Does implementing a digital-based learning strategy offer the potential to provide budget saving benefits for schools? If so, then perhaps education leaders should begin to shift their thinking to applying new ideas to school budgeting.
The dawn of the digital-age has created opportunities to rethink the traditional 20th century schooling budget model… a model that so many schools today continue to operate within. Basic assumptions of how teachers teach; or how students learn; and what are essential school supplies in a 21st century educational environment must all be examined. What core infrastructures, curriculum materials and supplies that a school is responsible to provide a quality education experience require a good vetting as well. I am confident that education administrators will discover a great deal of savings by rethinking these basic assumptions as it applies to their school budget. Let’s explore a few cost saving opportunities.
Open Education Resources are quality digital instructional materials that can be re-used for teaching, learning, research and more… made available for free to educators and students through open licenses, which allow use of the materials that would not be easily permitted under traditional copyright. Open Education Resources include diverse kinds of digital learning content that include full courses, course materials, supplement material, content modules, learning objects, journals, eBooks and eTextbooks, and much more. Open Education Resource materials are beginning to be integrated in to classrooms globally. In 2005, UNESCO endorsed Open Education Resources as a strategy to extend learning opportunities as well as to reduce or contain schooling costs. A growing number of states are adopting legislation as a means to enabling the use of open source textbooks with an outcome to reduce school costs. Arizona, Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and California have expanded their definitions of textbooks to include digital content – eTextbooks. West Virginia, Texas and California have digital textbooks available at no cost to their public school students as well as have pilot projects in place to test the effectiveness of technology on learning. By rethinking and going beyond the traditional textbook… schools have potential to free-up textbook adoption funding that would make a significant impact on a school budget, which is typically in the millions of dollars. Here is an idea… textbook adoption funds could be used to fund “cost-effective” innovative initiatives such as implementing digital-learning environments … rather than schools going to taxpayers for additional funds for new technology.
The $5 textbook – the Utah Open Textbook project. Not familiar with the $5 textbook… these are digital textbooks that use an open license, such as CK12 Flexbooks library of instructional materials. These versions of high quality high school science and math textbooks can be used digitally at no cost. Also, these textbooks can be printed-on-demand for under $5. Students can mark up their textbooks, destroy pages, lose their textbook or the family dog can eat the book. It will cost the school only $5 to replace. This has the potential for huge a savings impact on school replacement budgets.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a 21st century idea that schools should expect students to use their own computing tools – laptops, smartphones, tablets – in class. Going back to rethinking essential school supplies… who is responsible for paying for these learning tools…the school or parents? I believe the parents should. The school should invest in the infrastructure (digital-content, wireless network, teacher training, etc.) to deliver quality “digital-age” teaching and learning environments. Most students already use one or more of these devices at home and play. Why duplicate this capital expense? Why not collaborate with parents? Why not blend these personal tools between school and home? This is a learning moment for administrators to rethink integrating these devices as learning tools into classroom instruction. Doing so would have a big impact on school capital equipment budget. Students would also be more engaged in learning as well! A win – win for everyone.
What about students from poorer families who cannot afford these learning tools? This is what community groups’ like Rotary Club, Kiwanis and Lion’s Clubs do. They assist disadvantage families. I’ve heard that in some communities that banks assist parents with this school supply expense. School leadership needs to ask their community for help in providing a 21st century education opportunities for all students. Community leaders are open to this idea…they benefit from quality schools and graduated students prepared for a modern workplace.
Information Technology Managers need to rethink their equipment replacement budgets. I’ve known several school IT Managers that budget annually to replace desktop PC’s. In the age of the Internet combined with wireless mobile devices… why would a school re-invest in 20th century technology? Equipment replacement budgets should used to leverage the introduction of innovative learning resources for students.
I believe implementing digital-based learning strategies can have enormous potential to deliver budget-savings for schools. And, there are schools in pockets of the global that are trying and realizing these benefits. All that is required here is American education leaders to rethink their assumptions to school budgeting.