Towards the New Century

By Heather Kelsall,

Information servicing at The Southport School

1994 has been a year of technological innovation at The Southport School, and has encouraged new directions in information servicing from the Senior Library. The Technology Enhancement Project (TEP) has been twofold: the introduction of 300 Toshiba T1900 Notebooks and the ability to link these back to information sources sited in the library.

This was based on the vision that the computer would be a learning tool across all curriculum areas and provide interaction between teacher I student and student/ student in an active learning environment. The school recognised that the body of knowledge today and in the future is too large for anyone to know, and in response is providing students with the skills to locate and use information, with the computer as the key tool.

Stage One involved laying fibre optic cables to connect the library to seven teaching areas around the school and the Staff Workroom, on a star Novell network configuration. While this network format proved most costly it provides several advantages required in a secondary environment: control by the Network Manager and class teacher, point- to-point speed and the ability to plug-in/ plug-out without affecting other users. Twenty four lines enter each of the seven teaching rooms through a hub attached to a file server which are then linked to two printers and 23 work stations around the room.

At the close of the 1993 academic year all staff were given two days in-servicing on the use of the Notebooks and Microsoft Word. This was followed up early this year with another in-service on the practical aspects of how to access the information network: which plug goes where! A further ten staff members undertook a four day intensive 'train-the-trainer' session during the Easter break, and this group will provide further in-servicing for staff, parents and students.

While all students were invited to lease a Notebook through the school, Year 5, Year 8 and Year 10 were targeted primarily and a further 125 were purchased by the school. The schools' laptops are housed in the Technology Room of the Senior Library, and managed by the Network Technician. Students may access these both on overnight loan and individual use during academic time. Teachers book them out as class sets for use as word processors I spread-sheets OR as the tool to link back to the main server to access subject based software or information sources.

Department Heads have been encouraged to purchase software -information based and interactive, to enhance their teaching environments. This has been loaded onto the main Novell server and the two 14 double-speed stacker CD-ROM Towers, enabling access simultaneously or individually to 28 CD-ROMs and 30 software packages, from the 225 work stations. The software currently available falls into several cate-gories: encyclopedic/information based CD-ROMs, interactive, testing and reporting, simulations, tools, electronic mail, drill and practice, and programming languages.

These information sources I software packages are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support research/homework requirements through the modem technology attached to the main server. Five modem lines allow users to simultaneously access the information network from the comfort of their own home -no longer dependant on the library opening hours. Students can also submit assignment work directly to the teacher via the E-Mail system: absenteeism is no longer an excuse for not having work in on time! Demands for printing out assignments had to be addressed, and to ease the burden on the classroom printers and provided access outside academic hours, the Senior Library has three HP Deskjet printers for students to link into their laptops. 

Prior to 1994 the information network was confined to the Senior Library, 10 IBM PCs running on a LANtastic network each with an internal CD-ROM datadrive and a Pioneer 6 pack linked to the server. Now that students have 225 access points to the information network, naturally the demands on the library have dramatically increased. The library has responded to these increasingly diverse information needs by extending its services under the concept of a 'library with-out walls'. Regardless of where or how we endeavour to provide the required information. Connections to information sources external to the school have been established and currently we access 14 on-line data-bases and average around 15 inter-library loans per day for our clients.

The six indexing services available lead students from given citations on their research topic through to the full article. If the original document is not held within the schools collec-tion, then it is accessed via NUCOS (National Union Catalogue of Serials) from the holding library anywhere in Australia. ILANET provides access to 36 academic and State Library collections through their OPAC terminals, and resources supporting our clients needs are borrowed again via the inter-library loan system. In many subjects, senior students are expected to research their own topic within a specific unit of work. Thus, when a Year 12 physics student wanted to design a sail for specific atmospheric conditions, we were able to borrow books on aerodynamics for him within 3 days from James Cook University!

Another of the most used on-line database connections is to PRESS-COM, which provides full-text newspaper articles from 1986 through until yesterday. This allows students to check journalist reports on particular issues from six Australian newspapers, the South China Post in Asia and the London Times, England. Within the library, three Multimedia IBM PCs on a LAN allow access to information on a large collection of CD-ROMSs where sound, text, video clips, and images are linked together to provide yet another set of learning experiences.

Students of the Preparatory School are also involved in the TEP although the network configuration differs from the Senior School. Twenty-five Notebooks are housed in the Prep Library for individual or class use as a word processor I database. Each classroom has several IBM PCs, all linked together by a LAN, and each fitted with a CD-ROM data drive This allows access to all software and CD-ROMs either simultaneously or individually from different work stations. The new Preparatory Library, due for completion in term 4, will have an Electronic Learning Centre with on-line database connection facilities, and information based software to support the curriculum.

Needless to say this is but the beginning of the information network at the Southport School. A sub-committee has been formed to monitor the direction of the TEP and future stages of development -both hardware and software. Technology is a continuous agent for change and we must keep a clear perspective of what we want it to do: access the exact information required by our clients to enable them to produce an end product.

The Southport School recognises that society is destined to be divided into two distinct groups. Firstly, the information literate who know where to locate information, how to access it, how to manipulate it and how to respond with it. Secondly, the information poor, who are always reliant on others to provide. Our vision is to produce information rich citizens of the future while keeping abreast of advances in information technology.

Heather Kelsall,

Information Services Officer

The Southport School,