DAILY INSIGHT: Let's kick "tech on a shoestring" to the curb

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

It is time to outlaw “Technology on a Shoestring Budget,” “Technology on the Cheap,” “Free Tech Tools,” and other similar presentations at superintendent and Board of Education conferences, during which we allow some of our colleagues to articulate how to try to make technology work without properly budgeting for the necessary technology infrastructure and support staff to ensure technology is solid, reliable and core to the functioning of a district or school.

As I have spoken with several educational leaders just in the last few days, everyone seems to have a doom-and-gloom forecast for the budgeting process this spring. The last thing we need to do is allow our IT colleagues to be out there planting the seeds that technology can be done as an afterthought and not a core budget item.

At the SchoolCIO Leadership Forum in Chicago last September, budgeting was a key area of conversation and, at that time, I posited that budgeting is about setting priorities. Simply put, proper network infrastructure and computers are no different than buses, lunch facilities, or kindergarten teachers. If a school or district doesn’t want to consider them as mission-critical elements of budgeting, then they will fail in keeping up with technology and will be unable to move towards more mobile, anytime/anywhere computing. If decision makers are out at conferences looking at “technology on a shoestring” sessions, they aren’t going to support the need to update the necessary infrastructure, etc., to keep technology moving forward.

My biggest concern of late is the amount of bandwidth we don’t have to properly prepare for the coming online assessments such as PARCC and others supporting the Common Core. Bandwidth expenses are costly but important. Unfortunately, they aren’t sexy and it is hard to demonstrate the need at a Board meeting, but the new generate of assessments are going to eat bandwidth like Pac Man ate those power pellets. We need to work at all levels to convince leaders that we need to invest in the bandwidth necessary to really support transformative instruction. That can’t happen when kids see the spinning wheel of death instead of the instructional website they meant to go to.

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.