Should schools privatize technology?

Disagreementphoto © 2011 Michael Coghlan | more info (via: Wylio)
The annual Beaufort County Budget War is about to begin and this year's battle looks to be a near fight to the death if you believe the political rhetoric that is flying around the press and local blogs. Each year the school district has to submit its budget for the coming fiscal year to the Beaufort County Council for its approval. It seems the councilmen and women always kick the buget back to the school board with two words in big bold red letters: CUT IT! Despite the rhetoric, a compromise that will please no one will eventually be reached because both groups of politicians don't want to actually kill public education with an election year coming up. However, the reality is that school districts do need to look at what they need to fund and possibly cut. One thing that has not been mentioned too much, yet, is technology. There is a lot of people screaming that schools should be privatize, which would be a mistake, so they could run more efficiently. South Carolina Governor Nicki Haley wants to privatize school buses, another mistake based on my experience as a soccer coach. So why not get schools out of the technology business? How could education technology be privatized so school districts can save a few bucks?

  1. Take Google up on their offer for Chrome netbooks: Google wants to get their new cloud-based Cr48: Disabling boot verificationphoto © 2010 Jamal Fanaian | more info (via: Wylio)
    operating system into the mainstream by offering schools a sweet deal. For $20 monthly subscription, each student would receive his or her own netbook running the Chrome operating system with all of the software added on. Even better, the subscription also includes all hardware and software upgrades. With this deal you could possibly cut down your Instructional Technology staff and forget having to purchase software such as Microsoft Office per user. There are potential savings of thousands of dollars there alone. Would schools be willing to switch to Google Docs and other cloud-based applications? Some computers would be needed to do tasks such as MAP testing or other assessments. However, if schools actually jump on these deals the NWEA would migrate over to Chrome just to keep its customers. The school wireless network would also have to be maintained or even strengthened because if it goes down the netbooks don't work.
  2. Cloud-based applications: If schools don't want to get into bed with Google totally they could keep their computers and just go with the cloud-based applications. The savings would be in software alone because the computers would need people to service them as in-house or contracted technology staff. Also, networks would need to be larger to allow the machines to work or at least go to the Internet for the applications.
  3. Open-source: Similar to cloud-based because it can be had for next to nothing. Even the operating system, Linux would be open-sourced. While this sounds good on paper, it can be a nightmare trying to support on network systems. I have seen one open-sourced software disappoint students when they tried to run it on the network system. Flashing screens come up as the computer crashes. This would require more staff to service and maintain the network and we are not talking security issues here.
  4. Parents provide the equipment: Maybe it is time for schools to tell parents they may have to purchase either computers or mobile devices and let the schools save those hardware and software costs. All the schools have to provide is the Internet as they would in the Google Chrome deal. Actually, schools could entice AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to put up towers near the schools so the devices could receive a 3G or 4G signal and schools don't need the Internet that much. Just a small network for services. Of course the telcos would have to have an education plan for all that data being iPhone 4 Bumper + Universal Dock w/o Adapterphoto © 2010 Yutaka Tsutano | more info (via: Wylio)
    used. or they could setup wifi hotspots. All maintenance would be the responsibility of the parents who would make sure their children take care of those expensive devices. All the schools would do is require hardware and software standards each student brings whether it is tablets or netbooks. Schools could just upload textbooks so students would have them. The textbooks would delete themselves at the end of the school year. Some might say classroom management would be a nightmare.

Well here are some options for Instructional Technology to do its part for cutting school budgets while providing quality education experiences for students. While some of these ideas might work, each one is not a magic bullet to save education. Would schools be better off passing technology to outside parties? If you have any other ideas to save money through technology I am all ears.