With the current school year coming into its final stretch, it’s time to start planning and budgeting for next year. We’ve put together these six tips to help you get a jumpstart and make the most of your technology budget for the upcoming year!
1. Take stock of your current resources
Before deciding what new technology you need for next year, make sure that you know exactly what you already have. Do you have several computers in every classroom, or do you have dedicated computer labs shared by multiple classes? Have you have already implemented a 1:1 program? If so, what and how many devices are available for students to use? What online courseware and classroom tools are you currently using? Having a good handle on the resources you already have will help you make effective, sustainable decisions for the future.
2. Let your data do the talking
New tools, apps, and online educational software are coming out all the time. The variety and capability of these tools is impressive. However, just because a tool looks great does not mean that is right for your program. Examine the data that you have on your students to determine what gaps and needs you actually have—whether that’s math practice, literacy skills, or science concepts. A lack of data could be telling as well. For instance, if you find yourself with little formative data on your students, a classroom assessment tool could be a good resource to put your dollars towards. Or, if usage of a certain tool is very low, it may be time to evaluate that solution and see if a better option is available. Once you’ve combed through the data, find an appropriate tool that has been designed to meet those specific needs and proven to foster successful outcomes.
3. Pinpoint where your budget dollars are going
Much like taking stock of the resources you have, it’s important to go into your budget planning process with a solid grasp of where you are currently prioritizing spending. Does tech funding already receive a sizable portion of your total budget, or are other initiatives getting a larger piece of the overall pie? Do you have a significant population or English Language Learners, Title I students, or other groups that are eligible to receive extra funding for specific purposes? To determine if you have been using funds efficiently, it can be helpful to calculate per unit costs (i.e., per student or per teacher) in order to understand the relative magnitude and payoffs of various initiatives.
4. Listen to all of your stakeholders
Every program has a number of stakeholders, including administrators, instructors, students, and parents. The most effective use of your tech budget is to take into account all of their needs. So, get out there and start having conversations. Ask your teachers how they use the technology currently available to them, what they like (and don’t like) about it, and what tools they wish they had. Ask students which programs and devices they enjoy working on, and what they feel has been the most helpful. Ask parents which tools they see their kids taking advantage of, as well as which ones help them feel more connected to their children’s learning. One strategy is to assemble an advisory committee with representatives from all of your stakeholder groups to help you determine funding allocation and goals.
5. There is (buying) power in numbers
The price tag on that edtech tool you’ve been eyeing may not be quite as high as you think. By bundling different products or services from a single provider or purchasing in larger quantities, you may be able to take advantage of discounted prices. Consider reaching out to other schools in your district to see what their technology needs are and if you all may be able to stretch your budgets by making purchases together.
6. Take advantage of all funding opportunities
There are lots of funding opportunities to get technology into your school or classroom. The Office of Education Technology recently published this letter to help educators navigate different sources of federal funding that can be applied towards technology initiatives, including new stipulations under the Every Students Succeeds Act. Many state funding programs also include technology initiatives, and local funding sources tend to be flexible in regard to allowed uses. There are also a number of microfunding opportunities available through organizations like DonorsChoose.org and AdoptAClassroom.org, as well as numerous grants funded by private organizations to help stretch district and classroom budgets.
Want to learn more about how Edmentum can partner with your school or district to provide cost-effective online learning solutions, proven to achieve real results? Check out how our K-12 solutions are empowering student success!