Budgets-Resources Strategies: Digital Learning Framework
The budgets-resources strategies are pretty simple: Bake sale! Just kidding. Though we do have a bit of a sweet tooth, so if you have one, let us know. In reality, the budgets-resources component of our digital learning framework is about far more than even having and allocating the funds. Without careful planning, even ample funds can result in inadequate resources for teaching and learning. With careful planning, a school or district can have a huge impact with even modest funding.
Budgets-Resources Strategies: The students love it
In our work, we often ask districts how they are evaluating their digital initiatives, and the response we get is often, “We aren’t.” Some districts measure reactions to the use of technology. We certainly agree that learning should be fun, but just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s learning. While we believe that technology is an essential tool for teaching and learning whose presence doesn’t have to be justified any more than that of pencils and paper, everyone wants their investments to pay off. Ensuring the resources that are purchased are meeting the needs of stakeholders and are used efficiently requires looking closely at the expenditures and benefits. A Budget Development Plan that defines and justifies specific policies, implementation strategies, accountability metrics, and timelines will support a more efficient planning process across multiple budgets and create a common understanding among district and school leaders. This resource from the Department of Education can help you get started.
Budgets-Resources Strategies: Eye on the prize
Tracking the impact of digital initiatives also requires tying them to specific learning outcomes. Often schools will implement a new program with the broad goal of raising test scores. Standardized test scores are, by design, difficult to improve, making this a long-term goal. Begin with goals targeted at implementation, keeping track of both the amount and quality of use of digital tools and resources. If the initiative isn’t being implemented, we can’t expect the desired outcomes to come to fruition! In the short term, target specific curriculum standards and learning objectives and have a plan for measuring them pre- and post-intervention short and long term. A baseline measure is essential for both planning purposes and measuring progress. A post-assessment is useful for measuring outcomes and informing future efforts. The good news? Metiri can help you design an assessment and evaluation plan that either you or we can implement. Contact us for more information!
Budgets-Resources Strategies: A little bit of this
Effective budgeting for digital initiatives often requires “braiding” of funds across budget allocations. This can be difficult, as it is important to use funds from multiple sources without supplanting funds dedicated for certain programs or services. Districts and schools should look to other leaders in their state for examples of how they have changed their budgeting policies and practices in order to provide consistent, long-term funding for digital learning. Check out these funding models from Digital Learning Now for some real-world examples.
Budgets-Resources Strategies: Stick with it
Too often we don’t get the results we want in the first year, or something comes along to distract us from our initial plan, and we start over rather than giving our plan time to work. When planning a digital learning initiative, dedicate funding and resources for a pre-determined amount of time, at least three to five years. This will likely include funding for initial purchases, as well as maintenance, replacements, and updates along the way. Allocating the resources for the entire project at the beginning will decrease the chances the initiative will be abandoned partway through. For ideas, take a look at SETDA’s Budgeting for the Long Term that provides some quick ideas and resources.
Hopefully that’s enough to get you started, but let us know if you need additional guidance. We’re always happy to help. Next week, we’re on to the final component: Innovative leadership.