Trapeze project runs lifeline to remote areas

Trapeze Project UK
31 October 2000

A satellite-based teaching scheme currently under trial with travelling children in fairgrounds, circuses and other travelling communities could have far reaching implications for the future of teaching in remote locations.

The Trapeze project was initiated in November 1999 and is run by a consortium including EFECOT and @iT in Belgium and Telespazio in Italy and supported by the European Space Agency. It uses satellite technology to link children with teachers in a 'virtual' learning environment - by way of a simple portable receiver dish and computer.

A five-week trial linking pupils and teachers in the Netherlands and the UK using a unique broadband satellite-supported network, proved such a success that government departments and education authorities throughout Europe are looking at the scheme for use in other environments.

Possible developments of the scheme could include wider applications such as teleworking, teletourism and telemedicine, many of which are currently under preliminary discussion with remote island communities in Ireland and Scotland.

Areas of particular interest include remote locations where traditional Internet connectivity is difficult, or where teachers are involved in expensive and time-consuming travel between pupils' homes.

Trapeze Project UK

The project is due for evaluation in the next few months. "As far as we are concerned the results have shown it to be an overwhelming success,” says @iT spokesperson, Mathy Vanbuel. "In fact the response from teachers, pupils and parents alike has been quite unbelievable."

There is now international interest in the scheme. The UK's department for Education and Employment is looking at implementing the Trapeze project on a wider scale and talks are underway in the Netherlands to implement the scheme within their Stichting Rijdende mobile school system.

In November a small pilot trial will be undertaken with Schulen ans Netz, the German national initiative for Internet in schools. A similar pilot trial will also be set up in Barcelona for the representatives of all European Distance Education networks.

In Ireland, Dublin's National Centre for Educational Technology is planning trials within a small number of schools in remote locations. Poland is also looking at a similar exercise.

Trapeze logo

Mathy Vanbuel sees satellite technology as a major breakthrough in the provision of learning facilities for pupils in remote locations or under developed countries.

"Realistically this technology is one of the only commercially viable ways of reaching pupils in this type of environment. And with a new European directive advocating that every school should be connected to the internet by the end of 2001, this technology is extremely relevant and timely," he says.

The Trapeze project is supported under the European Space Agency's Multimedia initiative, Artes 3, as part of its commitment to the use of advanced European satellite technology in education.

Possible developments of the scheme could include wider applications such as teleworking, teletourism and telemedicine, many of which are currently under preliminary discussion with remote island communities in Ireland and Scotland.

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