Teachers spent $490 on classroom materials, on average, according to a poll of 500 teachers. Unfortunately, that’s likely a low number; most teachers spend upwards of $1,000 when all is said and done.
But the education landscape is rapidly shifting.
Classroom necessities are getting more expensive, and the average pay of teachers isn’t increasing at the same rate. Buying a roll of stickers for each of your students is not a huge expense, but an iPad or Chromebook, much less a set of them? That’s an investment—an expensive one.
The costs of keeping a classroom up to date continue to rise, and while teachers don’t have the budget, neither do schools. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make classroom tech affordable for almost any budget, and we have all the ideas you need right here.
Get Creative With Financing
There are many opportunities to connect with people and organizations that want to support the classroom tech needs of students and teachers. Do a quick web search for “technology grants for teachers” and you’ll find at least a dozen promising results, if not more. Many of these programs are nationwide, but don’t forget to search for local funding, too.
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Work with your school administration to make sure that you’re taking all the necessary steps to seek funding. Between letters of support and important tax information, you’ll need to have open lines of communication with your school’s financial and operational administrators.
You can turn to crowd-sourcing websites as well. DonorsChoors has hundreds of classrooms seeking funding for technology and you could be one of them. You could also try Adopt-A-Classroom or CrowdfundEDU.
Be Flexible With Your Hardware
An iPad or Chromebook at every student’s desk would be wonderful, but it’s not very realistic. Even if your classroom isn’t brimming with the latest gadgets and hardware for every single student, you can still make use of free web platforms and social media for educational purposes.
Students love to actively participate, and when students are engaged, they’re more likely to remember and enjoy the lesson.
Using free web-based resources means that you and your students can be more flexible—students can use their home computers, parents’ laptops, or even smart phones or tablets, all from home. You could also project your own laptop screen onto the white board or set up activity stations, one of which involves the one device you have in your classroom.
The tech availability at public libraries continues to increase, as well, with friendly librarians available to help (and supervise) computer use.
Remember take an anonymous survey of your class at the beginning of the school year to gauge the students’ access to resources like these. Don’t assume that every home has a computer, or every student lives within walking distance of a public library.
If the majority of your students don’t have tech access, get flexible and make do with what you have at the school.
Make The Most of Free Resources
Sure, there are plenty of education-focused tools and apps available, some of which come at a price, but most are free. In fact, many of of the best educational websites and apps are ones that you use everyday without having to pay one cent.
Introduce your students to Google Docs. They can use the cloud-based document editor to collectively write a story, with each student contributing a sentence or paragraph. Use the comments feature to enable dialogue and feedback.
Twitter can be used for the same purposes; create a dedicated account and hashtag (like #MsTaylorsClass) to unite everyone’s contributions.
Try using Google Forms or another surveying website to have your students vote on or contribute ideas to all sorts of classroom activities. They can indicate which field trips they’d most enjoy and vote on classroom choices like snacks and book selections.
Get even more dynamic by weaving Forms into your curriculum and lessons. For instance, when teaching the scientific method, you could ask students to contribute questions or hypotheses that they would like to investigate; students can vote on which one to turn into a classroom experiment. Students love to actively participate, and when students are engaged, they’re more likely to remember and enjoy the lesson.
Other great free resources that may not think to use include:
- Google Maps (History and Geography!)
While you may not be able to control what your school can provide, you can make the most of classroom tech tools, even on a budget. Remember to be resourceful, flexible, and creative, and don’t get discouraged, because with a bit of effort, technology can be leveraged on any budget.
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Jessica is an education blogger and has been featured in publications such as EdTech Digest and Daily Genius. Her favorite books growing up were My Side of the Mountain and The Giver, and she hopes to inspire a similar love of reading in students and educators.