Ways to manage school technology on a budget

Chicago officials collaborated with private businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide greater access to the internet for impoverished students.

There is a staggering amount of available classroom technology. Smart boards, tablet initiatives, classroom software, virtual learning programs and more. How are schools supposed to figure out which to adopt? And, more importantly, how are they going to pay for it? classroom tech dreams a reality.

Turning to government and business
One of the most straightforward ways for cash-strapped schools to secure technology funding is through local governments or private businesses. In some cases, school districts have done both.

In Chicago, a city rife with poverty and crime, 31 percent of the population has little to no internet access. In 2011, the City of Chicago partnered with internet service provider Comcast to launch the Internet Essentials campaign. Impoverished households with at least one public school student were eligible to receive affordable high speed internet access and computer equipment in order to bridge the technological gap between the city's poor and affluent neighborhoods. That program recently expanded in conjunction with Connect 2 Compete's EveryoneOn campaign to provide 1.1 million Chicagoans with internet coverage.

Many schools are experiencing bandwidth problems but lack the funding to improve their internet connection speeds. Schools should ask businesses, community groups and local government for help. 

Customizing technology
Sometimes government grants won't cover the full cost of investment, and school districts need to get creative about tweaking technology to bring down costs.

For example the Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita, Calif., wanted to provide its approximately 10,500 K-6 students with new netbooks, but couldn't afford to. Instead, the school created a custom-made, Linux-based operating system. It's a free-to-use, open-source platform, so administrators saved on costly operating system registrations and were able to create customized classroom software. Linux also requires less computing power, so it can run on older and more cost-efficient machines. 

Computer lab management
After the initial tech investment, school districts are often faced with operational expenses, especially with computer lab equipment. Over time, the cost of maintenance and tech support for these machines can add up.

Administrators can reduce those costs by employing computer lab management software that allows users to save configurations to be rebooted if a machine's performance is hampered. Instead of calling tech support every time a computer goes down, school officials can simply reset the machine to the desired configuration

Unfortunately, not every school district has the resources at its disposal to invest in the latest technology. With a little help from outside sources and some creative use of available resources, however, administrators can provide their students with classroom tech that significantly improve the learning experience.

Has your school district been forced to get creative with its tech spending? Share your stories with us in the comments section below or contact us on our Facebook page!

Suzannah Hastings

Suzannah is interested in all things digital, from software security to the latest technological advances. She writes about ways in which the increasingly internet-driven landscape changes our lives, and what we can expect in the future.