Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

Wisconsin is like a lot of states in that it has taken a beating in terms of its education budget. I won’t go into the political quagmire that has erupted in the Badger State from one group’s attempts to balance state budgets by giving schools less and businesses more. I do know that it has forced a lot of schools to make some potentially difficult decisions, and in most cases if given a choice between hiring enough staff, keeping the heat on, and buying new computers, the computers tend to be the first thing written out.

The cost of technology seems to be on the rise as more and more schools begin to see wireless Internet and providing laptops to their students as a necessity and not a luxury. Even as my school considers how many laptops to buy, I can’t help feeling that the day will come when a computer or tablet will be required and not provided by the district. It would certainly lower our operating costs and provide more money for our network and Internet filter.

On that note, my school and thousands of others dodged a big bullet in our overhead costs recently. Lawmakers threatened to eliminate our Internet provider, Wiscnet, because the University of Wisconsin operates it and is therefore a “public” option competing with private businesses. Thankfully, thousands of angry calls from parents, teachers, and library patrons seemed to have an effect. Wiscnet will remain in business for now and continue to provide a small, rural school district like ours an affordable option and ability to provide needed services such as distance learning classes.

I did, however, see some light at the end of the tunnel recently. A fellow blogger by the name of Doug Johnson (from Minnesota, but I won’t hold it against him) posted a wonderful series of posts on his blog, The Blue Skunk Blog, about how to make technology money last. I take no credit whatsoever for the fantastic insight that these posts contain.

Introduction: Strategies for stretching your tech budget

  1. Use effective budgeting techniques
  2. The (buying) power of groups: consortium purchasing, state contracts, bidding and quotes
  3. Sustainable technology
  4. The right tool for the right job: avoid buying a new semi when a used pickup will do
  5. Free is good
  6. Head to the cloud
  7. Enforce standardization
  8. Maximize your e-rate funding
  9. Are you still supporting 16mm film projectors? I thought so
  10. Stuff without training is money wasted

These posts showed me that there is a way out of this budget crunch that schools are currently having to endure and that teachers like me will have the ability to reach children through technology despite these cuts.

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