Monday, December 26, 2011

MyNotes - Stretching Your Technology Dollar


Doug Johnson has some great advice in this ASCD published article. The question is, will CTO/CIO leaders be smart enough to follow it? 

My favorite pieces of advice:

  1. Budgets ought to be a subset of a larger technology plan that's tied directly to district and school goals.
  2. Not purchasing more technology than a school can regularly maintain, upgrade, and replace.
  3. Purchase the right tool for the right job.
  4. take a serious look at some high-quality software that's now available at no cost, such as open source.
  5. Stop supporting obsolete technologies, such as desktop, rather than web-based, software
  6. If serious, formal training isn't part of your technology budget, don't worry much about the rest of it.

I wish we'd spend a bit more time reflecting on the idea of "purchasing the right tool for the right job." For many of us, it means purchasing the least expensive technology that will get the job done...this philosophy played out in obtaining thin client labs for school libraries where students simply needed access to the Internet, a few desktop apps (not so much anymore) and that was it.

That perspective has changed, though. Instead of purchasing the right tool for the job, it's about purchasing the COOLEST tool for the job (e.g. Android tablet, iPad, iPod Touch). You can track the evolution of what's cool simply by making a list of who gets what technology by when in a school district.

Figuring out who gets what technology by when provides some critical insights into who you believe the school culture REALLY believes ought to be served, where the money will be spent, and how fast that money needs to be spent to achieve cool technology.

If your school district has already deployed iPod Touch, iPads, ask some tough questions:

  1. Who got the technology? Did they really need it, or would have older technologies they had done the job as well?
  2. What technology did they get? Did they get the latest iOS device just as it came out even and how did the usage align with district goals?
  3. When did that technology get purchased and deployed?

I recently had the chance to explore this briefly in a Plurk'd conversation, where folks responded to this question I posed:
Why do iPad advocates buy an iPad ($500), external peripherals like keybrd (>$50) to give the iPad netbook functionality?
The underlying question is, why do we spend so much money on technologies that don't quite "fit" what we want them to do? Some of the responses were fascinating to me, such as:

  • I avoided the keyboard purchase by justifying that if I need to type that bad I can use my full laptop.
  • I use mine in my classroom as a doc camera, interactive whiteboard/slate, etc. I'm not sure I would own one if I wasn't in educ.
  • has there ever been a more polarizing device than the iPad? Truly, it is like any other tool. When used for the right purpose, it shines.
  • This is an interesting discussion. I have 6 laptops and 8 iPads in my classroom. I am frequently frustrated by the limitations of the iPads
  • So many things I like to do with kids, Vokis, Glogster, BitStrips, cannot be done on the iPad, but my principal is big fan so all our money is going towards the iPads. As my laptops die, I guess my projects will too. It's so short sighted.

That's not to say iPads are bad or evil, but the comments--both the positive and negative--reflect a fundamental failure about how technology finds its way into schools today.

Doug's article hints at some powerful thinking and reflection that needs to go on in schools. Failure to do the math, to stretch the technology dollar says something about your organization. And, is that the message you want to send to the Community responsible for making budgeting decisions through the legislative process?

Educational Leadership:The Resourceful School:Stretching Your Technology Dollar
    • Stretching Your Technology Dollar - Doug Johnson
      • As district budgets shrink, technology departments will most certainly be affected. Here are 10 strategies to help you make the most of your technology dollar.
        • 1. Use effective budgeting techniques.
          • Budgets ought to be a subset of a larger technology plan that's tied directly to district and school goals.
            • do zero-based budgeting every year. This means starting from scratch and itemizing every technology expense that the district needs to cover in the coming school year.
              • Include
                • stakeholder input.
                  • Did expending funds in this way have the anticipated result?
                    • Take advantage of the (buying) power of groups.
                      • A sustainable technology practice means
                        • Not purchasing more technology than a school can regularly maintain, upgrade, and replace.
                          • Rotating the technology. Let's give almost everyone a new computer for the price of a single computer lab.
                            • Purchase the right tool for the right job.
                              • To prevent overbuying, I consider these questions:
                                • Is this a job for technology at all?
                                  • What exactly will users do with the equipment?
                                    • Where will the machine be used?
                                      • Will a reconditioned machine serve as well as a new one?
                                        • Could families rather than the school provide this item?
                                          • Take advantage of free software.
                                            • take a serious look at some high-quality software that's now available at no cost. There are basically three types of no-cost software:
                                              • Open-source software uses code that the creator has placed in the public domain and that a large body of users then rewrites and extends. The Linux operating system is probably the most famous open-source product available.
                                                • Minimally featured versions of commercial products are made available by a producer who then hopes that features or capacity available only in the purchased version will sell the software. Animoto and Dropbox work this way.
                                                  • Web-based software applications that derive revenue from advertising are growing in popularity. Yahoo mail uses this economic model.
                                                    • Head to the cloud.
                                                      • Tools such as Google Apps for Education often have a surprisingly full feature set and are compatible with commercial programs.
                                                        • I estimate that by using Google Apps for Education, our district of 7,300 students and 3,000 computers saves about $200,000 a year in hardware, software, storage, printing, and support costs.
                                                          • Enforce standardization through single-point purchasing.
                                                            • I've yet to see one activity, one teaching style, or even one type of schooling that works for everyone.
                                                              • The only way to create such standardization is by having an enforced policy that states that all technology purchases need to be made through a single department.
                                                                • Maximize your E-Rate funding.
                                                                  • Use an E-Rate consultant.
                                                                    • Work with regional telecommunication consortiums.
                                                                      • Save everything.
                                                                        • Take the process seriously.
                                                                          • Lobby your U.S. representative and senators.
                                                                            • Stop supporting obsolete technologies.
                                                                              • You should also be phasing out these obsolescent technologies:
                                                                                • desktop, rather than web-based, software
                                                                                  • Provide sufficient training.
                                                                                    • Technology training has three simple but important components. Every device, application, and system needs to come with instructions on Why it's useful. How to use it. How to use it to support teaching and learning. If serious, formal training isn't part of your technology budget, don't worry much about the rest of it. The shiny things won't get used well anyway.
                                                                                      • Doug Johnson is director of media and technology at Mankato Area Public Schools, Mankato, Minnesota.

                                                                                        1 comment:

                                                                                        doug0077 said...

                                                                                        Hi Miguel,

                                                                                        The mantra that I like to use in our district (as though people actually listen to me HERE) is "Start with the problem, not the technology." If you can clearly delineate what you want to accomplish, the "right tool" is far easier to select. Too many educators start with the new shiny thing and the run around trying to find a use for it. As we say in MN, that's bass-ackwards!


                                                                                        Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude