An Educator's Guide to Writing Technology Proposals

Technological Philosophy is a Joke

Sharing a technological idea is like telling a joke. Some get the joke right away, others walk away and you hear them laughing somewhere down the hallway, while others will find themselves laughing at a future time. Some, though, need to hear the joke and have it explained to them in order to get it. As every teacher knows, that learning-instant doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone. The best thing that can happen, though, is that your joke continues to be shared. Even better than that is when the joke comes back to you modified, and it sounds better than the original.

Make your day, and possibly your career by sharing your ideas through proposals — and that’s no joke!

Write that Proposal!

How many times have you been excited about an incredible idea, but then you bring it to an administrator for approval and you’re sent away to “write it up.” Don’t make the mistake of walking away disgruntled because your exciting idea is not exciting to others right from the start. If your proposal is good enough, and you know it, write it and present it! Don’t make it easy for others to avoid your ideas.

If there’s a World’s Book of Records category for writing proposals, I own the record. Actually, the majority of my proposals don’t fly, but the ones that do are well worth the effort. I’ve discovered that writing proposals can help get things for the school / district. It’s important to have a plan as well as a proposal. You can take great comfort in knowing that your idea will work, because your plan shows that it will work.

Here’s an actual Proposal tale:

Discovery Learning / United Streaming was offering a free year of their online educational videos and resources. This was amazing. When I first started in the business, there were many ‘free’ offers, and with very few strings attached. It doesn’t happen too often these days. So, I jumped on their offer. My initial contacts were extremely generous with their time, and answered all my questions. I even E-mailed my praise for their efforts. Well, I set up all my staff logins and everyone immediately began using the Discovery Education Resources. We used the online product so well that United Streaming took note. Their sales rep offered a 2-for-1 deal: we could purchase their online program for one school and get another school set up for free. This would allow me to bring our middle school online. And I also saw this as a good opportunity for another proposal as well. The way I figured it, when you give your ideas a chance; someone might say yes. Think positively.

While I thought the pricing was fair for larger schools, it didn’t seem that way for our smaller schools. I have four local elementary schools with small populations. I knew that Discovery Education / United Streaming Resources would be a good option for the two highest grades (third and fourth graders) in each , but I asked myself, “why should each small school pay the same as a larger school?”

I suggested that I could combine the highest two grades in those local elementary schools in order to form a school-group with the same number of students as in the larger schools, where Discovery had already been purchased. I even offered to set this up for the local schools and act as administrator. I further offered, as icing on the cake, to tell my contacts in other districts, who might be interested in the same thing.

This initial contact was by phone, and presented to our area sales representative, who offered a short trial for the additional schools. But this wouldn’t have helped me at the time. It was just too late in the school year. Anyone who teaches, or integrates technology understands the time it takes to set up, share, and finally get a majority to accept a new idea, or project. I was asked, as you might have assumed, to write a proposal and send it along, so it could be shared further at Discovery Education Resources. Well, I was certain my proposal made good sales sense, which made me very optimistic. I thought the concept for getting a good product to more students in smaller districts would certainly fly, even with a product like Discovery / United Streaming that really sells itself. Sadly, my proposal was rejected.

I never delete my losing proposals, though, and neither should you. Save them. And never be discouraged from moving onto your next project or proposal because of a rejection. It’s best to have a few projects going at the same time.

Here’s a good reason for saving all your proposals:
I began a new school year with a very pleasant E-mail from another Discovery Education representative asking me if I needed help setting up my other district schools. What an opening! I dusted off that old rejected proposal and sent it, along with the new contact, in an E-mail. This led to another phone conversation with our area sales representative. He suggested talking with the vice president responsible for sales to see what possibilities would work for us. He was quite positive that something might be worked out for my other schools, even if it wasn’t exactly the proposal I suggested.

Sometimes, you have to ask yourself what you are prepared to do in order to move an idea forward. Be prepared for rejection, sometimes success, and once in a while a compromise. Here’s the point, even a company like Discovery Education, with it’s product in 60% of the public schools in the United States, will try to work with your proposal.

Proposal Ideas:

Technology proposals need to take into account your own district’s dynamics. For example, in my district, the small district tech crew must be shared with the town, which is not great for me, because I have to compete with too many other requests for help. Because I want to push the technology envelope I have had to do things that allow me to move forward technologically without requiring a lot of district support. For this reason, I have been very conscientious about budgeting, as well as looking for other ideas online, believing that if someone else serves it up I can just have my staff use whatever it is. Some simple things don’t require much to make simple advances.

For example, my staff enjoys our inexpensive digital cameras for sharing their classroom activities, and they like the wireless keyboards and mice as these decrease teacher station wires and provide more, flexible ways for students to enter data. The easiest proposals are my favorites. For instance, flash drives for all teachers have increased teacher productivity at school, because teachers can easily take files home. So be prepared to go further than you think to get even the simplest proposals accepted. It’s sometimes necessary, and can be very worthwhile.

Some proposal ideas:

TypingMaster Online
I’ve worked out proposals with them that address our student keyboarding practice problems! Getting keyboarding practice for all students is essential. Because there is just not enough time in the day, most schools are torn between teaching essential software or teaching keyboarding. There are some shareware options, but it’s not enough.

My proposal was to present an online approach that would allow all of our students to practice at home on their own computers, while still recognizing that some without Internet access would have to use school computers for the practice. TypingMaster Online has a school option, with reasonable pricing, but I’ve found that they are more than willing to meet a school’s needs for pricing and licensing. Because TypingMaster is open to suggestions and committed to meeting needs, I have a great deal with them for two years. I also have a student and teacher database for student logins, and can monitor each student throughout the lessons. There will be far fewer questions from parents regarding keyboarding issues. The site offers free trial sessions, and you can talk with TypingMaster to even modify that to suit your needs.

Calendars Net
This site will let you have an easy interactive calendar for free, but I decided that a license purchase would be better for us, and it only cost me $36. I’ve designed our page to look more like it’s part of our site. There’s no commercial material and we get an upgraded server for that amount, which makes it well worth the cost. Myself, our office staff, the PTA officers, and other designated individuals can post dates and interactive information daily throughout the school year. If you have one thing on your school Web site, or page, I recommend this. It’s just too easy to use. It also lets you make your school or district look good with very little work.

Discovery Learning / United Streaming
As I’ve discussed above, this is an incredible proposal for a school or district. They do offer trial logins. At one time they were offering a full year, but, at llast check, there was only a 30-day trial. However, as I say above, that shouldn’t stop you from making your own trial proposal to extend that time, and I know that they will work with you on this. They have quite a product, with streaming video that you can download, blackline masters, and correlations to state standards, calendar of historical events, teachers’ guides, and more.

Looking for a presence on the Internet, or just a way to build a school community?

TeacherWeb has a great way for K-8 teachers to share their classrooms on the Internet. It makes them feel as though they’re Web masters. Updating pages by filling in and submitting password- protected data is easy. TeacherWeb improves each year and provides more page possibilities as well. Pricing starts at $25 per year for a single teacher, or $2.50 per month, and drops off dramatically the more teachers you add.

Final Site
I’ve suggested to our Superintendent that our Board of Education and high school investigate an Internet possibility that allows a more professional look with very little time or effort. It could make it appear that your district has taken giant technology steps. Final Site presents a wonderfully professional technological storefront. There’s a demo and free trial here, too. Some districts look at this for an entire district, but it may be more appropriate for an upper grade level, or even a district site. Elementary schools might seek a more appropriate portal.

What are you prepared to do to make it work?

Be prepared to go above and beyond to make things happen. For example, with TeacherWeb I used my own money to seed the project. They gave me a good deal because they knew what I was attempting. It worked and the district picked up the tag for the rest of the system the following year. I also seeded the flash drives for teachers as well, although, I have to admit, I talked a company into a pretty good deal there. And the best $36 I ever spent was for that interactive calendar. It pays off daily.

Build it!

Build it and they will come. Some would rather have teachers, students, and other users do the tech setups themselves. That is very wishful thinking. If you really care about advancing technology in a reasonable amount of time, and for the maximum number of people, you have to build it for your users, because it’s easier to lead them to something that is already created. Not everyone is going to have the same technical abilities, nor will they place setting up software or logging in online above preparing their daily lesson plans. Let teachers teach and let the tech staff, which may certainly include teachers, set up the technology. More importantly, building it lets you organize it. If you ‘build it’ and ‘they come’ to it, you get to organize the administration. In addition you can collect data regarding use and give that data to anyone as proof that your ideas work. It’s hard to argue with data, and it may just add more clout to your next proposal.

Last word, you don’t have to go it alone:
Having a school technology committee is a good buffer between you and the district committee, and a technology committee can write proposals, too. It also gives your proposals more power, because the ideas come from more than just one individual, making your concept more ‘rejection-immune’.

And what if you don’t have a school or district tech committee? Well, why not make that your first proposal? Remember, great ideas begin with you.

Email: Ken Royal