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Sunday
Jan292012

Being techno-frugal

Most people can't be easily lumped into either the "spendthrift" or "cheapskate" categories. We seek a cost/benefit ratio that makes some degree of sense - at least to us. And most of us are so tight we squeak about some expenditures and pour money down rat holes when it comes to others.

While I don't mind spending money on travel, grandchildren, personal technologies, or college tuition, I will not pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine or more than $100 for a pair of shoes. I buy generic cans of green beans and tomato soup or none at all, and my car is, well, not a Lexus. I'd rather go to an Olive Garden or Dennys than a fancy restaurant any day. Lights left on in unoccupied rooms drive me nuts. But what I really hate paying for are services that I don't use.

Yesterday morning in a fit of frugality, I cancelled our home telephone landline and cable television. In 2008 this bundled package of telephone, cable, and Internet cost $90 a month, but MediaCom's most recent "loyalty package" for the same services is $130 a month, going up to $150 a month the next year, with the two-year contract mandatory. Internet by itself costs about $45 a month. 

The thing is the LWW and I both have cell phones that work just fine. We watch less than two hours a television a week and what we do watch (The Daily Show) can be viewed online. We were spending about $1200 (120 bottles of wine!) a year on services we just didn't use.

Maybe it is the winter doldrums, but I seemed to encounter non-sensical "values" all week. I've already blogged about Apple's "inexpensive" e-textbooks. I took a poor Barnes & Noble education representative to task on Friday about how their Nooks (like Amazon's Kindles) won't read each other's e-book formats (Would I buy a DVD player at Target that only plays movies I buy from Target?) and how the cost of e-books has been steadily rising instead of falling. I denied another request to add text messaging to the school's cellphone accounts. I'm a little surprised that three spirits didn't interrupt my sleep last night. 

Maybe it's that I'm working both on my book's budget chapter and on our district's technology budget right now, so I'm just thinking about funding a lot. 

Frugality has gotten a lot of attention when it comes to personal expenditures in these tough economic times. Why hasn't frugality been a topic in library and technology circles as well?

End of rant.

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Reader Comments (2)

The (other) LWW (I completely stole your abbreviation, BTW) and I decided to go without cable or an land line when we bought our current house 6 years ago. We have not missed them one bit, due largely to Netflix.

I also have similar feelings about our library/technology budgets. I somehow landed on our school district's technology committee, which is preparing recommendations for our next bond election. We have explored many different tools and gadgets, tweaked the vision and mission statements, and looked at some inequities across our 54+ campus district. the fun part comes next: what do we want/need, why do we want/need it, and how much are we willing to ask the taxpayers to cough up to cover it? My list is short, and I think pretty frugal:

1. A combination of BYOD and district issued netbooks to equal a 1:1 ratio on every secondary campus (approximately 17,000 students), or at least our high schools (about 10,000 kids)
2. Open up our campus wireless networks to student/parent devices and ensure we can handle the traffic.
2. Go completely paperless on campuses within 3 years; by not replacing broken or worn-out printers or copiers.
3. Concentrate less funding on gadgets like Promethean/Smart boards (which largely support the sage on the stage model) and more funding on meaningful tech staff development.
4. Eliminate any and all devices (and support for such devices) and software that is not being used extensively, understanding that campus cultures are different and every campus has different needs. For example: Turning Point clickers see terrific use at the elementary level; why do we have 50 sets of these pricey systems in our middle and high schools, which do not use them nearly as much? If we go 1:1, do we really need thousands of $150 scientific calculators, student response clickers, or other gadgets for which there are innumerable websites and apps?

Our District has made some impressive steps in the past year, and I see us finally moving to the middle of the pack in terms of technology in education, using technology to make our kids' education more relevant, streamlined, and cost-effective:

1. We are scheduled to drop our outdated, clunky, inaccessible-from-off-campus-or-from-our-phones email system in favor of gmail later this spring.
2. We are also scheduled to move some functions to the cloud with Google apps for education.

I have learned a great deal from being a member of our tech committee; I hope we can continue to do some good work and create a space where our kids' education finally moves into the 21st century. (12 years late is better than never!)

Please let me know if there is something I have missed that we should consider, or if I have included too many "pie in the sky" ideas for our technology future.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLen

Hi Len,

Your list looks pretty much what mine might look like.

One thing we are going to do is put voice enhancement systems in all classrooms. The conundrum I have with this (and to a degree with the printer replacement and IWB issue) is do not support outdated methods of instruction or do we recognize the change is coming slowly and we need to help teacher using the stand and deliver model of instruction do it as well as possible.

I am also trying to figure out how to work with local telcos to provide home Internet access to the families who may not be able to afford it. The devices are easy - a cheap netbook - but Internet is more problematic. Will your tech spending plan include anything in this area?

Keep me posted on what you decide.

Phone and TV went away at home yesterday. So far, so good.

Doug

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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