D-Lib Magazine
January 1996
ISSN 1082-9873

Project Briefings and Updates


A Digital Video Library Project for Teaching and Learning

Contributed by:

Miriam J. Masullo
T.J. Watson Research Center
IBM Research Division

Jim Emal
IBM Research Division
University of Nebraska


EduPort started out as research project at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center to explore issues in organization and dissemination of digital video within the emerging video on-demand and interactive TV technologies. From the educational perspective, it focuses mostly on understanding the role of digital video for use in K-12 curriculum, just-in-time training, lifelong learning, and cultural outreach. From the technology perspective, the project focuses on the systems integration of all the technologies that go into creating the digital libraries of the future: e.g., video servers, high speed communications networks, end user players or receiving devices, and digital content creation and management.

In May of 1993, EduPort was demonstrated for the first time at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., during a convocation entitled "Reinventing Schools: The Technology Is Now". At that time, a local network of multimedia clients, including an interactive TV client, was supported remotely from a large-scale video server at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, New York. A large digital video library of educational content was accessed in realtime on-demand by the convocation participants from the remote clients in Washington.

At the request of Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska), the research project was brought to Nebraska. The social and human implications relating to the application of the technologies became the focus of the transfer. Piloting the project outside a laboratory environment and working with a school required a different research approach and focus. The social and human implications relating to the application of the technologies became the focus of the transfer.

In April of 1994, EduPort was first installed at the University of Nebraska with access from Lincoln High School via fiber provided by the Lincoln Telephone Co. Content from the National Aeronautics and Space Admnistration (NASA), the Smithsonian Institution, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Chemical Society and many others was digitized and organized within a K-12 educational framework. The project was first launched at Lincoln High School in celebration of National Science and Technology Week. The Lincoln Public Schools Foundations helped to coordinate the project.

While the technologies deployed proved equally robust outside the laboratory, the findings indicated that problems in realizing a National Education Infrastructure may lie outside the technical areas. Collaboration is the key for success, as there is not one single entity that alone can make something like EduPort happen. Issues in organization of content were also extremely important to the success of the project. In particular, how to provide equity access to quality content, through advanced technology is our challenge.

EduPort was later demonstrated at the "Challenge Nebraska Conference", sponsored by Senator Kerrey, and at the Washington, D.C. conference entitled "Breaking the Barriers of the National Information Infrastructure", sponsored by Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown.

Since those events, the University of Nebraska in collaboration with the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center is advancing the project as a joint digital library effort. Current technical developments include the integration of ATM for delivering digital video over the campus network. This configuration will be used to support an EduPort classroom at the university with 34 simultaneous digital video clients. The capacity of the server itself greatly exceeds that, but the communications component of the environment creates other limitations that ATM will ease.

A second EduPort classroom is equipped with a large electronic blackboard. The contrast in the application of the same technologies and content in these two classrooms (e.g., student-centered and teacher- centered) offers the possibility of collecting empirical data to assess the impact of both approaches to digital library uses in education.

More recently, Apple clients have been integrated for receiving or playing the digital video content from the large scale server. A distributed serving infrastructure to move content from a large repository to a cache local server is in plan, as is satellite movement of subsets of the digital library to the local servers.

The EduPort homepage at the university serves as index to the digital library. An EduPort newsletter will be published in the near future. More information can be obtained from the IBM web server (http://www.research.ibm.com/xw-eduport) {This site is currently being updated; please use the University of Nebraska site for the present. Editor, 1/16/96} or from the EduPort WWW home page at the University of Nebraska (http://ianrwww.unl.edu/eduport.html). Questions and requests for additional information can be directed to eduport@watson.ibm.com.

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