The school at which I work will be applying for a technology grant.  The grant seems pretty open ended.  What is purchased must align with our curricular goals (language arts, math), and be hardware.

 What would you purchase?  What would give us the most bang for the buck? Ipads? Smart boards? Document cameras? Or...?

Currently, we have a PC lab, a Mac laptop cart, 3 projectors, a digital microscope and 3 digital cameras. As well as, a computer in each classroom.

Thanks!

Tina 

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Hi Tina,

I would go for a needs analysis approach. I'd look at what learners and teachers are doing with the technology they've already got so that I didn't buy the latest fad gadgets to do the same thing: Function/purpose overlap = money wasted. I'd also look for a balance between presentation hardware (teacher centred, e.g. eReaders and projectors) and generative hardware (learner centred, e.g. cameras, audio recorders and laptops). Also check that whatever hardware you buy has a ready supply of free educational content available. It's no good shelling out for hardware when software and content to make it useful for learning purposes is insufficient and/or too expensive.

If you have decent IT support, how about renting a dedicated server where you can install your own content management systems (CMS, e.g. http://www.joomla.org/), learning management systems (LMS, e.g. http://moodle.org) and social networking platforms (e.g. http://elgg.org/)? Your school could have learner generated magazines (e.g. http://wordpress.org), photography sites (e.g. http://www.piwigo.org/), collaborative learning projects, personal web pages, social clubs, homework groups, eportfolios, etc. The beauty of online projects is that they tend to be very learner-centred and give learners a strong sense of ownership and community. They can also make your school look really, really good. Another positive thing is that all you have to pay for is the rented server space, about $90 a month. All the software I've listed is free and open source and your hosting provider may even provide one-click installs for all of the above.

Of course, it'd be pretty much useless if none of your teachers do group learning or task/project based learning (TBL).

Before buying in any new hardware, I'd also consider the durability and serviceability. It's no good shelling $1,000s on hardware in which you can't replace parts, like batteries, when they wear out or get broken. You could quickly end up with a pile of expensive, shiny junk.

I also agree with Verena that professional development is vital for effective use of technology for teaching. I'd lean more towards workshops and communities of practice than sending teachers out on expensive and often irrelevant training courses. You may find that your learners can teach you a thing or two about using technology too.

We have document cameras and projectors in all of our classrooms and they are great- we can use our computers and show the kids whatever it is we need to explain, especially with our digital textbooks, and the document camera eliminates the need for making transparancies.  In my graduate class we were researching e-readers and there is a high school in Florida that bought every student a Kindle so they can access their textbooks and use blogs and wikis as well as have internet access with the 3G version- plus they were cheaper than laptops.  You can also use wireless mice and keyboards to access things like SmartNotebook- you don't need an Airliner or Smart Board to use Smart Notebook software when you buy long range wireless mice and/or wireless keyboards.  You should try to create a survey for your teachers to see what they want using a free site like Survey Monkey, to get their input also. 

I agree with Mollie, Ipads would be a great purchase.  I have a projector, smartboard and doc camera.  They are all wonderful but an Ipad can do many of the same things (take pictures, touch screen, etc) and much more!  It's also portable and can be used whole group or small group.  

Check this link: http://www.raspberrypi.org/

It is a UK-based company.

Evan

Online School Records

Get as many iPads as you can. Put them in the hands of teachers first. Also budget for some Apple Tvs and HDMI LCD projectors. With an iPad 2 this full package per teacher for $1k or less. The iPad with AirPlay as an instructional tool is amazing.

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