Virtual View Hawaii

Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Connie Chung, Tom Brokaw. Great journalists of our time with years of reporting, interviewing, and researching experience. Yet, these journalists started their journalistic studies only at the college level. What could’ve happened if there was an education system in place that nurtured and helped them to learn such skills at a younger grade level?

Paola Williams, eSchool Journalism instructor, is doing just that… online.

Teaching an interactive course called Journalistic Writing – just one of the many courses offered through Hawaii’s eSchool curriculum – Williams aims at educating her students with an online publication called “Virtual View Hawaii” (

“Virtual View Hawaii is modeling the best practices of electronic publication,” says Williams. “It is a ‘place’ where the act of reading is submerged beneath the drive to explore. Our goal has been to provide an experience that is less like reading a magazine and more like strolling through a bookstore.”

Virtual View Hawaii has already started on that path. Strolling through this web site brings you to Issue 1 “Hawaii’s Electronic Reflection in Cyberspace,” (an updated Issue 2 will be available this month). Topics include “Must See Sites,” “Island Hotspots,” “Teens,” “How Do I Get Involved?” “The Future of Education,” “Pictures,” “Poetry, ” “High School Sports,” and “Movies,” all of which were written, edited and published by the students.

One of the greatest challenges that face Williams and her students is communication. In addition to Williams, only 2 of the students reside on the island of Oahu (the rest are dispersed all over the Hawaiian Islands). Therefore, the class must utilize multiple channels of communication in order to stay “in-touch” with the course assignments. Electronic mail is used for one to one personal communication as well as sending/receiving group postings to each other. The web page hosts the Virtual View Hawaii files and has other information pertinent to the course.

However, the class soon discovered that the most successful way to communicate with each other was via a MOO (Mud, Object Oriented), a text-based chat-like environment using a line by line interface to talk. Once or twice a week, a meeting time of around 6:30PM is set for a chat meeting on the MOO. Because these “meetings” are at a mutually agreed upon date, the participation rate is high. Williams feels that because of this, it has not only helped to build better relationships between each other, but it also increased their productivity.

Having such a successful turnout and participation rate satisfies Williams greatly. She’s also proud of her students and how they’ve taken to the technology in a media form.

“Being in on the beginning of a new endeavor is always thrilling. I think the students like the idea that they are on the cutting edge. Online journalism builds on existing media forms while bringing new technologies, tools and possibilities to the process of production and distribution,” states Williams. “Providing students extended opportunities to write, edit, and publish in greater depth while using current and emerging technologies is really exciting to me.”

The whole idea of eSchool is relatively new. Spurred from the U.S. Department of Education Technology Innovation Grant received in June 1996, Hawaii’s electronic school project supported educational reform by “increasing access to learning technologies that enhance educational opportunities for students, community and parents at more convenient times and more accessible places. Thus eSchool was born and the electronic school, any place, any time, for everyone became a reality.”

Virtual View Hawaii is a modern testament of what can be done by the educated students of Hawaii, with a little help from the United States DOE – via grants – and innovative teachers like Paola Williams. Because of the effort of these forces, there will be no shortage of the Dan Rathers and Connie Chungs of the world. This time, however, they will be from Hawaii…

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