By Anna Maxin
The perception of technology in the classroom has evolved from being an unproven cost to a learning enabler, prompting large increases in IT hardware investments in classrooms across the country. Learning now takes place in a blended environment, utilizing both physical and virtual materials daily. Unfortunately, while we’ve had a pedagogical shift of how technology should be incorporated in the classroom, many operational practices have been overlooked, not enabling the efficient acquisition and management for high-tech infrastructure and learning devices.
It is important to build awareness and re-align budgeting and reporting practices to build the case for the purchase of more technology items and infrastructure. The following operational best practices should be worked into your plan to achieve your strategic educational goals.
It is key to build a line item in the budget associated with technology capital expenditures in support of the infrastructure of instructional programs within the district. The lack of capital funds for vital technology (AC power, High Speed Internet Access, etc.) can reduce efficiency and result in an overall lag in technology progress. Choosing to neglect infrastructure planning will result in needing to play catchup to achieve today’s connected learning environment standards.
Technology Refresh Funding
Refresh funds for replacing broken and old technology within the district is key for a long-term, sustainable technology plan. Technology is inevitably going to change, and items are inevitably going to stop functioning. It is important to incrementally increase the budgetary line item associated with technology refreshes. Start small by creating a baseline for technology replacements that aligns with your long-term instructional technology vision.
Monitor Campus Technology Penetration
Closely monitor the distribution of federal funds for technology at each campus across the district to make sure there isn’t inequity regarding available technology for instructional use. For instance, campuses eligible for Title I funding may have substantially higher technology penetration compared to those ineligible. Utilizing a planned increase in both capital funds and refresh funds, as well as having reliable data to continually monitor assigned inventory and rank their instructional technology programs will lead to a more equal distribution of technology across a school district.
District Centralization is the Missing Link
District oversight is a must for the above budgeting practices to be implemented and executed upon. Many districts currently give purchasing power to the school Principal, pulling from individual campus funds for their technology purchases. This decentralized strategy can lead to a number of negative effects, from an inconsistency in products purchased, to a lack of purchasing power that increases costs. On top of this, it becomes exponentially harder to implement, forecast and monitor the above recommended budgeting practices, leading to fewer data-driven decisions from the district, and more students without the needed technology resources for a quality, equitable education.
What is your district doing to enable better technology budgeting and purchasing practices? Please share your thoughts/comments.