Sunday, March 02, 2008

What's in the school levy?

For the past year or two, I've been part of the Mercer Island School District's Technology Advisory Committee, which studied and commented on the $6.74 million of items that are included in this year's Capital Projects Levy (which by the way, is much less than the $7.9M that our group recommended in order to keep up with other districts).

Here's how the technology portion will be spent (all numbers in $K):

2008 2009 2010 2011
Machine replacement

330

330

335

340

Additional computers

0

0

150

150

WAN/LAN upgrades

500

500

300

200

Servers

25

25

25

25

New/replacement peripherals

55

60

60

65

Software

65

65

65

65

Pilot projects

15

15

15

15

Network engineers

150

150

150

150

Tech specialists

170

255

255

255

Training

200

100

200

100

LCD Projectors

225

225

0

0

Digital Doc cameras

68

68

0

0

Interactive whiteboards

56

56

56

56

 

1,859

1,849

1,611

1,421

These items are considered bare essentials in any world-class company these days. The machine replacement budget and the LAN/WAN upgrades are obvious, unless you are living in some third-world society (in which case you don't read my blog anyway).  LCD projectors?  I use these every day in my job; why wouldn't we want teachers to use them too? 

You might think that teacher quality is what matters most in a classroom -- and I agree -- but like any good technology, some of these items make teachers far more effective.  Take a look at some videos showing off those interactive whiteboards.  My kids have been lucky enough to be in a few of the classrooms that use these and they are way more productive than with the old-fashioned blackboards.  Those whiteboards also use that new "clicker" technology that dramatically helps shy kids be included in classroom conversations.  Imagine how much more you might have learned in school if you could have anonymously told the teacher that you don't understand something, rather than be intimidated by the show-off kids who seem to be the only ones raising their hands.

If we want Mercer Island kids to keep up to their real competitors in China and India, we are going to have to use every tool at our disposal, including technologies like these.  I think this budget is on the low side of what we really should be doing, especially compared to the IT budgets in highly-competitive industries where I want my kids to someday participate. 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very good post....thanks for the data!

mercerislandblogger said...

Right on, Richard! If we know of tools that increase productivity at work, why wouldn't we use them in schools?

Washington is a state with a lot of computer companies and very few computer science graduates. The US as a whole is in the same situation. Let's get kids familiar with tech as soon as possible- and even if they don't major in comp sci, they'll be better-educated liberal arts majors.

Anonymous said...

$600,000 for training? How many teachers does that include? Classified?
One could hire quite a few teachers for that amount of money. Just curious since it appears that the cost of training seems high.

Jeff Vyduna said...

At $1300/room on average, clickers are currently just too expensive.

I want to put response systems or "clickers" in the hands of every educator and presenter. I'm passionate about issues of access and equity, and narrowing the digital divide.

Poll Everywhere is my pet project while a grad student at MIT. I used to be a high school teacher. It’s a new all-software Classroom Response System that is 1% of the price of hardware-based response systems (and free for K-12 use). Students vote using text messages on their mobile phones, and live results are displayed in PowerPoint or the web with no additional software to install on the presenting laptop.

Richard Sprague said...

Anonymous2: the training details are of course not classified: contact the school and they'll break it down for you. (maybe another reader can say offhand?)