What's the Big Idea?

from Tech&Learning

Things to consider before you write that RFP

Let's say you have a great idea for an ongoing multimedia project on digital storytelling that you want to do with your teachers and their students. But you do not have the resources, training, or support to do this project—no money. All of us can relate to this these days. So do you just forget it—let it go until the money is available? No! I know—you've heard this before: "If you build it, they will come." But, if you don't build it or at least start with the blueprint, they will never know about it.

Put your ideas in writing with a clear plan on what you want to do before applying for any grant. This is like a mini-proposal that you give to your administrators for their approval and support. Any proposal needs these six components.


Do you have a good sense of how your program fits into the philosophy and mission of your school?

For example, consider that the focus for most professional development at your school has been on improving reading and math scores. Data at your school shows that seventh grade students are falling behind in these disciplines. Their scores need to improve, and writing samples are not up to grade level. Digital storytelling will engage these students and encourage them to research, read, write, and develop a presentation about a concept they have trouble understanding. Teachers do not use the technology and have not had the training to participate in digital storytelling. Consider how the following improves this situation:

  • Teachers will map the curriculum to identify gaps and repetitions, so they can select topics for students to study in more depth.
  • Teachers will receive initial training and ongoing coaching as they develop and implement their digital storytelling projects with their students.
  • Objective 1: Seventh grade teachers will map the curriculum and review data to determine gaps and repetitions within the curriculum.
  • Objective 2: Seventh grade teachers will work collaboratively to develop a model multimedia project.
  • Why doesn't the existing curriculum provide deep understanding of the standards?
  • Why would a group project provide deeper understanding?

You can explain that without having time to map what is currently taught and review current assessment data, teachers may continue teaching content that is redundant or unnecessary and may miss other content that is necessary. The textbook may cover all areas tested, but you can show that test scores are low involving the same standards year after year. You also may have to justify why you want your students to work collaboratively instead of individually.


How long will your program take?

Assess how much teachers know about mapping the curriculum, digital storytelling, the technology used to do digital storytelling, classroom management, and collaborative projects. For this blueprint, you can use a quick survey. When you have some idea of what your teachers know and don't know, write the dates you hope to start and end the project and how often teachers will need release time to participate in workshops, and the person(s) responsible. You can elaborate on this and detail all of the activities in the full proposal.


Write how much money you will need to do this project.

You may not know all the expenses at this point but try your best to include the costs for people and resources. From the assessment and timetable, you can figure out who will need what.

Do you have the people who can provide the training and coaching support?

If they are full-time teachers, you will need to build in enough release time. If you find you don't have the people to provide the training and/or coaching, then do some research about trainers or coaches available and their costs.

What resources do your teachers have and what will each teacher need to complete the projects? The administrator may ask for this information before the timetable.

You presented your blueprint and your administrator gave the okay to go to the next step. Now where do you go? Sometimes the project you want to do is perfect for your school and there are categorical funds available, the parent teacher association or educational foundation may fund it, or your administrator may know of different funding sources.

Barbara Bray writes a regular column on professional development for OnCUE, is president of My eCoach (my-ecoach.com) an online learning community powered by eCoaching, and has contributed over 400 PDQs (Professional Quick Tips) and articles to TechLearning.com. You can read her blog, Rethinking Learning, at barbarabray.my-ecoach.com.

Looking for funding sources that match the goals and purpose of your program




DONORS CHOOSE (for classroom resources)





Read the grant guidelines thoroughly to see if your program is a good match. You don't want to spend valuable time writing a grant that is not going to be taken seriously by the funding agency.

Resources to help you write the complete proposal





Make sure that you put enough time aside to write the grant and have all stakeholders include their input. Follow all guidelines to a T. The readers follow the guidelines, so make sure you use the checklist for each section. Twenty-five percent is the usual amount to put aside for professional development. Without enough time for teachers to try something new, take a risk, learn from each other, reflect, and be coached by someone who understands their situation, the program will not be effective or successful.