Across the globe:
Leading, linking, learning

Leigh - Casting the Net: Finding Boundless Riches

Gabrielle Leigh, Australia

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ms Gabrielle Leigh is Principal of Greensborough Primary School, in Melbourne, Australia. She is also a doctoral student of the University of Western Sydney, in New South Wales. For further details about ‘Casting the Net’, telephone Greensborough Primary School at: Int. + 61 3 9435 1496. Email Marg Carisbrooke at:
margc@mira.net Email Gabrielle Leigh at: gleigh@mira.net.

What's in a name? The image of a fisherman adrift in a boat, casting his net to see what riches lie in the deep blue sea below. An analogy can be found in the Casting the Net Internet skilling program at Greensborough Primary School, in Victoria, Australia.

Participants, through the Internet, cast off into cyberspace for a voyage of discovery and learning. An Internet journey provides a multitude of riches and connections from all over the globe.

The Program’s Origins
The Casting the Net idea originated from a program initiated on the other side of the world, in Georgia USA, inspired by Dr Edward Bouie. An innovative offshoot can be found at Neil Street Carlton Primary School, in Melbourne, under the leadership of Anne Harding. Her local multicultural community was coming back to school wanting computer skills. In particular, they were interested in gaining access to the Internet. What a way for a school to establish and create a sense of community in the middle of the city!

Internet-Skilling for Parents
Filled with courage and purpose, the Education Technology Coordinator at Greensborough Primary School, Marg Carisbrooke, volunteered to create an Internet skilling course for parents and community members. Fortuitously, Skills.net funding from the Victorian Government was available. An application to access extra resources and assist in community skilling was immediately sent to VICNET.

Flooded with success the school was awarded additional resources to prepare for community courses about the Internet and multimedia. The boat was launched and the net prepared.

The voyage has been fascinating. With funding, support and inspiration from the Skills.net team, the project has become a reality. In eight months, over fifty people have already participated in the program. Discoveries and stories about the journey into cyberspace radiate from the learning groups. The participants are adding a rich context to the student learning environment.

Casting the Net has been working initially with school community members who do not have Internet access. The children are very proud of their parents coming to school on a Saturday, or after school, to learn about the Internet. At the school assembly, when the certificates are presented, there is a loud round of applause.

There is one specific requirement, which the school expects in return for free attendance of the course, which involves five hours training and ten hours of additional access using the schools computer facility and local expertise.

Volunteer Time in Return
The one condition is that each participant donates six hours of volunteer time to the school. This serves to strengthen the link between the local community and the school. The notion of two-way communication is established.

One aim of Casting the Net is to increase local community awareness of the Internet, and especially email. Specifically, the course covers an introduction to the Internet, searching, downloading, installing files, chat, newsgroups, etc., and an introduction to email. The participants are given a reference folder with key information.

Small groups of ten to fourteen people sit and work in the laboratory on the school’s networked computers. They can work at their own pace and complete follow-up activities at work, or in other connected public facilities. The participants want to learn about the Internet for a variety of reasons.

Excellent use of Greensborough Primary School’s ideal geographical position, in the hub of the community, has been made. The school’s extensive computer network has been optimised for all to use. The skills of the teachers have been shared with the community and, in return, the community has brought additional knowledge and skills back into the school context. There is a real community of learners at Greensborough Primary School.

Learning for the Whole Community
The school actively promotes access and success in learning. The project serves to assist the quality of learning in the Greensborough community. Other target groups are the senior citizens and the young parents at home. An invaluable link has been created between the school and its community. So, leaders, cast your nets and see what treasures lie in the oceans surrounding your schools.

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