Moursund's IT in Education Home Page

Four Editorials on What We Should Be Spending on IT in Education

The Two-percent Solution (March, 1984)

The N-percent Solution (March 1993)

Effective Practices (Part 5): The Future (April 1996)

The 15-percent Solution (March 1999)

Reflections and Forecasts (October 2001) This is not part of the "Four Editorials" collection. Rather, it is an overall comment on such editorials, and my thoughts about the future of such editorials.

Reprinted with permission from Learning and Leading with Technology. Copyright (c) ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education. 800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 541.302.3777, cust_svc@iste.org, http://www.iste.org/. Reprint permission does not constitute an endorsement by ISTE of the product, training, or course.

 

The Two-percent Solution

Moursund, D.G. (March 1984). The two-percent Solution. The Computing Teacher.

Author's Note: This is a slightly expanded and modified version of an editorial written by David Moursund that was published in the March 1984 issue of The Computing Teacher. It discusses an approach to establishing the funding of instructional computing on a sound, long term basis. Since this article was originally published, there has been a substantial amount of inflation and the nationwide average per pupil school expenditures have increased substantially. For the 1990-91 school year, the estimated expenditures per pupil in public schools in the U.S. is approximately $5,600. This is more than double the figure used in the original article. However, the general nature of the ideas and the arguments contained in this article are still relevant.

Introduction

I am frequently asked how much money schools should be spending for instructional use of computers. My answer is that it depends upon the goals set by the school or district.

But that answer is less than satisfying to administrators in a school district who are just beginning to make a serious commitment to the instructional use of computers. Administrators need help in determining the level of expenses and nature of the commitment that may be necessary over the long run.

What Can Be Done with 2% of the School Budget

With these people I discuss "The Two-Percent Solution." The idea is simple enough. Let's see what could happen if a school district budgeted two percent of its total funds, year after year, for instructional computing. Some districts might obtain this level of funding by a reallocation of current funds. But since budgets have been so tight for so long, this is unlikely in most districts. As an alternative, one could imagine the taxpayers in a district passing a special perpetual tax that adds two percent to the district's budget. Or, one might imagine a one-percent tax and a reallocation of current funds to generate the other one percent. An analysis of how two percent of a district's current budget might be used for instructional computing helps one to understand how much money is actually needed.

Two percent is an arbitrary figure, but one can find many colleges and universities that have that level of expenditure for instructional computing purposes. Also, the use of a percentage figure relates expenditures to a district's overall funding level. This is important because funding levels vary widely. A recent issue of the Wall Street Journal discussed a school in Alaska that had a budget of $16,000 per student per year. The same article noted that the average for the United States is about $2,500 per student per year, with some states having an average per-pupil yearly expenditure of under $2,000.

Where will the two percent go? I suggest four major expenditure categories of expenditures, with a reasonable level of funding for each. A fifth category, a contingency fund, is suggested to take care of unforeseen expenses. Keep in mind that these are merely suggestions; they can lead to insight into what a particular school district might do.

  1. Hardware: Approximately one-half of the total funds.
  2. Software, print materials and other support materials: Approximately one-sixth of the total funds.
  3. Inservice education: Approximately one-twelfth of the total funds. This provides initial and continuing training for administrators, teachers, support personnel and aides.
  4. Computer coordinators: Approximately one-sixth of the total funds. This might be used at both a district and a school building level.
  5. Contingency: Approximately one-twelfth of the total funds. In the first year all of this might be used to supplement inservice education. In subsequent years it might be used in the other categories or for some new purpose, such as remodeling a room for a computer lab.

This sort of allocation assumes that office space, janitorial services, ongoing administrative and staff support, and other miscellaneous expenses will be part of the general school district budget and will not be specifically deducted from instructional computing funds.

To make this concrete, suppose we look at a school district with 5,000 students and a budget of $2,500 per student per year. The two-percent solution allocates $50 per student per year for instructional computing.

Category

Per Pupil

Total

Hardware

$25.00

$125,000

Software & Materials

$8.33

$41,667

Inservice Education

$4.17

$20,833

Coordinators

$8.33

$41,667

Contingency

$4.17

$20,833

The figure that initially tends to be most interesting to school district administrators and computer coordinators is the money for hardware. What can one buy with $25 per student per year? The answer obviously depends upon the particular equipment being purchased. A recent (winter, 1984) ad in my town's local newspaper indicated one could purchase a 64K machine with one disk drive, printer and monochrome monitor at a retail price of $900. The ad was for a very widely sold computer system from a reputable local dealer. This, of course, was a special sale price. However, school districts that go out for bids can usually obtain a discount of approximately 30 percent off the list price. That level of discount would have brought the price of this particular equipment to under the $900 figure.

The $900 figure might be considered adequate for a low-to-middle-priced microcomputer that has been on the market for a couple of years. You can expect that the quality of machine that this amount of money can buy will continue to improve rapidly in the future. Many school districts are purchasing more expensive microcomputers. The price of such newer, more expensive models may well decrease 20 percent a year during the first few years they are available.

Now a couple of assumptions are needed. A typical school doesn't want a printer on every microcomputer, and it's likely the school will want some dual disk systems. As a school obtains a quantity of machines, it is likely some will be networked using a floppy or hard disk system. This may cut the average cost of a user station. Let us assume that the average cost of a user station will be about $900. Let's also assume that such systems will have a four-year life span, with maintenance costs averaging $100 per machine over the four years. An equivalent way of expressing this is to assume that $1,000 provides a user station that functions for four years and is then completely worn out. The hardware cost is $250 per machine per year.

A particular school district may decide to purchase computers costing much more than is assumed above. Such machines might have a longer life span, different maintenance costs and so on. For example, one might find that a machine whose initial cost is $1,600 will last five years, requiring perhaps $200 of repair and maintenance during that time. The average hardware cost per year is $360.

It is instructive to study an explicit example. We will continue the example based upon a machine costing $1,000 over a four-year time span. The first year's funds would purchase approximately one machine per 40 students. (Editor's Note: This editorial was written in January 1984. At that time there was an average of approximately one machine per 120 students in the United States and Canada. The first year's hardware funds in the two-percent proposal would purchase about three times as many machines as were already in the schools.) The second year's funds would bring the average to one machine per 20 students; the steady state situation in the fourth and subsequent years would be one machine per 10 students. This analysis ignores whatever computers a district might initially own.

An average of one machine per ten students is equivalent to about a half-hour of machine time per student per day. If computers are going to have a significant impact upon our overall educational system, we should be able to see the beginning of the impact with this average level of computer usage.

This hardware analysis suggests that an average school district, by spending one percent of its budget every year for hardware, will eventually have about one microcomputer per ten students. Very few schools have yet achieved such a ratio. If computer prices continue to decline, or if machines have a longer life span, then an even higher ratio will be achieved. Alternatively, if a district selects more expensive hardware, it will achieve a lower ratio of machines per student.

The same sort of analysis indicates that if a school district allocates two percent of its budget strictly for hardware, it will eventually achieve a ratio of one machine per five students. A hardware allocation of five percent of the annual budget leads to a ratio of one machine per two students.

The money allocated for software, manuals, books, films and related support material is substantial but may prove inadequate, as classroom sets of textbooks and expendable workbooks may be quite expensive. One way to analyze this is to look at various categories of instructional computing. The categories I use are learning/teaching about computers, learning/teaching using computers and learning/teaching incorporating computers. Each category requires differing amounts and types of software, support materials and teacher knowledge.

Learning/teaching about computers may require relatively little software beyond the language translators and operating system. It does require books, films and other media, and it requires quite knowledgeable teachers. (The suggested tradeoff between teacher knowledge and costs for hardware or software can occur in each type of computer usage.) Learning/teaching about computers is done in a self-contained classroom, with the instruction being done by a computer teacher. In our overall model, the cost of teachers is not included. Such costs are considered to part of the ongoing costs of the school system.

Learning/teaching using computers (usually called computer-assisted learning) can require a substantial software library. A particular computer simulation, for example, might be used only once or twice per year. Currently the costs of such software are high and the total quantity of good software is still quite limited. We can expect a continued rapid growth in the availability of good computer-assisted learning software. We will probably find that vendors will make available multiple copies of software, or software for local networks, at quite good prices.

Learning/teaching incorporating computers requires changes in the content of the conventional curriculum. A typing course might become a word processing course, requiring word processing software and perhaps a typing tutor program. A bookkeeping course might be substantially changed by providing electronic spreadsheet and accounting software. A science lab might be changed by use of appropriate hardware and software for the on-line control of experiments and the collection and processing of data. A math course might require a substantial library of graphic, equation-solving and symbol-manipulation software.

A different way to view this expenditure category is that each machine will have $333 of software and other support materials. This is quite a bit if all of these materials have a long life span and can be used by a variety of students. For example, a single rental film might be viewed by many hundreds of students and a reference book may be useful for several years. By appropriate scheduling, a few copies of a particular historical simulation might be used by students in schools located throughout a large school district. A growing district-level lending library of commercial software might be supplemented by carefully screened public domain software. Of course, such a central library will need to be staffed. Such costs are considered to be part of the funds included in the two percent figure.

The money for inservice education of administrators, teachers, support personnel and aides will allow for initial and continued growth in their knowledge and skills. If a district has not yet put much money into computer-related inservice education, the first year's expenditures probably need to be above one-twelfth of total funds. This can be done by drawing upon the contingency fund. Many districts have already provided such initial inservice computer exposure to all of their teachers and administrators.

It is important to realize that inservice education must continue beyond the initial effort. The level of knowledge needed when there is only one microcomputer per 120 students is quite different from what is needed when there is one microcomputer for every ten students. At this level we could begin to see substantial changes in the content of current non-computer courses. This will require extensive inservice education as well as funds to support curriculum development and revision.

The funds and training effort need not be evenly spread among all educators. Likely it will prove desirable for each school to have a building-level coordinator with some release time from regular teaching duties. Alternatively, a building-level computer coordinator might receive a salary increment for handling these extra responsibilities. In either case the funds would come through the two percent allocation.

While all educators need an elementary working-tool level of computer knowledge, building-level coordinators will need substantially more knowledge as part of their jobs. They will will be doing inservice education of teachers and administrators in their buildings. They will be training aides, helping in the acquisition of hardware and software, and doing other things requiring a high technical level of training in the computer field. Some of the inservice education funds could be used to facilitate this much higher level of training.

One use of some of the coordinator funds was mentioned above--to provide some release time for building-level computer coordinators. But consider the need for a coordinator (and a staff if the district is large) at the district level. In four years a 5,000 student school district will have about 500 microcomputer systems valued at approximately a half-million dollars. The district may have several hundred thousand dollars invested in software and other support materials. This is a substantial investment. A district computer coordinator will have a wide range of duties including supervising hardware and software acquisition, assisting in a large inservice education program, and working with curriculum committees to integrate computers into the curriculum.

The fifth category, the contingency fund, can be used for a wide variety of purposes. As stated earlier, it might be used to supplement teacher inservice monies, especially in the beginning, or for remodeling.

Funds could be provided for:

  • Accessing large scale data banks.
  • Designing and implementing a narrow band or broad band network for the school district.
  • Special-purpose peripherals such as videodisc equipment.
  • Hardware and software for students to borrow for home use.
  • Establishing a community (neighborhood) school to provide community access to instructional computing equipment.

Possible uses of the contingency fund seem endless.

Final Remarks

The Two-Percent Solution provides an interesting model to explore certain aspects of the future of computers in instruction. Most important is the idea of a permanent commitment to a reasonable level of funding. Most school districts have not yet made this sort commitment. They are purchasing equipment using entitlement funds, block grants, grants from foundations, money from parent-teacher organizations and so on. They are giving "one shot" teacher training workshops with little or no follow-up or opportunity for deeper training. They have not yet done the necessary planning for computers to have a significant and continuing long term impact upon the overall content and process of education.

Two percent is a good initial goal. It is enough money to establish a solid program of instructional use of computers. However, two percent will probably prove quite inadequate over the long run. Perhaps a few years from now I will be writing an editorial on the five-percent solution. That is closer to the level of funding that will be necessary if we want to provide one microcomputer per two students, a good goal to aim at in the next decade.

Reference

Moursund, D.G. (March 1984). The Two-percent Solution. The Computing Teacher.

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The N-percent Solution

Moursund, D.G. (March 1993). The N-percent Solution. The Computing Teacher.

 

The following is quoted from my "The Two-Percent Solution" editorial in the March 1984 issue of The Computing Teacher.

I am frequently asked how much money schools should be spending for instructional use of computers. My answer is that it depends upon the goals set by the school or district.

But that answer is less than satisfying to administrators in a school district who are just beginning to make a serious commitment to the instructional use of computers. Administrators need help in determining the level of expenses and nature of the commitment that may be necessary over the long run.

With these people I discuss "The Two-Percent Solution." The idea is simple enough. Let's see what could happen if a school district budgeted two percent of its total funds, year after year, for instructional computing.

The closing paragraph of this editorial states:

Two percent is a good initial goal. It is enough money to establish a solid program of instructional use of computers. However, two percent will probably prove quite inadequate over the long run. Perhaps a few years from now I will be writing an editorial on the five-percent solution. That is closer to the level of funding that will be necessary if we want to provide one microcomputer per two students, a good goal to aim at in the next decade.

Almost a Decade Later

Almost a decade has passed since that editorial was written. The computer world has changed immensely. The number of computers in schools has grown rapidly, but the ratio is still considerably less than one computer per ten students. The amount of compute power that a dollar will purchase has gone up by far more than a factor of 10. The quality and quality of educational software has steadily increased. And, of course, we now have hypermedia that greatly increases the need for more computer power and more equipment.

I think it is time to re analyze the recommendations in "The Two-Percent Solution." Should the recommended percentage now be much larger, such as the five-percent mentioned in the closing paragraph of the March 1984 editorial? Or, has the rapid gain in price to performance ratio of microcomputers made it possible for schools to achieve their instructional computing goals with less funds?

There are lots of ways to approach these questions. The approach used here is to estimate the dollars per year needed in each of four major categories, convert each dollar figure to a percentage, based on an estimated average school budget per student per year, and then tabulate the results.

One of the key ideas that is emerging is that students and teachers need both the convenience of easily portable computing facilities and the greater power and versatility of non-portable facilities. It seems evident that a students need both portables and docking stations&emdash;systems that connect to portables and that can tie together and provide easy access to a full range of the multimedia facilities appropriate for use in education.

Category 1: Teachers. This category includes hardware, software, teacher training, curriculum development resources, and other direct support of teachers in their professional work at school and at home.

Category 2: Students. This category includes hardware, software, and courseware that students carry around to use at school, home, and wherever else suits their convenience.

Category 3: Classroom. This category includes the hardware, software, and courseware in a classroom for use by teachers and students (for example, docking stations providing access to multimedia facilities).

Category 4: Other (Infrastructure and Miscellaneous). This category includes networking, computerized libraries, maintenance and support personnel, technology coordinators at the school and district level, contingency funds, and miscellaneous.

Here are my thoughts as to where schools should be headed in each of these categories.

  1. Teachers. Every teacher should have a powerful, easily portable, computer. Many teachers need a docking station at home; all teachers need ready access to a docking station at school, for example in their office area. There is a tremendous need for on-going inservice for teachers. I would allocate between $1,000 and $1,500 per teacher per year.
  2. Student. Every student should have a reasonably powerful, easily portable computer for use both in school and outside of school. I would allocate between $250 and $400 per student per year.
  3. Classroom. Every classroom needs a powerful multimedia teacher presentation station. Most classrooms also need a reasonable number of multimedia docking stations for students. I would allocate between $4,000 and $6,000 per classroom per year.
  4. Other (Infrastructure and Miscellaneous). The computer facilities in a school and school district need to be networked to each other and to the world. Students and teachers need routine access to local and worldwide computerized databases and libraries. There are many special needs students in schools who need far more resources than are allocated above. Including contingency and miscellaneous, I would allocate between $100 and $200 per student per year, and between $500 and $1,000 per teacher per year.

What do all of these allocations add up to? Suppose that a school system has one teacher per 25 students, 30 students per class, and a budget of $5,400 per student per year (the latter figure being the current national average for K-12 education). Then the totals are:

Lower % of budget

Upper % of budget

Lower $ per student

Upper $ per student

1. Teacher

0.74%

1.11%

$40.00

$60.00

2. Students

4.63%

7.41%

$250.00

$400.00

3. Classrooms

2.47%

3.70%

$133.33

$200.00

4. Other

2.16%

4.32%

$116.67

$233.33

Totals

10.00%

16.54%

$540.00

$893.33

Most people laugh when they see these figures. "You are joking, right?"

One response is to suggest a look at business and industry. In "knowledge industry" types of businesses, what is the annual expenditure per worker for the types of support listed above? Of course, the answer varies a great deal. However, if we think of both students and teachers as "workers," than the recommendations I have made are small relative to the support that workers receive in many businesses.

When was the last time you visited the office of an executive secretary or administrative assistant in a high tech company? Do you think that $1,000 per year would pay for the equipment that this person is using? Arguments such as these tend to be convincing to people who are familiar with business and industry.

The next question is often, "Okay, I believe you. But where could the money come from?" The answer to that has three parts. First, reallocation of current funds can make a significant dent in the resources problem. For example, all schools have staff development, curriculum development, and library funds that might be reallocated. Second, good arguments can be made that school budgets will need to increase. Third, there will need to be a major change in the nature of school staffing. Businesses have made massive cuts to middle management and to support staff. Right now, in a typical school system, only about 40 to 45-percent of the budget is used for salaries and benefits of teachers. In addition, few schools make adequate use of a differentiated staffing structure that includes a number of instructional assistants.

The above type of analysis leads me to believe that a 10% to a 20% "solution" should be the goal in the next decade.

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Effective Practices (Part 5): The Future

Moursund, D.G. (May 1996). Effective Practices (Part 5): The Future. Learning and Leading with Technology.

Q. I am planning to make a presentation to our school board. What are some really good arguments that computers can make a difference in education?

I am currently involved in a research project designed to investigate this issue and provide some answers to this frequently asked question. This column is the fifth in a five-part series of columns summarizing some of what my research group is finding, as well as explaining my own current thinking on this question.

Forecasts for Computer Technology

Computer technology continues to change at a rapid pace. However, it is possible to anticipate much of this change-and to make forecasts that are useful to planners and decision makers. The following forecasts describe the computer systems that will be used routinely a decade from now.

  • Hardware. Processor speed will continue to increase. A decade from now, mid-priced microcomputers will be 10-20 times faster than today's mid-priced machines.
  • Primary and secondary memory. A decade from now, mid-priced microcomputers will have 10 times as much primary memory and 25 times as much secondary storage as today's mid-priced machines.
  • Software. The strong trend toward seamlessness among the various software tools will continue. Software will increasingly have built-in help features, and the human-machine interface will continue to be improved.
  • Connectivity. There will continue to be a very rapid increase in connectivity. A decade from now it will be routine for teams of people located throughout the world to be connected by computer-based, two- way video as they work together on solving complex problems.
  • Digitization of information. Increasingly, everything that can be digitized into computer-readable form is being digitized. A decade from now, resources in online libraries will far surpass the resources available in any individual physical library, such as the Library of Congress.
  • Artificial intelligence. There will continue to be slow but steady progress in this area. Progress is already occurring in many everyday uses and products. Voice input is improving, and a decade from now it will be commonplace. Intelligent agents and expert systems are improving in their capabilities and will also be commonplace.
  • Merger of media. The capabilities of telecommunications, television, and the computer are rapidly being integrated. We are already seeing a strong movement toward a product that is a combination of a computer, a television set, and an interactive communications device.

These forecasts paint a picture of increasingly powerful computer systems becoming available at reasonable prices. Such changes suggest that students and teachers need to learn to use a wide range of generic computer tools (word processors, databases, spreadsheets, telecommunications, and others) as an aid to representing and solving problems in the various disciplines. Such tools need to be thoroughly integrated throughout the curriculum and should be readily available to students and teachers throughout the school day and for use at home.

In addition, technology-enhanced learning (TEL), which includes computer-assisted instruction, computer-managed instruction, and distance education, needs to become a standard component of the educational system. One part of learning involves learning to be an independent, self-sufficient, lifelong learner.

What Will It Cost?

At the current time, schools in the United States spend about 1.3% of their budgets on computer hardware, software, networks, infrastructure, and support systems. Already, however, some schools spend 5% of their budgets in these areas. Over the long run, even this 5% figure will prove inadequate.

To understand why this is so, imagine a school of the future in which every student has a combination computer-television-telecommunications system networked to people and information sources throughout the world. TEL resources are available to the student at school and at home. These resources are further strengthened by a well-maintained infrastructure and support system. The support system provides teachers with the inservice education and technical support they need to continue to grow on the job.

The average cost of public education in the United States is currently about $6,000 per student per year. Ten percent of this amount is about $600 per student per year. Now, imagine how far $600 per student per year would go in terms of providing:

  • Every student and teacher with a powerful portable computer and a full range of applications software.
  • Every classroom with a technology infrastructure that includes scanners, printers, camcorders, desktop presentation software, and network connections.
  • Every student and teacher with good access to the full range of TEL facilities both in and outside of school,
  • Maintenance and repair staff, as well as other technical support.
  • Continuing inservice education and support for teachers.
  • Ongoing curriculum revision and curriculum development to keep pace with the continued change in technology.

Even 10% of the school budget is not enough to provide all these facilities and services. Thus, over the next decade we will see a steady rise in the average percentage of the K-12 educational budget going toward technology. A decade from now we will see a number of schools spending more than 10% of their budgets for such technology.

[Dave Moursund: moursund@oregon.uoregon.edu]

Note: The National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) has received funding from Microsoft founder and CEO William Gates III to carry out a project titled "The Road Ahead." NFIE is a non- profit educational foundation created by the National Educational Association in 1969. NFIE has subcontracted with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to do research and evaluation on this project. Some of the ideas in this series of columns on computers and effective practices are based on this research.

The 15-percent Solution

Moursund, D.G. (March 1999). The 15-percent solution. Learning and Leading with Technology.

 

The March 1984 issue of The Computing Teacher (which since has been renamed Learning and Leading With Technology) carried my editorial titled "The Two-Percent Solution." That editorial made the bold assertion that if our educational system would spend two-percent of its budget for information technology, great things could be happening. The two-percent suggestion was rather wild-eyed, although some higher education institutions were already spending at that level.

Fifteen years have now passed. According to data given in Presidents Committee (March 1997), the expenditures in the 1994-95 school year had grown to 1.3% of the school budget. More recent data suggests that for 1998-99, we have now come close to reaching the two-percent level.

The following is paraphrased from the 1984 article:

A recent (winter, 1984) ad in my town's local newspaper indicated one could purchase a 64K machine with one 5.25 inch floppy disk drive, printer, and monochrome monitor at a retail price of $900. The ad was for a very widely sold computer system from a reputable local dealer. It was for a one megahertz, 8-bit machine that had been on the market for a couple of years.

I recently saw an ad for a 64MB machine with one 3.5 inch floppy disk drive, a 4.3 gigabyte hard drive, a 56k modem, a 32X CD-ROM drive, color monitor, and color printer at a retail price of $1,000. This is a 333 megahertz, 32-bit computer. When adjusted for inflation, the cost is substantially less than the 1984 machine.

I also saw an ad for a $999 16MB laptop with a 12.1 inch color display. This is a 233 megahertz, 32 bit computer with a 3.5 inch floppy drive, a 20X CD-ROM, and a 1.6 gigabyte hard drive.

In both cases these computers come with a graphical user interface-type of operating system and a mouse or touchpad. In both cases the prices were down substantially from just a few months before, and they will likely have dropped still more by the time this article goes to press.

What Percent Do We Need?

Two-percent of the school budget buys a LOT more computer than it did 15 years ago. However, our expectations have also gone up a lot. Fifteen years ago we felt lucky to be in a school that had a student to computer ratio of 80 to one. Now, the national average is about eight to one, and it is still inadequate. A commonly stated goal is a ratio of two students per computer, and we now have a number of schools where every student carries a laptop. We also have expectations of the school providing good connectivity to the Internet and a wide range of multimedia facilities.

Moursund (1997) lists expectations that a school might have:

  1. Providing every student and teacher with a powerful portable computer and a full range of computer productivity tools.
  2. Providing every classroom with technology infrastructure that includes scanners, printers, camcorders, desktop presentation, and network connections.
  3. Providing every student and teacher good Internet and email access, as well as access to the full range of distance learning and computer-assisted learning facilities both in and outside of school.
  4. Providing adequate maintenance and repair staff, as well as other technical support.
  5. Providing continuing inservice education and support for teachers.
  6. Providing ongoing curriculum revision and curriculum development to keep pace with the continued change in the technology.

The analysis given in Moursund (1997) indicates that meeting such expectations will cost well over 10-percent of the school budget. President's Committee (1997) analyzes a number of different forecasts of what information technology is apt to cost in schools in the future. Conservative estimates are in the 10-percent range, while bolder estimates are in the 15-percent range.

In many school districts, the total amount of "discretionary" funds is in the 15-20 percent range. This is money available for books, supplies, equipment, and so on. All of the rest of the budget is used up by salaries, bussing, ongoing maintenance and repairs, insurance, and so on. Clearly a school cannot allocate all of its discretionary funds for instructional information technology.

Where will the needed information technology resources come from? The answer to that has four parts. First, reallocation of current funds can make a significant dent in the resources problem. For example, all schools have staff development, curriculum development, and library funds, and some of these resources can be reallocated. Second, good arguments can be made that school budgets will need to increase. Third, the E-rate and/or other sources of Federal funding will make a significant contribution.

Fourth, there will need to be a major change in the nature of school staffing. Businesses have made massive cuts to middle management and to support staff. Right now, in a typical school system, only about 40 to 45-percent of the budget is used for salaries and benefits of teachers. In addition, few schools make adequate use of a differentiated staffing structure that includes a number of instructional assistants.

Final Remarks

My prediction is that 15 years from now there will be a significant number of schools that have implemented the "15-percent solution." To a great extent, the needed resources will come from restructuring of staffing. Schools that have the most flexibility in staffing (such as Charter Schools, magnet schools, and private schools) are likely to take the lead in these types of educational change.

References

Moursund, David G. (1997). The Future of Information Technology in Education. Eugene, OR: ISTE. This book is available for reading at Moursund's Web site. http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/D.A.V.E.

President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. Panel on Educational Technology (March 1997). Report to the President on the use of technology to strengthen K-12 education in the United States. Washington DC: Author.

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Reflections and Forecasts (October 2001)

We have not yet reached the time when it would be considered silly to write a "xx$ Solution" article. But, eventually we will get there.

We do not separate off Reading and Writing expenditures in our school system. All teachers are expected to read and write reasonably well. Reading and writing are used in every academic area. Needed facilities (such as well lighted classrooms) are not considered separate budget items to be charged against a "Reading and Writing" line item.

Where we are headed is an educational system that includes the following:

  1. Every student and educator has routine high bandwidth wireless and wired connectivity to the Internet. This means that such connectivity exists and students and educators all have appropriate portable and non-portable devices for using the connectivity.
  2. Every student and educator has access to the "computer processing power" and the software needed to accomplish their learning and teaching goals. (Among other things, this means that asynchronous Distance Learning and Computer-Assisted Learning is available on all curriculum areas, at levels and in languages appropriate to the needs of the learners.)
  3. IT is an integral and routine component of all curriculum, instruction, and assessment, in the same way that Reading and Writing are currently routine components.
  4. All teachers use IT in their personal and professional work at a level compatible with and supportive of their use of Reading and Writing.
  5. All students learn to use IT and then use IT to learn--just as is currently done for Reading and Writing.
  6. The content of each non-IT discipline appropriately reflects contemporary roles of IT as part of that content area and as a tool in learning and using knowledge from that content area.

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