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Internet and Schools
What can the Internet do for your school?

A few years ago I talking to our head of humanities faculty who had just returned from an examination board meeting. At that meeting, they had discussed the standardization of geography course work. He had displayed some of our pupil's work there and had found their reaction to it remarkable.
 "Where on earth did they get the information this work is based on?", was the question.

 His answer, of course, was "The Internet." And so it is - using Internet pupils can search for information on a wide range of topics. The information they will obtain will be found more recent than your most up to date text books. Their problem will be, not that of obtaining the information, but rather a surplus of it.

Today the Internet is taken for granted in schools. If you are in the UK the National Curriculum will insist that your pupils demonstrate their use of the Internet. Using Internet your school will have access to a library greater than the sum total of the public libraries in your area.

Using Internet your pupils can consult with eminent authority to obtain the answers to their questions and at the same time improve their communications skills.

Using Internet your pupils should learn to ask questions, thinking first of exactly what they wish to know.

Using Internet your pupils can have 'fun' - so much so that even the most recalcitrant will be found, in their breaks or after school, working on their projects.

So what will we need to use Internet?

I'll give you two answers, your solution will fit somewhere between the two:
IF you need to know the meaning of a word which is underlined just point at it - click it for more details.


A computer, monitor, keyboard , mouse and a printer A networked room full of computer workstations, a file server, cabling, 'switches' and networked printer.
A work desk with sufficient space to use the computer and to write. Ergonomically designed computer furniture 
A telephone line An ADSL telephone line , a leased line or a networked Internet connection.
A modem router
An Information Service Provider (ISP) account - unlimited access - local telephone call charges. An Information Service Provider (ISP) account - unlimited access - multiple users.
  A block of IP addresses, one for each computer and the router.
A free web site - (initially you can use someone else's)  A web site with your own domain name
Browser software - It's free Browser software - it's free

How about Internet Safety?
Children being children, you can expect them to be naturally curious and to investigate every site you don't want them to look at. Now if you don't want your school to appear on the front page of the Sunday media as a school promoting pornography/gambling/ilegal activities then you have to take steps to keep the Internet a source of information rather than trouble. In my own school this involves several steps.

  1. Our first line of defense is the local authorities filtering service. This takes out several well known 'unsuitable' sites but really only scratches the surface. It fails to block a vast number of sites which should be blocked and blocks many which should not. To give you an idea of how useful it is - when we first started using it we found that the government's education website was blocked as being a 'Sex site'
  2. Our second line of defense is a local proxy server on which we run fitering software. It has a blacklist of unsuitable and time wasting websites which we know are effective because so many pupils complain they can't get to them!
  3. Our third line of defense is a wonderful piece of hardware which plugs into our network called Securus. All client workstations run a transparent 'client' service and the Securus server monitors everything that goes on on our network. It does not block anything it just records every attempt to find unsuitable material, keeps a record of every website visited by each user and even monitors work typed in other applications other than web browsers. The pupils know it's there and can't get rid of it. They know what it records and that acion is taken against violators.
  4. Our final line of defense is our Internet Policy. We are deliberately vague about what's not allowed - we just say 'If you wouldn't look at it with a teacher next to you - it's banned!'. Offenders are recorded by Securus which takes a screen shot of violations for use as evidence. The result is an Internet ban which ranges from a one month period to a one year period depending on severity. A severe case would be discussed with the pupil by his/her head of year, parents, the head teacher or school govenors!


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