[ Teaching and Learning Centre ]

The Networked School Community:
Starting from scratch

Roger Atkinson
Murdoch University
Western Australia
Abstract: Many Australian schools have not started using the Internet. This paper suggests some low cost strategies and a sequence of activities for beginners, based upon experiences with initial start ups at many schools in Perth WA.


How can I initiate my school's use of the Internet? Where do I begin? What do I have to learn? How shall I present the case to my colleagues? What equipment do we need and how do we get an Internet gateway? Where are the sources of help? And many other, similar questions....

This paper gives a brief overview, in the context of "starting from scratch", that is with little previous experience of your own, the usual "next to nothing" budget, and no school plan for the venture. However, if your school is past this stage, and does have an Internet plan implemented, or about to begin, please consider the contribution you could make to this conference's discussions. Case studies, in our experience, provide valuable or even essential assistance for teachers in schools where an Internet development has not yet started.

Although my own working environment is Internet services for university teaching and learning, the suggestions here are for the schools sector. This arises because for over four years the hosts I manage at Murdoch University, [cleo and carmen], have provided community access to the Internet, mainly for school teachers in our geographic region of Perth in Western Australia. The community access program for teachers is a modest contribution to regional dissemination of the Internet. Being confined mainly to providing low cost access via modem, with user induction and support services, its role has been as a "do it yourself" professional development exercise.

If we divide the development of infrastructure for a school's Internet access into two main phases, which relate also to stages in developing techniques, purposes and outcomes, our community access program is primarily a contributor to the first phase:

Planning for the Internet

How much can you do towards a school's Internet plan, under the first phase of using just one or several modem connections? Our experience in Perth with community access (Atkinson, 1995) suggests that a considerable amount can be achieved, including all of the most fundamental stages. Here is one way of listing what can be done and classifying the stages:
  1. Professional development - your own. You have to acquire user skills, experience with modems, slip/ppp software and applications such as email handlers and web page readers, and a knowledge of the Internet services best related to your school's context. Without that preparation, how can you progress to stage 2?

  2. Professional development - all staff. With your own experience secured, and perhaps with several collaborators, the next stage is to disseminate to all of your school's staff. This is a prerequisite for stage 3, in which the various subject groups and activity groups within the school's staff will acquire an "ownership", by virtue of their own experience and by their own preparation for stage 3.

  3. School plans for curriculum enhancement using Internet access. After the first two stages, this stage may include teachers using Internet access to support lesson preparation, using Internet services as an extension of library activities, followed by some limited trials with classroom based activities and pupil participation.

  4. School plans for Internet access - the infrastructure of network and computer facilities. This includes local area network, desktop computers and their locations and functions, local host, gateway provider, how to connect to the gateway provider, and how to provide larger scale maintenance and specialist staffing.

  5. School plans and budgets for equipment, maintenance, gateway provider and training. The first phase, using one to several modem connections, may be very economical with funds and may enable much progress with stages 1 to 4 (though it may cost you dearly in the time you put into it). However, eventually you will have to raise funds to enable the scale-up to the second phase, connecting a school local area network ("LAN") to an Internet gateway. Stages 1 to 4 don't provide you with funds, just a proven and documented basis for chasing funds!

Some examples of what you can do

In Western Australian, schools in both the public and private sectors have had to make individual efforts to develop their Internet strategies, in the absence of effort by central coordinating bodies. This is not necessarily a disadvantage, as a rich variety of techniques and experiences with "phase 1" have emerged. A few are outlined below, and I hope that conference participants will suggest many more:


Atkinson, R. (1995). Internet access for schools via cleo.murdoch.edu.au. In R. Oliver and M. Wild (Eds), Learning without limits. Proceedings of the Australian Computers in Education Conference 1995, Perth, 10-13 July, Vol.1, 99-109. Perth: ECAWA. http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/confs/atkinson-acec95.html

Rehn, G. and Atkinson, R. (1996). Remote access to the Internet. In McBeath, C. & Atkinson, R. (eds), The learning superhighway. New world? New worries?, 345-354. Proceedings of the Third Interactive Multimedia Symposium. Perth: Promaco Conventions. http://www.ascilite.org.au/aset-archives/confs/iims/1996/ry/rehn.html

Text and html author: Dr Roger Atkinson is Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology, in the Teaching and Learning Centre (previously Academic Services Unit), at Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150, Australia. Email: atkinson@cleo.murdoch.edu.au Phone +61 8 9360 6840 fax +61 8 9310 4929.

His main work is in techniques and systems for using the Internet and computer mediated learning in tertiary education. He manages the hosts cleo and carmen providing web server, list server and experimental services. Sites on cleo include ASET for the Australian Society for Educational Technology, echalk for WA schools, and trdev-aus for the vocational education and training sector.

Please cite as: Atkinson, R. (1997). The Networked School Community: Starting from scratch. Australian Council for Educational Administration Virtual Conference 16-30 July. http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/confs/atkinson-acea97.html

[ Teaching and Learning Centre ]
Created July 1997. Last revised 3 Sep 2002. Author: Roger Atkinson [atkinson@cleo.murdoch.edu.au]
This URL (last corrected 6 June 2009): http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/confs/atkinson-acea97.html
Previous URL3 Sep 2002 to 6 June 2009: http://www.users.bigpond.com/rjatkinson/pubs/confs/atkinson-acea97.html
Previous URL Jul 1999 to 3 Sep 2002: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/asu/edtech/pubs/atkinson/atkinson-acea97.html