Here are a few basic principles on how to obtain, distribute, and manage school computers, distilled from the author’s nine years as a school technology director:

1. You can have too many computers. Old or poorly refurbished computers are not worth the trouble. Develop a firm policy for purchases and donations, and stick to it.

2. Not every student needs a computer. Students need easy and regular access to computers, but this can be achieved by rotating the use of a limited number of high-quality machines, either by moving them from room to room or moving students through the computer lab.

3. Give teachers the technology they want—and the technology that is appropriate for their skill level. Don’t force teachers who are uncomfortable with computers to have fancy new machines—it’s a waste of effort. On the other hand, be sure not to limit the horizons of tech-savvy teachers by giving them mediocre equipment.

4. Don’t purchase machines that can’t work with your network. Talk to your technology department prior to getting additional machines, so you’ll avoid compatibility problems or overloading the system.

5. Set standards. Make sure these standards apply to all aspects of your technology purchase—from software, to hardware, to web site access, etc.—and stick to them.

6. Think ahead. Try to look at least two years down the road when making purchases.