Harnessing the Power of the Network
Roland Gesthuizen says his
favorite ed tech moment
was in 1992 when his school,
Syndal Secondary College, became
the first in Victoria, Australia, to connect to the Internet. Gesthuizen’s class
joined a mailing list called Project
Kidlink, designed to connect kids to
peers around the world. Within a few
months, Gesthuizen discovered the
power of international collaboration
when an e-mail came to the list from
U.S. President Bill Clinton.
According to an archived post from
1993, the fifth grade classes at Stewart
Elementary School in Oxford, Ohio,
were planning a bake sale to raise
money to donate to the U.S. government to reduce the nation’s deficit.
They announced the event via Kidlink
to let the other kids know what they
were doing and to ask them to help.
News of the effort made it to the
White House, prompting Clinton to
send a personal message to the kids at
Kidlink. Although there was a strict
rule forbidding anyone over the age
of 15 from using Kidlink, moderators
made an exception for Clinton.
In part, Clinton wrote, “I wanted
to thank you for paying attention to
the work we’re doing here in Washington to get our country moving again.
I’m very impressed by your concern
about our country’s deficit—and your
decision to try to do something about
it. And a bake sale is certainly the
sweetest way I can think of to reduce
The message was reportedly
the president’s first public online
Gesthuizen says he was impressed
by the power of the Internet to make
connections never before possible.
“Over the years, we went on to establish accounts for many students, precious cultural links with other schools
overseas,” he says.
Some of those links included
projects with the Texas Education
Network; the Weather Underground
project, which brings weather information via the Internet to K– 12 classrooms; and a girls-in-technology club.
Gesthuizen is the e-learning coordinator and IT educator at Westall Secondary College in Victoria. His commitment to educational technology
led him to join ISTE three years ago.
“This small step is very much part of
my lifelong professional journey as an
IT educator,” he says. “I was looking
for a chance to develop a professional
network beyond my classroom and
across the world.”
Gesthuizen also values the networking opportunities at ISTE’s conference.
“I can now put a friendly face to the
people whom I read about and follow
in professional journals, blogs, tweets,
and online courses,” he says.
His choice for the most influential
technology tool might surprise diehard techies. “Whilst some might
reckon that I am old fashioned, the
technology tool that drives the biggest
change for any community is still the
plain old telephone,” he says. “Having
said that, the ed tech tools that have
influenced change for me in the classroom have been the Web 2.0 tools of
blogging and Twitter.”
During the bush fires in Victoria in
February 2009, Web 2.0 tools helped
students and teachers make sense of
“Instead of just being passive consumers of the media storm blowing
around them, our staff and students
had a chance to read, write, reflect,
and directly help in the healing process that followed by directly engaging
in some of the issues,” he says.
In the future, Gesthuizen sees a
world where digital content and local authoring will help people record
cultural treasures, preserve languages,
and reconnect children with their elders’ wisdom. “We can use these new
ed tech tools not just to better understand each other, but also to better
grasp who we are and where we want
to be, making the world a better place
for us all to live in.”
—Kaya Hardin is an ISTE intern. She graduated
with a bachelor’s degree from the University of