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Beware the Ghosts in your Budget: Scaring Out Hidden Tech Costs

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 11.40.22 AM.pngHappy Halloween! Did you know that there may be ghosts in your tech budget? Today we're going to explore how to scare out these specters so as to make well-informed tech purchases.

As you may know from reading this blog, I whole-heartedly advocate for 1:1 classrooms (that is, one device per student) - or even 1:many classrooms (many devices per student), However, when schools begin to make purchases to meet this goal, they are often surprised with new costs down the line... and no remaining budget to address these needs.

For example, an iPad 2 can cost you around $399. So many schools will simply budget $399 times their number of students. However this is just the base cost of the device. Just as when you purchase a cell phone, you might also need a new case, extra battery or a few apps, purchasing new classroom technology comes with its own "add on" costs. Below are a few questions to consider when purchasing any new 1:1 devices.

Will the devices be going home?

If so, great! You won't need to worry about securing and charging them overnight. If not, then there is an added cost for purchasing a power and security cart. If you want to go the extra mile (which I recommend for my schools), then you also would want to pay the premium for a cart that also simultaneously syncs all the devices as well. After all, manually syncing digital content to 30 devices one at a time is not an ideal use of afterschool time.

What kinds of apps do you want to purchase?

There are more and more amazing free apps on the marketplace and it's entirely possible for a teacher to be completely successful without purchasing a single paid app. However there are also a slew of paid apps that are incredibly powerful and useful in the classroom. While one may look at the average pricetag of $2-3 per app and think a $20 iTunes gift card will set them for life, it's important to remember that you must pay licenses for each device onto which the app is downloaded. For example, if you wanted to download a $3 app to 100 devices, you'd need $300. Multiply this out to a building full of iPads with several apps on each and you'll definitely want to add some room in your budget for these purchases.

Will you need to provide protective cases?

Most people who have owned a smartphone have experienced the heartache of a shattered screen. In the slippery hands of our students, this hazard is exponentially more likely. Coupled with the fact that mobile devices are even more powerful when actually mobile - i.e., taken on field trips, around the school building, etc - durable cases become a necessary expenditure. As heavy-duty, long-lasting cases range from $25-75 per device, this is another line item to keep in mind.

Can students afford to bring in headphones?

One of the powers of digital learning is allowing students to create and interact with media. As such, headphones - preferably those with a built-in microphone - become the new "pencil" requirement for the classroom. However many students' families can't afford to send their kids to school with these tools. Some teachers head to the dollar store while schools make investments in headphones for their classrooms.

Can your building's wireless network handle these new devices?

Finally, there is the WiFi question. Schools across the country are quickly increasing the number of devices on their wireless network by the hundreds overnight and then struggle with the challenge of slow or dropped signals. In some cases, carts of devices lay dormant in the corner as teacher complain that they "don't work" because the WiFi is unreliable. While there are a number of amazing activities that one can do on an iPad or similar devices without Internet access, a strong connection makes them much more powerful tools. So when purchasing large numbers of devices, take a moment to evaluate your network and see if it needs any upgrades.

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