Using Bulletin Boards in a Primary School

By Allan Garbutt

The idea of a 'Global Village" in an informational sense is with us. Our world is changing at a rapid pace. Educators of even young children have not just the opportunity but an obligation to take part in this world-wide development.

At Yarra Valley Anglican School, we have been involved, in varying degrees, with the new technologies over several years. Here is a brief outline of Junior School's response to the developing world of electronic communication.


Yarra Valley Anglican School runs its own bulletin board (COMET). This is a public board and membership is available through application to the SysOp Mark Dodds. [You can phone Mark on (03) 876 1366 -Ed.]

COMET allows for low cost, efficient computer communication in Australia and through related systems, virtually the rest of the world. The tone of COMET is very much educational.

Junior School children have, using this system, set up communication swaps with French students in France and Canada. This was established as part of the French lessons in Junior School. Our students would mail off in English and receive their mail in French with each group doing their own translation. The different school year times between Europe, Canada and Australia were a bit of a problem as were computer breakdowns, but we had some success.

Some readers will be aware that Y.V.A.S. has hearing impaired students attending regular classes, Extremely worthwhile E-Mail (electronic mail) has been set up between our hearing impaired students and students in similar schools in America. It was very exciting to see the flow of ideas and comment between the pupils.

On the same system during the Gulf War, electronic mail was uploaded by students living in Israel detailing their experiences at that time. This electronic mail made its way via FidoNet to COMET and was used by students at Yarra Valley. As you can imagine, reading, discussing and answering this E-Mail generated enormous interest.

Other casual use is made of COMET by students writing E-Mail to penpals or in a one off contact. The system has a reasonable level of reliability, but is dependent in part upon people at both ends making regular searches for their mail.


A more reliable, but more expensive E-Mail system used at Yarra Valley is Keylink. This is an electronic messaging system operated by Telecom Australia. Electronic Mail is sent to one or more specific addresses where it is read and replied to electronically.

Each year a large number of exciting and educationally sound activities are carried out over KEYLINK. Many of them are child-centred and can be carried out at reasonable cost. The following are a few that junior School students have used.


A literary based activity where the project operator assumes the role of a book character and invites pupils to read the book and write to that character as though writing to a 'real person'. Some of the more recent books have been ''Vithy" by Allan Baille; the character written to was Vithy. Hector from "Lake at The End of The World" was another recent one.

In responding the children are expected to view the character as a real person and attempt to have vicarious experiences with them. Pupils from Year 4 to Year 7 have taken part in such activities.


An activity being carried out at the moment. A famous Australian is asked to give their view of the present and future prospects for Australia. Sir Mark Oliphant has written of his views which the pupils have read, discussed and responded to with their own comments and questions. In due course, Sir Mark Oliphant will reply and his response will form the basis for further group discussion.


A project I ran on Keylink. This was a maths activity requiring classes to play a large number of Tic Tac Toe games and record wins, losses and draws. The results were then uploaded and combined with the results from many schools. The total large scale results were then E-Mailed back to participating schools. Comparisons with individual class results were then carried out examining similarities and differences. Teachers can also use both E-Mail and on-line databases to enhance their own teaching and lesson preparation. There are many on-line facilities aimed at educational use. The cost of these can be high, so the use made should be discretionary. One I have found useful is NEXUS.


NECUX is owned and operated by the South Australian Education Department. It gives access to E-Mail and a large (and growing) number of databases. The cheapest way for interstate users to contact Nexus is via AUSTPAC. This is Telecom's packet switching system.

I have been a regular user of Nexus' databases in the preparation of my lessons.

AAP90/91 /92

AAP90/91 92 are Australian Associated Press newspaper articles for each of these years. As you can imagine the databases are massive. Each can be searched in a variety of ways and the located articles downloaded. When covering a particular topic in class, I search AAP for relevant material and if appropriate, incorporate it in my lessons.

The Macquarie Dictionary database has also been helpful in my teaching, Why not use one off the shelf I hear you ask? The electronic variety allows for subject searching and compilation of all related words. For example, if a study of spiders was being undertaken it is possible to assemble all the words that relate to spiders contained within the Macquarie Dictionary and then download them. This is a great help with topic word study. Try doing that with a dictionary off the shelf.

This is a brief insight into what is being attempted at our school. The activities are carried out in small groups or by individuals. I firmly believe it is an important area for schools to be involved in and an area of computer use that will continue to grow.

Allan Garbutt

Computer Co-ordinator and Year 6 Teacher

Yarra Valley Anglican School