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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How To Plan Smart With Technology Purchases

ASCD has a good report on wise use of technology dollars. Click here to read the full report. Read parts of their report below:

  • Rotating the technology. Let's give almost everyone a new computer for the price of a single computer lab. Here's how it works: The tech ed department buys new machines with the random-access memory (RAM) and fast processors needed to run its computer-aided design (CAD) software. The replaced tech ed machines go to the business department, where they will be used to do desktop publishing, presentations, and office practice. The library gets the hand-me-downs from the business department for research and multimedia use. Finally, the oldest machines go from the library to the English department's writing lab. Sell the really old machines to marine supply stores to use as boat anchors.
Do not keep computers going that are at end of life. Once a computer is more than five years old, we don't fix it. Put the old machines that will be recycled when they break into non-mission-critical places.
  • Is this a job for technology at all? Could a set of regular books do the same thing a subscription to e-books and a set of reading devices would do—at less cost? Will the cost of digitizing paper records be offset by fewer secretarial hours? There are only two reasons to implement a given technology in schools: to do a task less expensively or to do something important that you can do no other way. Technology for the sake of technology is both stupid and immoral.
  • What exactly will users do with the equipment? If you're using a computer only to write papers and access the Internet, you don't need the most powerful one on the market. Do you need a 10-megapixel camera when all the images produced will go on the web at a low resolution? Because schools are using the Internet for both file and application storage, do you really need a large hard drive or a CD/DVD drive? Do employees need a smartphone with a data plan or just a plain cell phone? Don't buy overjuiced equipment "just in case." Base purchases on actual tasks.
  • Where will the machine be used? Laptop computers have a high total cost of ownership. They often cost more initially, break more often, need replacement batteries, and have a shorter lifespan. Does a classroom teacher need a laptop or will a less expensive desktop do the job?
  • Will a reconditioned machine serve as well as a new one? We've been finding that reconditioned computers with a 5-year warranty cost us half the price of new computers. If you purchase reconditioned machines, it's important to use a reputable vendor, get a warranty, and make sure each order is for the same make and model of machine.
  • Open-source software uses code that the creator has placed in the public domain and that a large body of users then rewrites and extends. The Linux operating system is probably the most famous open-source product available.
  • Minimally featured versions of commercial products are made available by a producer who then hopes that features or capacity available only in the purchased version will sell the software. Animoto and Dropbox work this way.
  • Web-based software applications that derive revenue from advertising are growing in popularity. Yahoo mail uses this economic model.
  • Use Wikia's School Computing: Best Free or Open Source Software page as a reliable guide to free programs.
    Cloud computing relies on applications and file storage that reside on the Internet, with minimal resources stored on the local computer's hard drive. A major advantage, then, of cloud computing is that you can work on any project anywhere, regardless of the computer you're using.
    But cost savings are also important. Unlike software that resides on computer hard drives, web-based applications are often provided at no cost to the user. Tools such as Google Apps for Education often have a surprisingly full feature set and are compatible with commercial programs.
    You can lower your school district's computing costs by using inexpensive computers just to access the cloud. Netbooks are inexpensive, and file storage and basic applications are free. Just out are netbooks that run the Chrome operating system; these require virtually no maintenance, lowering support costs.

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