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Spending Money on Children: How to Finance Your Digital Conversion

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April 18, 2013 08:00 pm

project 24
It’s Thursday and it’s time to talk digital learning! The following blog post comes from Scott Smith, one of the Project 24 Team of Experts and Chief Technology Officer at Mooresville Graded School District.
As CTO of a school district that is five years into a complete Digital Conversion, the number one question, hands down is “How did you afford it?”  There are many quips and retorts that come to mind: “You can’t afford not to do it” and “We grow our own on the tree in the back.”
spending money
However, one of my favorite responses was to a naysayer who asked, “why are you spending all this money on technology?” from one of our school board members. He replied:
“We are not spending money on technology, we are spending money on children!”  
The bottom line is to think about spending for technology in a new light.  It’s all about Dollars and Sense. Take off the blinders, step out of your comfort zone, break down those silos between departments and look at what is best for students!
Mooresville Graded School District has been able to provide a laptop for every third through twelfth grader in the district – some 4500 in total, while being one of the least funded districts in the state.  MGSD ranks 108 out of 115 in per pupil expenditure (Local, state and federal dollars) yet has found a way to provide digital tools and resources at the fingertips of every child.
I think anyone today would agree that preparing our students to be active, engaged productive citizens is an outcome we would all like to achieve.  Many factors influence this outcome, including but not limited to socioeconomic status, demographics, numbers of free and reduced lunch students, high quality teachers and administrators, parent involvement, relationships, and yes, access to technology and digital content.
We think about spending for technology differently.  For many years, technology has been seen as a capital expenditure and one that needs a few million bucks every few years.  We have moved technology spending to an operational or current expense cost.  Doing this, we are able to budget each year for the technology and we know what our costs are going to be.  This shift makes it necessary for us to lease or lease to own the hardware.  We spread that lump sum over a four year lease and we can plan appropriately.  This also helps with the refresh cycle and replacement of machines.  We work with all departments and all budgets to use funding in a way that supports our efforts and meets the needs of every child.
In addition, the cost savings from the move away from print materials to online digital resources and content is significant.  MGSD currently subscribes to approximately 25 online content resources.  This includes everything from Discovery Education, to icurio, IXL Math, Study Island, Brain Pop, and many more.  When we calculate all the subscription charges and fees, we spend less than $75 per student per year for this wealth of content that spans PreK – 12 and all curriculum areas.  In today’s market you cannot even buy a textbook for that price!  This also means a cost savings in instructional materials and printing!
So truthfully, it’s all about dollars and sense!  Spend differently and with purpose and it’s possible – Every Child Every Day!
Scott Smith is Chief Technology Officer for Mooresville Graded School District and a member of the Project 24 Team of Experts. He has  served as a teacher, technology facilitator, systems engineer, director, and CTO, and currently serves as an ISTE affiliate representative for NCTIES and sits on the board of directors for the North Carolina Association of School Administrators.
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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.