Courting the Muse of Fire on Internet2

I've been attending virtual meetings of the MAGPI K20 User Group for the past year. This tri-state group meets every other month virtually by videoconferencing through the Internet2 Commons. I continue to be amazed at the things schools are doing, and frustrated by how little we are doing with it at NJIT and SPHS.

The purpose of this user group is to bring together connected organizations across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware to encourage a cross-fertilization of ideas, collaboration opportunities, and resources on the use of MAGPI and Internet2. These meetings are open to any MAGPI member institution and feature guest speakers.

What's Internet2? What's MAGPI? Some background...

Internet2 is a national, high-bandwidth, research and education network, separate from the “regular” Internet that you are using right now. It began in 1996 as an experimental project developed by a consortium of universities, and now interconnects with over 80 high-bandwidth networks worldwide, creating a truly global research and education network. Over 50,000 educational institutions are now connected to Internet2 via the Internet2 K20 Initiative. Is yours?

Internet2 is not just a "faster Internet connection" and it's not used to surf the web. Over 200 member U.S. universities, including NJIT, work closely with partners in industry and government, and with advanced networks around the world. Applications for Internet 2 range from the humanities to the sciences. It is frequently used for research that requires interactive collaboration and instruction, real-time access to remote scientific instruments, shared virtual reality and some multimedia services.

NJIT connects to Internet2 through NJEDge.Net (New Jersey's Higher Education Network) and in turn through the MAGPI GigaPoP (Gigabit Point of Presence).

MAGPI is our regional network aggregation point which is a central point where customers meet and exchange traffic. It is run by the University of Pennsylvania and aggregates network traffic. from approved research and education institution in the region. That includes K-12 schools, higher ed, corporate R&Ds and hospitals connecting via the Internet2 backbone network. MAGPI is also its own regional high performance network.

The MAGPI K20 programs (in addition to the national Internet2 K20 programs) connect institutions and innovators from primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, libraries, science and arts centers and museums.

Joining in with the social networking that's all over the regular Internet, they recently launched Muse. It's a social utility that connects you with Internet2-enabled technologies and educators in your region (MAGPI for us) and around the globe.

What kinds of things are K-12 schools doing with Internet2?

Students are using remote instruments around the world to collect data and perform problem-based experiments. Teachers are receiving live interactive professional development from NASA, Library of Congress, and other locations. Classrooms are being "flattened" by including peer groups from around the world. Rich digital collections are being accessed for enhanced learning. Virtual simulation environments are available to teach technical skills.

You can browse projects using Muse even if you're not a member. You'll find things like The Science of International Polar Year (IPY) where students have an opportunity to join scientists from locations like NASA's Cryospheric Sciences Branch at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center on a virtual tour of Earth's polar regions. They explore some key questions scientists are trying to answer about how the Earth's poles are changing and get to ask questions of the scientists.

Yesterday, MAGPI ran a seminar called "Virtual Reality, Simulation and Gaming in Education" that was an overview of remote instrumentation, virtual reality and serious gaming in educational settings. We connected at NJIT, but we couldn't do anything with it at the high school I'm embedded in this year.

But, today, we are setting up at Science Park High School new equipment to allow them to connect. They can use Verizon's Access New Jersey video portal and, through their NJIT partnership, they can have a ramp onto Internet2.

The problems so far haven't been in getting the equipment, but in the Newark K-12 district being comfortable with this new and (apparently) frightening technology. Through MAGPI, the national MyK20 database, and other local sources, they can search databases of Internet2 K20 projects, as well as additional resources and information.

This is a brave new world for most K-12 districts. I hope they will allow us to inspire them.

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention...

(William Shakespeare, Act I, Prologue of Henry V)


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