Network computers (NCs) are one of the options being assessed by a Dunedin secondary school establishing a computer network.
Otago Boys' High School is looking for someone to supply and install a complete end-to-end structured cabling system so it can have a computer in every classroom and resource room in the school. It will allow teachers to access their own resources, the Internet and administration information.
Computer manager Peter Foster says the school has three independently networked suites of computers (with 72 Acorn computers), and two small administration networks. He is keen on NCs, largely because of security. "Kids can't do anything to them — they can't alter them or fiddle with them."
He says they are also better at displaying on a TV screen than PCs, but emphasises NCs are just one of the options. "At the moment NCs would appear to fit the bill nicely, but maybe there will be something better when we actually come to buy." He says cabling the whole school will enable the administration centres to be linked together.
"At the moment we use message boys who take messages around the school. With this system we'll be able to send emails to staff members in the classrooms."
It will mean teachers, wherever they are, will be able to access resources such as graphics and text from a file server. "In a sense the computer will become a communications device that will enable teachers to present resources — eventually in the place of videos or overhead projectors."
Eventually teachers with their own Internet connection at home will be able to access and save information from home.
For students, the school will probably have Web pages with resource material they can access from home. "But that's a wee way down the track."
Foster estimates the school will need about 50 new computers, but adds that not all of them will be bought at once. He says the project will happen over the next year. "We'll get the cabling in this year and start adding the computers. Hopefully by the end of 1999, we'll have one in every classroom."
Foster says the school has a fibre-optic backbone distributed from three major patch panels. "The aim is to be able to deliver MPEG-type video, and while we won't be doing that immediately, we want to make sure the system can do it. It could be FDDI (Fibre Distributed-Data Interface), or ATM or a major switching technology."