Press Release

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

By SpaceRef Editor
May 22, 2001
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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

“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

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, 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.

SpaceRef staff editor.