Jul 10 2012

Finding and Funding the Tech that Schools Need for 2012–13

How IT departments are spending their summer months (and district dollars) to ready classrooms and programming for the upcoming school year.

Where has the summer gone? It's already time to start thinking about the upcoming school year. Or is it? For many of you, thinking about next year started several months ago while ­identifying your school's ­technology needs, deciding on budgets, researching products, and planning, designing and implementing the technology. Summer is no time to relax — it's a chance to dig in and get some work done.

Much of this issue focuses on the technologies that schools are implementing in preparation for the year ahead and the innovative ways in which they fund their purchases and programming. Our feature story on back-to-school basics highlights several classroom technologies that will address schools' most pressing needs.

Ocean Township School District in Waretown, N.J., for example, has rolled out a pilot program of Amazon Kindle Fire tablets. To pay for the 100 devices, the district used money that was earmarked for textbooks. "We can buy a book for $4.99. Some publishers allow us to ­deploy them in five Kindles. Some don't have limitations," says Dr. Christopher Lommerin, superintendent of schools. The district will continue to use print textbooks for the foreseeable future, but the cost savings from the e-books will help the district's bottom line. "It'll be a cost-saving device as time goes by," he adds.

IT staff and ­educators around the country say interactive projectors, convertible tablet PCs and virtual clients also top their back-to-school shopping lists — and explain why. An accompanying product showcase offers a peek at five additional technologies that can enliven classroom learning this fall.

Cash Crops

Finding the money to pay for technology is never easy, but schools are tackling that issue in increasingly creative ways. Springfield Elementary School in Georgia, for example, has earned about $1,000 to pay for technology over the past decade, simply by collecting used ink cartridges and cell phones from stakeholders and then sending them to FundingFactory, a fundraising program administered by Environmental Reclamation Services. Read about the school's process of turning trash to treasure.

As more districts step up their STEM programming to better train students for careers in these fields, they are finding that the competition for funding can be fierce. Efforts by the Lancaster (Calif.) School District and others provide model examples for setting fundraising plans, identifying likely funding sources and making the transition from program launch funds to long-term resources. Learn more in our feature story.