Global SchoolNet

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Global SchoolNet: Linking Kids Around the World Logo

Global SchoolNet (GSN) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 international educational organization that serves as a clearinghouse for collaborative educational projects, many that are based on the Constructivist Learning model. The organization coordinates projects and competitions focused on humanitarian issues, diplomacy, leadership, innovative teaching, entrepreneurship, STEM, and other academics for schools and youth organizations internationally. About 120,000 educators from 194 countries have registered as members of Global SchoolNet, and about 5 million students from 109 countries have participated in GSN projects as of 2016. Global SchoolNet is well known for two international competitions, the International CyberFair for students in grades kindergarten through high school, and the U.S. State Department-sponsored Doors to Diplomacy for ages 12 through 19. Global SchoolNet was established in 1984 as Free Educational Mail (FrEdMail) in San Diego, California, where its headquarters still exists.


According to its website, Global SchoolNet's mission is to support 21st century learning and improve academic performance through content-driven collaboration. They provide a platform to engage educators and students in e-learning projects worldwide to develop science, math, literacy and communication skills, foster teamwork, civic responsibility and collaboration, encourage workforce preparedness and create multicultural understanding. The underlying goal is that education should strengthen communities and benefit humanity, as well as enrich individuals.

Historical Significance[edit]

FrEdMail: Global Curriculum Network Electronic Mail Center Original Logo

Global SchoolNet was founded by San Diego County teachers Yvonne Marie Andrés and Al Rogers. Andrés reported the seed for the program was planted in 1983 when she received an Apple IIe computer while teaching at Pacific Elementary School in the Oceanside Unified School District in San Diego county.[1] The computer was one of 10,000 that Apple had donated to California public schools for the program "Kids Can't Wait".[2] Andrés first used the computer in a keypal project with San Diego students and students in England, but soon realized there needed to be a stronger e-learning component.

In 1983, Andrés began working with Rogers on expanding the idea of connecting schools using e-learning projects. Rogers at the time was a computer specialist for the San Diego Office of Education and was interested in software that could help improve students' writing. That year, Rogers created the software program Free Educational Writer, or FrEdWriter,[3] which prompted students through different writing exercises. To provide a way for students using the FrEdWriter program to write to students in other schools Rogers developed Free Educational Mail, or FrEdMail, in 1985. The FrEdMail Network became the nonprofit FrEdMail Foundation in 1989. More than 150 schools and school districts were using it for free international email access and curriculum services by then.[4]

In 1991 thousands of FrEdMail users gained access to the NSFNET via newly established gateways at two NSFNET mid-level network locations: Merit/MichNet in Ann Arbor, MI, and CERFnet (California Education and Research Federation Network) in San Diego, CA. FrEdMail subscribers began to exchange project-based learning electronic mail with the entire Internet community. The FrEdMail-NSFNET Gateway Software was available free of cost to any mid-level network, college, or university which had an interest in collaborating with local K-12 school districts to bring electronic networking to teachers and students. Through FrEdMail, educators were able share classroom experiences, distribute curriculum ideas and teaching materials, as well as obtain information about workshops, job opportunities, and legislation affecting education.[5] At its peak, FrEdMail was used by 12,000 schools and 350 nodes[6] worldwide.

When the World Wide Web became available to the public in 1993, the FrEdMail Foundation became the Global SchoolNet Foundation and launched its first website, The following year the National Science Foundation also awarded Global SchoolNet a grant to introduce a desktop video-conferencing program called CU-SeeMe.[7] CU-SeeMe was used for many educational video-conferences and in 1995 by World News Now for the first television broadcast live on the Internet, which featured an interview by World News Now anchor Kevin Newman and Andrés.

Awards and Honors[edit]

  • National Information Infrastructure (NII), Education Award, April 1995, Champions of CyberSpace.
  • EdNet Hero Award, The Heller Reports, September 1995, Making a significant impact on education through technology.
  • Top 30 Most Influential People in Education Technology, eSchool News, November 1999, Recognizing individuals who have improved education through the use of technology.
  • Global Bangeman Challenge, Education Award, 1999, Innovation in Online Learning.
  • Top 25 Technology Advocates, District Administration Magazine, December 2001, Recognizing innovators who improve how students learn.
  • Global Ambassador Award, National Tsing Hua University, June 2002, In recognition of distinguished leadership and achievement for promoting international education in the Republic of China Taiwan.
  • EdNet Hero Award, The Heller Reports, October 2003, Making a significant impact on education through technology.
  • Teaching and Learning Magazine, October 2005, recognized FrEdMail as number 12 in a list of the top 25 "breakthrough products" of the previous 25 years.[8]
  • Advancing the Status of Women & Children Award, Soroptimist International, June 2007, Improving humanity by advancing the status of women & children.
  • Readers Choice: Top 50 Ed-Tech Products, eSchool Media, January 2012, Recognizing products and services that are making a difference in schools.[9]

Projects Registry[edit]

Launched in 1995, the Projects Registry is historically significant. It contains more than 3,000 annotated listings, making it the oldest and largest online clearinghouse for teacher-conducted international e-learning projects. The Projects Registry is searchable by date, student age, location, curriculum, technology, and collaboration type. Educators worldwide can register to collaborate with partners on project-based learning a wide range of activities. Educators submit ideas for collaborative learning projects to the Projects Registry, which sends out a "Call for Collaboration" announcement. The number of classes or groups participating in any project varies. In one example of how classrooms collaborate on projects called Thinking Like Santa, elementary students write letters to Santa that are answered by older students at other schools.[10] The Thinking Like Santa writing project dates back to 1981 and predates Free Educational Mail (FrEdMail), the predecessor to Global SchoolNet.

iPoPP (International Projects or Partners Place)[edit]


In May 2012 Global SchoolNet joined forces with eLanguages to offer educators iPoPP, a state-of-the-art, worldwide e-learning platform, for multilingual, project-driven collaboration. iPoPP provides support for constructivist learning methodology, collaborative learning, and future thinking strategies in education and career development, with strong links to leadership and project management principles. The stated vision is "to have perfect 20-20 vision and globally connect every student and every educator through iPoPP by 2020."

International CyberFair[edit]

Global SchoolNet received funding from Cisco Systems, MCI and Network Solutions in 1996 for an educational project for students to create content about their local community. International Schools CyberFair is an award-winning authentic learning program used by schools and youth organizations around the world.[11]

The project is based on the concept of the Worlds Fair and asks students to create virtual exhibits that highlight their local community's history, leaders, environment, culture or attractions. The underlying theme of CyberFair is to "Share and Unite." Youth conduct original research and publish their findings on the Web. Recognition is given to the best projects in each of eight categories. This White House-endorsed program encourages youth to become community ambassadors by working collaboratively and using technology to share what they have learned. Students participate in a unique peer review process to evaluate other projects by using an online evaluation rubric. International CyberFair was endorsed by Vice President Al Gore in 1996, and subsequently by other notable business and political leaders, including Internet architect Vint Cerf.[12] More than 15,000 CyberFair projects have been produced by schools representing 109 countries. Affiliate CyberFair programs exist in several countries and include the Taiwan CyberFair and the Philippines CyberFair, which was started by Janette Toral, an internet marketing consultant expert, trainer, blogger, policy lobbyist and entrepreneur.

The underlying theme for CyberFair is "Share & Unite." However, there is also a special theme for each year.

History of CyberFair themes:

  • 2015 Share & Unite
  • 2015 Engage & Unite
  • 2014 Inspire & Unite
  • 2013 NGO CyberFair: Connecting Through Youth Volunteerism
  • 2013 Explore & Unite
  • 2012 Dream & Unite
  • 2011 Take Action & Unite
  • 2010 Believe & Unite
  • 2009 Teach & Unite
  • 2008 Learn & Unite
  • 2007 Empower & Unite
  • 2006 Inspire & Unite
  • 2005 Prepare & Unite
  • 2004 Achieve & Unite
  • 2003 Educate & Unite
  • 2002 Care & Unite
  • 2001 – 1996 Share & Unite

Doors to Diplomacy Challenge[edit]

In 2002 the U.S. Department of State approached Global SchoolNet to redesign the International CyberFair with a global perspective. According to the State Department's announcement for the 2012 contest, the goal of Doors to Diplomacy is to recognize student-created Global SchoolNet projects from around the world that best teach about the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. The competition is open to youth ages 12–19 in middle or high school. Projects must focus on one of eight subcategories: leadership traits; peace and democracy; business, trade, and economics; science and technology; safety and security; history of foreign relations; health and environmental awareness; and arts and culture. More than 1,500 projects are archived in the Doors to Diplomacy library and serve as educational resources.

There are four components to the Doors to Diplomacy challenge.

  • Collaborative Web Project: Doors to Diplomacy is a collaborative project where small teams are formed consisting of two to four student members and up to two adult coaches. Research is conducted both online and offline, and then the findings are assembled to produce an educational web project. Students are also encouraged to become spokespersons for their projects.
  • Project Narrative: Each Doors to Diplomacy project includes a Project Narrative that explains how the project has been organized, what challenges had to be overcome, and how the project supported local content standards.
  • Peer Review Process: As part of the competition, teams must also participate in a Peer Review activity in which they evaluate at least four other projects using a web-based evaluation rubric.
  • Awards: $20,000 in scholarships are awarded annually to create and share projects about the importance of international diplomacy. Each student team member of the winning Doors to Diplomacy Award team receives a $2,000 scholarship and certificate signed by the Secretary of State. The winning coaches’ schools receive a $500 cash award. Every team who submits a completed project receives a special Doors to Diplomacy certificate. Winners are announced in May.

Online Expeditions[edit]

Global SchoolNet partners with explorers who want to share the educational value of their travels with youth. Previous online expeditions have included Dan Buettner's bicycle journey through the Mayan ruins, Wave Vidmar's solo and unsupported trek to the North Pole,[13][14] Sandra Hill Pitman's climb up Mt. Everest and Roger William's "Where on the Globe is Roger?" peace journey across six continents. [15]

Global SchoolNet provides the curriculum and students participate by following field reports and interacting with the explorers along their route.

US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE)[edit]

Global SchoolNet serves as the co-chair for the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE) Education and Youth working group. [16] The US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange promotes collaboration between Russian and US non-governmental organizations, leading to meaningful improvement in the lives of the citizens of both countries. SEE is an expansion of the US-Russia Civil Society Partnership Program (CSPP), which was launched in May 2011. CSPP had grown out of two US-Russia Civil Society Summits held in 2009 and 2010 after Russian and US civil society experts recognized the need for greater collaboration between citizens of both countries. In 2013, the program's name was changed from CSPP to SEE to reflect the expansion of its network of participants and their activities. SEE consists of 11 working groups offering Russian and US NGOs a platform for collaboration across a broad array of thematic topics.

In August 2013 the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival featured the premiere of short documentary about youth promoting community service and volunteerism in San Diego and in Russia. The film "CyberFair: Connecting Youth Through Volunteerism," highlights the inspirational efforts of youth who volunteer at local organizations such as the Rancho Coastal Humane Society, the Oceanside Bread of Life, and the La Vida del Mar Senior Home. The eight-minute film can be viewed on YouTube. [17]

In August 2014 the SEE Education and Youth group published a report,"School and the Community: Collaboration in the Context of New Educational Standards: Experiences of Russia and the United States," written by Russian and American education leaders, revealing successful models for collaboration among schools, nonprofit organizations, and businesses in the context of the new educational standards in Russia and the United States. The publication is addressed to school administrators, education thought leaders, community organizations, and community-oriented businesses. [18]


  • Michael Sattler, Greg Horman: Internet TV with CU-SeeMe, Indiana: Publishing, 1995.
  • Brendan P. Kehoe: Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide, Prentice Hall Series in Innovative Technology, 1995.
  • Carl Malamud, foreword by His Holiness The Dalai Lama: A World's Fair for the Global Village, MIT Press, 1997, page 229.
  • Frances Karnes Ph.D., Tracy Riley Ph.D.: Competitions for Talented Kids, Texas: Prufrock Press, 2005, page 83.
  • Riichiro Mizoguchi, Pierre Dillenbourg, Zhiting Zhu: Learning by Effective Utilization of Technologies: Facilitating Intercultural Understanding , Netherlands: IOS Press, 2006, page 243.
  • Sara Armstrong: Information Literacy: Navigating and Evaluating Today's Media, Shell Education, 2008, page 199.
  • Scott Monroe Waring: Preserving History: The Construction of History in the K-16 Classroom, Information Age Publishing, 2011, page 49.
  • David N. Aspin, Judith Chapman, Karen Evans: Second International Handbook of Lifelong Learning, Springer Publishing, 2012, page 682.

Media Clips[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]