The Smart Approach to Technology Purchases

By Del Stover

How can a school board have confidence that it’s making a good decision when asked to approve the purchase of new technology? It begins by putting less focus on the up-front price tag. The smart buy isn’t always the cheapest, and it isn’t a vendor discount or low bid that guarantees a district the best “bang for its buck.”

No, if a school board wants to get the most from its limited technology dollars, it needs to think more strategically. It must carefully review what the district really needs to buy -- and what it can do without. It needs to look at the ancillary -- and often hidden -- costs associated with a high-tech purchase. And it must always, always ensure that any new technology bolsters the bottom line: academic achievement.

“It’s got to be something that enhances [learning],” agrees Sue Helms, board president of Alabama’s Madison City Public Schools. “If you’re using technology as a curriculum tool, and if the next day all that technology went away and you were still able to teach, then you’re not using the technology correctly. And that’s wasted dollars.”

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