Education Technology Guidance

Posted by Michael Simkins on April 22, 2013

GPS screenYesterday, I received an email from an aspiring administrator with the subject line “Education technology guidance.”  He wrote that as the “closest thing my school currently has to an Education Technologist,” he’s been tasked with writing a grant proposal for funding to help his school implement a blended learning environment.  He described his dilemma as follows:

As part of the application, I am being asked to forecast the annual costs for digital content licenses, learning management systems, and data management systems. I am unsure as to whether I understand the difference between all three, never mind how to estimate a cost. As I understand it, the digital content license would be for programs like Aleks’ math program. A learning management system would be something like Edmodo or Moodle, where a teacher could deliver other content and communicate with students. I am unclear as to what a data management system would be. Could you please help clarify these three terms or guide me in the right direction. Examples of each would help.

Bless his heart.  He’s been handed a task with the expectation, apparently, that he’ll do it alone when, in fact, it should be a team effort informed by thoughtful discussion with all stakeholders.  Of course, grant proposals are rarely developed methodically. Typically, one of two things happens.  Some money is dangled in front of us and we go after it, regardless of how it fits our strategic plan; or, we find money in the offing that actually matches our plan but the window for submitting a proposal is so short we have to slap something together in a huge rush and get it out the door.

Well, we have to work in the real world and this fellow wanted guidance now, so here is what I wrote.

You’re on the right track.  Content licenses are any fees you pay to make online content available to teachers and students (e.g. NBC Learn, Discovery Education, ProQuest K-12).  Moodle is one example of a learning management system; Blackboard is another.  A data management system would be something you use to collect, house and analyze information such as student demographics, tests scores, e-portfolios, etc. (e.g. TestingWerks).  Some, like SchoolNet or ObaWorld, are hybrids and combine features.

Before you can forecast costs, you need to determine what tools you need and what you are going to use them for.  What does your school already have?  How does it keep track of student information?  What curricular materials do you use already and will still use in this new program?  How does the school track student data now?  Do you need a different system because of this program or will the one in use serve the purpose?  Basically, you can’t work on a budget until you know what you want to do and what you’ll need to do it.

That’s how I responded; how would you?

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Michael Simkins

Michael Simkins is Consulting Director of TICAL — the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership. Prior to that he was director of the Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project and also served as COO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. He was an elementary schoolteacher for 17 years and an elementary principal for 9 years. He grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, when it was still a “sleepy beach town.”

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