external image school+funding4.jpg
Our digital nation is made up of students who are eager to load their YouTube videos, blog about their last date, follow celebrity tweets or simply chat with friends on X-Box live. How can schools keep up? How can educators prepare 21st century students to be active and competitive citizens in a world that is constantly changing and with tools that need constant maintenance? In order to prepare them properly, administrations, districts and educators need to be constantly and significantly invested in the future of education.

Many educators look at the new tools, initiatives and curriculum changes and immediately shut down. They think that they cannot work with such advancements or simply that they don’t have the time or money to finance such dreams. However, putting such barriers aside, educators and administrations have to acknowledge and embrace the fact that teaching and schools are changing. Technology is changing the way lessons can be approached, curricula can be developed and even the role of educators in this digital world. This costs money and time.

Furthermore, schools are taking on new shapes and new roles; they are becoming community staples, resource centers and information hubs. As the role of the teachers and learners changes, so does the curriculum, the tools and the face of the environments that are engaging students. Administrators can incorporate and embrace new technology, new educational practices and initiatives in every part of their schools. Technologies such as networked or stand-alone computer workstations, along with suitable software and applications, can aid teachers in the creation of learning spaces that support the development of investigation, communication, collaboration and production skills.
Educational changes cost money. This is not something new to educators or administrations alike. While sports equipment, textbooks, landscaping and other school expenses may have an allotted set of funds each year, technology cannot be afforded the same costs each year. Because it is always changing, updates, new software, new programs, new trends and tech support are in constant demand. It is difficult for administrations or districts to allocate the correct amount of funds to support technology programs or equipment because new and improved technology is constantly being created.

So, where can schools fund their visions for the future? Who can help pay for the new learning space that serves as a cafeteria, information center and study area for students? Where will the money for new computing programs, digital books, and virtually supported classrooms come from? Examing different funding strategies and options can be the first step for technology acquisition, implementation and prepartion for the classroom of the future.

Funding Strategies for the 21st Century Classroom

According to the 2010 Horizon Report, a yearly report that examines new trends and technologies in education, mobile learning, cloud computing, digital books and resources, open source, augmented reality, gesture-based computing, and visual data analysis are the newest technologies and trends that will change education for 21st century learning. The Horizon Report is produced each fall using a carefully constructed process that is informed by both primary and secondary research. Nearly a hundred technologies, as well as dozens of meaningful trends and challenges are examined for possible inclusion in the report each year. The use of Delicious bookmarking is constant so that reviewers can have the newest and latest trends and technologies effecting education. What’s more is that many funders review the Horizon Reports findings and use it as a resource when making decisions on how to allocate their funds. Be sure to look at the 2010 Horizon Report and see which technologies and trends may receive funding. Also, see our pages on Emerging Trends : Open Access Education and Resources, Digital Books and Resources, Mobile Learning- Cloud Computing, Simple Augmented Reality-Geolocation, Gesture Based Computing and Visual Data Analysis.

For educators it is important to keep up with new trends, curricula and classroom environments. Likewise, it is just as important to be knowledgeable of resources where funding for 21st century learning can be found. For schools that are looking to integrate more technology and to prepare their students for education in 2020, using the following strategies can be helpful:

  • All requests for technology funding must be tied to the school or district technology plan. This plan should be put into place before any serious attempt is made for funding.
  • The requested funding should establish a link between technology and the bigger picture of teaching and learning. Technology is not an end in itself but a helpful tool for creating and supporting engaged learning environments. Therefore, funding requests should clearly support a higher purpose than simply the acquisition of hardware and equipment. Unfortunately, this fact often is overlooked by those new to or unfamiliar with the technology-enhanced classroom. Making this linkage explicit in the technology plan can aid in understanding why technology funding is important.

  • The best bet for technology funding is to build community support and to develop funding out of local resources.

  • Technology is an ongoing investment and therefore should be considered as a regular expense, not a one-time purchase. Schools or districts should seek school budget line items for technology or should include technology in other existing budget lines (such as facilities) rather than relying upon bonds and one-time expenditures.

  • Bond initiatives are useful for initial technology implementation, but they do not address ongoing expenses. Although bonds can bring in a large amount of funding for implementing large-scale networking projects and purchasing equipment, technology implementation ultimately relies upon factors such as training, repair, and maintenance. These factors are ongoing expenses and cannot be financed all at once.

  • The value of grants can be increased if they are matched by local contributions. Although schools and districts appreciate grant funds for hardware and other infrastructure needs, the grant value is increased if it is matched by local contributions toward ongoing expenses. Therefore, grant requests should always indicate where local funds or other resources will match the requested funding. Further, the local match should be specific about what it will finance and about how the combined grant and local match will fulfill the school or district's technology goals.

  • Equipment donations must be critically appraised as a funding mechanism for technology. Some donations are useful, both practically and politically, as a graphic demonstration of local support for a school's technology efforts. Nevertheless, schools must be wary of becoming dumping grounds for old equipment that may need repair or maintenance work. Old equipment may be better than nothing, but schools ultimately need the same level of technology as the business world. In short, schools should neither universally accept nor reject technology donations. Instead, they should critically examine the value of such donations in light of their overall technology strategy.

Funding Options for the 21st Century Classroom

external image Ebooks_01.ashxspacerwiki280.gif

Newton Schools Foundation: Examples of Funding for the 21st Century Classroom

The Newton Schools Foundation's mission is to broaden community support for public education by providing a vehicle for private donations to the Newton Public Schools. In the 25th anniversary year, they are implementing the Newton Public School's Strategic Vision 2020 to ensure that every classroom in the Newton school system is outfitted with a 21st Century Classroom suite. Watch the video to see some of the ways these schools are financing their vision!

Next up, see Partnerships & Collaboration