The Gold Coast campus of Griffith University and Ipswich City Council both answer the plea of schools...

By Heather Kelsall

Internet access at a reasonable price

With much interest in the 'information highway' two diverse information service provider s h ave taken the initiative to provide school children with the opportunity to explore and experience information from the worldwide network.

Under the leadership of Professor Michael Irvine, and organised by Andre Snoxall (Manager, Information Technology Services) Gold Coast Campus of Griffith University has offered 12 schools access to AARNET and into the Internet for the 1995 school year free of charge!

The University is providing each school with free access to a telephone number 24 hours per day, and funding a technician to set up and configuring a computer in each school as a work station linked to the Uni network. They are also training two members from each school in search strategies and access points for resources etc available on the Internet. In addition, each school will be given space on the Uni's World Wide Web (WWW) server for a home page and access to selected Uni staff to provide advice and assistance in integrating the Internet into the ยท curriculum.

The schools have had to provide particular hardware: 486PC with 8Mb RAM, running Windows for Workgroups 3.11; a modem of at least 14,400 baud; and a Fax Grade telephone line -which all have managed to do within the first few weeks of Term l. The software required to access the Internet is supplied free by Griffith University and installed by their technician.

The Commerce Department at Palm Beach Currumbin SHS provides the school's link to the Internet through the Griffith Uni. node. Margaret Harris (HOD) co-ordinates access where students are learning the how in search strategies, its application in the commercial world and from the perspective of IPT students. Once staff are confident with the access, Margaret can see the link being shared with the Resource Centre who will then promote the Internet as an information source.

For schools in the Ipswich area, the Ipswish City Council have adopted a principle where information technology is a high priority. In 1993 the Council instigated the Global Info-Links project with a team of eleven and chaired by Mr. Mal Bryce. Its clear directive states that the Ipswich region would become an 'information rich community'. While the project produces a wide range of benefits for many community groups, businesses and individual households, in 1995 schools and educational facilities have been given prime support. The 121 schools in the area supply their own host computer and teleconi. line and the Council is providing a modem, access to all information facilities and support free for 1995.

The Ipswich Global Information Centre is the hub of access and makes the 'electronic library' a reality for schools who individually could not afford to provide such extensive services for their students. The facilities which can be accessed include ISDN telecommunications link to world information, Councils established 'book' library catalogue through their Dynix Horizon software, multimedia CD ROMs, and an Internet node which has been developed with 'click and point' software.

Lindy McKeown, T /L at Bundamba Primary School (of ABC Four Comers Internet program fame!) coordinates the Internet access at the school through the Global Information Link . She views the Internet from two aspects, firstly providing defined information and secondly accessing communities. Grades 2, 3 and 4 have used contacts with other people and schools extensively within the curriculum, but the students don't view it as 'learning'. There's boring school-work and the fun Internet! Bundambah lends both modems and laptops to their staff to access the Internet from home, and recently most staff had 6 hours extra training at the GIL. Lindy finds using the Search Engine, WebCrawler through the Net Search tools the most effective information access point for her students, however the E-Mail projects have proved the most interesting. Over the past 12 months Bundamba have established their own contacts on the WWW, but recommends a good starting point is registering with KIDSPHERE or KIDLINK.

While two Queensland information service providers have been highlighted here, there must be others across Australia who have been equally as generous in their support of schools accessing the Internet. For our students to function effectively in a computer dominated society post secondary school then they need the learning experience within our education establishments. Collectively, schools can get action and lobbying should be directed through your state branch of ASLA or contact the national president Norma Jeffrey on (09) 2644100. ALIA School Libraries Section national president Anne Plowman (Fax: 02 5641083) is also prepared to look at the issue. From past Letters to the Editor there are many schools looking for means and ways to gain Internet access at reasonable rates. 1995 is the year for action!

Heather Kelsall