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Refurbishing office computers for schools and the community


One of Avondale College's new classroom computing fitouts, combining refurbished CANZ computers and the school's flexible computer furniture and cabling system.

Student:computer ratios at Avondale College improved significantly when 220 additional machines were installed over the summer holidays.

The 2750-roll school now has around 700 computers, giving a ratio of one computer for every 3.9 students – a big improvement though still less than ideal. The latest upgrade was done very cost-effectively with refurbished machines from CANZ recycler, Remarkit Solutions.

The deal worked well for both parties. Remarkit had a large stock of these Compaq computers, which had been donated to the CANZ programme by a government department. The small-form-factor machines had no CD drives and Remarkit had been worried if there was a market for so many of them. Fortunately the machines were ideal for Avondale College, where information from CD-ROMs is read by server computers and distributed to students' machines through the ICT network.

A basic computing requirement for Avondale College is that all computers should run Windows XP and these Pentium III-600 machines do the job adequately.

Ewan Thompson, director of network management for the school and also an ICT teacher, says the new computers have been highly successful and fitted well with the school's computing philosophy.

"We put new high performance machines in specialist areas such as art, music and ICT, and we've always trickled them down to other classrooms until there was no more life in them," Thompson says.

Switch cabinets made from inexpensive plastic clothes boxes.  

"We were starting to have problems with this policy because our oldest machines couldn't run XP. The computers from Remarkit all have XP and that's improved our minimum spec."

The new machines do the school's bread and butter work: "They handle Microsoft Office applications well, and they work well with the Internet, which the students use a lot. They often put assignments together with a combination of browser research, Word and Excel."

The school uses three levels of broadband internet access: most traffic goes through radio provider Compass Communications, while Xtra Jetstream provides backup. E-mail is handled by an older ISDN connection. There is also a developing school intranet which teachers access from home as well as within the school.

Maintaining the ICT network

From Thompson's point of view, the availability of a large number of identical computers was a real attraction.

"We need to keep the costs and hassles of ICT management down. Buying large batches of identical computers means we can treat them all the same way."

"Keeping configurations relatively streamlined is useful as well. We use Ghost imaging and keep the images small."

One of Avondale College's systems for keeping cables tidy - using PVC house spouting.

Avondale College is also able to reduce ICT maintenance costs through a spin-off benefit from the Cisco Networking Academy Programme it runs for year 12 and year 13 students. Students can leave school with a CCNA qualification and some are invited back to further their experience by helping as technicians for the school network – usually for three or four years.

The school has an innovative and low-cost approach to ICT furniture that makes it easier to change classroom configurations. Computer tables, each holding two computers, have built-in cable trays, and network switches in off-the-shelf plastic boxes. The tables can be readily moved around and their switches can be readily hooked into computer outlets installed in each room.

For more information, contact Ewan at


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