3 Ways Schools Can Fund Education Technology

Technology Funding

Image via Flickr by CTSI-Global

There’s no question that technology is fundamentally changing the way we teach and learn. But increasing technological ubiquity doesn’t mean equality in terms of access and quality.

For those on the more privileged side of the digital divide, it’s easy to take access to personal computers, tablets, smartphones and the internet for granted. But many teachers have seen how much that same level of access doesn’t apply to their students.

In Pew’s 2012 study on the digital divide in education, only 54% of teachers of low-income students reported that students had enough access to technology at school. The Atlantic recently reported that only 39% of public schools have wireless internet available throughout the school building.

Teachers have been making do without computers and the internet for centuries, so one could easily argue that technology isn’t a requirement for a good education. While that’s true up to a point, we all live in a world in which digital literacy is a crucial skill. Familiarity with technology has a direct relationship with the opportunities available to a person. Even more concerning: as curriculum developers move increasingly digital, the best options exist more and more solely in this realm — a trend that will increasingly limit the number of good options for non-digital curriculum solutions.

Also important to consider is the presence of a digital divide within single classrooms between students. While many are pointing to the ubiquity of smartphones even amongst low-income students as a BYOD solution to tech implementation challenges, it can’t be said that a student with a slow-to-load smartphone from 2008 is having the same full-bodied experience as a student who is learning on a brand new MacBook Pro.

As it is, many of these low-income schools and students already face budget cuts and teacher layoffs. Everyone can agree that more tech would be nice to have, but how can schools pay for it without cutting more important services elsewhere?

3 Ways Schools Can Fund More Tech

Each of the options suggested here involve a significant amount of work and chance. Still, if you (and the administrators and parents in your school district) believe that greater access to technology is important to your students’ educational experiences, then the extra work involved should be well worth it.

1.    Grants

Grants are one of the most common and practical resources school districts and educators turn to for funding tech initiatives. The only real downsides of relying on grants are:

  •      The application process can be slow and tedious – and there are no guarantees it will pay off.
  •      They’re a one-time payment. Once the money’s gone, you have to go back to applying for more grants (or keep doing so continually so the money never dries up).

Any school that would like to make use of grants for ongoing tech programs should probably consider hiring a full-time grant writer, which is of course its own expense. But the number of grants available to schools and the amount of time it takes to research and apply for them could mean the investment in a grant writer pays for itself pretty quickly.

You can find many of the grants that are available collected on a few main websites:

  •     Edutopia’s Big List of Educational Grants and Resources – The page is regularly updated with new grants, and also includes a list of contests and awards that could pay off.
  •     NEA Foundation Grants – The National Educational Association has awarded over $7 million in grants to educators over the past 10 years. They offer $2,000 and $5,000 grants for projects in a variety of categories.
  •     Grants.gov – This is the big database of all grants available for the government, so many of them won’t be relevant to education. But you can search and browse to hone in on the ones that are.
  •     Grants Alert – This website has a listing of grants with upcoming deadlines that you can narrow by grant type or state, if you choose.

2.    Ballot Initiatives

Many school districts have found success with this one, but it’s definitely trickier than the others. You need the cooperation of local politicians first, and then the support of local citizens as well. While few people happily welcome higher taxes, education is one of those issues many citizens agree is a good investment — though perhaps not as many as should.

An upside to this method is that you can often get funding that’s a little more long-term than what you get with grants (although the bill would likely need to be re-approved by voters some years down the line).  And once the money is approved, the school district can work with teachers to figure out the most useful tech tools for it to go to.

The downside is that, of course, politics can be messy and if taxpayer money is funding your tech, you can expect greater scrutiny and opinionated locals. You’ll need to be ready to defend your choices, and track and show results.

3.    Business Partnerships

Smart business people recognize the direct link between education quality and the economy – students that are smart and know technology will make good business people down the line. They stand to benefit from schools having the tools they need to help students learn better.

Some businesses that have figured this out have shown a willingness to work with schools to help fund some of the technology they need. The most common form this takes is offering educational discounts for relevant products, but it can also extend to:

  •     Working together on a pilot program in which schools get to use products for free (or especially cheap) and businesses get to test out how well they work and/or gain some data from them.
  •      Companies helping to fund schools directly, like IBM’s involvement with P-Tech, a school in Brooklyn that emphasizes teaching students technology.
  •      Businesses helping to fund computer labs, technology centers, or other types of tech initiatives.

These partnerships can be good for business, as well as for the students that gain greater access to technology. The challenge is finding the businesses willing to invest and making a convincing case to them to do so.

In Short

Some days, budget problems seem to belong alongside death and taxes on that list of things that will always be a part of life. These funding options can help schools get around at least some of the budgeting challenges they face and give students access to the technology that will introduce them to broader opportunities over time.

 

5 Comments

  1. Maria De Jesús

    August 18, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Nunca es tarde para educarte siempre habrá una puerta abierta lo único es querer y empezar, muchas oportunidades están esperando para el que decida empezar, una nueva vida llena de conocimiento y prosperidad. Y con ayuda de todos para dar dinero a las escuela todos pueden tener la educación adecuado para el futuro.

  2. Emily

    August 19, 2015 at 4:29 am

    We are living in an ever changing world. New technologies keep coming up and give many benefits. if you don’t wish to be left behind, you must keep up with the world which is going really fast. Without education it will be very difficult for you to adapt to all these changes. And Quick Dissertation Help also write this. An educated person is much more aware of the latest technologies and all the changes that are having place in the world. For example, an uneducated person can not know about the benefits of the internet where as an educated person uses this gift of technology daily for work as well as for entertainment.

  3. Chris Hodgson

    August 30, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    I see the use of E-Learning, and in particular the use of LMS within schools to further promote lessons taught in the classroom and to engage student’s understanding of technology to continue the learning journey at a younger age is going to be massive this year. I hope to see lots of success stories in the coming academic year from Secondary Education across the UK!

  4. Megan Sedillo

    September 15, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you so much for posting these links to the grant funding websites. The private school I teach at desperately needs one more set of computers, as we only have one set for grades K-8. Our goal is to reach a 1:1 ratio that is seen in public schools. I am excited to suggest these sites to the school board, as I have not seen such usable links posted together in one location. Hopefully, we will be successful!

    I also have to learn about writing technology grants for a class in my graduate program. These links will be a wonderful resource for this, as well. The ballot initiatives do not apply as much in my case, but our current technology (projectors, ELMO, AppleTV, etc.) has come from business partnerships and fundraisers. Thank you again for this relevant post.

  5. Damond Butler

    November 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Unfortunately, there are still a number of families who are not “connected,” but with the advancement of mobile networks, many people are able to get online via cell phones and hot spots. Therefore, the amount of students who are unable to get online is steadily decreasing. In addition, yes low income school systems may have little to no funds to implement new technology but in some school systems students are encouraged to bring their own devices in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives. “The number of principals who say they are unlikely to allow students to use their own mobile devices in class has dropped by nearly half in four years, from 63 percent in 2010 to just 32 percent in 2013, according to the latest report based on Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey.” (thejournal.com) Bring Your Own Device encourages students to bring tables, cell phones and laptops to school with them where they are configured to operate on the schools network, giving students access to the internet and other useful apps utilized in the classroom. “The benefit of mobile devices in the classroom most often cited by both teachers and principals surveyed was increased engagement in learning, at 74 and 86 percent, respectively.” (thejournal.com) As teachers receive training on implementing technology into the classroom, percentages of teacher comfort ability rises, as well as the development of collaboration and team work skills.

    thank you for such an informative post.