If teachers ran the government, we wouldn’t have a national debt. Teachers are frugal. Very frugal. I’m not saying I reuse dental floss or anything, but the lengths I’ve gone to save money are amazing. This is because the money I’m saving is often…mine. Still, sometimes a teacher has to spend. I buy tons of pencils, papers, documentaries, resources, and other things each year. What I really want is unlimited access to the types of technologies my students find most engaging. Sometimes I feel this is way outside of my budget.
Many schools feel it’s outside theirs, too. The word “technology” often send shivers down the spine of the budget office, because it has the potential to be one of the biggest line items on the budget. It’s true, a school needs dollars for dongles to make it all work, but it doesn’t have to break the bank or get put on the back burner when competing choices include “leaky roof,” “broken heating system,” and a million other infrastructure expenses that pop up. Tech doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to go by the wayside.
Technology is increasingly becoming personal, mobile, and affordable. Most connected people rely on smartphones and tablets rather than desktops and laptops. My smartphone is more powerful than my first computer. Because of this, it’s possible to integrate technology on a shoestring budget.
They will know how to use it and they will take care of it better. Imagine if you were sitting at home working, and someone came in, took your phone, your laptop, and tablets, and replaced them with a type you don’t use. It’s disorienting. Students and teachers are more comfortable using the devices they love.
Tech purchasing comes from top-down. It’s important to be on the front lines when choosing technology. Sometimes a school-wide platform is necessary and helpful, as with electronic gradebooks, home-school communication platforms, or learning management systems. But for the rest, ask, “Will students use this? Will they look forward to using this or will it be a burden? Does it fill some need or make life easier?” Ask. The answers are sometimes surprising.
Amazon Prime and Netflix have tons of documentaries and shows that support curricula. Before these were unblocked, if I wanted to show a documentary to my class, I had to buy it. Now I can rely on my Prime, and show ten minutes or so to underscore my point. In addition to this, I love TEDx speeches. They help me teach public speaking and content simultaneously. Students love them, and they’re free.
Computer labs are important, but they often come with challenges.They’re expensive, and research is showing that tech in the class saves time and money, increasing productivity. Teachers don’t have to compete for valuable lab time and expensive machines aren’t sitting unused. We’re used to technology integrating into our lives. It must be the same way in schools. Allowing students to use their own devices or having a group for the class to share is less expensive than wasted labs in the long run.
I was at a large tech company and needed to print a boarding pass. There was no easily accessible printer. I joked, “This reminds me of schools…printers are broken or out of ink.” Then I realized the truth–printing is so 20th century. It’s rarely necessary anymore, if you stop and think about it. Once tech is fully integrated we won’t need to print much. We’ll google-share, take polls on Socrative, use Learnist instead of books, and crowdsource projects. Killing rainforests will be a thing of the past. These resources on web tools and apps help me think about reducing paper–and clutter–one piece at a time.
These are just some ways you can integrate technology on a shoestring budget. It’s simple. If you integrate just one new thing, that’s fantastic–you’re creating new solutions for your class, and students are benefitting. Using some of these tips means that you can afford to do it, too. That makes for students who use 21st century technology, and budget offices that smile at the same time.