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« BFTP: The Technology Agnostic | Main | What really matters »
Saturday
May282011

Getting the most from your tech dollar 7: Standardization

Over the next few days, I'll be addressing some strategies school districts use to get the most from their technology dollars. See the full list hereAny budget stretching strategies you're willing to share?

7. Enforce standardization through single point purchasing

As a rule, I am against educational monocultures. I've yet to see one activity, one teaching style or even one type of schooling work for everyone. Having a variety of resources and a variety of ways they can be used insures that the widest possible range of learning styles will be addressed.

But technology standardization has some definite advantages, including cost-savings. Standardizing on technology equipment, software and services:

  • Increases bulk purchase discounts. (You'll get a better cost if everyone buys the same database instead of each school buying different databases.)
  • Decreases inventory of supplies and parts. (Stocking only one lamp for LCD projectors is more efficient than stocking 20 different lamps.)
  • Increases the amount of time devoted to training. (If training can be done on a single wiki instead of half a dozen, more time can be spent on workshops and support materials for that single product.)
  • Decreases the need for technical support. (Teaching staff how to empty the cache on one web browser is possible; teaching staff how to empty the cache on a dozen browsers is impossible.)
  • Increases the likelihood of compatibility with legacy systems. (Oh, the games that come with our math series don't run on our operating system? The salesman said they would run on anything!)

I've found that having an enforced policy that all technology purchases need to be made through a single department, hopefully the technology department, is the only way to create such standardization. As the department in charge of training and support for everything that beeps, buzzes, blinks or takes batteries, we are already spread very, very thin supporting a limited set of technologies.

Yes, sometimes individual preferences can't be honored. You may like Pages, but the district supports Word. You've got a PC at home and the district asks you to use a Mac. You like your Kodak digital camera but the only camera available for checkout is a Canon. I'm sorry.

Actually we don't stop anyone from buying anything they want. A principal wants a document camera from Bob's Pretty Good Discount Electronic Store and Bait Shop, we say "Go for it. Just know that you are on your own for training, support and repair."

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Reader Comments (3)

After 5 years of having a special set up in our middle schools, we're standardizing the district. PC Support technicians reported over half of the district's work orders were to fix problems on these special set ups. Can't do that anymore...probably should have never done it to start with!

Standardizing LCD projectors is tough. Perhaps we buy from the wrong company, but when I was in a building, I probably stocked 5 or 6 different bulbs for various vintages of projector. Then they drag their feet on buying parts...maybe its time to go in another direction with that.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

Our school district requires equipment to meet standards for desktops, laptops, net books, or any peripherals that need to be connected to our network that require network resources (other than bandwidth). For example, cameras can be anything; while student hand held devices can be any make or model if they only need to pass thru the content filter and go out to the Internet. If we need to manage district-owned student hand held devices, we can do that with one tool for any device. There's no repair and minimal troubleshooting for tablets and smart phones.
Eric Willard, CTO

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric Willard

Hi Nathan,

Yeah, projectors are tough since some years some models are more competitively priced than other years - and manufacturers change lamps often as well.

We've been standardizing on Casio LED projectors - no lamps at all - and so far have been very pleased.

Doug

Hi Eric,

So long as we don't have to fix it, make it work or teach somebody how to use it, we don't care what make or model people use. We certainly don't try to dictate what individuals purchase and use personally, making our systems as widely compatible as possible. Sounds like you have the same sort of guidelines.

All the best,

Doug

June 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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