1c. Advocate for policies, procedures, programs, & funding

Reflection

In considering Substandard 1C, it seemed to me that there were two big concepts that stood out: advocate for programs (which often encompass policies and procedures) and advocate for funding.

Funding is essential in getting the software, hardware, and infrastructure into the hands of coaches, teachers, and students. You can’t have one without the other. Yet many schools still seem to have a disconnect between those responsible for funding decisions, those responsible for device selection, and those who will be interacting with the technology on a daily basis (teachers and students).

For these reasons, I see there being a great benefit to having a director of academic technology or similar specialist within a school district. This person acts as a go-between with IT, administrators, coaches, and teachers balancing the needs of each group while constantly aligning decisions to best practices in 21st Century learning. With the increasing role that technology plays in students’ education (not to mention future), it is no longer feasible to task an administrator to work part-time on the school’s technology initiative or expect teachers to implement this change on their own.

In an ideal 21st-Century school, this aforementioned specialist takes on a supervisory role and has coaches on the ground in classrooms who report to him/her. This model would allow the specialist to focus on advocating for policies, procedures, and programs (in addition to funding), while the coaches can focus their time and energy meeting the needs of students and teachers.

Coaches would then lead professional development as it relates to the implementation of a shared vision for technology. Often times teachers need assistance in translating broad district goals for technology into manageable daily tasks for their classroom. other teachers may not be familiar with the ISTE student standards (such as aspects of digital citizenship) and may need some assistance in incorporating these standards into their content area curriculum.

My first piece of evidence outlines current barriers to professional development along with proposed solutions based in research.

My other piece of evidence offers some unique ways that schools with limited funds can go about getting more devices into the hands of students.

Evidence: Professional Development - Barriers and Solutions

In my post entitled What Teachers Want: Professional Development Barriers and Solutions from November 2018, I reflected on the ways that traditional professional development has failed teachers and what coaches can do about that. In my post, I detailed three main areas of professional development which are: coaching, Personal Learning Communities, and the workshop model. Within each area, I explored common barriers to success and I then propose solutions based on research and best practices for professional development. Please click below to access my post.

Evidence: Creative Financial Solutions

Technology is not cheap and coming up with the funds to support a 1:1 initiative can seem daunting. Assuming a school does not have the funds to purchase 1:1 devices or the ability to require parents to do so, here are some creative options that coaches can advocate for in order to get more devices into classrooms.

Another creative option for schools with limited funding is BYOD which stands for ‘Bring Your Own Device.’ With a BYOD program, students can purchase or bring in existing technology devices for use in the classroom. So one student might be using a MacBook and another a PC laptop while a third prefers a tablet. The benefits of a BYOD program are that it costs the school very little in terms of hardware.

The downsides are that the school would need to have a robust Wi-Fi network in order to support an influx of devices. Another aspect to consider is that troubleshooting can be more challenging than if all students were on a uniform device. Teachers and IT staff would need to have familiarity with a wide array of devices in order to support students. This learning curve may be worth it if it would enable more students to use technology in the classroom. 

One additional piece to consider is equity. If you are at a low socioeconomic school and you offer BYOD,  not all students may be capable of purchasing devices. This could further the digital divide in your school. One way that I have seen schools remedy this is by providing loaner computers that students can check out at the beginning of the day and return at the end of the day. This ensures that all students can have access while still not costing as much as an entire 1:1 program. 

Credit: Haddonfield News, NJ

One solution to gain more technology funding is writing a grant. My first year as a teacher I was working in a low income school with no technology. I had four ancient PCs in my classroom (two of which actually turned on). My department and I looked for  grant opportunities and found an agricultural company looking to give back to the community. We wrote a grant proposing a multi-disciplinary project between the language arts and social studies departments. The focus of our project was 21st-Century research–an invaluable tool for students to have. The company accepted our grant and we were given 30 chrome books.

It was very rewarding to know that a large corporation saw value in the project we had outlined. The project grew over the years to become the capstone project all 8th grade students completed prior to graduation. That initial foray into technology also influenced administrators in choosing to move forward with a 1:1 initiative with Chromebooks.

To explore federal grants, please click here.

To explore a growing list of private grants compiled by Scholastic, click here.

A final option that districts may consider is the use of a roving cart of laptops or tablets. These carts store up to 50 laptops and can be rolled from room to room. Teachers then check out the carts ahead of time in order to facilitate student work or projects. This solution is much more convenient than a traditional computer lab because it saves time since students do not have to travel back-and-forth. Rather, the teacher checks out the cart at the beginning of the day and returns it at the end of the day. One downside is the teachers must be very intentional in their pre-planning for technology use. Students also must carefully monitor time spent on the device so as to complete the task before the end of class. Another downside can occur if the carts are so short in supply that you have teachers needing access, but not able to get a cart. For schools who otherwise would not be able to expose students to technology, this is a very attractive option overall.

Another option to get funding for technology is writing a Donors Choose project. Donors Choose allows you to crowd source funding for your project. Several years ago, I created a Donors Choose project in order to build a classroom library for my middle school students. I was able to get $500 worth of books with only $250 in donations due to matching  programs that were available at that time. There are many options for matching within the STEM fields, so it’s definitely worth taking a look.

I should clarify that you likely won’t be able to fund 30 iMacs with a Donors Choose…at least initially. The reason for this is that you have to start with smaller projects and get funding for them before you can ask for big ticket items. This is by design so that Donors Choose can ensure that you will fulfill the full requirements of receiving funding for your project which includes having students write thank you letters and giving donors a report on how you uses the donation in your classroom. Smaller projects such as a set of six lower-end netbooks would be a great option for Donors Choose. It also would work well if you were trying to get a supplementary device such as  a 3-D printer, coding robots, or video cameras to record your students.

Something else to consider is that many school districts will write into teacher contracts that any items received from Donors Choose become property of the school and not the individual teacher who created and promoted the project. This can be a drawback, especially if you know you won’t be in your current position longterm. 

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