I just found out through a secondary source that we will not be awarded the grant which I wrote for an October deadline. The grant was for 5 iPads, 5 JawBone JamBox speakers, 5 iPad cases, 5 PageFlip Cicada Bluetooth page turners, and money for apps.
Our district has a grant-writing expert, and she warned me ahead of time that the grant didn’t stand much of a chance for two reasons. First, it represents a request for technology which many grant committees would expect schools to provide. Second, it is a project that has no ending date. I’ve also heard that because of the volatile nature of the stock market, which determines how much the grant committee can give, the ability to give this year was down. And I certainly don’t want iPads if some other school is asking for a tuba.
Even with the foreshadowing by the grant expert, I submitted the grant, with far fewer hopes than I had for the Qwest grant I applied for last year. It’s bad news to learn that you didn’t get a grant, and you certainly don’t hold any ill will towards any organization. But it can be hard to keep working on your initiatives to put technology into the hands of students, and further tempting just to meet your own personal technological needs by buying your own technology (out of your own pocket) and leaving students in the technological dark ages. That’s hard to do when you know that 1-to-1 initiatives could change their educational lives.
As I’ve already mentioned, it seems that we’re simply destined to not have technology–particularly in music–in the hands of our students. The district has so many needs in terms of technology that it can’t consider 1-to-1 initiatives. We’ve got schools in our district where kids are using computers that are over 10 years old. When the district has funds, it needs to put their money and energy into programs that are focused on the high-stakes testing areas, leaving “non-essential” programs such as music out of the equation. And who in their right mind, in these financial times, is going to ask the public for 25 million dollars to provide 1-to-1 integration for all of the students in our district (figure 18,000 student, teachers, and infrastructure)? Years ago, we barely passed a referendum that gave the district one million dollars each year for ten years specifically for technology. Otherwise, our annual technology budget would be under $800,000 a year.
Maybe districts can save money by writing their own textbooks, such as in the Anoka-Hennepin district (see this article). Even that only saves $175,000 for that subject, and we don’t replace all textbooks every year. If you take that saved money and put it towards technology, it isn’t enough to meet our needs.
As Fraser Speirs mentioned, Scotland is seeing an educational system where there is a computer for every four students, where the professional world is quickly approaching three computers for each profession. Think about that…1 to 4 versus 3 to 1. How does that situation prepare our students for the real world?
Meanwhile, education has increasing focus on the need for technology skills and technology integration–all the way from Minnesota state arts standards to the aspects of 21st Century Skills. The desire is to have students use technology in all subjects–but what do you do when you can’t get technology?
The only answer is to require parents to provide that technology…but that isn’t going to go over well, and what do you do about the kids and parents who cannot afford it?