next few weeks, you will be barraged with NetDay96 information and initiatives. The issues below will be addressed so that you can assist in the voluntary effort to provide some of the necessary infrastructure to make connections to the Internet a reality for California students.

The information will contain "how-to" advice on:

  1. Running workshops.
  2. Dealing with administrators' concerns.
  3. Correcting preconceptions and clarifying expectations.
  4. Clarifying the school's needs.
  5. Contacting Silicon Valley hi-tech and rural, small employers
  6. Provide something tangible to volunteers in recognition of their efforts.
  7. Including higher education: colleges, universities, community colleges
  8. Handling risk management and job supervision.
  9. Getting volunteers for schools.
  10. Getting information on the Internet map.
  11. Contacting sponsors: commercial, government, public ISP's.
  12. Getting the word out.
  13. Articulating specific outcomes that are realistic.
  14. Contacting construction industry experts and professional organizations.
  15. Dealing with the Division of School Architects.
  16. Working with local telcos in addition to Pac Bell and GTE.
  17. Integrating with existing systems.

School Checklist

  1. Principal identifies NetDay School Organizer.
  2. Check with District and County.
  3. Site plans: blue prints, wire plans, fire plans.
  4. Find a design person.
  5. Identify a Point of Entry/Central Closet.
  6. Determine how to get to Point of Entry.
  7. Identify locations within school that will get information ports and exactly were they will be located within the classroom/library/laboratory.
  8. Involve people responsible for facility, CSEA persons and other unions.
  9. Identify district, county, community and other resources.
  10. Check existing technology plans.
  11. Check existing facility issues: asbestos, impenetrable walls, etc.
  12. Guideline on what to do next.

District Checklist

  1. Liability: insurance, Risk Management.
  2. District Coordinating Group.
  3. Equity.
  4. Assist school sites in defining outcomes
  5. Coordinate and train vendors.
  6. Recruit volunteers for needy sites
  7. Identify Point of Contact.
  8. Get resolution from School Board in support.
  9. Set WAN/LAN standards.
  10. Provide liaison with city government.
  11. Budget.
  12. Get waivers for collective bargaining units.
  13. Identify a press contact
  14. Develop a PR plan.
  15. Present a workshop for schools.
  16. Do a connectability & facility assessment.
  17. Provide a point of contact to the phone company.
  18. Coordinate with industry.
  19. Training.
  20. Share with other districts.
  21. Develop a NetDay team that includes: public relations, budget, M&O.

County Checklist

  1. District Champion on County Team.
  2. CTPA coordination.
  3. Technical assistance.
  4. Training to Districts.
  5. Sharing among counties.

Below are exerts from an enclosure that Delaine Eastin sent to all Superintendents and Principals in the State.

NetDay96 is an industry sponsored volunteer program for California Schools. NetDay96, Saturday, March 9, will be the day when at least five classrooms and a library or a computer lab in thousands of California's K-12 schools are wired to make the connection to the Internet. This will be the result of the volunteer grassroots initiative of parents, students, teachers, administrators, community members, and technicians from California's high-technology companies, other businesses and organizations.

We will use exactly the same technologies for our schools that we use to wire our own companies and institutions. We will use the same installation tools, planning strategies and testing equipment. We will install simple, but advanced technology to solve one third of the challenge of connecting our schools to the Internet: linking classroom, school libraries and labs to a central point. This complements other initiatives to link the central point to the outside world, and to place computer equipment in classrooms.

Prior to NetDay96 volunteers and sponsors will sign up at the NetDay96 World Wide Web site to help schools in their community or in communities that are in need of help. School champions will monitor the NetDay96 Web pages for new volunteers and coordinate their participation in NetDay96 activities. Volunteer engineers will collaborate with the schools to develop detailed wiring plans. The schools, sponsors and volunteers will procure the materials and equipment specified by this plan.

During NetDay96, community and technical volunteers will follow the plans and wire at least five classrooms and a library or a computer lab in every California K-12 school. Testing teams from the sponsoring organizations will certify each school's successful installation; any flawed installations will be identified for correction.

This initiative is a beginning. By preparing the school infrastructure, we will eliminate the first barrier to school connectivity to the Internet.

NetDay96 is here in California!!! NetDay96 is initially focused on cabling the classrooms, libraries and laboratories in California's K-12 schools, but it is Internet-based and as a result, it will be a worldwide example. NetDay96 coordination "exists" only on the Internet at http://w3.com/netday96 and soon at http://netday.net. There is no office, no address, no telephone number, no fax number, no paid staff, no meetings. It is staffed by a small team of volunteers who work for California high technology organizations throughout the state during the day, and who maintain the NetDay96 Web site when they can. It is a place on the World Wide Web where ten thousand schools, one hundred thousand volunteers and hundreds of sponsors will communicate laterally and directly to realize the goals of NetDay96. NetDay96--enormous in scope, but very manageable school by school.

Individuals will make NetDay96 a success. NetDay96 is a volunteer activity. It's your children. It's your school. It's your community. If you don't volunteer your time or help in the acquisition of materials and equipment then there is no telling when school children will be connected to the opportunities of the Internet.

Volunteers from the school, its community, high-technology companies, other businesses and organizations will plan for the installation, acquire the materials and equipment, and on NetDay96 install and test the new wiring infrastructure.

Sponsoring organizations and individuals will provide one or more of the following:

Schools will focus the volunteer energies and sponsor support to insure the most successful installation for their students.

NetDay96 begins today. Its goal is to facilitate the cabling of at least 5 classrooms and a library or a computer lab in every K-12 school in California by the end of Saturday, March 9, 1996. All of these schools are already listed on the NetDay96 Web site. Now is the time for volunteers to develop the plan for wiring your school(s). Now is the time to prepare your community for NetDay96.

NetDay96 will do the following to meet its goals:

  1. Keep NetDay96 as simple as possible by focusing on existing technologies, encouraging unadorned installations that maximize every dollar spent, and distributing the responsibility to those closest to the issues.
  2. NetDay96 will facilitate collaborations, but local champions will make it happen.
  3. Facilitate the development and distribution of information to promote the use of electronic communications in schools and their support communities.
  4. Facilitate the identification, development and support of community members who will champion NetDay96 in their local school.
  5. Facilitate the training, equipping, and dispatching of volunteer mentors to support these local champions.
  6. Facilitate the cooperation of these local champions, their schools and their communities
  7. Facilitate collaborations with community-based and other businesses, to provide the necessary expertise and tools on the day when the community gathers together to connect their school to the Internet.
  8. Facilitate the development of local, regional, and statewide partnerships.

NetDay96 will cost more than California can afford, unless you, your employer, your school and your community volunteer! It has been estimated that it will cost more than $1 billion to cable the 360,000 K-12 classrooms in California. This $2,800 per classroom cost includes the engineering, materials, equipment, labor and administration of this enormous project. It includes all the cables, distribution racks and panels, wireways and conduits. It takes into consideration the running of cables everywhere, including through all kinds of walls, around asbestos, under ground and in the air. This cost for a traditional, centrally administered project is roughly divided into equal thirds among labor, materials, and engineering/administration. NetDay96 is designed to be simple, minimal, but technologically advanced, using the volunteer talent of California's high technology community applied at a local level. Volunteer your time, and the cost drops. Donate equipment and materials, and the cost drops. Lend your technical expertise, and the cost drops. Donate your time, materials, equipment or even funds to your school's NetDay96 and your children will be connected to the world.

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