The emergence of the Viking Network

This is an old article from our previous website, but it tells us how The Viking Network was started back in 1994. Did you know that is actually the 15th domain ever registered in Norway under .no?

By Wigo H. Skråmm

How do we combine the teaching of the Vikings and the Viking era with electronic communication? The Viking Network project started in Romerike, Norway in January of 1994 and now encompasses schools in 10 countries. It is run in cooperation with Grampian Resources Centre in Aberdeen, Scotland.

…and the screen was desolate and empty

The bright dot on the screen blinks a challenge to me. Of course I know that the biggest revolution since movable type is going on right now. Electronic communication is completely changing our linear way of thinking.

I know that there is a universe of information in thousands of databases out there. I’ve popped into Rhodes University and retrieved the text of South Africa’s new constitution. I’ve visited NASA’s school service to see what they have to offer. When the technicians have straightened out their user-interfaces every school library will become a “national library”. That’s the easy part of electronic communication, but what about the rest?!

International development and the global classroom

“I’m afraid that we’ll have to wait for a new generation of teachers before we can expect anything to happen here”, said a pessimistic Australian delegate to Teleteaching 93 in Trondheim.”
Well, I never…! After 23 years in education I could use some new impulses.

I’ve worked with something called Listservers which are the new address machines that are constantly churning out questionaires about school projects. Many are for age groups that I don’t work with and many of the proposals don’t fit into my schedule but a lot good has come of it.

E-mail contact with a Danish school revitalized teaching in neighbor languages both here and in Denmark. A letter from an Icelandic school gave a breath of fresh air to the teaching of Norront languages. When we started working with a class of Spanish speaking students in California who were also learning English as a second language our own English teaching took on a whole new dimension. But still something is missing. The blinking dot is still there, waiting patiently.

Pupil directed

The easiest thing to do is to let the pupils run the whole show. They learn the techniques quickly and find ‘computer pals’ everywhere. They benefit from the international contacts they make and from the language instruction. The problem is that after they’ve introduced themselves and told about hobbies there isn’t much more to say. No, this type of contact must be a result of school oriented impulses. For the teacher to manage this much needs to be explained.

  • Work load: What has to be done? How much time will it take? What do I get out of it?
  • Predictability: When will the answers come?
  • Equipment: Will the computer be ready when I need it? Can I master it?
  • Language: Most international contact is done in English. When you work with schools in English-speaking countries it’s important that your partners understand that English is primarily a subject and not a language for your pupils. To be asked to write a letter in English is seen as a school assignment.
  • New problems are always cropping up.

Where is the coordinator?

This is time cunsuming and time is a resource schools don’t have in abundance. Tests and exams are always right around the corner and many students need individual help. All this takes time.

Where can I find someone who knows the INTERNET world and can get me the right contacts? Right! You tell me!

The bright dot hasn’t moved. I punch in QUIT and push ENTER. The decision is made. I’m outta here!

The Viking Network

I’m at my cabin looking out on the rain. The soaked-through sail hangs limply. The rain-drenched people on board sit, unmoving in the open sail boat on the fjord. Far behind them are the remains of the old Viking town of Skiringssal. Boy am I glad that I’m sitting in a nice warm and dry cabin! But those people themselves made the decision to go out there today I think to myself as I get a cup of coffee and ponder the rain and the sailboat.

Think about the ancients sailing out the fjord towards Hedeby, York, Dublin or Iceland a thousend years ago. It goes almost without saying, they were tough. What was a visit from them like? Imagine if I could talk to people from the Vikings’ destinations about the Viking era from their perspective! Pupils could be exposed to tales of Viking travels from the vantage point of those they visited, well at least their descendants.

The rain lightens up a tad and the wind fills the sail of the little boat out there. An impossible assignment? Of course. How can I get in touch with all those places. It would take years, or maybe… I do have e-mail. But would this be interesting for teachers in other countries? Following a chat with Nils Steinar an e-mail message is sent off to David in Scotland. Half an hour came the brief reply, “Best idea since sliced bread. Let’s get going”.

Planning the project consumed the fall of 93. In January of 94 we ventured out onto the INTERNET. Now, 8 months later, we have accounts of the Viking era on computer in 10 countries from Estonia in the east to Portugal in the south to the United States in the west. Work is underway on issues 18,19 and 20. In order to gain access to them one must first write a story about Viking exploits from ones own country or home. When this is approved by the Viking Network you’ll get a membership list along with the members’ e-mail addresses. All that remains is to send your pupils to the computer and ask for the ‘info sheets’ you desire when covering the Viking period in class. They are fine supplements to the teaching of history on both the midlle and high school level.

The project language is English. The Viking Network has an agreement with a British teacher who is willing to assist anyone needing help with their English.

Interesting educationally and for subject matter

  • History as a school subject has traditionally had a national, even nationalistic color. This makes it all the more interesting to see a subject from several sides.
  • The Vikings and Viking era arouse interest in both the homelands of the Vikings and in many other countries.
  • This work method can absolutely be transferred to other themes and subjects. The feeling of immediacy that electronic communication gives can be a boost for education.
  • The time frame and scope of information can be decided by the individual teacher before getting started with a VNET project.

If you wish to start another project you have already got the e-mail addresses of the other members of the Viking Network. Remember, they live in other countries and teach other subjects too!

This fall the Viking Network climbs out of the cradle and begins taking its first faltering steps toward an unknown but exciting future.

Updated august 14, 2004 – The Viking Network