CONTI Evolution in the Media

5 Ways Schools can Get More Classroom Technology for Less

Colby Harder - Tuesday, March 03, 2015

As an audio video advisory company, we've been working with public and private schools, post secondary, and specialty colleges for more than 40 years.  Over that time, I've come to see a wide variety of school organizations with divergent strategies for building learning technology in their classrooms.  The one constant throughout those years has been the continual proclamation that schools don't have the funds to achieve the learning technology objectives they've set for themselves.  We all know that school districts operate under very tight budgets, but some organizations are better stretching the dollar than others. 


Here's a few tips to help your school or school district optimize your spending and ensure you deliver learning technology to the greatest number of students in your district.

1. Focus on Simplicity- Bruce Lee famously said "the height of cultivation always runs to simplicity".  I believe strongly in simplicity.  It the learning technology arena, it's easy to get swayed by the latest and the greatest.  In reality, the greatest benefit to a classroom comes from the very basics:  A projector, a screen, and a connection to the internet.  Functionality beyond that point may certainly be beneficial, but on a diminishing curve.  If you focus your spending on these essentials over other more complex and time consuming technologies, you will achieve more in every classroom and bring the greatest benefit to the most number of students.

2. Plan and Standardize - I see many school districts support multiple types and brands of projectors, or poorly articulated plans.  Most often I've seen reactionary or contradictory plans.  I have, however, seen some districts with crystal clear and achievable learning technology objectives.  These schools set themselves apart.  A lack of a strategy results in a number of inefficiencies that effectively burn time and money.  Amongst these costs is inconsistency.  Inconsistency creates costs to the organization that are rarely planned for.  A replacement lamp for a projector is often $400 - $700 depending upon the projector. If you operate a single standard, then you can buy 4 lamps and have them ready for immediate rollout when required.  Parts, repair, and support all become more expensive when you're juggling multiple models and brands. Most importantly, focusing on a single brand will get you better pricing from the manufacturer.

3. Lease Your Equipment- When you buy a projector you are buying what will likely be the fastest depreciating asset in the school.  Why not rent it for the period you plan to use it?  A projector's lifecycle in a school will be approximately 36 months and it will have little or not value at that point.  The cost of repairing it or replacing the lamp at that point will likely exceed the cost of replacement.  If you were to equip 20 classrooms with a projector, a screen, cabling infrastructure, and internet connection, you're likely looking at a purchase cost of $30,000.   Alternately, you could lease this for about $35/mo. per classroom and know that in 3 years, you will have entirely upgraded and functional technology.  In a capital limited environment, it's hard to argue with this math, yet many school districts avoid the leasing question. 

4. Get Manufacturers to Fight For your Business - Aligned with the first and second points in this blog post, it is critical to line up manufacturers to fight for the school's business.  Our role in the process is to bring the right manufacturers, with the right products to the table so that a compelling negotiation can take place.  The market leaders have established education buying programs that significantly reduce the cost of acquisition.  If you are buying projectors through a third party, or worse - a retailer, you are likely not getting access to their best education pricing.   It's also important to note that most manufacturer's education pricing programs are set and non-negotiable.  Complicated RFP programs will only consume your time and waste your limited funds. 

5. Seek Donors and Sponsors - Many businesses that I meet with are passionate about supporting causes of education and youth.  Regardless of the funding dynamics within the school, every school should develop a program that seeks to identify and solicit community support from local businesses or community organizations.  If you combine your charitable ask with a lease payment of only $35/month, there are many willing and able sponsors that can help significantly leverage your school funds to ensure every student has access to the technology required to support learning in a modern classroom environment.

Colby Harder is an entrepreneur, blogger, and President of CONTI Evolution an audio video advisory services firm who support projects across North America for leading companies and educational organizations.  Colby is also father to three elementary age children who are all passionate about school and learning.