For any school looking to innovate, one of the first things to consider is whether or not the school has robust and pervasive Wi-Fi. This kind of infrastructure is key to finding success with education technology.
But schools don’t need to break their budgets on an infrastructure upgrade. With proper planning and some funding, school districts can be on their way to maximizing educational technology.
Here are three steps district leaders interested in upgrading infrastructure can take to get on the path toward tech innovation:
1. Seek Out E-Rate Funding
One way that school districts can easily stay on budget when updating networking infrastructure is with help from the E-rate program. The Federal Communications Commission program awards discounts through the Universal Service Fund for schools and libraries attempting to upgrade their telecommunications and internet access.
E-rate provides up to an 85 percent discount on Category 2 equipment, which includes internal infrastructure equipment. This can cover everything from routers to switches and access points.
Since E-rate is a need-based program, it provides schools with particularly tighter budgets an opportunity they might not otherwise have to expand their networks and/or wireless infrastructure.
For more on the forms, deadlines and other E-rate information, check out our E-rate content hub.
2. Craft a Long-Term Tech Plan
As school leaders craft their E-rate requests, they need to create a detailed list of what they would like to upgrade. The best first step is to sit down and look at all of the technology needs for the school. Look at the whole picture and really make decisions about what’s important and what’s going to most impact education.
If school administrators don’t have a holistic picture and they are just knocking down things as they come, they will be far less likely to receive E-rate funding. And if they do receive funding, it’s unlikely they’ll effectively utilize it. It’s important that leaders outline a three-to-five-year technology plan to maximize the funding they receive.
3. Revisit Technology Plans Annually
While school administrators should plan for three to five years out, they should revisit the plan every year, as the networking needs for emerging technologies might be different than their original plan. After the first year, they should reevaluate if they are still on the right path and if the five-year goal they set the year before is still the end goal.
Districts need to reevaluate each year because classroom technology is always evolving. School administrators may decide they need faster internet speeds to keep up with these technologies than they originally thought.
Planning and evaluating are especially important steps for budget-conscious schools that want to get the most out of each dollar they spend on technology. By mapping out their technology plans from the ground up, administrators and IT staff can be sure their schools are ready for innovative tech as it comes.
This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.