You can start by looking into such software as Open Office. This way you can provide quality software with 0 money. Dealing with purchases you could do a little creative. Let's say you have only $1,000 to purchase two new computers. You can be a little creative with the money too. If you have a separate budget for software you can apply $120 from the software money for each computer because the computer is mad of software and hardware. Additionally, you can take $150 from your Contractual code, I hope you have such an option, for the maintenance. This way you can stretch you dollars almost by 1.5X for every computer purchase.
Thanks, Evan. I'll make sure that Open Source is addressed, but will likely look at it from a TCO perspective. Open Office has a lot of appeal as it has developed into a full-function offering requiring minimal user or support staff training.
One of our contributors at the TI Teachers Lounge, Bryson Perry, wrote an entry on facing budgetary issues to obtain classroom technology. Like Evan, he believes using Open Source is a great money-saving alternative. He also offers a couple other basic approchaes for obtaining technology, such as practical advice for presenting technology to administrators and parents.You can check out his suggestions here: http://timath.com/blog/?p=390
One thing you could take a look at is replacing infrastructure for storage and email to something Software-as-a-Service based. Both Google (in Google Apps for Education) and Microsoft (in their Live@EDU offering) offer storage, collaboration and email that are ad-free, will run under your own domain name and are 100% FREE for educational institutes. You can connect an entire school district without spending a dime.
Admittedly, you need to consider the issues around turning these things over to a 3rd party carefully. However, the cost savings in both server infrastructure and staff may be redirected into some more valuable in the classroom.
If it's a temporary set back in budget, perhaps the best thing to do would be to focus on how to further leverage existing technology to show value to those making the budget decisions. Can any school honestly say they are 100% utilizing the capabilities of their existing technology? Perhaps re-focusing some existing IT staff on teacher education and training in technology will help a) get more value out of what you have, and b) show others that technology is worth investing in.
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