Adelphia’s Broadband Bridge Across Cultures

If knowledge is supposed to help overcome geographic and cultural differences, then Adelphia Communications Corp. and its high-speed Internet service are helping to provide an educational bridge.

As part of a move to introduce its cable-based high-speed Internet service to Maine, Adelphia offered connections to schools in the state. The first to accept, James F. Doughty School in Bangor, also received a Web cam.

The equipment was put to use by a middle-school Spanish class at Doughty, while their counterparts at the Francisco Oller School in Catano, Puerto Rico — where the MSO also has a presence — also utilized the technology last April.

The result: Second-language learning occurred across the water, via the “Project Cam” connection, a Cable in the Classroom initiative. It’s the first such event to involve students outside the continental U.S., MSO officials said.

The students in both classes prepared oral presentations about their local culture and fired off questions when they went live online. The San Juan students had to do all their talking in English, while the Bangor class spoke solely in Spanish.

In addition to the visual hookup, the classes were able to learn through live chats and file sharing.

For helping to place kids from two different worlds in contact with one another, and the impending rollout of a similar program, Adelphia — which supplies connectivity, educationally rich video and online content to more than 400 schools and libraries in Maine — is the winner of Multichannel News’s 2004 Innovator Award for education.

The program kicked off on April 14 with Eva Vazquez, public-affairs manager at Adelphia’s system in San Juan, providing introductory remarks as the city’s secretary of education and a slew of reporters looked on. The students then delivered their presentations over a 90-minute period.

More than 30 schools in Puerto Rico have ordered modem installments since the event.

Kathleen Hounsell, Adelphia’s director of government and community affairs in Maine, said plans are taking shape for Project Cam to be imported from Maranacook High School in Reedford to one in Germany.

It’s part of an exchange program through which local kids will visit Germany at the end of March. In turn, the German students will stay in Maine next fall.

Though the curriculum was still under development at press time, Reedford area schools superintendent Richard Abramson says this program should be most beneficial, because the older students are already “well-versed” in their secondary languages.

“This will be a chance for real discussion and showing a lot of different things,” he says. “It will also give the kids a chance to get introduced to their counterparts and the families they will be staying with.”

The technology should help blunt homesickness while affording a better sense of security, he added.

Looking further down the road, Hounsell and Abramson are looking to use the technology to help drive exchange programs and Project Cam classes involving students from Maine with kids in France and Spain.