Laptops for disadvantaged school students (Guest Post)

This is the first of many guest posts on this blog. I’ll write an intro and then hand over to my guest.

Laptops have become an ubiquitous part of the high school landscape. Students without one are usually at a disadvantage in accessing learning resources and completing assessments.

A short while back I read an article in The Age that mentioned a program sourcing used laptops from businesses and other organisations (that might otherwise have been sold, or scrapped) and repurposing them for disadvantaged school students. This sounded like a great idea to me!

The program was kicked off by the South East Local Learning and Employment Network (SELLEN), the brainchild of it’s CEO Andrew SImmons. It’s such a great idea it’s now been spun off into its own organisation This is IT.

I happened to know Andrew, so we met up for coffee to see if I might be able to help in any way. (Coffee is my networking fuel. If you want to meet just offer to buy me a coffee… and a Danish, depending on my blood sugar levels at the time!.)

So I leveraged some contacts at Monash University to set up a meeting. The meeting ended with Monash agreeing to supply This is IT with some of their used laptops on an ongoing basis.

A win for SELLEN (and Andrew in particular), a fillip for This is IT, a win for Monash University (in finding a way to further their support of all things educational) and, most importantly, a big win for the kids who’ll benefit from receiving the laptops – a great result for the continuing hard work of all those who’ll make this happen on a day to day basis!

I’ll hand over to Andrew to discuss: the inspiration behind the laptop program, the great work of SELLEN (and now, This is IT) in making it happen, the people involved, and the impact on the kids who benefit from this work.

Andrew Simmons (CEO, SELLEN)

Thanks Theo!

This idea was brewing for a year or so after I heard a young man ask a question of the Minister for Education at a public meeting:

I’m one of three kids being raised by a single parent, I have a laptop (holding it in the air for all to see) but my two younger siblings will start high school soon, and mum can’t afford to buy two more of these. What are you going to do about that?

Anonymous student

When I spoke to a few local school Principals, all of them confirmed the lack of laptops is a major issue in their schools. The Principals said that while they provide loan devices they do not have enough, and students cannot take them home.

I had some “old” (but perfectly serviceable) laptops at home that were not being used. This got me thinking that we could supply students with repurposed second hand laptops… but how could we organise this and where could we find an ongoing supply?

So I met with some local business leaders: Todd Hartley, Simon Whiteley and Tyrone Landsman (organised by South East Business Networks Manager, Sandra George) we further developed the concept and registered a new organisation: This is IT.

We used our networks to source laptops from corporations that would otherwise send them overseas, or have them shredded. Volunteers configured the laptops so they were reset to “as new” for use by the student’s they’d be given to. (In the future, we hope to provide work experience for students in helping re-configure the laptops ready for use.)

In February 2020, we handed out 120 laptops to local students, the first of what we hope will be thousands of laptops.

So, there are multiple issues in this area:

  • A need for laptops by disadvantaged students.
  • Fully depreciated laptops being thrown away and shredded, or sent overseas, or being bundled and auctioned.
  • Bans on electronics being placed in landfill.
  • A need for work experience in the IT sector.
  • A lack of project based work that could be completed by IT students.

and this initiative contributes to solving all these issues.

What we need now is a steady supply of laptops. We are using our current connections to generate interest, but if anyone has laptops they can pass on and/or is interested in being involved in any way, I am more than happy to meet to discuss how you can help (Andrew’s email: andrew “at” ).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *