Although budgeting in education departments is never an easy task, this can be especially difficult for schools located in low-income areas. For technology directors and coordinators who are working with a tight budget, purchasing education technology products is often an incredibly stressful task. What are some tips and tricks for technology directors working with tight budgets? We spoke with some technology directors around the country to hear their thoughts.
- Discuss rolling purchase orders and payment plans with vendors and resellers
Many education technology vendors and resellers offer options for rolling purchase orders and payment plans. A rolling purchase order is designed to provide schools with the lowest possible cost for their orders in exchange for a commitment to a certain number of orders. If you are certain that you are going to be implementing a product district-wide, this is a fantastic method for saving a great deal of money.
For districts where paying for the technology upfront might be an issue, setting up a payment plan is another good solution. Payments can be broken up over an agreed upon amount of time.
- Cautiously consider leasing technology
There is often a debate between educators about whether or not leasing technology makes sense. Again, many districts in low-income areas do not have the money to pay for a technology products upfront. In some cases, leasing is the only option that makes sense. It is important to note that leasing is not likely the best decision in the long-term, as it winds up costing more than purchasing the product. However, a district can spread their payments out for the technology leases over a period of time. If a district is considering leasing education technology, then they should couple this with efforts to save money until they can afford to purchase products upfront. Many education technology companies and resellers offer deals on leasing, and will go over short term and long term costs.
- Consider purchasing refurbished technology
For many technology directors, the words “refurbished technology” can cause some hesitation and skepticism. They’re likely picturing old, broken-down products that crash every time they try and update them. This is not the case. Refurbished technology often works just as well as brand new technology, and according to Rebecca Paddick, can save schools up to 80% more money. Most schools choose to purchase refurbished laptops and tablets, which can eat up a huge portion of a school’s technology budget.
If you are going to purchase refurbished technology, however, it is critical that you purchase the products through a reputable source. Best Buy, CDI Computers, and Mac to School are a few companies that sell refurbished equipment. You will want to make sure that these companies offer fair warranties on the refurbished products. Some schools will auction off their used technology and put that money towards purchasing new products. In some cases, schools will sell their technology directly to other schools as well.
- Examine past overall budgets and make decisions on what is necessary
When purchasing technology, it is important to take a look at the past overall budgets so that you can understand what is necessary, and what is not. A school district in Massachusetts examined their past budgets, and realized that a portion of their budget was being spent on cell phone upgrades for certain individuals in the district. Because the cell phones were working well already, the upgrades were unnecessary. They chose to allocate the cost of the cell phone upgrades to purchase BoardShare units for their district.
- Don’t just purchase a technology product because everyone else has it
Numerous psychological studies have indicated that the need to follow what everyone else is doing is quite strong. We feel that we are somehow messing up if we are not going along with the crowd, and will change our behavior to go along with everyone else. The same is often true when it comes to education technology. While many schools can afford higher-end technology products, a lot of schools do not have that luxury. With all of the education technology products on the market today, there are numerous cost-effective products that offer many of the same features as the more expensive products. You just need to find them.
- Do your homework and research what products are available.
Now that you know not to blindly purchase the same products that many other schools have, you will need to do some digging on where to find these products. We discussed just how to do this in one of our previously published blogs. One great strategy for finding education technology products is to look at education resellers. There are so many products on the market, and it takes a lot of time and research; often, there isn’t enough man power available to do the necessary research. This is why a reseller is a great option – they have done their homework on the product, and will help match you with a product based on your budget and overall needs.
It can also be helpful to speak with other technology directors and teachers. Twitter is a great way to connect with other educators and find education technology companies. It is critical to speak with other districts who are using the products that you want to buy, as they can provide feedback about the product and its overall effectiveness.
See more suggestions on our How to Find the Right EdTech Product blog.
Educators often use a great deal of their own money to purchase necessities for their classroom. Noticing this trend, platforms like AdoptAClassroom.org were created to help educators save some of their money. AdoptAClassroom.org allows educators to fundraise for various supplies, including education technology products. Technology directors and coordinators can encourage teachers to create a profile on these platforms to raise money for their classroom.
- Use available Scholastic Dollars
If you have Scholastic Dollars to spend, then you may want to consider using them on educational technology. Different technological products are available for purchase at Scholastic Book Fairs, as well as through the Scholastic Dollars Catalog.
- Utilize grants
We talked a great deal about grants in our Finding Technology Grants blog. We’ve heard from numerous educators in low-income areas about how critical grants were for their school. As our blog discussed, there are many grants dedicated to education technology. There are websites where users can search for specific types of grants; some of these include GetEdFunding.com, GrantsAlert.com, and Grants.gov. It’s no secret that grant writing can be an arduous process, but it is often a necessity for technology directors and coordinators working with a tight budget.
- Correctly implement the product
Apologies if we sound like a broken record, but implementation is continuously stressed as one of the most important issues for lower-income areas. It is important that teachers in all areas are comfortable with the technology. But because education technology is difficult for lower-income schools to purchase, implementation it is of particular importance. The technology director has likely done his/her homework on the product, and understood why it is a good fit for the district. If the teacher does not use it, then it is a waste of precious budget dollars. What are some tips for proper implementation? Check out our Step-By-Step Guide to Implementing Technology in Schools blog.
While many of these suggestions are applicable to schools around the country, they can be particularly helpful for technology directors on a tighter budget. Fundraising, grant-writing, and purchasing refurbished technologies are just a few strategies that can be utilized.