Digital Learning on a Budget: How to Stretch Your Edtech Dollars
A major mistake made by school districts is to table digital learning efforts because the expenditure does not fit into the school budget. If children are America’s most precious commodity and the focal point of the nation’s educational system, then the lack of funding is no excuse to forgo digital learning efforts. If we can’t commit money to our K-12 students, how can we expect them to rise above their circumstances?
The old business adage is that you have to spend money to make money – and that should be the mentality when looking at struggling schools or districts that need, sometimes costly, digital devices and products. By smartly investing the money, even just in a few key areas, schools will see a return on that edtech investment in the way of more successful, higher achieving students. And really – edtech does not need to cost a fortune to make a difference.
In truth, many digital learning efforts are cost-effective and can be implemented by resourceful educators. When there is a lack of money, edtech tool acquisition is contingent upon the faith and commitment level of the faculty and staff. Money should not be wasted on model products and unsubstantiated trends. Digital leadership groups will have to work diligently and efficiently to implement the chosen digital learning efforts properly and effectively.
So where should the money go?
When edtech is needed, and schools have limited resources, spending money on curriculum can be intimidating, but it is a vital place to put money because it makes a huge impact on student outcomes. The digital curriculum chosen will need to be a good fit for both teachers and students. Math and reading should be the first concern because they are the building blocks for other subject areas, as well as the most frequent measure of future success. Success in these two areas bodes well for success in other subjects at all grade levels.
Teachers’ professional development is a key factor for successful digital learning initiatives as well. When analyzing edtech budgets, it is important to set aside money to hire teachers with the ability to create and teach in-service professional development programs. The ability to train the staff and educators internally will save the school money and will give the teacher/expert a feeling of usefulness.
For instance, a teacher with 15 years of experience teaching with technology and a demonstrated ability to obtain amazing results from her specific digital teaching strategies might create a professional development seminar to share her expertise. This saves the school an enormous amount of money and saves the administrator the trouble and cost of hiring a digital learning consultant. Another low-cost/no-cost option is to hire professors from neighboring colleges and universities to provide professional development on best practices in digital learning to your district as a form of community service or to fulfill requirements to obtain or maintain tenure.
What if our budget is nonexistent?
If your budget is nonexistent, remember there are are a lot of edtech companies that offer their products for free. But be careful, as many of these products are freemium, meaning that the basic features are free, and you have to pay for premium ones. Also, some are free because they make tons of money in advertising fees or by selling your information to other companies. There are a lot of opportunists out there, but there are also a lot of kind-hearted souls who create free edtech products to make to a difference in the world.
In the end, schools operating with limited funds to support digital learning efforts will need to be both resourceful and creative to effect positive change. Forward-thinking leaders, committed and imaginative teachers, and a supportive community can contribute to change that improve the educational experiences of our children.