Uni and Education Dept open $5.3m ICT centre

After two years in planning and a $5.3 million investment, NSW's Macquarie University and NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) opened a joint venture information and communications technology centre this week.

It is the first time that the NSW DET and a university have established a joint learning facility on a university campus.

The centre is located within Macquarie University's grounds at North Ryde, and will initially see up to 55,000 teachers and students from 112 government schools in the surrounding Ryde and Hornsby education districts trained in the latest information and communications technologies.

Macquarie University's director of IT services, Brian Kissell, who was involved in facilitating the technology preparations for the centre, said about 10 IT professionals from the university worked on preparations for the centre.

"I was involved in liaising with the technology suppliers and working with DET. We also oversaw the cabling for inside the classrooms. There were a few teething problems with the cabling infrastructure, but it has all come together well," Kissell said.

The NSW Minister for Education and Training, John Watkins, who opened the centre, said DET has contributed $3 million to the initiative, with the university adding a further $2.3 million.

The project will be funded over four years, and is designed to operate as a test case for similar centres throughout the state.

Susan Marshall, director of the ICT Centre, DET, said the centre is part of the "Smart Precinct" education initiative, and features contributions from various IT companies including Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Dlink, Electroboard, Hewlett-Packard and Apple.

Kissell said the centre would be working with a number of different technologies including StarOffice and Sun's Sun Rays smartcard technology based on Java.

Sun Microsystems is also providing consulting support services, the back-end infrastructure for the ICT centre, as well as two networks for the schools.

Students from three local schools demonstrated the use of the three learning laboratories at the official opening of the centre, using interactive blackboards connected to computers, and the Internet for videoconferencing use.

Plans are also underway to establish an intranet Web site to share the centre's expertise with all NSW Government schools.

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