EduNet 97: St Michael's Grammar

Friday 18 April - Session C - 2.00pm to 3.30pm

School connection and access use policy

William Taylor, Somerset College, Queensland


Computer technology and usage is fast changing. What was a source of fear and hyperbole (usually a conversion of fear of the unknown and of change) boils off transiting through reasoned concern to tacit acknowledgment, the vapours of the furore dissipating into history. Policy needs to change to be relevant and needs to be relevant to be acceptable.

The paper presents an overview our system and instances of use and occasional abuse which have contributed to an information system usage policy. There are some "innovations" in our system which you may find rather unique.


Policy, who needs it?

The computer use policy has been developed a considerable time after the advent of computers at Somerset College. The need for the policy was not and is still not pressing and I am concerned that a particular policy for "computers" shifts focus from people and implies a special existence for computers different from other technologies such as video recorders and telephones. As computers become more integrated into the the typical tools used by staff, students and the community, the need for a special policy becomes less important and consistency with common sense use of school facilities in general becomes more relevant. In my experience, policy is devised to protect against liabilities, to set guidelines for acceptable and expedient use and to define abuse and consequent penalties.

Administration staff use computers in a typical business environment, users have their own or a preferred workplace and use programs in a repetitive way. There is limited tinkering with configuration, the staff have a form of ownership of their computers and software, there is an implicit "duty of care" and claim to unique usage. In laboratories, classrooms and, to a lesser extent the library, the situation does not resemble business style use. There is in general no ownership of a particular place or computer, users change often, levels of expertise and purposes for use vary with each person. There is no guarantee that the previous user has left the computer in a stable or familiar mode. Personalising a computer is fruitless as it may be undone by the next user and probably raise the ire of technical staff. In this environment, problems associated with the operation of the facilities are not owned by any user and quickly escalate as students are wont to tinker with configurations and experiment, this manifests itself as herds of would be hackers stampeding through the network, maddened by the latest fad or feature.

Anecdotal support for the difference in usage between administration and classroom comes from the ubiquitous look of perplexed terror on the faces of would be consultants whose business world view is suddenly cast into sharp relief as a serene eddy when confronted with the chaotic tides in which student users prowl. The latter environment is a learning environment and although sometimes the learning is more "self directed" than I would like, it is preferable that experimenting and tinkering be allowed, (yeh even unto the configuration of the operating system), than forbidden by technical guile or policy. There needs to be some element of self preservation and predictability for the hard pressed staff, but wherever practical users should be given a free reign.

To summarise: The reason for having a policy is to provide guidelines based on expediency and experience to provide a relatively stable and happy learning environment for users and administrators. Our policy should allow and suggest rather than forbid, and where it forbids, penalties and reasons should be given, the emphasis being self discipline. The policy should contain only what is necessary, as with any legal document, be reviewed frequently and made known to all concerned.

Description of our system

  • 130 odd Macintosh, 50 odd Windows 3.11 and 95 workstations
  • 3 AppleShare Servers 1 Netware 3.12 and 1 Netware 4 server all interconnected into a main 10 zone network with cd tower and assorted printers.
  • Separate Windows NT, Netware Lite, Pick and DG systems.
  • Internet: 2 web servers (one for development), two routers
  • Protocols on main network: TCP/IP,AppleTalk, IPX , NetBEUI. Web browser provides standard interface across platforms and from outside school
  • Dial in/out supporting TCP/IP via PPP (4 lines) and ARA via a separate line and permanent ISDN allows main network access to internet, client access to school intranet and Remote control of workstations and therefore networked resources.

    Client access to the system

    Specific Considerations in System and Policy Development

    The above not withstanding here is a draft contract we have considered using:


    Please return this form to your house tutor
    I understand and will abide by the above Conditions, Rules and Acceptable Use Policy. I further understand that any violation of the above Conditions, Rules, and Acceptable Use Policy is unethical and may constitute a criminal offence. Should I commit any violation, my access privileges may be revoked, and disciplinary and/or legal action may be taken.

    Date: _________________


    Signature: ______________

    Parent Or Guardian: If you are under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must read and sign this agreement.) As the parent or guardian of this student, I have read the acceptable use policy. I understand that this access is intended exclusively for education purposes. I also recognise that it is impossible to restrict access to all controversial materials. I hereby give permission for my child to be given access to electronic communication networks including the internet.

    Date: ________________

    Parent Or Guardian: ________________

    Signature: ________________

    Go to our Acceptable computer use policy

    or the Somerset College Home Page