1. Iris Overview

The Iris Network was started in 1990 with a vision of providing new and effective uses of computer technology by connecting an international community of life-long learners. Iris is a non-profit educational network. The network is named after the Greek goddess of rainbows who served as personal messenger to Zeus.

Iris provides student projects that connect classrooms around the world. A full schedule of K-12 language arts, social studies, math, science and technology projects are offered throughout the school year. Further, Iris provides an environment to explore new and more effective methods of communication among educators wherever they might live around the world.

Whether you join The Iris Network as an individual subscriber, member of a group, or organization, you will have access to the full spectrum of online capabilities that comprise the system. You will receive a copy of the Guide to The Iris Network that provides you with an overall familiarity with the structure of the system and instructions for using the features. The Iris Moderators are always happy to discuss the benefits of Iris to individuals and to organizations. Give us a call at 703-243-6622.

2. Conferences, E-mail and File Libraries

This information provides an overview of the online environment you will find when you login to the Iris Network. When you login, you enter the Iris "Welcome Center" conference. From this conference, you may access many other conferences. In addition, you may send private electronic messages to one or several Iris subscribers or to subscribers on other networks. Also, you may access online databases and file libraries.

Iris supports a variety of conferences. Most conferences are open to everyone. However, it is possible to have private conferences as well.

Iris runs on a highly customized implementation of the Caucustm computer conferencing software -- and additional programs based on the Unix operating system. "Caucus is a Copyright and Trademark of Camber-Roth."

3. The Structure of Iris Conferences

The first place you access after you enter your ID and password is the Iris "Welcome Center" conference. You are always in a conference, even when you are sending electronic mail, searching a database or a file library.

Conferences are organized for different purposes, which are usually implied by the name. They tend to develop different "personalities" -- for instance, some are fast-paced with a lot of action and open discussion. Others may move more slowly, with members' remarks more deliberate or reflective. Some are working conferences with agendas and a tight focus.

In other words, each conference is shaped by its unique purpose, its organizer and its participants.

4. Items and Responses

The diagram above depicts the structure of a conference. The group discussions in each conference are organized into "items." Each item has a focus which is identified in the item's header much like the tab of a conventional file folder. Everything said about the topic goes into the item as a "responce," thus developing a narrative everyone can read sequentially.

A conference with a large number of participants can grow over time to contain many Items -- and an Item can grow to have many Responses.

Each Item is given a one-line title by the author of the Item. The name of the author and the date and time the Item was entered are automatically added by the host system software. Items are numbered sequentially.

The Caucus software keeps track of which Items and Responses have been seen by each of the participants in each conference. Every time you check into a conference you are informed if any new Items have been entered -- and which Items have new Responses that you have not seen.

When you ask to see new Responses or new Items they are shown to you in the chronological order in which they were added. This results in the feeling that you are interacting in an ongoing conversation with the other participants -- even though you are not physically in the same place, nor are you all "on-line" at the same time.

5. File Libraries

A conference may have an attached file library for storing lengthy documents, reference materials, or binary files -- such as graphics files, spreadsheets, etc.

6. Conference Organizers

One or more of the participants in a computer conference are designated as the "organizers." Sometimes called "moderators" or "facilitators" -- the organizers are responsible for the management and overall success of a computer conference in much the same way as leaders of face-to-face meetings.

The conference organizers make sure that the purposes of the conference are clear and that participation is broad and on track. Organizers control the conference access list for the conference. They can change or update the conference "masthead" that participants see each time they enter the conference. They also manage the conference subject matter index -- especially useful in very large conferences that grow over time to contain hundreds of discussion items.

7. Open Conferences on The Iris Network

The conferences which make up The Iris Network are fluid; new conferences are added from time to time and old ones may be archived or deleted. For example, the LOUNGE conference is started fresh each July -- while new student project conferences are started at least three times a year.

The diagram above shows some of the open conferences available on the system. To see a listing of current K-12 projects JOIN Welcome at any (AND NOW?) prompt. The Welcome Center conference is a special purpose conference that contains brief desciptions of all open conferences on Iris.

Enter JOIN LIST at any (AND NOW?) prompt to see a list of all the conferences available for you to access.

8. Private Conferences on The Iris Network

A wide variety of organizations and groups use the Iris Network for private conferences. Examples include national teacher organizations, school districts, national and international professional associations; and small business firms that provide services to teachers and schools. Private conferences are not visible to others who use the system. Access lists ensure that only members of your own group can gain entry into your conferences.

Contact an Iris Moderator when you want to sponsor your own private conferences. They will work closely with you to design and implement conferences suited to your purposes and your particular organization's needs.

9. PC, Modem, and Software

Your communication software program drives the connection between your own computer and the Iris host computer. You can use virtually any computer and any communications software program that is designed for your particular computer. You must configure your communication software before you use it.

To do this, refer to the documentation that came with your communication software program. The settings will vary depending on whether you dial direct, use SprintNet, PC Pursuit, or Internet.

You may use an external modem linked to your computer with a serial cable -- or an internal modem installed inside your computer. You may use either a 9600, 2400, 1200, or 300 baud modem.

10. Your Iris Internet Address

The "internet" is a global matrix of interconnected computer networks which maintain electronic mail "gateways" with each other. Iris can be your window into this rapidly expanding electronic universe that some people call "cyberspace."

Your internet e-mail address is:


If your Iris ID is "amartin" your internet address is:


Note: All of the internet address must be entered in lower case.

The Iris Network provides access to Internet's TELNET feature which may be used to login to other host networks around the World.

For Additional Information About the Iris Network read the following documents listed below: