Tough Economic Times Call for Innovative Actions from Educators

Teachers are remaking their lesson plans for more budget-friendly, technologically advanced programs.

From the Editor

Tough Times Call for Innovative Actions

 

Ryan Petersen

There is no question that the country is in the throes of very challenging economic times. We all have to tighten our belts and make the most of our budgets. Yet for school districts, there is a difficult balance between controlling spending and still providing a 21st-century learning experience for students.

There is no question that the country is in the throes of very challenging economic times. We all have to tighten our belts and make the most of our budgets. Yet for school districts, there is a difficult balance between controlling spending and still providing a 21st-century learning experience for students.

From coast to coast, school districts are facing tough decisions, such as whether to cut educational programs or eliminate staff. But some schools have taken the opportunity to reevaluate how they spend their money, and are improving the learning experience in the process.

{mosloadposition mpu}

In some districts, one budgetary blessing has been the creation of student help desks. These programs provide students with an opportunity to learn technology skills in a workplace setting while helping to ease the workload of IT departments that can’t afford to hire additional staff.

At Cartwright School District in Phoenix, for example, the IT department works with third- to eighth-grade students who have a knack for technology. In return, the young apprentices alleviate some of the IT staff’s workload by tackling minor technology issues throughout the school. This provides the students with an opportunity to improve their communication and problem-solving skills while learning about technology from experts in the field.

“Our goal is to have about 20 or more [student technology apprentices] in each school,” says Rosalina Escandon, a teacher on special assignment for technology training at Cartwright School District. “One of them can usually be spared for a few minutes to solve a problem.”

There are limits to the tech support that the students can provide; they can’t solve every problem. Still, the student apprentices do free up time for the staff to focus on major IT issues. For more about how to develop and manage a student help desk, turn to Page 28.

While some schools are battling budget issues from inside their walls, others are optimizing resources in different ways. Wilson County Schools in Tennessee is currently implementing a distance learning program. Videoconferencing technology allows Wilson County’s teachers to provide instruction to students in their classrooms while also teaching students at other schools in the district.

The program helps keep students at small, rural schools on a level playing field with students who have access to a greater variety of classes at larger schools. It also aids in containing costs because the school district doesn’t need to hire additional teachers for special subjects. For more on how Wilson County Schools, Florida Virtual School and Charlotte County Public Schools in Florida are making the most of their resources through distance learning programs, see Page 32.

These innovations show that even during tough economic times, neither educational integrity nor technological advantage needs to be sacrificed. In fact, as these schools have shown, they can even be improved upon.

Distance Learning Gains Traction in High Schools

More than 700,000 high school students are currently taking at least one course online. Nearly 40 states have established statewide or state-led virtual schools. ● In 2007, Michigan became the first state to require high school students to take at least one online course for graduation.

Source: United States Distance Learning Association (November 2008)

Jan 07 2009

Sponsors