SchoolTone Alliance Launches Project LearningBird; NASA’s Breakthrough Satellite Now Put to Use for Education

May 23, 2001

In a ceremony today at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, the SchoolTone Alliance announced the launch of Project LearningBird — a distance learning initiative in collaboration with the Ohio Consortium for Advanced Communications Technology (OCACT) and Ohio University.

Project LearningBird will utilize NASA’s Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS), one of the most revolutionary breakthroughs in satellite communications history. With all of the satellite’s original research objectives completed, NASA is transferring the operation of the spacecraft’s communications payload to OCACT for educational uses.

“The Consortium has the impressive potential to advance education and commercial technology development across the state of Ohio and beyond,” said Glenn Center Director Donald J. Campbell. “As a result, we will witness the development of a highly-skilled workforce in a relatively new field, as well as the introduction of state-of-the-art products that accompany the evolution of technology.”

OCACT will extend the satellite’s benefits to national academic and economic communities by leveraging federal, state, private and academic resources for collaborative educational and research-based activities.

“What a tremendous opportunity NASA and OCACT have given us,” said Sun Microsystems’ Shirish Netke, chairman of the SchoolTone Alliance. “Through SchoolTone’s participation in Project LearningBird, our members will be able to bring considerable and significant benefits to educational institutions through the delivery of anywhere, anytime educational content.”

By joining OCACT, SchoolTone Alliance members will be able to utilize the satellite for demonstration projects over the next two to four years. LearningBird will provide educational institutions and groups with enormous value including the delivery of broadband courses online, interaction with experts in remote locations, promotion of professional development for teachers, and access to real time quality content from leading educators and content providers.

— Project LearningBird to Link the “Planetwalker” to Schoolchildren in Environmental Study

John Graham, founder and co-chairman of Broadware Technologies and a SchoolTone Alliance Board Member announced that SchoolTone’s first intended use of LearningBird, pending appropriate approvals, will be an interactive distance learning project connecting United Nation’s Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador Dr. John Francis on his “Planetwalk” across Cuba, with public schools in Oakland, Calif.

As part of the inaugural project, students in both countries will be able to track the progress of Dr. Francis’s walk. The research mission of the walk is to study organic agriculture in Cuba, as well as to conduct a general survey of environmental and conservation efforts on the Island.

The project will use ACTS to create interactive portable links from remote locations that will allow students to communicate with Dr. Francis and each other. The Cuba “Planetwalk” will cover 1,000 kilometers from Havana to Santiago, the sister city of Oakland, Calif., from November 2001 through January 2002. Francis, who is on a lifetime goodwill walk around the world, has already crossed the United States and South America on foot.

Launched in 1993, ACTS was the first satellite with the ability to carry digital communications at standard fiber-optic data rates with the same quality of transmission. LearningBird will utilize the ACTS technology to integrate satellite and existing ground fiber-optic systems for transmission of data at high rates of speed over great distances and to the most remote locations.

SchoolTone Alliance member companies include:

    ACTV HyperTV Networks, Inc. Blackboard, Inc. Broadware Technologies Exodus Communications Isis Communications Limited JASON Foundation Lucent Technologies National Semiconductor Power School Riverdeep Interactive Learning SaskTel SchoolCruiser/Timecruiser Computing Sun Microsystems, Inc. USA Video Interactive Corp. VIP Tone, Inc.

The SchoolTone Alliance was established in 1999, and is currently headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The organization will relocate to Washington, D.C. later this year.

The SchoolTone Alliance is an independent, nonprofit association of companies who collectively promote the portal computing model and the benefits that such a scalable model creates for schools worldwide. For further information, please visit our web site,, send an e-mail to schooltone(At), contact the business office at 401 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611 or call 312-673-5500. SchoolTone is a registered trademark of the SchoolTone Alliance.

Contact Infomation
Eric Thomas of t he Fratelli Group


Irene Spero of SchoolTone