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Doing More With Less: A Moderator's Perspective

The two biggest worries I have when setting up and then moderating a panel discussion at big conferences like NECC is that the session will be boring, or worse yet, hardly anyone will show up except the panelists. Seriously, I literally lose sleep over those concerns.

Well, "no worries," as a colleague at work says frequently. Roughly 60 people showed up to a session we put together titled Doing More With Less: Creative Approaches to Managing IT Costs. Most of the people who attended were district level technology coordinators, and 45 minutes of the 60-minute session was a free-flowing give-and-take between the panelists and the audience on topics ranging from the cost of online learning and professional development to computer refresh cycles to the use of students for technology support.

So the discussion was interesting, useful, and anything but boring. And that made my job as the moderator easy.

But it's worth noting that we avoided the use of PowerPoint or other presentation tools to engineer this discussion. Rather, it was just a good, old-fashioned conversation about the modern challenges of using technology effectively in education. And the discussion made me appreciate how many questions ed-tech leaders have about the best tech approaches for schools in these tough budget times.

Some, for instance, are moving toward the use of open-source content to save money while others tried that approach but felt it was not effective. And some are doing more than others deploying e-learning in their schools to offer quality teaching and curriculum in a cost-effective manner.

All are in difficult budget situations. When I asked the audience who was facing budget cuts over the next year, more than half raised their hands. Money is clearly on everyone's minds.

For specific ideas about cost-saving tactics in IT, see "Dollars & Sense: Ed-Tech Leaders Employ Creative Tactics to Cut IT Costs and Save Programs."

Many thanks to panelists Janet Herdman, the executive director of the North Kansas City Schools in Missouri; Elizabeth Hoover, the director of technology services for the Alexandria Public Schools in Virginia; Tommy Whitten, the district technology coordinator for the Madison County Schools in Alabama; Steve Moskowitz, the director of information systems and instruction technology for the Brewster Central School District in New York; and Ann Flynn, the director of education technology for the National School Boards Association.

And thanks to the audience!

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