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« Getting the most from your tech dollar 1: effective budgeting | Main | Ecomomics of the Chrome netbook: I don't get it »

Strategies for stretching your tech budget

I love getting the maximum bang for my buck. Perhaps it comes from spending years in the Middle East where bargaining is an art form. Maybe it is because that as a former classroom teacher and librarian, I know of better ways to spend educational funds than on wires and chips. Could be that it is just my Midwestern hard-headedness that insists that only fools use two mules when one mule will do. And I know it a deep-seated distrust of anybody who wants to make a profit on selling anything to schools. 

So it seems I am one of the few idiots tech directors who kind of like writing about budgets and saving money instead of spending it - that old "leader vs. manager" thing again. Here are a few previous articles and posts on spending tech/library dollars wisely:

Most of what I've written applies mainly to individual schools and libraries. So I thought it may be fun (for me anyway) to approach the money thing from a district perspective. As district budgets shrink, technology departments will most certainly be impacted. How will we clever tech directors manage to keep up with increasing demands for technologies and services when our financial resources don't? 


Over the next few days, I'll tackle some of these strategies. I'll bet you can hardly wait!

  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 flim projectors? I thought so
  10. Stuff without training is money wasted

Any budget stretching strategies you're willing to share?

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Reader Comments (6)

Hey Doug:
I think one of the big concepts we need to grapple with is moving to a student-owned rather than school-owned device model. Seems to me that so many students have access to smart phones / ipads / ipod touches etc. than can provide most of the information processing power they need. Schools need to think about infrastructure to support and policies and practices to enable student owned devices. Of course they also need to provide access to those students without (check them out from the library!)
Thanks .

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim Staal

You're the one from whom I learned that the best educational bang for the buck is still books for the library. The cost per student is low and if they are chosen well and circulate then they are effective expenditures indeed. The have great contrast, are portable, have and endless battery life and work across multiple platforms. Abundant research proves their effectiveness more than any other school technology that I'm aware of.

That being said, with trimmed budgets I'm formulating some riles of thumb as I buy books. If it's a biography the person should be dead or retired. No living teenybopper pop stars. If it's a reference book it better have something I can't easily find online. Same thing with most nonfiction, though in elementary we still need plenty of one-subject non-fiction books on things like planets, animals, etc. And I don't buy fiction unless I can think of at least two students I'd hand it to the day I took it out of the box no matter how good (or bad) the reviews were).

Look forward to this series!


May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Strategy #10 - making sure someone who will use the technology every day is helping make decisions.

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

I think budgeting is one of those arts that gets forgotten about in Admin school amongst the theory and acronyms. It's a challenge I kind of look forward to tackling again...I always liked managing multiple budgets back when I worked in a school. I know, clearly I'm a geek.

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

I'll be looking for your take on number 4 since I've been preaching on that topic a lot in our district over the past year or so. We, like so many other large government organizations in this area, believe that we are saving money by standardizing on one or two computing devices to do everything. I'm not even sure that's true in terms of support (which is where the concept originates) anymore but it certainly is off base in schools where we wind up paying for lots of horsepower that is only needed and used by a very few.

May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim Stahmer

Hi Tim,

Our district has been thinking much along those same lines. I've been toying with specs for computing devices that could be added to the school supply list. Asking parents to shell out for a netbook is not that much different from asking them to buy kids a graphing calculator.

What I AM waiting for is the curricular reason these machines are required: an e-text book, online learning requirements, etc. Until that happens, I don't think there will be much progress.

But we are working on it,


Thanks, Ninja. Your comment may well appear in section 4 of the series!


Hi Kenn,

I've been a big fan of advisory committees for both tech and libraries for year. I hope I addressed this well enough in post 1.

Thanks for the reminder,


Hi Nathan,

I love budgets too. Had I any mathematical abilities, I may well have been an accountant! Well, maybe not.


May 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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