Sunday, January 9, 2011

6 Ways to Stretch Your School or District Technology Budget

If your state is like mine, your district is facing massive budget cuts. Technology budgets are not likely to escape the knife either, but if we want to maintain being 21st century leaders in our schools, we need to find ways to get the most out of our technology dollars. Too often, administrators turn to cutting support staff and new technology purchases. If your district is like ours, the IT department already has a full plate. Cutting new technology purchases also can hamper innovation and experimentation. There are places to consider when stretching your Tech budget. Here’s my six suggestions for stretching your district or school technology funds.

1. Consider using open source software rather than purchasing more proprietary software. For example, instead of forking out 55 dollars for those new Microsoft Office licenses, just use Open Office instead. Or, just don’t purchase the 2010 Microsoft Office Suite. Honestly, I’ve used it, and there just isn’t enough added functionality to warrant an upgrade from Office 2007. School systems can save a great deal of money by getting rid of the thinking that every time a software comes out with a new version, it needs to be purchased.

2. Consider using cloud applications instead of desktop or server applications. Our school district saved considerably by switching to Gmail rather than using Microsoft Exchange and running our own server. Our Technology department is now free to focus on other issues rather than trying to keep an email server operating. Also, our system now has access to Google Apps, which reduces the need for many other applications.

3. Use In-district staff for technology staff development rather than looking outside your district. If your district is like ours, you have experts using technology in their classrooms. Instead of looking for expensive outside staff development, get your best tech savvy teachers and staff to conduct staff development sessions. Our school system did that very thing last summer and it was an amazing success.

4. Develop policies and procedures that allow students to use their own electronic devices in schools. Trying to maintain that all important student to computer ratio is an expensive undertaking. Many of our students already have the laptops and other devices. Consider providing them with wifi access so that they can use their own devices for Internet activities.

5. Use free or low-cost web 2.0 applications as much as possible. There are still tons of free and low-cost web 2.0 tools for use in the classroom. For example, there’s blogger for blogging and Edmodo is a great free social media solution. Even if you find yourself paying for a web 2.0 solution, they are still much cheaper than trying to find software to be installed on your district or school network. Take advantage of Web 2.0.

6. Use solutions like Dropbox to avoid having to purchase flashdrives and other data storage devices. I vote think that Dropbox is one of the best web products of last year. There is absolutely no need to use a flash drive or any other storage device as long as you use this product. Web products like this one are being introduced all the time, so it really pays to be aware of what is available. Look for any solutions that prevent having to purchase additional hard ware.

Obviously there are even more ways to stretch tech budgets. What do you see as some additional ways to keep your school and district on the cutting edge of technology for less money? Feel free to share.


  1. John,
    I loved your input here and the advice you give to districts. I have a question, and I am thinking from the perspective of a nay-sayer: How do you as a principal or how has your district addressed the concern of "control" especially in relationship to number 4. I here that issue all the time as I travel the state talking to principals and supers about the virtual advantage in NCVPS. Tech departments often jump to the concern of control. What advice do you have regarding that issue? Thanks.

  2. We have a personal electronic device procedure that we developed to deal with security and Internet safety issues. Students only have Wifi Internet access. They do not have access to other network resources. Our procedure specifies what students need to do to get the access, reminds them AUP rules still apply, and the consequences should they violate those rules. As far as concern over "control" we had that conversation, and truth be told, administrators are already losing that "control" as more and more students engage in the use of smart phones and other 3G devices. Also, the 3G hotspots are also going to make control even more difficult. Our IT department is fully behind this. The procedure we wrote specifies that students use the network at their own risk and that our IT support will not provide tech support for students who use their own computers. Teachers and staff will monitor students as they use the devices on campus, and if a student accesses something inappropriate, their device will be confiscated and their parents called to pick up the device. I suppose the bottom line, administrators and IT departments need to give up on the idea of control and work toward monitoring. The key to success in this endeavor is going to be staff monitoring and my teachers are all for this.

  3. I might also add that I can send a copy of our Personal Electronic Device Procedure to anyone who is interested. Just shoot me an email.

  4. Thank you for your honesty and professionalism. I absolutely agree with your thoughts. I really applaud your district for having the conversation and then creating solutions to overcome that barrier. I wish more principals would tackle that conversation and look at other ways, more creative ways to connect students. I will shoot you an e-mail to request your PEDP (ahh, another acronym:))). Have a great day. Still loving your blog. Keep it up.