Budget and purchasing decisions used to be much simpler in schools. There weren’t so many shiny objects years ago, not so many gadgets and widgets claiming to improve teaching, learning, and myriad other aspects of education and life. I can remember how excited we were at the high school when we received a new mimeograph machine to make copies by cranking the rotary copier by hand. Many a teacher left the lounge in the morning a little light headed from that very distinct copier fluid smell. My science department splurged on our own film strip project one year and we were the envy of the school. Then there was a transition to this cool device that scanned cards with student responses scratched in the little circles…and graded the test for you. Scantron was a new shiny object.
If the above are not memories for you, it's evidence of your age and also of my point: the cycles of improvement and innovation in education come fast and furious. Purchases from 5 years ago might already be growing obsolete. Technology and the internet have made for a brave new world of teaching and learning….and not a bad one. The decisions around finding the right shiny object have become much more complex, very specific (grade level and content area) and come typically with a greater degree of scrutiny.
Add to the plethora of products vying for your attention an influx of funding not previously seen in K-12 education. It has been a tough couple of years in districts that rely on local economies for some of their support. The infusion of roughly $190 billion in ESSER funds since March 2020 has the potential to help many district. Not that all the money will be used for shiny objects, but there will be opportunities to enhance efforts and improve outcomes with some “new stuff”.
So how do you go about a process of decision-making (if you are a decision-maker) with every teacher and vendor tugging on your sleeve to get your attention? I would start with becoming knowledgeable about funding, all your potential funding sources. If you aren’t the decision maker, it would also help to know how you can leverage your own ask, based on what you know about how funds can be spent. Turning has put together a Funding Page that provides information about ESSER funding, as well as other federal funding streams and what they can be used to purchase…with an eye on technology. I try to promote the idea of“filling up the bucket” when you think about how to fund school improvement. You don’t always have to use one funding source for everything. Check out the Funding Page for more details.
As you think about these strategic purchases, maybe think about what you can do to supplement and not supplant, spending money to enhance efforts and improve outcomes by leverage things you currently are doing. Rather than totally reinventing the wheel, or buying all new wheels, think about what you can do to improve current efforts. What is working….what isn’t working…what should we pitch…what should we ramp up?
One example of a newer product with sustaining, complementary benefits that amplify current efforts in a cost effective way is Dojo360. Turning’s Dojo360 s a new cloud-based teaching and learning software that works with in-person and on-line learning, and provides teachers with the flexibility to succeed in this ever changing environment. Teachers can leverage existing LMS, district presentation platforms, specific content from publishers or self-developed presentations and user-engagement tools to support learning and improve student outcomes.
With a strategic approach and a complementary eye, schools can be better equipped to spend their scarce funds on solutions like Dojo360 that not only shine, but shine the right kind of light on engaged learning.