Getting it Right … Financially

One of the best inspirational things that I do for myself is subscribe to The Daily Papert.  In this mailing list, I get a daily bit of inspiration from one of the greatest minds  in educational technology as curated by Gary Stager.  Every day, there’s a quotation related to education and usually with a technology overture.  I would encourage you to enter your email address for a daily shot of inspiration yourself.

I don’t think that there are too many naysayers about the use of technology in education these days.  But, for all of the enthusiasts and for those remaining naysayers, the conversation almost inevitably turns to money and how we can’t afford the technology.  For years, we’ve tinkered and tried pilot projects (how many times do we have to prove that technology can motivate students?)  We’ve talked about Maine and other 1:1 projects and lusted after the opportunity to replicate but it always comes back to money.  In Monday’s Daily Papert, it was addressed.

From The Daily Papert, April 4, 2011

Now, what’s really interesting is that the prices in Mr. Papert’s quotations are from 1983.  It isn’t a huge leap to imagine what the dollar figures are today, almost 30 years later.  Now, we’re not about to sink dollars into Apple II computers, but there are current technologies that would be equivalent in terms of today’s functionalities.

We do have to be financially responsible.  Of that, there is no question.  That’s why another article that appeared has so much interest.  Ewan McIntosh’s entry “Why the cloud’s important for education: saving $199,995 on one test” will make you stand up and think.  Look at the issues that Mr. McIntosh identifies.  School boards spending all kinds of money providing internal services when there are free and/or better services readily available on the web.  Of real interest to me is that amount reportedly saved on the administration of just one test.  Imagine the possibility of removing all of the administrative costs and paper booklets and all the costs that go into offering these things.

However, a computer is just a computer until you load it up with the necessary software.  In Ontario, we are fortunate to have a program like the OESS which licenses software recommended by OSAPAC for publically funded schools.  We are also lucky to have resources like those provided by eLearning Ontario.  Despite the successes of these programs, they don’t provide all that is required for a well-rounded suite of software for students.  Fortunately, there are other great alternatives.  If we delve into the concept of appropriate FLOSS, the opportunities get better.  If we expand our definition of just what software is, web services can fill the job nicely.

Web services remain an emphasized question.  Some districts have policies that are restrictive while others less so.  These policies are undoubtely created by well meaning internal structures.  However, a thoughtful, structured approach identifying just what is needed would send a set of guidelines to districts throughout the province.  After all, we have an Ontario Curriculum loaded with references.  Getting serious about all of this would enable a suite consistent throughout the province.  And, if a web service proves to be not needed on a particular date, the provincially licensed Net Support School software lets the teacher turn it off at the class level.

In this link, I would encourage you to add your favourite software (however you elect to define it).  I’ll collate all of the responses and report back in a later post.

Are we ready for more pilots and more tinkering or is it time to get at it?  If we take the finances out of the discussion, does it make a difference?

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