The Outreach of Reach for the Sky Teachers during 1994/1995

J.M.Rogan May 1995


One of the perceived roles of the Reach for the Sky teachers is to act as advocates and spokespersons for the project. The role, broadly cast, may be seen as that of educating others about the possibilities that access to telecommunications brings to improving the teaching of math and science. This role may be played out locally or nationally, and in small or large settings.

Locally it may involve helping one other teacher use the Internet. On the large end of the spectrum, it may entail a presentation at the community or national level.

The purpose of this report is to describe the outreach role assumed by Reachers during the first year of the project. This outreach will be examined in six different categories:

Mentoring and advising other teachers in the same district
Advocacy at the community level
Mentoring and advising other teachers in other districts
Workshops and/or training sessions in other districts
Presentations at educational conventions
Presentations to policy makers and administrators


Reachers were provided with a form and requested to fill it out for each outreach kind of an activity they undertook. The form is included as Appendix I. These forms were then submitted once a month and the data entered under the categories described above. The data is self reported, and only data submitted is included in this report. The raw data may be found in Appendix II.

The Outreach of Reach for the Sky Teachers during 1994/95

1. Mentoring and advising other teachers in the same district

The kind of activities considered in this section will include teaching telecommunication skills and providing training in the use of Microsoft products. In 1994, the Reach for the Sky project entered into a partnership arrangement with Microsoft. All teachers selected became eligible to apply to become Mircosoft trainers. In order to achieve this purpose they were provided with an extensive set of Microsoft products.

Two kinds of outreach activities emerged. The one kind was formal, professional development meetings held under the aegis of the school district. The second was a more informal kind of training arranged between teachers themselves.

Twenty eight formal professional development meetings were held during the year. Thirteen Reachers were involved in making these presentations. Fifteen of the meetings focussed mainly on telecommunications or some aspect of Reach for the Sky. Fifteen involved a demonstration of one or more Microsoft products. Some concentrated on just one product, while other workshops demonstrated a number of products. The following products were mentioned as having been demonstrated:

Creative Writer (3)
Fine Artist (3)
Power Point (2)
Space Simulator
Encarta (2)
Dinosaurs (2)
Bookshelf (2)
Ancient Lands
Art Gallery
Musical Instruments
The number in parenthesis is the number of times reported.

The workshops listed above were held in the Reacher's own school district. As a result, assistance continued throughout the year. In many instances this occurred on an ad hoc basis and hence was not recorded. However, at least two teachers held weekly follow up sessions where further assistance was given and new products demonstrated.

Over the year, about thirty seven of the less formal training sessions were reported. These were usually initiated when one teacher or more teachers asked a Reacher to show them how to use telecommunications or to demonstrate a Microsoft product. Sixteen Reachers were involved in informal training, which in turn affected about fifty other teachers. Of the thirty seven sessions, fourteen focussed on telecommunications and twenty three on Microsoft products.

2. Advocacy at the community level

During the first year of the project, it has become increasing clear that the incorporation of telecommunications into schools will require significant community support. Activities that help to generate such support will be discussed in this section.

One direction that this effort has taken is to work with parent support groups. Four Reachers met on four separate occasions with their school's local PTSG to show them the kinds of resources that are available on the Internet and the Microsoft partnership and to stress the need to fund continued access to these resources. Two other Reachers met with parents of students in their classrooms for much the same purpose.

In another community, Reachers were successful in getting funding from United Way to provide Internet access to community members at the local library. These two Reachers then worked with a Computer Club and over three meetings helped bring them up to speed on the use of the Internet. They also met with individual community members on occasions to give them telecommunications training.

Another initiative in the direction of securing community support has been to offer free lessons to community members on the Internet. In one town, three such lesson have been offered.

Two Reachers gave Internet presentations to firefighters at the annual convention of Montana firefighters.

Informal sessions have also been arranged. One Reacher gave "lessons" to a school board member and a friend. Others helped community members with access to the Internet.

Finally, the project has received press coverage. On February 19th 1995, and article appeared in the Lewistown News- Argus on the telecollaborative activity in progress in Garfield School. In January, Cynthia Denton, Deen Pomeroy and Carole Goettemoeller appeared on the Iowa produced PBS program Market to Market. The show was repeated again in March.

3. Presentations to policy makers and administrators

Besides community backing, the support of administrators and policy makers, both local and at the Sate level, is essential to the introduction and sustaining of telecommunications in the classroom. Activities that help to generate such support will be discussed in this section.

Early in the year, two Reachers met with their building administrators to explain the project and to secure their continued support. Three met with the district superintendents/ administrators in October 1994. During the course of the year, the Project director (or designee) has met with the administrators of all schools (with one exception) involved to ensure continued good relationships and cooperation.

Presentations on Reach for the Sky and/or Microsoft products have been made to seven different school boards. One of these boards has had two presentations, the last of which was presented by elementary school students on activities they had been engaged in during the year. Of the presentations, three included a description of both Microsoft products and telecommunications, four just on telecommunications and one on just Microsoft. Ten Reachers have been involved in these presentations.

Finally, Reach for the Sky took part in a technology fair which was held in the State Capitol building on 1/26/95, during the meeting of the legislature. The purpose of the fair was to show legislators the value of access to telecommunications in schools. The Governor and Director of the Office of Public Instruction were among the featured speakers. Reach for the Sky staff, teachers (11) and children all participated in this event.

4. Mentoring and advising other teachers in other districts

Activities considered in the section include providing advice and help to other teachers who are not in the same school district as the Reacher concerned. Help or advice to other Reachers in not counted here. Two types of assistance emerged - face to face and online.

Three Reachers have provided advice or help to teachers in other school districts, either face to face or online. Two face to face meetings were held with a teacher from Butte, and a third with a teacher from Texas. Two further face to face sessions involved persons teaching at the College level. One final face to face session involved the demonstration of some Microsoft products, Encarta, Magic School Bus and Bookshelf, to a Missoula principal. Online assistance has been offered four times to teachers in Wyoming, Oregon, and one unknown State.

5. Workshops and/or training sessions in other districts

To date, nine formal workshops have been fully or partly taught by Reachers in school districts other than their own.

One workshop was given to the South Sandstone Reading Council, consisting mostly of elementary teachers in Fallon and Carter counties. Reach for the Sky, the Internet, and Metnet were the topics of the presentation. Microsoft products demonstrated were Creative Writer, Fine Artist and Works.

Two workshops were presented to teachers participating in Project Freeflow, both focussing on the use of Microsoft Works, which is the tool used to analyze and write up the data collected by the Project.

An overview of Microsoft products and Internet resources was given at the Montana Science Teachers Association's leadership meeting.

A full day math workshop was presented to teachers in Miles City. Part of the time was devoted to talking about Reach for the Sky and some Microsoft products.

Teachers in Joliet received a workshop devoted to the introduction of Microsoft materials.

Finally, one Reacher taught part of three different workshops - one at the College of Great Falls, one in Billings - Primary Connections, and one in Havre - Talents Unlimited. At all three she shared Internet projects and made reference to Microsoft products.

6. Presentations at educational conventions

Presentations at educational conventions on the role of telecommunications in the reform of math and science education based directly on Reach for the Sky experiences are described in this section. These conventions may be local, regional, national, or even international.

So far, the work of Reach for the Sky has been presented at five conventions. In October 1994, five Reachers gave a presentation on their telecollaborative activities at the Montana Education Associations annual convention. This is an event attended by about 2,000 educators from all over the State.

In January 1995, two Reachers gave a presentation on Reach for the Sky, which included both on- and off-line components, at the Math/Science Extravaganza.

Three Reachers gave a total of three different presentations at the Associations for Gifted and Talented Education conference in Billings, MT in April 1995. Two of the presentations were on Reach for the Sky in general, and focussed specifically on telecollaborative activities. The third was on Microsoft products, including some of the CDs.

Also in April 1995, two Reachers joined with representatives of two other Annenburg funded rural telecommunications projects to give a presentation on what happens when teachers are given access to the Internet at the annual American Educational Research Association convention in San Francisco. This is a convention attended by about 12,000 educators from around the world.

Finally, in June 1995 one Reacher gave a presentation entitled "Using Microsoft products in the classroom" at the Montana Rural Education Conference in Dillon.