Things are looking grim for computer technology in TDSB schools. A few months ago we had a visit from the head IT honcho who is rolling out the PLAN for the future. The Board higher-ups have drunk the Koolaide and so have the SO’s & the Principals and now it is the ACL’s turn (we formed a technology committee).
Here is the PLAN:
All spending on computer technology in TDSB schools will cease – mostly. All help-desk and service support will stop once the service contracts run out on individual labs. The new watch word now is: BRING YOUR OWN TECHNOLOGY! Sounds awesome right? Envision the school of the future where everybody will bring their phone/iPod/iPad/laptop, etc., and because all the schools will have the latest hi-speed WIFI networks everywhere – why you won’t need labs at all! Every classroom is a virtual lab as the teacher hands out slick new Chromebooks (that you have to buy out of your school budget about $450 each) to the eager pupils. And best of all – NO MORE SOFTWARE! Why use pesky software when the Chromebooks have all those great apps. Licensing just got a whole lot easier (and cheaper). Chromebooks not for you? You can buy (yep buy – 48,000++ computers and we are still buying) some laptops for your 21st century learners (at around $1200 a pop) if you need that Board image. To help pay for all these 21st century goodies, the Board has provided special one-time funding available as a lump sum to be divided by every student in the Board (which should be given to each P in the fall). How much we gonna get I hear you asking? Wait for it… $3,000,000!! Yep, you heard me right – Three Million Smackaroos. That works out to about $7 a kid.
How it actually works out:
In our school, IT will deploy up to 12 wifi routers at their cost (our school needs 52) and we have already bought 8 so we get 4 free. If we want to buy the other 30 it will cost us around $14,000++. The catch is that there is a waiting list of almost 2 years for installation and if you dither on your purchase decision, the wait only gets longer. The only cost-effective solution for us is to buy the used Dell 755’s for $195 plus a monitor for $120+ These computers are, in some cases, over 5 years old and have a lot of miles on them – but at least they are better than NOTHING, which is what we will all end up with when this PLAN goes into effect! As for Tech labs? Forget it, unless your P has $30+K lying around it is highly unlikely you are going to see a refresh any time soon (and most P’s have been blowing our hard-earned shekels on them fancy new digital signboards, to put out front of the school, at $24K++ a pop).
What the Board is doing is basically off-loading the cost of technology to the parents by encouraging students to bring their own stuff. Also, by forcing Principals to commit their budgets to what are essentially capital purchases they ensure that the level of technology provided by the school will substantially decrease over time. And given the aging and mostly decrepit condition of school computers – not much time at that! Why this has not been reported in the press is a mystery to me. So you are going to have to come up with alternative sources of funding or pay out of your own pocket. I own a $2500 laptop that I use as my ‘business’ computer’ (that I couldn’t do my job without) that I bought and paid for myself because my employer couldn’t provide me with one. This is the second one I have been forced to buy over the course of my career. A bright side to this looming debacle might be with the decrease in budgets, you will find that the IT department will become more lenient as to what kinds of devices that they will allow on their networks. Some creative approaches have also included the development of a ‘lite’ version of Windows 7 which will run on some of these old junkers so we can at least get another year out of some of our labs. Christ! I need a drink! Even writing this stuff drives me crazy! What do you all think?