Definitions and Uses of Telecommunications


This information is modified from Barron, A. (1995). Getting Started with Telecommunications. Florida Center for Instructional Technology: Tampa, FL. These materials can be obtained from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at 813-974-6099 or from your FIRNTEC (in the PanHandle, Lori Squirek). Portions of these materials were created in a graduate class, Telecommunications in Education by Russell Lee, Robert Johnson, George Chen, and Vance Burgess.

As you go through these exercises, be sure to read the instructions. Don't be afraid to explore off on your own -- that's part of your task! You can't do anything to the computer systems or these documents. At worst, exit the program and start over again! Some of the links may be busy -- it depends on how many other people are trying to link to a particular place at a particular time. If it doesn't work the first time, wait a couple of minutes and try again. If it doesn't work again, go on to the next section and come back to the one that didn't work later.

Telecommunications -- A definition -- transmission of information

The term telecommunications refers to the use of personal computers to send and receive information through a communications connection, such as a telephone line. We use telecommunications specifically to refer to processes such as:

How many schools have access to the Internet for electronic mail or Internet resouces? The number is growing day-by-day. Compare Florida statistics to those of other states. What do you think? Take a look at some statistics of access in 1994 -- how do you think these stats have changed today? -- then come back to this page.

Schools on the Internet

Check out Florida schools on the Internet to see what we're doing in Florida. When you're finished exploring, come back to this page and continue.

Florida Schools on the Internet

Next, let's examine each of the telecommunications processes individually.

Telecommunication Processes

Electronic Mail

Electronic mail is one of the most common uses of telecommunications. It is a paperless way to send and receive messages. You type a message (like you've already done) to someone and send it. The messages are stored on the receiver's computer until they access their mail system by signing on to it.

Generally, everyone who has a computer account also has an e-mail account. When you get a computer account you are given authority through a name and password. This name is how people can send you messages. For example, when you request a FIRNMAIL account (FIRN is the Florida Information Resources Network and gives all educators in the State of Florida e-mail and Internet access), you will be given an account. This account name is part of your address.

The rest of your address comes from a location. When you send mail through the Post Office, you have to include a name and an address. You have to do the same thing when you use electronic mail or the system doesn't know where to send your message! If you have a FIRN account, your address is

So, every e-mail address has two parts: a name and a location. You'll need to know both of these parts in order to send mail. Here are some examples of different addresses:

The @ is a separator between someone's name and their address. You will use it as a separator when you send someone mail.

In the above examples the account names are kally, rlee, and squirel. These are names given by the computer center who authorized the accounts. Every computer center gives different kinds of names -- but you'll find that out when you register for or are given your account.

The last part of the address is the location. Every person who has an account also has a location. The location is divided into 2, 3 or 4 parts. The parts indicate where the computer is, in computer language. For example:

stands for the mainframe computer at the University of West Florida. The last part, edu, indicates that the institution or company is an educational instituion. Other common endings include:

A commercial account from America On-line for example, has a location of AOL.COM.

Electronic Bulletin Boards/Conferences/Listservs

The Internet is like a big bulletin board where you can sift through what interests you. Before we talk about the Bulletin Boards, Conferences, and Listserves, what is the Internet? Click on the link below to find out more about the Internet; explore the different definitions. To get back to this page, click on the Back button at the top of the screen (if you're using NetScape; if you have problems call the Help Line at 904-474-3340). There are many definitions available, you should find out what the Internet is, where it comes from, who owns it, and who runs it.

Definitions of the Internet

Bulletin boards, conferences, and listservs provide a way to send messages and notes, ask questions, and receive answers. These types of services differ from electronic mail in that messages are not sent to specific individuals, but rather are posted for all to read.

Remember when we said earlier that we'd send a message to the listserv? Well, it's that time! You're going to send a short biography to the class listserv and share with your classmates and teacher a little bit of information about yourself. You're going to follow the same procedure as you did before -- make sure you sign your name -- and limit yourself to a couple of paragraphs!

Message to the Listserv

Research Databases

Some systems offer online access to large databases. Databases provide current information that permits you to search with titles, keywords, or authors. Databases let you find information fast and easily. Through FIRN, you can access the State Library System. Through ERIC, which is a educational database, you can find different lesson plans. Click on ERIC Lesson Plans, you will be shown a screen that asks you for a search keyword. Click inside the box and type in a topic that you might teach in your classroom (e.g., english, social studies, mathematics, etc.). Then press ENTER (or RETURN). If you don't get any response, choose another subject. Explore some of the options available to you. When you're finished, return to this screen and continue.

ERIC Lesson Plans

File Transfers

File transfers are simply the sending of complete files such as letters, programs, or any other type of computer document. FTP stands for file transfer protocol. When talking about FTP, remember that there are ways to send computer documents other than messages through telecommunications. Through FTP you can receive programs or information that you can use in your classroom. With the use of NetScape and other types of Browsers, FTP is performed through a menu system.


Online chatting is like talking to someone in person or on the telephone. When you chat, you are on your computer system talking to someone else (or more than one person) who is also on their computer system. Chatting differs from electronic mail in that all the participants must be online at the same time to chat.

Games and Simulations

Telecommunications systems also permit the playing of games or the participating in simulations. You may participate in the "Internet Hunt" or "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego." Some of these games and simulations require an account on a service provider. If you are interested in these kinds of activities, you will be given time later to explore the Internet for potential projects.

Uses of Telecommunications

But, how can you use telecommunications to promote learning? Can you think of any ways you might use telecommunications? Here is a starter list -- there are many more examples:

Can you think of any other ways that telecommunications can be used? Send at least two examples to your fellow students on the Listserv. In the subject line of your message, type: Uses of Telecommunications.

Uses of Telecommunications

Advantages of Using Telecommuncations

Why should you use telecommunications in your classroom? There are many ways that telecommunications can promote meaningful and active learning. These advantages are from Getting Started with Telecommunications: Choose one of the above topics and write a paragraph to your instructor describing why you think that it is an advantage. Put Advantages of Telecommunications in the subject line. She will summarize and post the responses to the list.

Advantages of Telecommunications

Next, we'll talk more in depth about the components of telecommunications.

Telecommunication Components

Telecommunications Table of Contents.