Some say ICT in schools is a waste of money – is it true?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011 | resources | 5 Comments

ICT in schools must compete against other needs.  In poorly resourced schools a need for texbooks may exist, there may a a shortage of classrooms and toilet facilities may be inadequate.  Should we even consider technology when the other basics can’t be afforded?  Won’t it be a waste of money?

We must maintain a balanced view on this issue.  Consider the following points:

Technology is only a waste of money in schools when it is not used optimally by teachers and learners.

Enough proof exists in schools where great results are achieved through ICT to refute the notion that it’s a waste of money.

When ICT transforms a classroom into an interactive one, the value is great – it can’t be measured in financial terms.

If you don’t know what you’re going to do with ICT, don’t buy it or it will be a waste.

ICT will be a waste of money when a school is not prepared to invest in technology training for its teachers.

If the ICT in your classroom is a white elephant, remember that it’s in your power to paint it another colour.

To avoid waste education departments can pilot new ICTs in a few schools before large scale implementation: make mistakes on a small scale.

Only those who have not yet come to know the educational value of ICT will view it as a waste of money.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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Can I expect a return on my investment in technology?

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 | technology | Comments Off

Anyone who invests in a project expects a return.  Technology in the classroom demands a considerable investment – not only in financial terms but also in time and effort.  “What will be the return on my investment?” you may reasonably ask. 

In financial circles people talk about return on investment (ROI) – what you can expect in return for the time and money you invest.  If you add up all the anticipated costs of your technology and convert your time into money, you will see that the investment is considerable.  What will be the return? 

It is easy to calculate the ROI of a business venture, but more difficult when it applies to technology in the classroom since its intention is not to make a profit but to improve learning.  Your ROI will be in terms of improved teaching and learning – this is difficult to quantify. 

Compare the investment in classroom technology to an investment you make in technology in your home, say a television set:

The outlay for a television set is not only the purchase price, but includes licence fees, increased electricity use and other accessories.  You’ll be surprised how low your ROI on this investment is in financial terms – the only financial return may be the money you save by watching movies at home! Would you therefore argue that a television set is a bad investment?  Not at all – it gives you a lot of pleasure, opens a world of knowledge to you and helps you to keep up to date with world events. 

When it comes to classroom technology your reasoning should be similar – even though there may be no financial benefits, there is a payback.  This payback is realised in terms of you becoming a better and more productive teacher and learners experiencing learning in ways that would not be possible without technology.  And don’t underestimate the enjoyment it will add to the classroom experience for both you and your learners! 

The return on your investment in technology may not be quantifiable, but the intangible benefits will be enriching.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What about the claim that technology in the classroom is a waste of money?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 | technology | 5 Comments

People who believe that technology in the classroom is a waste of money possibly base their view on personal observations: they’ve seen classrooms where expensive computer facilities do not seem to add any value. 

Technology naysayers must agree that any resource that has a beneficial impact on teaching and learning is not a waste; at the same time, proponents of technology have to agree that it is a waste when it does not contribute significantly to improved teaching and learning. 

Technology has no impact in the classroom when it is not used.  Unfortunately this is the case with many classroom technologies: after the hype of implementation has subsided they are left to gather dust.  In these instances those who claim that classroom technology is a waste of money have a valid point. 

Now think about it: if technology is waste of money in one classroom, does it follow that it is true for all classrooms?  If I buy an expensive car but leave it unused in my garage – aging and diminishing in value – does this mean that it will be a waste of money for others to buy a similar car?  Of course, not!  The same principle applies to technology in schools: the fact that facilities in some classrooms are unused – and therefore a waste of money – does not mean that technology in classrooms in general is a waste of money. 

Technology wastage – and hence a waste of money – can be avoided:

Don’t buy technology if you don’t know how you’re going to use it – first determine your need.

Don’t skimp on teacher training – you can only expect technology to be used if teachers are comfortable in its usage. 

The opinions on others – based on single observations – should not influence your decision to procure technology for your classroom.  Look at those instances where it does improve the classroom, decide how you can use it in yours, and make sure you are properly trained – then technology won’t be a waste of money in your classroom.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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If I insure the technology in my classroom, which risks must I consider?

Saturday, December 25th, 2010 | Sustainability, technology | Comments Off

Once you’ve decided that you need to insure your technology, you must decide against what disasters you want to insure it.  Insurance companies calculate insurance premiums on the basis of risk – the higher the risk, the higher the premium.  You can bring your premiums down by excluding some of the risks – those you believe to be minimal or not relevant to your situation.

Your computer room faces different risks than your classroom and you need to bear these differences in mind when you determine your insurance strategy.

The greatest risk you face in the computer room and your classroom is theft.  We live in a crime-ridden society.  A ready market exists for technology items – they can quickly be converted into cash.  Of course, theft is also a high risk to the insurance company – be prepared that this may account for a big portion of the insurance premium.

The equipment in your computer room has great worth – in financial terms, as well as in educational benefits to your learners.  A thief who manages to break through all the security barriers stands to get away with loot of high value – and you stand to lose something that is perhaps impossible to replace if the equipment is not insured.

The equipment in your classroom is valuable too but since you have less of it, breaking into your classroom is not all that attractive to a thief.  It is also easier to lock up some of the items – such as a laptop, data projector or camera – when you can’t personally supervise its use.  These facts may influence your insurance decision.

With learners around, you are also facing the risk that you will accidentally damage a technology device.  You may drop it, or a learner may knock it off the table.  What is the likelihood of this happening?  This risk is greater in your classroom than in the computer room, where computers are usually installed in fixed positions.

Cover for fire and water damage can also be included in your policy.  Perhaps you feel that these are unlikely disasters to hit you, but you must consider the environment in which you live. 

Discuss the options with a reputable insurance consultant – ask for quotes with different risk inclusions.  If you believe that you can take personal responsibility for some of these risks, you may be able to settle for a more affordable premium, while still being protected against the most likely risks.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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How can I justify the cost of classroom technology?

Friday, December 24th, 2010 | technology | Comments Off

The total cost of classroom technology is rather high.  Many schools are cash strapped and technology competes for scarce resources with textbooks, desks, fixing the toilets, building a school hall, erecting a security fence, and so the list goes on.  Some folks question whether money could not be used in a better way than spending it on technology.

Take the example of textbooks, which are in chronic short supply in some schools.  The money spent on one personal computer could buy between 75 and 100 textbooks; for the amount that is spent on an interactive whiteboard installation, between 350 and 500 textbooks could be purchased.

What a dilemma!  Would it not be more sensible to go for textbooks in a school where a shortage of such resources exists?

Let’s use an analogy to see if we can make some sense of this situation:

Your car is in need of new tyres – there is hardly any tread left on them and if a traffic officer stops you, you’ll be in trouble.  Because you are short of cash, you prefer to use the money at your disposal for petrol.  Your decision is based on the premise that if you don’t have petrol, new tyres will not take you anywhere.  What will be the result of this line of reasoning?  You may remain mobile in the short term but you can be sure of a bumpy ride leading to a grinding halt.  Won’t it be more sensible to curtail the amount of driving you do for a while, save up some money, buy the tyres and then resume your normal travelling?

This story has multiple morals, which are also applicable to the technology-textbook conundrum: 

  • adopting a short term view does not solve the problem
  • it is not a matter of  “either … or …”
  • some sacrifices are required
  • you must maintain a balanced view of the situation. 

In the twenty-first century learners need textbooks and technology – both are important for learning.  Looking into the future, it is clear that the building of technology skills is no longer negotiable. 

You simply have to find a way – and yes, make some sacrifices – to bring technology into your classroom.  The cost is justified by the need for it.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Should it be expected of me to buy my own technology?

Friday, December 24th, 2010 | technology | 3 Comments

“If my school or the education authorities want me to use technology, they must provide it,” some teachers argue.  Others add: “They surely can’t expect it to come out of my pocket.”

Clearly this is a sensitive issue – an emotional one.  One argument is that plumbers, electricians and doctors are all required to provide the tools of their trade, and therefore teachers should do the same.  Teachers may counter this by pointing out that when they were employed, technology did not feature in their job description and since it has only been introduced lately, they can’t be held responsible to pay for their own technology.

This argument can go forwards and backwards, without a clear winner.

Good reasons exist for teachers to have access to technology on a regular basis – preferably in their homes – regardless of who should pay for technology.  Consider two of them:

If you’ve never used technology before, it is important that you become comfortable with it before trying to use it in the classroom.  Most people need time to adapt to the use of new things – it is not just a matter of taking a course, but rather one of practice, practice, practice.  Technology in your home – available all the time – will make the learning process much easier.

Even if you are at ease with technology it is advisable to possess your own equipment.  At home you can use it for admin functions and to prepare lessons and activities for your learners.  You can explore educational software packages and find websites with information suitable for your lessons.  Regular use of technology is far more beneficial than sporadic exposure.

A laptop or a personal computer is a good place for you to start.  The relative cost of these items is coming down and, while it may call for some sacrifice, you’ll find that the investment will pay handsome dividends.

Skillful use of technology is no longer optional.  Try all possible avenues to lay hold of technology – and if all else fails, buy your own.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Won’t technology purchased today be outdated soon?

Friday, December 17th, 2010 | technology | 1 Comment

In two years from now textbooks that have not even been written will be available.  Does that mean you must do without textbooks until the latest ones become available?  Surely not – you’ll just continue using what you have!

The same can be said of technology, which advances at a mind-boggling rate.  In two years from now technology that has not even been designed will be available – as a result some say, “The best time to buy technology is in two years’ time.”  This may seem like good economic advice, but is it realistic?

If you keep postponing the purchase of technology for your classroom you will be like a person who is forever chasing the end of a rainbow in the quest for the pot of gold.  You’ll never find it and, while chasing around, you’re losing out on the enjoyment of the glorious colours.

By not making use of current technology, you are losing out on potentially beneficial tools.  You can’t put things off forever.  The best time to have planted a tree was twenty years ago, but if you have not planted one yet, the best thing you can do is to plant one now.  Those teachers who started using technology twenty years ago would have refreshed it several times by now – but imagine how skilled they are today!

If you already have technology in your classroom, and it serves the needs of you and your learners right now, it is a different matter.  You may decide to wait a while with an upgrade or replacement of equipment to benefit from the latest features.

If you don’t have technology in your classroom, you must consider two compelling reasons why you should not wait for the latest versions:

As a teacher you can’t afford to wait any longer to become a skilful user of technology teaching tools.  Every day you delay is a day too much.

Learners need to be exposed to technology now.  The world around us demands a familiarity with technology.  A classroom devoid of technology does not allow learners to develop skills necessary to cope with the pressures of the twenty-first century.

Don’t agonize over possible technology changes – the equipment you purchase today will still be useful for a number of years.  The skills you and your learners build now will far outweigh the new technology features that may become available in the future.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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How much do I have to budget for classroom technology consumables?

Monday, December 13th, 2010 | technology | 2 Comments

One of the recurring costs of technology is consumables.  What is a consumable?  It is something that is depleted or worn out by use.  Cars consume oil and petrol – but also tyres and other parts that must be replaced owing to wear and tear.

Classroom technology devices also use consumables.  Unlike a car, not many parts inside the equipment need to be replaced as a result of being worn out.  An exception is the bulb of a data projector, which has a limited lifespan, and is costly to replace.

Other consumables are those things that you use while working with technology.  Here are few examples.

A printer uses toner or ink cartridges for printing.  The cost of these items can be contained by limiting the amount of printing you do.  Don’t forget that paper is also a consumable for which you have to budget.

A computer does not use any consumables, unless you want to transfer information from one computer to another.  Secondary storage devices, such as data or memory sticks, CDs and DVDs are used for this purpose.  You can cut down on the cost of these items by using re-usable ones.

Many technology devices require batteries, particularly those operated by means of remote control and wireless devices.

How much should you budget for consumables?  This question is the same as asking, “How much should you budget for petrol for you car?” It all depends on what model car you are driving, how much driving you do, and what the current price of petrol is.

The same is true of technology consumables.  The cost depends on three factors: 

  • the type of equipment you choose to use
  • the extent to which the equipment is used
  • the place where you purchase the consumables.

To a large extent you are in control of the consumables you use.  The potential need for them is certainly something you must bear in mind before you purchase technology for your classroom.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Should I insure the technology in my classroom?

Sunday, December 12th, 2010 | Sustainability, technology | 1 Comment

In high crime areas, insurance can be a life-saver of the technology in your classroom.  You lock up all your devices or you bolt them down, and just when you think you’re safe, your classroom becomes a target of criminals.  For many schools this could be the end of technology.  No funds may be available to replace the stolen items – unless your insurance company replaces them.

Some schools decide to take the risk and don’t insure their technology.  What should you do?  Should you insure your equipment?  It is a personal decision, which must be based on various factors:

How great is the risk?  The risk of theft is higher in some areas than others.  Some classrooms are more vulnerable than others.  You must consider all environmental factors to inform your decision.

Will you be able to afford a replacement if you lose the equipment?  Once you start working with technology in your classroom you may become dependent on it and you may find it difficult to operate without it.  If you can’t afford to replace it with available funds, an insurance policy makes sense.

What is the school’s view on insurance?  Some schools follow a strategy of self-insurance, which means that they’re willing to take the risk and are saving money for a contingency.

If you do decide to insure your classroom technology, there are more questions to consider:

Have you read the small print?  Insurance policies contain specific conditions.  Make sure that the policy covers you for the most likely risks that you are facing.

What needs to be insured?  Decide whether some or all of your technology devices must be insured.  Your insurance premium can be reduced if you insure against only certain disasters – flooding and fire may be excluded if you believe that theft is your greatest risk.

Can you include your classroom technology in your school’s insurance, or must you negotiate a separate policy?  Find out which option will be the best deal for you.

Whatever you decide regarding insurance, remember: the best form of insurance is to take sensible steps to safeguard your equipment.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Do you really have to purchase software for your classroom?

Sunday, December 12th, 2010 | technology | 5 Comments

Some teachers claim that, when they move technology into their classrooms, they don’t have to purchase any educational software products – they create their own teaching and learning material.  If you are one of those teachers – good for you!

If you’re not yet in their league, don’t despair.  Packaged educational software can be a valuable stepping stone while you’re familiarizing yourself with the use of technology in the classroom.

Excellent software packages are available commercially.  Some software may be bundled with the device you purchase – this is particularly so in the case of interactive whiteboards.  In other cases good software programs are available from software vendors to suit all your classroom needs.

A common mistake of teachers new to technology is to purchase too many software packages.  Some of these turn out to be less useful that they seem at first.  It is sad when you spend all your available funds on software that is of little value to you, and then find you can’t afford appropriate programs.  Avoid this mistake by starting off slowly – perhaps with only one simple program – and as you progress and come to grips with classroom technology you’ll be in a better position to select software that will really be useful to you.

Some software may be available to you at no cost:

Examine the software that is bundled with the device you purchase.  These products are often of limited value, but may suffice to start you off.

The internet is a rich source of free software.  Thousands of teachers have developed resources, including complete lessons, and have made them available on the web.  These resources are mostly tried and tested.

Your school may hold a site license for educational software programs.  Enquire from the vendor of the product whether the license entitles you to use the software in your classroom without additional cost.

Software suppliers may make software products available to you on a trial basis for a month or so – you can try before you buy.  This is an ideal way to avoid purchasing products that you won’t use in future.

Software does not have to cost you an arm and a leg if you choose it judiciously.  Start small, use what you have as stepping stones, and strive to reach the point where you can develop your own no-cost learning material.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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