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How do I plan my k-12 technology budget?

Posted on 2009-02-15
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I am a tech coord for a small k-12 district in Upstate NY.  Given the economy, our IT budget will be downsized at a time when virtually all our equipment (servers, switches, desktops and notebooks) is 5 years old.  I'd like to move away from labs to a mobile solution and invest in cheaper but durable netbooks.  In addition, I would use our existing computers in classrooms creating classroom pods with ncomputing devices.  I realize I would need to keep several labs for specific courses but can't see replacing every computer but rather using nComputing x550s with a decent host machine.  I haven't addressed software but we are a Novell school and have access to NLD or OpenSuse and Open Office.  Any thoughts, ideas, and suggestions to help me plan the best direction with a limited budget and a need to move everyone forward in technology?
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Question by:wpmcj
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by:lamaslany
ID: 23645738
Have you looked at LTSP?  

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by:wpmcj
ID: 23645796
I've looked at it a bit.  Change doesn't come easy to educators.  Switching from XP to a Linux solution would meet with a great amount of staff resistance.  However, given the times staff might be more receptive if reduced cost saved a job.
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by:lamaslany
ID: 23645829
Apologies - I assumed that there was already a Linux base, at least in part, as you mentioned NLD/OpenSUSE.
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FirstDownMage earned 1500 total points
ID: 23645897
From an efficiency standpoint, the schools that I work for like to replace all of their machines at once when possible.  I really sold them on the importance of uniformity.  From a financial standpoint though, its a lot easier to replace 1/4 or 1/5 of your machines per year.  Even though you will be creating a different "SET" of computers in mix, it can be a lot easier financially to try and plan for X amount to be replaced per year.

The technology committee for one of my favorite schools had devised the plan of replacing all computers every four years.  Because the school is not huge in size, this was not very difficult for them to do.  Every year, the computers slide down.  The newest computers go to the sixth graders, the year old computers go to the 5th grade, and so forth.  Since the computer use increases by age of the student, it was decided that the younger kids would not need the most powerful machines, and would be able to make due with the older systems.  So every year, a few new ones come in, go to the oldest kids, and everybody slides down one.

IF your equipment is already 5 years old, I would definitely bedget for replacing a feasible percentage per year, and stay organized with "2009 Model"  CD Image, etc.  You could also do a seperate posting on Experts Exchange asking people for advice on recieving software donations, software grants, organizations that help schools with technology needs/donations.  I do a lot of work for schools and non-profits.  One of the sites the non-profs use is called TechSoup.org.  You can get great stuff at that place, but they are very tricky to deal with, and I have this suspicion that they dont work with schools.  Either way, if you have not heard of them, check them out.  (Not today its Sunday), but I would give them a call and ask their advice.  The people are very friendly, and if they dont help out schools, they have a place they can refer you to that does.  (Sorry cannot remember, its been a while since I used them).  The tricky part about them, is they have these limitations on software orders per year.  For instance, if you were to order the Photoshop CS 4program, ($700 at Adobe, $90 at TechSoup), it could be your only Adobe purchase for the year.  Stuff like that makes things kind of tricky with them.  But if you call them, I haven't had a bad experience with their people yet.

IF you are working with workstations that haven't had a fresh install in a while, it'll cost you some hours, but that can improve performance, get a little more life out of your existing machines; at least the ones that are stand alones, or workgroup machines.

Thats about all I can suggest.  Hope some of it helps.
http://www.techsoup.org/index.cfm
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by:wpmcj
ID: 23646271
Will look into techsoup.  I used nLite to create a smaller xp deployment cd for our laptops, locked out many properties,  and keep students from making permanent changes with Clean Slate.  At least, the laptops are quicker to boot and require less attention.  As far as desktops, for classes that need horsepower we have Dell 755s.  Otherwise, since we're running XP and Office 2002 the computers are still functional though we're losing some through attrition.  I may get one more year but then will have to replace a good number in some manner.
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