Friday, January 16, 2009

We Are So Not Ready To Spend $1,000,000,000 On Ed-Tech

Obama's stimulus plan includes a billion for ed-tech. A quick survey of prominent US K-12 ed tech blogs reveals no real reaction. Frankly, I'm not even sure how big a drop in the bucket this is. I guess I blew through $300,000 on one small school nine years ago with absolutely no problem and wishing I had a lot more. Multiply that times 3,300 and that's pretty much your billion.

I'm sure some people have what is now the standard crazy response of many ed-tech advocates: roughly, "Spending more money on computers won't solve our problems, we need curriculum reform." This is kind of like a business saying in 1995 "We don't need computers, we just need better market research." Clearly, you need both. And hopefully we'll get a lot out of the additional "$100 million...included to improve instruction in science, math and engineering." That could provide quite a lot of free curricula.

In tech investment, you need the right technology, and unfortunately, the last eight relatively fallow years in ed-tech investment and research and development have left us relatively unprepared to spend this money wisely. If this is all spent on products you see at the NECC vendor floor, it isn't going to add up to much. A lot of smartboards and clickers. We've had precious little strategic investment in alternatives.

From the open source point of view, stimulus can cut two ways. This looks like money to buy stuff now, and since you don't buy open source software at all, people may just overlook open source options. Even so, having many more computers in kids hands to take advantage of open source software down the road is still good if people are willing to be more open minded about what goes on them. The real win, however, is if a small chunk of the stimulus can go toward writing freely licensed software. It fits the paradigm of "stimulus" since a lot of useful software can be written in two years with government funding and then released to the community and commercial sector for ongoing use and support.

Anyhow, we'll see how this goes. A billion dollars coming into the industry isn't a bad thing, but we're not as ready for it as I'd like to be.

Later... just for context, EETT funding for 2008 was $267,493,792.

1 comment:

Darren Draper said...

I'm afraid that even $1,000,000,000 is just a drop in the bucket.

In running the numbers for my district alone (based on statistics online that may or may not be even close, following procedures that I think would be followed - like allocating the money according to student population size) and it seems that my district alone would only end up receiving somewhere in the ballpark of $17,000.

Smaaaaaaall potatoes.

I'll throw this into a Google Spreadsheet in case you want to crunch the numbers yourself.