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Schools' Deadline to Access ConnectED Corporate Donations Fast Approaching

Cross-posted from the Marketplace K-12 blog

Summer vacation is no time to take off, if you're a school official wanting a slice of the $2 billion pie of ed-tech goods and services being donated by major U.S. corporations this year.

That's because some of the companies' deadlines to apply are only four or six weeks away and require compiling significant amounts of information for application packages, according to an analysis by the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

The Glen Burnie, Md.-based organization produced a kind of Cliff Notes version of 10 companies' pledged contributions to the President's ConnectED initiative, summarizing key information about the terms and conditions of the corporate donors' expectations for successful school applicants.

"A number of [the contributions] are time-limited, meaning that they are only good for three or four years," said Doug Levin, SETDA executive director. "At that point, schools will need to pick up the cost of those services, or return them, or dispose of them."

Most of the donations are targeted to middle and high school, he said.

Details of some of the offers came to light late last week, when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council, published a blog post with more information about the contributions being made by the 10 companies, including Adobe, Microsoft, Prezi, Sprint, and Verizon, saying the resources would be accessible to K-12 officials through an online "hub." Those resources include hardware, software, academic content, and wireless equipment.

Some companies making donations have not determined how educators can yet take advantage of their donations," pointed out Levin. Verizon and Prezi, for instance, are asking school officials to sign up now to receive more information, when it becomes available.

A number of other companies require an application with "fairly stringent eligibility requirements," he said, including letters of support, providing a technology plan, and a pledge to share data about the outcome of the schools' using the contribution, Levin said.

Apple, for instance, is inviting economically disadvantaged schools where 96 percent or more of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches to apply for a ConnectED grant. Invited schools will have until Friday, June 20 to let Apple know if they intend to apply. Then, schools invited to apply by Apple will have final applications due on July 25.

Offers by AT&T and Sprint are contingent on other purchases school districts need to make, Levin said, and, not surprisingly, being in the telecommunications companies' service areas. AT&T's first wave of applications are due July 15. "It's a tough time for schools," the SETDA official said, "because they're either out—or fixing to be out—really quickly."

Besides producing "What Educators Need to Know About ConnectED School Technology Donations," SETDA will host two events to help educators sort out their options. THE FIRST will be held on June 28 in conjunction with the 2014 SETDA Emerging Technologies Forum and adjacent to the 2014 ISTE Conference and Expo in Atlanta, which will bring together representatives of participating companies and the U.S. Department of Education with educators for a discussion about the technology providers' commitments. The second will be a a public back-to-school webinar that will provide an update and further details on these private sector ConnectED commitments.

"It's very important for schools and districts to evaluate the return on engaging in the application process for these donations," Levin said. "Not every school that needs technology, or will benefit, is eligible. Even if you are eligible, you have to apply."

And, in the end, successful applicants among schools could find themselves having these same needs unmet in future years, unless there is a new funding source for these services when they sunset, Levin said.


Follow @BenjaminBHerold and @EdWeekEdTech for the latest news on ed-tech policies, practices, and trends.

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