Wesley Fryer – The Podcasting, Blogging, Ed-Tech Machine

I was able to spend about an hour yesterday talking with Wesley Fryer at NECC’s Blogger’s Cafe. Talk about a sharp tack. He is certainly a pioneer in the educational technology landscape and a natural leader. It was great to speak with him.

In our discussion, he asked me a series of questions – to which most, I was actually able to answer a thing or two (Wesley will be publishing the audio of our discussion in a future podcast - link forthcoming). However, there was one question that stumped me, remaining a challenge in spite of the thought I have since given it:
If you were given a million dollars to transform a school, what would you consider to be the most important purchases you could make?
Ironically, as Technology Specialists in the Jordan School District, this is the very situation in which we find ourselves. The legislature of the state of Utah will be giving our district over eight million dollars next year – to be spent on educational technology. We have never been the recipients of such legislative generosity, and will probably not receive such a large sum again for many years. Consequently, the pressure’s on to spend it now and spend it well. As I see it there are several ways the money could be effectively spent:
  • Personnel – Nobody wants to work for “soft” money, but our schools are extremely desperate for additional tech-support.
  • Additional computer hardware (teacher and student workstations) – There are many schools (secondary and elementary) that could seriously use a major upgrade to many/most of their teacher and student workstations. One to one is still out of reach in our district, but eight million bucks could put a serious dent in the situation. Furthermore, upgrading teacher and student hardware would also eliminate some of their needs for added tech-support (the newer the machines, the less support they immediately require). Nevertheless, if we can’t take care of the hardware that we currently have, how can we expect to be able to handle additional equipment?
  • Hand-held technologies – Eight million dollars could purchase 40,000 iPods or 50,000 Palm devices. The only drawback with this kind of purchase is the fact that there are over 80,000 students in our district. Nonetheless, it would be very exciting to begin a district-wide adoption of hand-held technologies into the curriculum. We might even have enough left over to bring in Tony Vincent as a guest speaker. :)
  • Professional development – It would be great to budget some of the money toward on-contract-time professional development sessions. Follow-up sessions with mentoring would add to the effectiveness.
If you had eight million dollars, how would you spend it? Feel free to leave your two cents.

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