Turn ED’s new tech priorities into dollars for your district

If you plan to write a federal or state grant application for school technology, I would recommend that you read the new National Education Technology Plan released Jan. 7 by the U.S. Department of Education (see “ED defines new tech priorities“).

The plan, which will be presented to Congress later this year, includes seven recommendations for policy makers and school leaders, as well as case studies and an array of online resources. District grant writers should take the time to review this document and consider five of the seven recommendations in particular when designing a project they plan to submit for funding.

With some creative thinking, you can include information in your proposal about how your proposed project would meet these priorities as outlined in the national plan. Doing so should increase your chances of receiving public dollars for your ed-tech initiatives.

Here are the five recommendations, along with my thoughts about how each can be applied to the grants process to boost your funding chances:

1. Strengthen leadership.

  • Develop partnerships among schools, higher-education institutions, and the community: Look to colleges, universities, local business and industry leaders, museums, libraries, nonprofit and for-profit groups, and community-based organizations as potential project partners. Consider using them for training, mentoring, services, technical assistance, and additional resources to augment your proposed project.

  • Encourage creative technology partnerships with the business community: Consider asking businesses for training, technical assistance, hands-on learning, and additional resources.

  • Empower students’ participation in the planning process: Invite a few articulate students to take part in project planning and solicit their feedback about the types of technology they find interesting to use, the technology they would like to learn more about, and what styles of teaching keep them engaged. Take students’ suggestions into account when designing technology projects–and note this in your grant application.

    2. Consider innovative budgeting.

  • Consider leasing equipment with a 3- to 5-year refresh cycle: A common problem for those who purchase equipment with grant funds is that the equipment can become obsolete in a short period of time, or there were no funds dedicated to upkeep and maintenance. Look for leasing options, and explain the benefits in your budget narrative.

  • Create a technology innovation fund to carry funds over yearly budget cycles: Ask the community for additional support for this fund through cash and/or in-kind donations. You can mention this additional support as a means of sustaining your proposed project.

    3. Improve teacher training.

  • Improve the preparation of new teachers in the use of technology: Make sure you include a training component in all of your projects, if applicable, and consider having all of your teachers participate in the training.

  • Ensure that every teacher has the opportunity to take online learning courses: Find out if the training associated with a proposed project is available in an online format. If not, consider applying for grant funds to purchase online professional development opportunities for teachers.

  • Improve the quality and consistency of teacher education through measurement, accountability, and increased technology resources: In the evaluation section of your proposal, address these issues and discuss the methods you will use to evaluate teacher education.

    4. Support eLearning and virtual schools.

  • Provide every student with access to eLearning, and enable every teacher to participate in eLearning training: If it makes sense to use eLearning in your project, include it, and include the training component for teachers.

  • Explore creative ways to fund eLearning opportunities: Look to partners to fund these types of opportunities through cash or in-kind contributions.

    5. Embrace digital content.

  • Consider costs and benefits of online content, aligned with rigorous state academic standards, as part of a systemic approach to creating resources for students to customize learning to their individual needs: In the methodology section of your proposal, include information about the solution you are proposing (i.e., online content) and how this solution will meet students’ individual needs.

    Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or Debor21727@aol.com.

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