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The Warsaw Voice » Other » March 27, 2003
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Techno File
March 27, 2003 By Beata Gołębiewska   
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Schools in small towns and villages have little chance of competing with those in the big city, particularly in terms of the latest technological equipment. But, that outlook is changing.

Familiarity with such equipment is fast becoming a basic requirement for today's employers. So a young person from a provincial school is automatically in a worse position in the race to find a job.
To help provide greater opportunities for children from such schools, through equipping them with comprehensive computer labs, President Aleksander Kwa¶niewski initiated the Internet in Schools program in 1999, in cooperation with the Polish Foundation for the Promotion of Science and financed from non-budgetary funds. The total value of support in the form of money, equipment and software, provided by the program's sponsors, has reached zl.10 million.
Computer/Internet labs are financed by both IT companies donating complete IT packages (Action, Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and NTT) and by sponsors (Alcatel, AWRSP, COIG, ING Group, KRUS, PKN Orlen, PTK Centertel, Telekomunikacja Polska, TP Internet, Siemens, Software AG and STU Hestia), which provide funds for the purchase of computer labs.

Thanks to the project, multimedia computer labs have already been launched in over 250 schools and other facilities. They can be used by more than 100,000 young people, mainly in areas with a high unemployment rate, in small towns and in village schools.

Apart from offering assistance in providing computer equipment for schools, the program also includes nationwide competitions aimed at motivating young people to make the best possible use of the computer facilities provided.

In 2002, three nationwide competitions were held: EuroSchool on the Internet, the Internet-based School Stock Exchange Game for high-school students, and Super Lab for college students.

The second edition of the EuroSchool on the Internet competition, held in 2002, was organized in cooperation with the Office of the Committee for European Integration. Four-member teams, supervised by a teacher, were to create and systematically update websites informing their peers on the European Union and what young people in Poland can expect from integration. There was also a requirement to include a foreign-language version of the website, using at least one of the official languages of the EU, so that the website could be read by people abroad.

The competition resulted in the creation of nearly 400 sites offering reliable information on European integration, presented in a clear way. Hundreds of IT talents from all over the country, who might have gone unnoticed, have now made their mark.

The total value of prizes for the competition winners exceeded zl.300,000. They were provided by Action, Canon, Creative, Microsoft and TP Internet.

The school-based Internet Stock Exchange Game, organized in cooperation with the Warsaw Stock Exchange, was aimed at high schools. The goal was to provide comprehensive economic education with particular stress on market mechanisms. The prizes were funded by Telekomunikacja Polska and 124 teams from 77 schools took part in the competition. Before starting the game, the participants received modern e-learning education materials, so they could learn about how the stock market operates, investing and portfolio and risk management.

At the beginning, each team (four-six members) received "virtual funds" of zl.100,000, and the goal was to obtain the highest possible rate of return. The virtual investment focused on shares of listed companies qualified for continuous quotation. The teams faced dilemmas typical of the stock exchange: which company to choose, which sector of the market to invest in and whether it's the right moment to buy or sell. They also had to decide whether to invest on the stock exchange or leave their money in a bank account.

The students, thanks to the modern educational tools used in the game, learned how to invest, assess risk, and how to search the Internet for the information needed to succeed on the stock market.
The Super Lab project was based on slightly different assumptions. It was to create modern computer laboratories in academic centers all over Poland and to supply advanced technology to users able to fully utilize them. The implementation of such a costly project was possible thanks to a consortium of companies supporting the project financially and technologically. The project was joined by the following companies: Action, Creative Labs, ING Group, Intel, LG Electronics, Microsoft, PTK Centertel and Seagate Technology. The competition designs were to concern one of five areas: architecture, design, machine and equipment design; music, sound and digital processing of signals; biotechnology, biochemistry and genetics; information technology; finance, banking and management.

Over 100 projects were submitted. Of them, the 25 most interesting were selected. The lab equipment was adjusted to individual tasks so that it was possible to make the best use of the donated equipment and software. The colleges that received the labs have 12 months to present a report on the project's implementation, which will then be published.

The Internet in Schools program also provided the Police Academy in Szczytno with a command support system based on Nokia TETRA digital wireless communications and CoLombo 2 application. The equipment and software was donated by ComputerLand and Nokia. In Europe, only Finland has a similar training center.

The scale of the Internet in Schools program is dependent on the donators' generosity. It is the funds from the sponsors that make it possible to equip the schools with computer labs and to hold competitions with attractive prizes. The Internet in Schools program is promoted free of charge by B&J advertising agency, and legal assistance is provided by Lovells law firm.
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