A couple of years ago I took on the role of ICT head of department at a new school with just under 1,000 students and a budget of #163;30,000 - though I was promised this would increase by #163;10,000 the following year, which it duly did.
The school had three suites of five-year-old computers unsuitable for many graphics and film-editing courses, and I planned to replace the lot in one grand statement. Then came the bad news: this was not my departmental budget, but for everything connected with ICT across the entire school.
If teachers' laptops were needed, the money came from my budget. Toner for every printer in the school? My budget. Software for the art department? My budget.
Then the election came and went and our budget was slashed to #163;24,000 - useful only for when I get calls from ICT sales reps who tend to hang up when I give them the figures.
Yet we did replace all the ICT suites, bought all the staff laptops, made sure the printers never ran out of toner and kept the art department happy. How? Well, I am fortunate to have a couple of people who run our network, who played off toner suppliers against each another, brought in refurbished machines for a fraction of the cost of new equipment, flogged any spare kit on eBay and used the PayPal account to buy second-hand servers.
Open-source software has always been our IT backbone, from Linux on the servers to Moodle as the virtual learning environment. And even the art department finally admitted that Gimpshop was fit for purpose and infinitely cheaper than other solutions.
As for my own students, it seems ironic that we pay thousands for software suites, yet it's Scratch, Google SketchUp, MonkeyJam (all freeware) and Dance eJay (30 licences bought for a couple of quid each on eBay) that are the mainstay of our after-school clubs. And, without doubt, the biggest bargain of the year was the headsets with microphones found in a pound shop in Canterbury. We scooped the lot off the shelves.
It also helps if you are prepared to ruin a shopping trip with the family to get them to drag carrier bags from Poundland back to the car. Oh, and then there's the ability to actually go and raise money if you are prepared to. But that's for another day ...
David Phillips is head of ICT at Borden Grammar School, Sittingbourne, Kent, and a partner in our ICT resource bank
Try winlinuser's ICT activity booklet and activities on the topic of personal finance.
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