Alan Terrens was told he was crazy many years ago 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 pupils 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. The previously cutting edge machines find their way to a new home somewhere else in the 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.