It’s serious crunch time in regards to education budgets. Budgets are staying flat or shrinking as costs go up. So, how do we cut costs to get the most bang for our buck?
Here are some tips:
1. DIY Whiteboards – a regular whiteboard can cost hundreds of dollars. If you go to a home improvement store, you can buy the same material for a few bucks and glue it over an existing chalk board or wall.
And forget those expensive “Interactive Whiteboards” that are not interactive and are a huge waste of money since most teachers only use them as a projection screen. Save the $2500 and use it on other things that will get all of the students active.
2. Professional Development - don’t hire expensive “Professional Trainers” that probably haven’t been in a classroom in years. There are a lot of great presenters and trainers out there though too. But, if you are hurting for money, you need to cut these out (or at least decrease the number). Use the resources you have around you. There are plenty of people in your building or district that would make great PD presenters for you, and will be much less expensive than bringing in an outside trainer. Also, you can help other teachers create their own personal learning network for instant and always-on professional development. Related: Professional Development on a Shoestring Budget, Professional Development 2.0.
3. Netbooks instead of laptops or (sorry guys) Apple products – Netbooks are very inexpensive and you can use lots of free software on them. In fact, if they come running Linux, they are going to come with lots of software for you. I’m also waiting to see how much the Google Chrome OS notebook computers will be because Chrome OS will be great for schools. You can get two netbooks for the cost of an inexpensive laptop or iPad and you can get 3-5 for a Apple laptop. You can also get 9 netbooks for the cost of one Interactive White Board. Related: ACER One Netbook Review, and Update.
4. Free Software and Services – why pay for software when there is so much out there that is free (and in many cases, better than the paid version). Google has a million apps and services that are free and then you have things like OpenOffice, GIMP (graphics editing), and more that are really good and free. Related: Alternatives to Paid Software, Free Alternatives to Paid Software and Services, Free Apps – Find Free Software
5. Go Paperless! If you have the computers, you can go paperless. You can also decrease the amount of paper used if you use computer based note taking, don’t print emails, and use email instead of printed memos. Related: Tools to Go Paperless.
6. Free Textbooks – instead of spending $60 – $140 for textbooks that are heavy, static and get outdated quickly, look for free alternatives. Create your own “textbook” using a class website and posting materials there. Use free e-texts that are available. Use a variety of free resources instead of textbooks. Related: Resources to Replace Textbooks, Digital Textbooks, Free Textbooks (downloadable and online).
7. Find some grants and donations – grants are a great way to get supplies and equipment for the classroom. Talk to local businesses and colleges and ask for donations of older equipment, computers, furniture, and such. You can also ask local businesses for money donations. There are thousands of grants out there for teachers, but the applications can be time consuming. Donor’s Choose is easy and a great way to get supplies for your classroom. Related: Sources of Funding for Teachers
8. In-house IT Help – use knowledgeable teachers and students to help others with tech problems so that the IT department can focus on the big issues.
9. Free calculators – if students will be working on computers a lot, like in a 1-1 program, why spend money on calculators? There are free calculators available online, and for download, so save your money. Related: Free online calculators, Microsoft Math – free math help and graphing calculator software.
10. Free Conferences – why pay for an educational conference when there are so many free alternatives? I do like many conferences that you have to pay to attend (like CECA, TechForum, FETC and ISTE) but if you don’t have the money, you can still attend some great conferences for free.
Some free alternatives:
Edcamp – held all over the country
EduCon – held yearly in Philadelphia
Teachmeet – held all over the world
NT Camp – held in multiple locations
(Discovery runs a lot of free online conferences and in person Day of Discoveries – check out the DEN Blog Network to find out about more of them)
Related Articles and Resources
Free Technology for Teachers – another great place to find free resources for your classroom.
There are a lot of ways to save money at school. What do you use to save money at school? What resources do you use to find free things?