Education goes the distance
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
(April 12, 2004) - Very little gets by Andrew Marriner's eyes and ears. While Eastman School of Music graduate student Brian Dredla played pieces from a Mozart concerto over and over, Marriner - principal clarinet for the London Symphony Orchestra and one of the world's best clarinetists - listened, watched and critiqued.
When Dredla played with one hand cocked slightly askew to the instrument, the resulting sound was "a bit angular," Marriner said from a stage in Miami, Fla., 1,458 miles away from the Eastman classroom, while an image of his hands on a clarinet filled the screen.
The back and forth between instructor and student could have been a typical coaching session for any Eastman student, except that instead of being in the same room, the two communicated through crystal-clear sound and high-quality video carried over a computer network that some say will substantially change higher education.
Schools have been trumpeting the educational potential of Internet2 - a consortium of American colleges, companies and government bodies connected by an ultra-fast computer network - since construction began roughly eight years ago.
But now the network seems to be on the cusp of moving from novelty to frequently used tool.
The University of Rochester's Eastman School, for example, has done a number of master classes similar to Thursday's clarinet lesson through Internet2, said Leslie Scatterday, operations manager for the Shouse Arts Leadership Program.
In mid-March, about three dozen of the 200-plus schools in the Internet2 consortium held a first-ever National Internet2 Day, essentially designed to show off what they said was the educational potential. UR and Rochester Institute of Technology are the only two local schools in the consortium.
So far, Internet2 is most commonly being used for beefed-up videoconferencing, said Laurie Burns, director of applications, programs and members activities for the consortium. But schools are moving toward using it for everything from "telemedicine" - such as doctors in one hospital examining and diagnosing patients in another via Internet2 - to dealing with huge amounts of data, such as in astronomy.
RIT is working on a pilot project in which Internet2 would be used to essentially merge e-mail addresses and telephone numbers, so that a sent message would "find" its recipient, said Andrew Elble, RIT senior network engineer.
For something such as music instruction, Internet2 is a must, said Helen Smith, Eastman's director of technology and music production.
"At this level, with this level of performance and teaching, you have to be able to hear the slightest nuances, see the tiniest details," she said.
Now Eastman is looking at other projects it can do with other Internet2 schools, as well as the eventuality of building this into regular courses, Smith said. "It's something we've all been talking about for years," she said. "Now the time and technology is right."
For more on Internet2, visit www.internet2.edu