Implementing Information Services

By Paul Kidson

SCIS welcomes feedback and contributions from our readers and material we receive may be published in a future issue of Connections.

In Connections 35 we published an article by Colin Bell, Managing Director of Concord Australia. The article 'Content is King, but Content Management Rules' inspired the following response from Paul Kidson, Director of Studies at All Saints' College, Bathurst, NSW. Part 2 of Colin Bell's article appears in this issue of Connections.

Many schools are struggling with the question of how to implement information services successfully. Although they recognise the value of current and emerging technologies and their application to teaching and learning, schools face various struggles that compound the enormity of the task. I would like to offer suggestions concerning two critical factors that come into play when managing the move into new areas of technology such as the Virtual Private Network (VPN) or, as in the last issue of Connections(pp 1-2, 10), a Campus Wide Intranet Management System (CWIMS) such as that described in use at Stuartholme School.

The teaching profession is at a significant point. The mean teacher age continues to climb, university graduates are choosing careers other than teaching, and technology is both changing and creating the shape of future teaching and learning. One of the demands on schools is helping staff take on the challenges, to see them as positive and valuable. In my own situation, this has been achieved through the successful implementation of a computerised student administration and reporting database. Based on FilemakerPro 5.0 and running across the College's network, the database utilises a user-friendly interface and is icon driven. As staff have completed reports, or looked up and printed class lists, or checked our online calendar for available dates for excursions, they are utilising many of the skills required to access Intranet and Internet information such as network logging, refined searches, relational information, site navigation and export and/or copy information.

Staff had been reluctant to implement the use of information services and technology in their teaching and learning programs due to a lack of experience and/or confidence. However, since experiencing an easy-to-use database running on a network, they are much more positive about exploring the use of these technologies in their teaching. There is still much to be done; our task is now to capitalise on the opportunity.

For schools in which such issues do not exist, there can still be areas of concern in implementing and using VPNs or CWIMSs effectively. On the assumption that staff are (or have become) confident in using such information-resourcing strategies, equity of student access continues to be a serious concern. While at school, students may have significant access to Intranet and Internet services through the school's resources, which can be very extensive. However, once they leave the school campus students may not have the same equity of access.

While it is true that Internet connection continues to rise at staggering rates, it is not the case that all students have access to a VPN or CWIMS from home. It therefore becomes important that teaching and learning practices associated with the use of a VPN or CWIMS do not work on the premise that all students are able to access this information from home. If it does, it produces an immediate disadvantage for those students unable to access the information once they are off campus. Any teaching and learning program that builds in elements of compulsion must be reconsidered in light of access and equity. It continues to be a challenge for schools to provide teaching and learning programs that do not disadvantage students from families who are unable to provide electronic access for their children.

Schools have always been information managers. Current and emerging practices continue to pose problems for information services managers and school leaders alike. In solving these problems, however, the human element must never be taken for granted, in regard to either the staff or the students. Solutions must embrace and involve both to achieve a positive outcome for all.

Paul Kidson

Director of Studies at All Saints' College, Bathurst, NSW