How times have changed. Where once the idea of children learning to use a computer was laughable, now they are entering schools offering the latest systems and networks. Computer literacy and availability is a laughing matter no more. Education is a big money market.
Alan Terrens knows all about it - he's seen both sides of the picture.
Many years ago, Terrens was told he was crazy when he asked his then head teacher to introduce four-year-olds to pre-DOS programming. Now the principal of Park Ridge Primary School in Melbourne is running an optical fibre network of 240 PCs across 35 classrooms, an electronic library and an administration block.
The school has seven servers, printers in every classroom, a 1.5MB pipe to deal with heavy traffic, Internet, intranet, a Web page and 20 notebooks that can be operated wirelessly from anywhere in the school.
His 950 children are aged between four and 12 and contrary to popular belief it is the youngsters that eat most of his bandwidth.
“People are always surprised that our network is so sophisticated but primary school software, especially for the younger children, is horrendously bandwidth consumptive because it has very high video, audio and interactive content,” Terrens said.
“As students progress through school they use more word processing, spreadsheet and database applications stuff. It is usually the same with business networks but infant programs are intensely interactive.
"I was on the selection panel for a statewide technician program for schools and it was quite an eye opener for these guys. They were amazed by the level of network sophistication they were being asked to work with and many had to have onsite training.
"Education is a huge IT market with burgeoning needs. Bandwidth will continue to be a big issue in the future, especially in exploiting the huge potential of wireless connections.”
Park Ridge is constantly upgrading its IT equipment through Victorian reseller Nilsen, which it has worked hand-in-hand with since starting on the road to technological enlightenment in the mid-1990s. The latest equipment is installed in the science labs during every upgrade and the previously cutting edge machines find their way to a new home somewhere else in the seemingly endless school network.
Teachers from new schools often look at the Park Ridge IT equipment before reporting back to their own bosses on the best way to proceed.
“We spent a lot of money putting the right infrastructure in place before we even bought a PC and that is paying dividends now,” Terrens said. “Lots of my colleagues try to save dollars without evaluating the quality of the equipment they are getting and the service levels behind it.
"I have been happy with our interaction with Nilsen, which is not to say we haven’t had issues, but there have been times where they have come up with ways to save me money after I had committed to a more expensive option. That is the kind of attitude you look for.”
This story appears as part of a special report on selling into the education vertical appearing in this week's ARN.