Technology Budget in Schools: The Missing Element

Technology Budget In Schools

A few years ago, technology budget would have been considered a rare term in school management almanac. Allotment of separate budget for technology in schools was unusual and highly uncommon. The times have changed and technology is now an inseparable part of our lives. The schools too are keeping up with the times, relying on technology to promote better teaching and learning outcomes as well as efficient management systems.

Technology budget, therefore, has progressed from being an elite, infrequent indulgence to a systemic necessity. It is true that allotment of exclusive technology budget is still not a widely prevalent practice, often confined to schools that belong to a certain financial strata and enjoy a higher degree of both awareness and affordability. However, it is undeniable that more and more schools are now waking up to the importance of technology in education system and in turn, the necessity of apportioning finances for it. Technology budget, in form and spirit, is an integral part of the present and future of our school systems.

Despite its immutable need, technology budget is a relatively new concept and comes fraught with the kind of issues that usually plague any new element in an already established system. Edtech tools are the latest trend, complete with a whole lot of hype and an equal number of easily accessible tools and their vendors. Multiplicity of both tools and vendors is a positive sign. It is a must for the suitably competitive growth of the edtech tools and their penetration across schools. However, this very multiplicity is also a primary cause of the issues that lead to mismanagement and less than optimal distribution of a school’s technology budget.

The gamut of edtech tools is impressive and sometimes, even intimidating. The sales strategies are aggressive and the options are widespread. It is a classic combination that makes the customers, in this case the schools, susceptible to confusion and poor choices. The result—schools end up spending a significant chunk of their money on tools and technology that might seem impressive in the short run but eventually turns out to be either unsustainable or non-feasible or both.  The success of most edtech tools lies in their long term application. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find schools grappling with tools that do not work or deliver results the way they were expected to in the long run.

The ultimate onus lies with the school authorities who seek to derive maximum benefit out of their edtech procurements. No technology can work unless backed by the right kind of people. Outcome evaluation is a must prior to any tool/technology purchase. The schools needs human resources who can evaluate the technology taking into account the specific on ground realities and needs of the school in question before making procurement decisions.  The problem is that schools are armed with teachers and educators who are equipped to make an assessment in terms of the academic outcomes. Technical specifications are often not their main forte. They are not equipped to ask the right questions and take a technically reasoned call about the edtech tool or technology in question. Hence, the schools end up acquiring technology that fails to meet its goals or the school’s requirement and eventually falls by the way side, ignored and unused.

Absence of continuous support system from the vendor’s end adds to these woes, rendering the technology practically useless. It is not only a wastage of school’s time and resources but is also detrimental for the overall edtech environment where ill-informed decisions effect the optimization of available technology at every level including at the vendors’ and innovators’ end.

The solution is not too complicated. The problem is too much focus on the tools and too little on the people behind them. Schools not only need to invest their time and resources in acquiring latest technology but also focus on having people on board who are technically sound, have an intimate understanding of the school’s on ground needs and have the capability to assess, analyze and make decisions that are in the best interest of the schools. In other words, the schools need to invest a significant portion of their technology budget in appointing people who have the skill and the responsibility to ensure the right kind of technology is procured. These people can not only help schools in making the decisions but can also ensure that the acquired technology is used appropriately and provide the requisite technical support to the rest of the staff.

Superficially, having dedicated team members for technology procurement might seem like an added expense for the technology budget but a deeper, more objective analysis clearly indicates that it is indeed an investment that will cut the school’s expenses in the long run. The schools do not need an entire team of people for evaluation purposes. One or two people in the staff who are also technically equipped and willing to take on the responsibility of procurement decisions would suffice. All schools need to ensure is to find the right kind of individuals with requisite skill and qualification, set aside a portion of their technology budget for them and make sure they are on board.

With more efficient decisions on technology procurement front, the schools will be able to avoid wastage of time and money on technology that proves to be useless and focus resources only on the right kind of purchases. With their own trusted team members making informed decisions, schools will not have to rely on the salesmen or vendors to make the crucial calls and/or training and support services.

  • Ron Abate

    Any technology platform (Apple, Windows or Chromebook) in the right hands would serve as an important addition to K-12 education. What is needed is on-going professional development program to make teachers adept and resourceful in the use of computers. The advent of cloud computing has resulted in a significant drop in the price of laptops (between $150 and $250 per unit.) These use Google’s Chrome operating system and are currently known as Chromebooks. They are produced by various companies. Unfortunately, Apple and Microsoft have not joined the cloud concept.