Thursday, June 6, 2013

Funding Technology In My Classroom

Some context. Because, you know, I’m a history teacher: we always need context. I live and teach in Silicon Valley, the technology capital of the world. I have one school desktop in my room that is supposed to be for my personal use - students use way more often than I do. I have eight Chromebooks in my room that I was lucky enough to get funded through Donors Choose. They are awesome and are heavily used in class. Other classes at my school don’t have devices this powerful. There are netbook carts that live with our ELD program, but many of them struggle to run any of the Google apps that get heavy usage in my class. This isn’t typed out of jealousy, pride, or anger, but just as a fact: my students regularly have access to eight of the most powerful devices that go into student hands at from school.

Yes, there is a tech issue at my school. And in my district. I’m working on that. As part of the instructional technology committee (it is what it sounds like) as well as the district digital task force (who spent the year looking at what 1:1 implementation would look like in our district), I have tried to get involved in these conversations. As the year would down and the digital task force made their recommendation for starting a 1:1 pilot at school sites next year, I was not thrilled with the results. There will be somewhere between two and five laptop carts given to each site. How those will be assigned is unclear. They might be assigned to one teacher. A cart could get assigned to a group of teachers. It was very unclear.

I also made another decision: while eight devices was great, my classroom was going to be 1:1 next year. That meant I needed twenty more Chromebooks. By the start of the next school year. And I was going to have to come up with the money to fundraise them.

Donors Choose to the rescue! I put together a Donors Choose project proposal and got it approved. Twenty Chromebooks through Donors Choose? $6,062.26. Now, to come up with the $6K plus...

Thankfully, I’ve got some awesome friends and family and they raised about $3,000 pretty quickly. So, the question becomes - how to find that rest of the money? And here is where the story gets interesting.

Could my school fund it? I talked to our education foundation (the fact that public high schools need an education foundation to fund classes and supplies is for another time). Well, they aren’t supposed to be buying technology for teacher and student use: technology is supposed to come from the district. It isn’t. The foundation could only donate money if they were directed to by our school’s governing council.

Could the school’s governing council fund my project? That’s a sticky, sticky question (and a reason I never want to be an administrator). I made a request for the funds and spoke at the meeting - no money for this project.

What about my parents - could I ask them for money to fund this project? When I broached this idea with my principal, I knew the loaded nature of the question. Yes, another loaded question. We aren’t supposed to ask for anything from parents (outside of money for field trips, no more than $10). There is one ask for money per year by our school, by our education foundation, at the beginning of the school year. Teachers at my school are never supposed to make direct requests for anything from our parents. So could I ask my parents to support my project?

“Wow. Well, I bet you’d raise $2,000 to $3,000 in no time at all.”

That number suprised me, but that is also only $18-$25 per family. And I was able to ask them, and many parents supported my project. Which is, you know, all kinds of awesome.

But these facts remain: my classroom will be 1:1 next year. And these devices won’t come from my district. And they won’t come from my school site. They will come from the generosity of my friends, family, and parents of current and former students. And this leaves me feeling, well, something. Far beyond grateful to have such a supporting group of people behind me. That is for darn sure. But also concerned. When a teacher with a compelling vision for a 1:1 classroom can’t make that happen without incredible generosity of their community? Something isn’t right here.