Schools need help with technology

School technology has big potential, but schools need even bigger funds to realize that potential

technology-helpTechnology is many things: Exciting. Innovative. Interesting. A time-killer. Students are drawn to it.

Without question, technology is the greatest learning tool since pen and paper. There is very little to criticize when it comes to the technological advancements we’ve all experienced in the last 15 years.

But with everything, there is usually a downside. For technology, the truth is, it’s expensive–very expensive.

As an individual, we each understand the costs associated with purchasing and updating iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and various other non-Apple products. The larger your family, the larger the investment. The days of buying a $17 calculator as your child’s major tech purchase are long gone.

A single family may have four smart phones, three handheld devices, and a computer. And this is potentially on the low end of what some families have.

No one understands this financial impact better than school superintendents. When you take what an average person spends a year on technology (it’s a lot) and multiply it by thousands of students, you have costs that eat up a significant portion of a school budget.

This doesn’t take into account the amount of money that has to be budgeted for school websites, parent notification systems, student management programs, servers, interactive whiteboards, infrastructure, and technology personnel.

And that’s just the beginning of the story. Technology costs are never-ending. It just doesn’t last as long as a school desk, chalkboard, or textbook. These used to be the major, big-ticket items for schools. They were expensive, but they also had a life span.  You could count on using them for a decade or more.

We are lucky if technology lasts a few short years.

As a comparison, a chalkboard could last for more than 50 years. An interactive whiteboard might be good for seven.Parents and students who can afford to upgrade their personal equipment every 12-18 months have an expectation that their local school district do the same. They are right.  And wrong.

Our students do deserve the best and most current technology, but we simply do not have the funds in today’s economy.

Ten years ago, my hope was a company like Microsoft, Dell, or Apple would position itself as the “Education Technology Corporation.” My dream was that they would offer devices at a price point every school, no matter how rich or poor, could afford.

It would be structured like my smart phone plan: the cellular company gives me an expensive device for free and I pay a monthly service fee.

Schools need the same kind of help. We need the equipment and the ability to pay for it over the course of several years.

I had big plans. Schools would be able to educate students with technology of the same quality as they have at home. It would be updated every couple of years, instead of every 10.

I’m still dreaming. And I still have plans.

I just don’t have the technology.

Or the money.

Michael Smith is the superintendent at Tuscola Community Unit School District #301 located in Tuscola, Ill. As a Google Certified Administrator he is passionate about establishing and fostering learning environments that are student-centered, collaborative, and flexible, which prepare all learners to succeed in the 21st century.

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