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EdTech Update





Getting the most bang for your tech buck…

budgetgraphic.jpgI'm doing a couple sessions on tech budgeting over the next month. While I've done workshops on library budgets for a number of years, this is a new "area of expertise" for me. I'd appreciate comments about this small list of tips and any strategies you use for stretching your technology dollars. I am sure there will be differences of opinion about some of these things - especially since open source is a religion as much as an economic model. I'll just make sure I'm wearing my iron underwear when I read the comments.

PDF of a draft of handouts can be found here


Getting the most bang for your tech buck…

1.    Limit the life of your equipment. We don’t touch any computer except to put it in recycling that is over 5 years old.
2.    Re-purpose. We use machines until they stop working, but we spend no time, effort or money on keeping old machines going – they have to be placed in a non-mission critical areas. It’s a little embarrassing but we still have a kindergarten teacher using MECC programs on an AppleIIe in her classroom.

3.    Get price quotes on EVERYTHING. Watch the legal requirements for getting bids. Over a certain amount, state law requires we go to formal bid. We get at least a couple quotes on everything, even if it is on a state contract. Takes little time and saves us a lot.  Even with tried and true vendors, get quotes now and then just so they keep their pencils sharp.

4.    Low cost without support is expensive. We are willing to pay a little more, especially for large systems when good support and warrantees come with the product. I like buying local for this reason to. It’s nice to have a near-by throat to choke if something goes wrong (and taxpayers like seeing money kept in the community.)

5.    Should you use open source? I like open source as a philosophy, but it may not be as practical as one would want since it often requires a high level of maintenance by people with specialized skills. What you save in licenses is often spent many times over in labor costs.

6.    Share your budget with anyone who asks. Total transparency in the budgeting and spending is required. Every expenditure should be documented, spent to budger, and you should be able to explain why the material or services were acquired. This means…

7.    Explain it to me like I was 5 years old. This means that if you are a pointy-haired director, you need to understand on at least an operational level why buying that Level Seven switch or managed wireless transmitter or network management software is necessary.

8.    Standardize. It’s easier to stock parts, maintain, cannibalize, and train when you have a single model of about anything to support. This is not always possible, but we strive for it.

9.    Make sure all equipment purchases go through your department. Equipment we don’t order doesn’t get district services.

10.    How do we best spend referendum funds (capital referendum vs. operating ie. on-going referendum)? Don’t take out a 20 year mortgage to by a car that only lasts 5 years. Unless there is an ongoing source of funds or there is a desperate need for a large influx of computers, don’t spend one time monies on stuff that has a short life span. Network upgrades and wiring – stuff that will last is a better use of these sorts of funds.

11.    Should you lease? Leases lessen your overall buying power. It’s better to figure out a 5-year replacement plan if possible. Leases can trap you since you almost have to take a new one out when the old one expires since all the leased equipment is old. It also can commit you to future years where the funding may be less.

12.    What’s an ASP? Application service providers who host and maintain a service for a district can be a real labor and cost savings. I also (perhaps mistakenly) assume these folks understand and are diligent about security, back-ups, upgrades etc.

Your tips? Links to good information on this topic?


Rejected Tech Tips - RIP

As some of you may know having attended one of my workshops or presentations, I like to start things off with a bit of silliness - Ask Lena, Lutefiske Computer Labs, IDS Syndrome, etc. As I was cleaning out old PPT files and I ran across one of these things that I've not used for a bit and has become dated. I will post it here and then may it rest in peace...


Rejected Tech Tips

Can’t remember all those passwords?
 Sticky note on the monitor

Running out of hard drive space?
 Save documents with smaller font size


Running out of space on your desk?



No digital camera? No problem! Just use your scanner.


You can hardly tell the difference when the yearbook comes out...



Don't want to pay recycling fees on old equipment?






Rejected Tech Tips. Rest well.
Oh, my son Brady was the good sport who was my model in some of these.




The original read/write internet - LM_Net

You Know You're a Librarian in 2005 when... 5. You know more librarians in Texas than you do in your home state because of LM_Net. 

Peter Milbury and Mike Eisenberg, the moderators par excellence of LM_Net for the past 15 years, announced this morning that they are passing the torch.

For those of you who don't know about LM_Net, it has been the mainstay mailing list for an estimated 100 million school librarians in 2 million countries, on a dozen other planets, and at least two identified alternative universes. It produces in excess of a billion e-mail messages each day - 10 billion on "recipe day." (These number are rough estimates.)


I was an early subscriber and participant on LM_Net - back in 1992 when I first joined. I am not sure if I was among The Hallowed First One Hundred or not, but I was in there pretty early. And this was 1200 baud modem dial-up, line interface, pre-www, uphill-both-directions-in-the-snow Internet days. Not soft and easy like you young'uns have it today with your blogs and wikis and RSS feeds. And the computer screen was hard to read by candlelight too.

Anyway, I owe LM_Net big time. Here's why...

It was my second year as library media supervisor here in the Mankato Schools and I came home very, very angry and frustrated one night. I was getting lots of push-back from the librarians I had inherited with in the job. I was determined to make them tech integration specialists and they seemed determined to remain print-only librarians. I turned on my computer, opened my e-mail, and just let rip about the reactionary, troglodytic, myopic, etc. nature of librarians, especially school librarians, concluding that they had better damn well wake-up and smell the coffee or they would all be replaced with techs and not to let the door hit them on the butt on the way out. I knew as I was writing it that I had better sleep on the matter, re-write the message, and THEN send it to my friends on LM_Net.

What I had forgotten was that I had a new e-mail client (Eudora) that automatically sent my queued mail as soon as the program was opened. The fiery diatribe was sent out, and as we all well know, an e-mail once sent can never be taken back.

Let me put it this way, I got a little reaction from the message. I knew librarians had good vocabularies, but even I learned some new words from the responses to that LM_Net message. I believe other LM_Netters opened my e-mails from then on simply wondering what idiotic thing I might say next.

I kept contributing to LM_Net and eventually some of my postings became columns and columns became articles and articles became books which led to speaking engagements etc. (The column version of that nasty e-mail became The Sound of the Other Shoe Dropping, I think.) In LM_Net I found my voice, and more importantly, like-minded colleagues who offered encouragement and support.

I spent a few minutes earlier today looking over some names from the earliest LM_Net archives still available (March 1994).  Forgive me in advance to all those I've left out.

  • Betty Dawn Hamilton
  • Mary Alice Anderson
  • Carol Simpson
  • Michele Missner
  • Frances Jacobson
  • Ken Haycock
  • Floyd Pentlin
  • Paula Gallard
  • Eugene Hainer
  • Marg Stimson
  • Esther Sinofsky
  • Gail M. Szeliga 
  • Ann Symons
  • Diane Durbin
  • Debbie Abilock
  • Guusje Zimmerman Moore

Quite a line up and I'm guessing some of these folks are still alive and some even have many of their marbles yet today. Amazing!

I also have to LM_Net to thank for introducing me to lots of really, really smart and interesting people, both virtually and in person, including Joyce Valenza. At the 1997 AASL Conference in Portland, Joyce and I were both invited to participate in "Late Night with LM_Net with Your Host, Mike Eisenberg." I told lame Ole and Lena jokes, but Joyce was the hit of the evening, doing impressions of single-cell organisms. And Mike kept all of us LM_Netters in line.

Mike and Peter have kept us all in line on LM_Net very well over the past 15 years. It's been a civilized, useful, supportive resource that has been the best professional development of my career.  A remarkable accomplishment since managing librarians is, as the saying goes, like herding cats. Unlike science teachers or kindergarten teachers, school librarians are usually the sole practitioner of their craft in their buildings. The virtual community built by LM_Net (a professional learning community before they were so named) was a lifeline and sanity-keeper for lots of us.

Hats off to you, Peter and Mike. You're a credit to your profession.