Michael Gove has made the decision that the Harnessing Technology Grant for 2010/11 will be cut by £100 million to contribute to the development of “Free Schools” nationally. This translates as an in year cut to local authorities and schools of at least 50%.
This suggests essential ICT systems will be unable to be maintained and improved – unless schools can find smarter ICT solutions, or use technology to achieve efficiency savings elsewhere in the value chain. Here are some ideas worth exploring.
1. Switch your email exchange servers for cloud-based services
There’s a viable alternative to maintaining your own email exchange servers – services like Google Apps or Microsoft Live are free and both provide fully secure, branded virtual space for email, document sharing and storage. You can even retain your existing school-specific email address. London Grid for Learning estimates that London schools have saved approximately £11m since transferring to Microsoft’s service last year.
2. Forget software licences – go Open Source!
Open Source software for learning platforms and e-learning content enable development and ongoing upgrade costs to be minimised.
3. Upgrade to the latest OS and save on power management
If you upgrade to the latest operating systems you will be able to take advantage of enhanced power-saving features, saving costs of between £23 and £46 per computer per year.
4. Switch to remote access
Microsoft’s latest operating platform (Windows 7) makes setting up remote access much more straightforward. Additionally some VPNs make use of free software packages that need no special hardware or software on the network to enable remote access.
5. Allow pupils to use their own laptops
Recent British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) research revealed that secondary schools spend 48% per of their ICT budget on new computers. Schools may consider asking parents to contribute by providing their children with their own computers for school and home use.
6. Change the way you communicate
Like encouraging parents to provide computers, this requires a significant cultural shift. The way in which student relationships at school are formed and nurtured are being reshaped as hallways of classrooms switches to social networks on digital learning platforms. There are inherent dangers in students using social networking that need to be managed – however, safe messaging tools for use in the classroom and at home can be provided, enabling students to access multimedia resources in a controlled environment.