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Technology Grants for Supporting Education?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the assist-the-technology-behind-the-classroom dept.

Education 46

citking asks: "I work as one of 12 micro computer technicians for the Madison School District, the second-largest in the state of Wisconsin, and we have a problem: Our support equipment, namely laptops and diagnostic hardware, is falling dangerously behind the times even as our schools receive top of the line technology sponsored mostly by private grants and donations. Our technology budget is small and is being cut back every year, so having the district buy us new laptops is out of the question. I wouldn't mind applying for a grant to cover most, if not all, of the cost of new equipment, but any grants I see directed at education are all directed toward teachers' projects. Are there any grant programs available for support positions in the public sector? If not, how do other support people in the public sector struggle to keep up with low budgets and outdated equipment?"

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Follow the money trail... (5, Insightful)

ElectricRook (264648) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141850)

It's much easier to cry "Our students are suffering because the computers are out of date", than it is to cry "Our teachers are under paid".

I for one think computers are over-rated as teachers. I also think computers are over-rated as teaching tools. Computers are fantastic as internet search tools, and great for teaching computer programming. Computers are also great for teaching typing, and other computer skills. Teaching someone to be a mouse driver is about as beneficial as teaching them to be a truck driver. Meaning that if your computer is not working for you, you are working for the computer.

Flame away.

Re:Follow the money trail... (2, Interesting)

dasunt (249686) | more than 9 years ago | (#11144629)

It's much easier to cry "Our students are suffering because the computers are out of date", than it is to cry "Our teachers are under paid".

Last time I checked, the average teacher's pay was about the same as the average pay for a college graduate (which would be a middle-class income).

I think its easier to cry "Our teachers are under paid" than it is to cry "Blame the parents" and "blame the students".

A Footnote (2, Insightful)

dasunt (249686) | more than 9 years ago | (#11144792)

You question whether computers are effective learning tools. Perhaps you should also question if they are cost effective.

A grade school, junior high, or senior high math textbook can be valid for decades. Grammar books can also be valid for decades. Chemistry and Physics books also tend to be good for many, many years. Even with scientific advances and new research, political science, geography, and biology books tend to be good for a decade and a half.

A cheap computer costs as much as several textbooks, not including additional manpower and resources needed to keep them maintained. Yet a cheap wintel computer only lasts a few years until its out of date.

Yes, there are a few skills that should be learned through hands-on use of a computer. Computerized document presentation and typing are probably the most useful to most students. As a preperation for some careers, an introduction to programming is also needed. Although, lets be honest -- a lot of good programming is more textbook related than computer related. Hell, a lot of computer basics is more textbook related than computer related: while a computer may aide in learning the applications of a technology, it won't easily aide in learning the basics of a technology. For even a high school level, most of the above can be done on outdated computers.

Funds are not an unlimited resource. There are schools out there spending money to needlessly upgrade their computers and networks with little benefit to our students because the public perception is that computers are needed in the classroom. Bullshit. For the most part, its not cost effective. A smaller, older computer department will work about as well, and will leave money for other causes.

Just my $.02.

Re:A Footnote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11147803)

Textbooks in the hands of multiple person over a prolonged period of time are never valid for decades. You're lucky to get five years out of most books. And that assumes that the content in those books never changes. If you subscribe to a flat earth viewpoint, or some other dark ages bullshit, then this might be true. However, science is continually progressing. My biology textbooks from 5 years ago are seriously outdated when compared to newer discoveries in the field. There's a reason why textbooks need to be updated very frequently. Unless, like you, you don't give a fuck about actually teaching the children anything and only care about saving as much money as possible.

But, you've proven that you don't know anything about computers so I think we can easily just discount your entire response. A computer is more than a fucking tool for typing up a paper. A computer is vital for research. When schools either have to update their reference books yearly, to account for the MANY changes in the world, or let their books become outdated, why bother? The internet provides the same resources for next to nothing, and they're continuously updated. For pansy-assed liberal arts majors like yourself, that's a good enough reason alone. The moment we consider the sciences, your already tenuous arguments fall completely apart. From the CS aspect, a computer is NECESSARY for the learning process. In Chemistry, the use of computerized data acquisition software allows students to perform laboratory experiments which would traditionally be beyond the ken of a high school lab. The same is true of physics. Because it is such a versatile tool, one device can be used by every department in the school. How is that useless? Would you really like to fuck the children's educations up to save money? Narrow minded twit.

Re:A Footnote (1)

dasunt (249686) | more than 9 years ago | (#11148599)

You're lucky to get five years out of most books. And that assumes that the content in those books never changes. If you subscribe to a flat earth viewpoint, or some other dark ages bullshit, then this might be true.

Its a shame that they discovered that the earth was actually round in 1999. Made all of those 5-year old geography textbooks quite invalid. The recent research into the lack of dragons in Africa and a south polar continent are threatening to change those same textbooks once again.

As for math, if Mayer-Libowitz hadn't proven that 2 + 2 = 4 in 1996, we wouldn't have had to get rid of all those old math textbooks that said 2 + 2 = 5.

Even worse, gravity adjusting to 10.4 m/s^2 in 1993, and then force deciding that it was only going to be 3/4ths of m * A a year later invalidated all our physics textbooks. Not to mention 1997, when acceleration itself decided it would no longer be (v1 - v0)/t.

Don't forget grammar. If the world hadn't decided to get rid of pronouns and instead use indeterminate plural positional nouns instead in 1988, those books might have been valid.

And finally, there is chemisty. Who would have guessed that water would stop freezing at 0C and stop boiling at 100C? Or that it would suddenly decide that it would be H30 instead of H2O.

Alas, its a tipsy turvey world where no textbook is valid for more than a few years.

Re:A Footnote (1)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 9 years ago | (#11148932)

No, its that few textbooks last more than a few years in most schools. I distinctly recall a 3 year old english textbook in middle school that was in two pieces.

Re:A Footnote (1)

crbowman (7970) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149098)

There is a simple answer to that. If there is a text book that doesn't last 3 years, one of three people owes the state the cost of a new replacement book for the damage they did to state property.

Re:A Footnote (1)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149733)

You know, thats the idea they go under, but its surprisingly hard to get money out of 12 year olds, or their parents.

Re:A Footnote (1)

crbowman (7970) | more than 9 years ago | (#11155207)

Actually it's quite easy, don't let them move on a grade or give them a diploma. Then call the cops because the kid isn't in school for grade 4 cause he didn't pass grade 3. Make the parents responsible. If they can't be responsible enough for the book then what the hell are they doing with a child?

Re:Follow the money trail... (1)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | more than 9 years ago | (#11146983)

Having just married a high school teacher, I was curious about this- so I started doing a little research in my town (Austin, TX)- the median teacher salary I could find for towns in Texas with a population over 10,000 (the best granularity I could find with a quick search) was about $41K (which is higher than my wife, who has about 10 years experience teaching), and the median salary in Austin is $51K.

Basically, teachers are underpaid. People talk about "summers off" ... kind of, but not really- they have mandatory in-service training during the summer- a requirement to get and/or keep their certificate. They don't get all that much leave otherwise- pretty much, during the school year, most of their "personal days" are devoted to the normal day-to day things like medical appointments and sick days.

The additional requirements of "No Child Left Behind" include that all teachers be "highly qualified" means that we will have even fewer people that will be able to work for 20% less than the median rate.

Computers can be a help in the classroom, but without teachers who know how to teach, they are useless.

Re:Follow the money trail... (1)

CounterZer0 (199086) | more than 9 years ago | (#11144909)

Computers aren't really being used heavily as 'teachers', or even 'teaching tools' directly involving students. I work for a mid/large district (~50K kids), and I'd say 90% of our computer usage is either electronic testing of classroom taught material (for things like state standardized tests, or district analytical tests), communication between teachers/staff, or administrative/statistical analysis work - grade averaging, scheduling, inventory, hr/finance, etc.
We have a few special-needs kids who have 'computer teachers' that were paid for by big-ticket grant items, but most of our desktop PCs are used for email and data analysis, not 'teaching' the kids.
It's helpful to find out that every kid at one school missed a specfic question on a standardized test, as you can then look at the curriculum that school used and possibly identify a flaw. Things like that are the REAL use for computers in education.

Re:Follow the money trail... (1)

umbra_dweller (797279) | more than 9 years ago | (#11146301)

They are not being used as teachers in all places, but some schools ARE using the idea. I'm a year and a half into college now, but when I left my high school they were doing trial runs of computer teaching, mainly in economics and history. The level of econ I was taking, for instance, had three types of classes *A traditionally taught class only using computers as word processes and research tools. *A class that was mostly classroom teaching, with one weekly lesson from a computer program *A class mostly taught on computer, with a teacher reviewing and answering questions I (thankfully) was in the class using the computers only once a week. To me, a person actually interested in economics and history, the software was very patronizing, using "amusing" animations and games, and was very confining - it was like an entire course designed for a scantron test...which I guess is all the people at the top have to worry about. It taught you how to memorize lists, dates, and terms that's for sure; but I'll be damned if it actually helped me understand anything, or if those same terms stuck in my head after test day. But I still think about things I learned from some of my high school classes with good teachers that are useful even through college, and I think I could have memorized all those lists and terms with a textbook, notes, and paper flashcards just as well. There are indeed many legitimate educational uses for computers, but the "edutainment" and "computer-as-teacher" models are out there as well, and from where I stood they didn't look too pretty. Technology is fine, but when it comes to the simple interface between teacher and student, I don't think there has been a whole lot invented to date that really revolutionalizes anything. My school district had millions to buy brand new computers (and toss two older generations of computers, many still useful, into the dumpster) but we didn't have enough classrooms to put our kids in, and with the california budget cuts we are still having trouble finding enough teachers to teach them...but last year we still got brand new computers, and threw more old ones away...something is just messed up with those priorities.

Re:Follow the money trail... (1)

umbra_dweller (797279) | more than 9 years ago | (#11146329)

Damn, I forgot to make paragraphs. I gotta learn to use preview.

Err.. what? (0, Troll)

maskedbishounen (772174) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141909)

Our support equipment, namely laptops and diagnostic hardware, is falling dangerously behind the times

Just what are you trying to do? Play Doom 3 on these things?

More seriously, though. Are they allowing you to do your job? If so, I don't see what the issue is.

Re:Err.. what? (1)

citking (551907) | more than 9 years ago | (#11153651)

I wouldn't mod you as a troll on this, as you ask a great question: The facts are, we can't do our jobs efficiently. What should take (and what administrators budget time for) 10 minutes sometimes takes an hour, such as uploading an image or popping open ConsoleOne to do some pass resets or allocate disk space. As for diagnostic equip., we don't have enough toners, loopbacks, or handheld wire testers to go around, creating a "check-out" system where 9 of these kits (2 are decent, the rest are fairly useless) are divided among the 12 of us. We each average around 5 schools each to support, the exception being those who maintain the high schools. So in short, no, they are not letting us do our jobs properly. We can get by, but we waste more taxpayer money sitting around wishing we could be doing work when the tools we use can't keep up.

Re:Err.. what? (1)

xTown (94562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11168163)

MMSD has a bigger problem than not having enough testing equipment, or at least it did when I was there as a Micro Tech I/II and Specialist ('94-'98)...and that's that a dozen people just isn't enough to cover the school district properly. Although at least when I was there we all had our own cable continuity testers; you've probably gotten a lot more equipment since then.

Have you asked the District grant coordinator? I realize that that's probably a dumb question, but they should be able to point you somewhere, too.

This next thing is based on a suggestion I saw elsewhere in the comments, namely...turn it into a teaching project. When I was there, I taught a few workshops for some teachers. Maybe you can stretch a grant over a framework like that: "We need this equipment to effectively teach teachers how to make use of technology," or something. That it has other uses is a win for you.

Re:Err.. what? (1)

xTown (94562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11168276)

Also, I hope the stress level at MMSD has gone down. Just thinking about those days has kind of gotten me off-kilter. Very strange.

Gotta learn how to play the game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11142009)

There are plenty of vendors (myself included) that would love to sell services to your district. Many of us (vendors) can even show your district how our services will save money over the current situation. However, we simply don't have the opportunity due to complex political reasons i.e. we don't have enough money to get the right people to champion us. Of course, if throwing a laptop or two your way can get us in the front of the right people it is well worth it. In other words, if you can help us, we can help you.

Re:Gotta learn how to play the game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11142247)

I saw this on a bumpersticker... "Kickbacks and Corruption: Working for You!"

Raw turnips? (0, Offtopic)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142067)

Students sampled raw cabbage, carrot, turnip and spinach and then made wraps with flour or spinach tortillas. Elementary students district-wide recently had a "homegrown lunch" using locally grown produce.

I'm not a professional educator or anything but aren't you supposed to cook turnips? Maybe they mean turnip greens, although I'd strongly advise cooking those too. (And spinach, for that matter.) Seems like this activity is just going to scare kids away from vegetables.

Re:Raw turnips? (1)

crmartin (98227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142255)

No, raw turnips are actually very good, sort of like mild radishes. Cut them in sticks like carrot sticks and serve them chilled.

Actually, once I'd had raw turnips, I couldn't figure why people bother to cook them.

Re:Raw turnips? (1)

America Balls (816764) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142333)

Agreed, raw turnips are superior in taste and texture. And while I will agree with grandparent about cooking turnip greens, spinach is best consumed raw.

Re:Raw turnips? (1)

crmartin (98227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142477)

Well, I like spinach sauteed quickly with good olive oil and lots of garlic, but certainly not the usual greeen pudding that's made of it.

Re:Raw turnips? (1)

ElectricRook (264648) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142829)

When I was in the city school district (1966-1979) they served us canned peas, and canned spinich. Two of the worst things you can take out of a can. Both are great stored frozen, and of course better fresh.

Now, I suppliment my omlette with spinich. In CA, that's called "Frisco Joe's omlette".

Re:Raw turnips? (1)

crmartin (98227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11143022)

Fresh spinach, feta cheese, onions.

Slashdot needs a recipes section.

Re:Raw turnips? (1)

ElectricRook (264648) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150842)

Thanks,

I've never tried that... I may live in a very small box.

Creative Grant Writing (4, Informative)

BigT (70780) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142119)

I once worked IT at a university. The usual tactic there was to talk to the grant writers and ensure that part of technology grants was earmarked to SUPPORT the technology. If they are ordering 10 computers for a grant project, then they need to include one more to support those ten. Also make sure the grant includes infrastucture (network hardware, etc.) for that project so that the new router needed to put those computers on the net does not come out of your budget.

Re:Creative Grant Writing (1)

deque_alpha (257777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142216)

I second this. I am the technology coordinator for a medium-sized district, and for any grants that are open-ended enough to allow it, I make sure 5-10% is skimmed off for support costs. Only way to do it.

Re:Creative Grant Writing (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 9 years ago | (#11143043)

Got to love all of the talk about skimming, kickbacks, "free" hardware, etc. in this topic. You would think working with the government would be simple and straight forward... Provide good service at a fair value - wait, the good guy here always finishes last to the guy with the $600 golden hammer

wait, who's the good guy here? (1)

cheezus (95036) | more than 9 years ago | (#11144008)

you mean the one who just accepts having no budget to support the technology and provides a poor service?

Re:Creative Grant Writing (1)

deque_alpha (257777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11148797)

Well, since the government provides unsufficient funding to deliver an educational program that meets the standards that the government itself sets forth, you have to "get creative" with other funding sources. The alternative of providing a sub-par education is not acceptible to me.

You would think working with the government would be simple and straight forward...

What planet are you from? I don't know of a single government on earth that could be classified as being simple and straightforward to work with. You are either an ET impersonating a human, or are young enough you've never done your own taxes...

It's all in how you look at it. (2, Insightful)

sysadmn (29788) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142471)

So write the grant proposal to play up the educational aspects. Need diagnostic tools? Stress that they'll be used to keep student and teacher systems running, and also to teach students state of the art tools for keeping systems running. Same with infrastructure items - ask for two routers, and stress that one will be used to give students real-world, hands-on experience.

Corporate sponsorship? (1)

CsiDano (807071) | more than 9 years ago | (#11142945)

Of course you could always write to a computer corporation. Cisco runs the "Cisco Acad" at my college. The networking courses are no longer taught with an in house curriculum. In exchange wwe seem to get a pretty decent price cut on the cost of the dozens of routers and switches we have from Cisco. Although it's one more way for your school to be branded. Good luck.

Repurpose those old computers (1)

gozar (39392) | more than 9 years ago | (#11143658)

Also check out the K12 Linux Terminal Server Project [k12ltsp.org] . It's a great way get more good out of your current equipment.

Downsize (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 9 years ago | (#11144347)

Fire one technician. Allocate the money formerly used for his salary to buy new diagnostic tools.

Thanks... (3, Interesting)

citking (551907) | more than 9 years ago | (#11144795)

...for the suggestions. I'll certainly try to get the grants to incorporate the required materials to support the gifts they give us. I think most people will be understanding when they look at what we need and why we need it. Thanks again for the suggestions, and by all means, keep 'em coming if you get any more ideas.

Ten Detrimental Problems in Education... (2, Insightful)

nitrocloud (706140) | more than 9 years ago | (#11144882)

...from a STUDENT POV (and not in any specific order).

1. Teachers (really) are underpaid for what must be put up with.
2. Those outside of education do not have a grasp for what happens in the educational system.
3. Students that don't care to be educated hinder the education process and cannot be removed from the environment.
4. Technology courses are being cut, not limited to but including, automotive technologies, shop technologies, computer technologies.
5. Very poor system for student feedback to those who make decisions.
6. FUCKING TESTS SHOULD BE LIMITED. There are too many tests for accountability making education oriented for passing tests, ranking higher on TESTS. Education is detrimented and narrowed to these tests.
7. Parents are not involved enough with education.
8. Punishment systems have become moot, MOOT I SAY! (Tardy == lunch detention, and again detention, and again in school suspension, and again suspension. Suspension for being late...)
9. High school diplomas are worthless.
10. College tuition is constantly rising, putting college graduates in more debt.

Education needs to be destroyed, and rebuilt from the ground up. There is no salvaging the current system. A nation-wide education system and qualification system MUST be established.

Re:Ten Detrimental Problems in Education... (1)

AsbestosRush (111196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150509)

Education needs to be destroyed, and rebuilt from the ground up. There is no salvaging the current system. A nation-wide education system and qualification system MUST be established.

So, what you're saying is that the current government education system is irreparably broken, and needs to be scrapped and replaced by *another* government education system that will eventually devolve into more of the same?

Can't say as I'm with you on this one. Anything government run will eventually devolve to a "money grab" for some constituents by a "typical" politician. Entropy reigns in government.

I like my paycheck the size that it is right now. The proposal to rebuild a behemoth like the government ed system will invariably lead to higher taxes.

Re:Ten Detrimental Problems in Education... (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 9 years ago | (#11153241)

Much agreement, and take a look at this for some more issues: Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto [johntaylorgatto.com]

Re:Ten Detrimental Problems in Education... (1)

nitrocloud (706140) | more than 9 years ago | (#11156363)

In reply to governmental problems (again, in no specific order):
1. Capitalism is evil.
2. Communism is evil.
3. Corruption is evil.
4. Power is evil.
5. Money is evil.
6. All of the above are neccesary.
7. 1-5 are always unbalenced.
8. Citizens never have enough power.
9. Corporations always have too much power from money.
10. Mass murdering all politians would seem to appeal to the masses.

Turn your job into a teaching project? (2, Insightful)

hussar (87373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11145957)

You say most of the grant money goes to teachers' projects. Can you combine what you do into a course offered to students with advanced technical computer skills - sort of an Honors Class in Support? Request the new equipment you need as part of a grant to support the new course.

Yeah, I know. It's clear I don't have any experience in the administration requirements of a public school district, and there are probably any number of hurdles to doing this (a teaching certificate might be one of them). But I thought I'd bring the idea up anyway.

Give Up (1)

b00tleg (603482) | more than 9 years ago | (#11148686)

Leave the IT industry. Quit and become a Chef - everyone needs to eat.

Re:Give Up (1)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150177)

What are you crazy, I quit being a Chef and got into IT, hours were long after taxes etc, pay sucked, I'd rather turn off 50 workstations on my way out, than clean the kitchen at the end ofthe day.... IT's a crazy world....

Look outside the box (2, Informative)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150400)

For what it is worth, look outside the "school district" for donations. I work in an IT department in a school with a hefty yearly budget, and a clearly defined replacement schedule for ALL equipment. We have donated all of our old and slow computers( by our standards) to other schools less fortunate. Look to the universities and colleges in the area for donations. Another route would be corperate sponsorship. Propose a pilot program, they supply the gear, you make it work, they show it off, it is a win win situation. Or you can read a few of the BOFH on the Reg, and learn how to be in control, and not controlled. good luck

Two Words: Government Surplus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11153007)

How far behind is *too* far behind? Surplus and excess government equipment *has* to go up for public auction if it winds up unused.

http://www.govliquidation.com/ [govliquidation.com]

Mostly P3's up for grabs here, but you can't beat the price.

If you can scrape together the funds (normal budget, grants, PTA donations), purchasing older computers can stretch your budget fairly far.

Fewer computers, more books... (1)

stinkbomb (238228) | more than 9 years ago | (#11177237)

As the parent of a former Madison schools student, I would have to say I'm glad the technology budgets are being cut. Way too much money has been spent on ubiquitous computing without any benefit to the majority of the students.
My son used to tell me that in the classes that used computers the most, at least 50% of his and his classmates time was spent downloading music, playing games or chatting. In the 'regular' classes (the old-fashioned kind that used books and real teaching) he and his classmates spent the majority of their time learning.
Speaking as a professional programmer, I see the benefit of computers in the school, but limited to a computer lab, where specific skills are taught. In my opinion, PowerPoint is not something to be taught in high school.
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