6 Ways to Make Edtech Affordable on Any Budget
Posted on July 22, 2016 by Rebecca Sadwick
Most educators have thought about integrating a robust technology program if they haven’t rolled devices out to students already. Although the benefits of technology in the classroom and the need to equip today’s students for the modern workforce are well-documented, schools often cite cost and budget constraints as the reason more technology isn’t yet available to their students and teachers.
While all educators know the limits that budget constraints can have on resources and amenities they’re able to provide, the following five steps can make affording the technology that students and teachers deserve possible for any district regardless of size or budget.
Consider your options and the hidden costs
A thorough cost-benefit analysis of the different options—including up-front costs, expected upkeep (repairs and the expected lifespan of hardware) and necessary accessories—can offer new opportunities for affordability that might not immediately be apparent.
For example, Google Chromebooks are sold for less than $200 and do not require the purchase of additional accessories like keyboards for iPads, which sell for $379 per device and $30-100 for keyboards. (Many state laws require a keyboard to take standardized tests on devices.) Chromebooks are also designed for educational use and are less likely to need expensive repairs, in addition to their longer lifespan. Choosing Chromebooks over iPads could equate to enough savings to purchase twice as many devices.
Target your initiatives
While the benefits of technology in the classroom seem straightforward, it’s important to remember that the core goal of all digital and blended learning programs is to improve student engagement and learning outcomes.
This idea might sound rudimentary, but articulating the impact the technology purchase you’d like to make will have on students can help qualify your school or district for state or federal grants allocated specifically for technology in schools. There are some grants earmarked specifically for Title I schools, schools looking to incorporate computer science programs, and those with innovative designs for using technology in the classroom. By outlining the specifics of your plan, you’ll be eligible for more funds and have a united focus across your school or district before rolling out devices.
Ask for help
It amazes me how often this gets overlooked. Parents, teachers, students and even local shops and vendors can be incredibly energetic and passionate resources to raise funds, devices or support for technology initiatives.
Consider hosting a “device recycling“ drive where families bring old or unused devices to collection sites at your school or local businesses to be sold (or donated). You can sell these unused devices in large numbers to device manufacturers for money or credits for schools to purchase new district-wide technology. Local businesses often will provide a percentage of sales back to your school for each purchase made by families donating devices in their store then purchasing from their business.
Traditional fundraisers are also incredibly effective, including partnering with local businesses to donate a portion of the proceeds earned on a given night to go towards the district’s edtech goals. Students and parents love feeling involved in their school’s initiatives, which increases buy-in and support for tech rollouts when the time comes (and could even lower repair costs by causing students to treat the devices with more respect when they feel like they contributed to their purchase).
Before deciding a certain product is out of reach, talk to the vendor you’re considering to see if there’s any flexibility on their pricing. There might not be—often there are fixed costs associated with providing and servicing products—but there very well could be a way to bring the cost of the product you want within your budget.
Ask an account executive or company representative to explain the full value and all use cases for the products that you’re considering. They’ll often have uses and applications beyond what a quick overview of the product will show, and could have unique or creative applications for specific needs in your schools.
At GoGuardian, we’ve worked with a number of school districts that have creative uses for our products, adding additional value to schools that we didn’t initially anticipate. Some admins and teachers have told us that having GoGuardian installed on students’ devices fundamentally changes the way their classes operate and students learn. They’re able to use “instructional funds” that had a larger remaining balance than their technology funds, to bridge affordability across the categories of their budget that each product was truly impacting.
If you need to justify your proposed expenses to a school board, superintendent or another group, it’s often helpful to frame your proposal in the long-term consequences it can hold. For example, going 1:1 allows students to store and access all of their notes and textbooks online. Online textbooks are typically sold at a much lower cost and can be updated more regularly to offset the need for districts to purchase expensive textbooks at set increments. These books are easier for students to access, keep track of and make notes in without impacting future students.
Devices can also replace some supplies that teachers often pay for out of pocket, as projects and presentations come to be centered on the digital tools at their disposal rather than crafted out of finite, tangible resources that future classes cannot reuse. Although these savings don’t offset the costs to districts, they can have major impacts on teachers and their freedom to assign projects without resource constraints.
Do you have advice for making technology more affordable district-wide? We’d love to hear it!
Rebecca Sadwick is the Director of Marketing at GoGuardian, an edtech software company providing device management solutions that keep students safer online and make teaching easier.
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