Imagine students taking a field trip to Antarctica without leaving the classroom, packing a lunch or even getting a signed permission slip.
This will occur in December, when Maryland Public Television launches programs for its new Maryland Teleplex. It's a multimedia classroom that will provide teachers and students information through on-line computer communications, two-way interactive video, a CD-ROM resource library and other telecommunication services.
Its first project will be "Live From Antarctica," a series of four electronic field trips that will allow students to interact with scientists on the frozen continent. Students visiting the Teleplex can see and hear the scientists on location -- and ask them questions -- via a live satellite hook-up. The scientists will be able to hear and respond to their questions, but unable to see them. In addition, students can send messages, via the Internet, to Antarctica.
Besides the Maryland location, Teleplex stations in Hawaii, Texas, Alaska, Virginia and Illinois will enable students there to interact with the scientists on Antarctica.
"We see ourselves as leading the way in the information age," said Raymond K. K. Ho, president of Maryland Public Television. "We have the ability to put Maryland in contact with the rest of the world."
Schools in other parts of the country with satellite hookups can show the live broadcast in classrooms. Although they won't be able to talk live with the scientists, those students can ask e-mail questions through on-line computer services.
Maryland television viewers can watch the program live on MPT.
The four episodes of "Live From Antarctica" -- to be broadcast Dec. 13 and Dec. 15 at 2 p.m., Jan. 10 at 5:30 p.m. and Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. -- will focus on life on Antarctica as well as cover the annual re-positioning of the Earth's geographic South Pole marker. (The copper pole must be moved every year to compensate for slippage of the ice sheet.)
It will be the first live telecast from the South Pole.