Technology in School

No Begging Required: Teachers Share 5 Creative Ways to Fund Classroom Technology

By Jenny Abamu     Aug 7, 2017

No Begging Required: Teachers Share 5 Creative Ways to Fund Classroom Technology

Teresa Danks made national headlines this year after spending days in the heat on the side of the road in Oklahoma with a sign that read, “Teacher needs school supplies, anything helps.” She is not alone, as educators around the United States get ready to start the 2017-18 school year, supplies—particularly technology—can cost classrooms hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Luckily for educators, there are ways to get tech tools into the classrooms that don’t involve panhandling. We interviewed a few creative teachers to get their advice on supplying classrooms without breaking the bank.

Districts and Teachers Choose DonorsChoose.org

A popular platform teachers use fund classroom technology is DonorsChoose.org, a website started in 2000 by a teacher. The platform allows educators to fund everything from technology supplies to professional development trips. (In some districts, it’s the only platform that districts allow educators to use to raise funds for classroom supplies.).

Ellen Goodman has been a teaching technology for over 20 years in Brooklyn. With more than 177 projects funded through the website, she is known as the DonorsChoose guru among New York City’s education technology community.

“This is a process. You should always put your best foot forward as an educator,” says Goodman, who also volunteers with DonorsChoose helping other educators get their classrooms funded. “Always put your students in the best possible light you can think of. We don’t want them reading about themselves and thinking, ‘apparently she thinks I am a loser.’”

Goodman is just one of the many teachers on the platform. According to Chris Pearsall, the vice president of brand and communications for DonorsChoose, there are approximately 9,700 technology projects up on the website requesting around $10 million. Pearsall notes that this school year teachers are expanding their definitions of technology projects to include more maker centers and coding curriculum.

“Computers, tablets, and listening centers/headphones continue to be our most popular and common technology projects,” says Pearsall. “As the maker movement catches on, we're seeing more requests for things like MakerBots, 3Doodler pens, and robotics kits.”

Teachers turning to DonorsChoose must be willing to gamble, however. Similar to other crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, it’s an all or nothing bet: projects that are not fully funded send money back to the donor as DonorsChoose credit. In those cases, the teacher does not get any money.

Social Network Gift Exchanges

Social networks such as Reddit can also serve as a source of classroom funding for educators. Sarah Dill, a former Dallas ISD teacher, told EdSurge that she participated in an online gift exchange for teachers through Reddit that helped her supply her classroom with several technology tools.

“I gathered some great supplies from the Reddit Gift Exchange for Teachers. It was awesome and free! There are some great people out there who want to help educators and their students,” says Dill.

Started in 2012, Reddit's teacher gift exchange works by pairing up educators and donors who sign up on the website. Donors send gift packages to teachers based on their requests. Last year, the exchange raised $21,665, and according to data released by Reddit, reached 24,955 students.

Websites: Digital Wish and Adopt a Classroom

Adopt a Classroom is similar to DonorsChoose, but instead of picking a particular project, teachers write an essay describing their classrooms and list some things they would like. People can then put money into teacher’s accounts so they can shop, spending as much or as little as they want of those funds.

Kari Shirek Vargas, a teacher from California, told EdSurge that she has been using Adopt a Classroom for more than eight years, and it has saved her hundreds of dollars worth of classroom supplies, including a color printer, computer speakers, and even tablets for students to borrow and take home.

“I wish I could send a computer home with every kid, but our district isn't there yet,” says Vargas. Things are a little easier with the help of her classroom sponsor, though. “Someone in the neighborhood where I teach has adopted my classroom, about $600 a year.”

Digital Wish is on online store where educators can purchase donated technology equipment or software bundles. Donors can put money into accounts to help teachers shop. Goodman says those looking for classroom funding should consider Digital Wish. She turned to the platform a few years ago when her principal wanted students to use iPads for a digital photography club.

“A couple of years back a parent put $300 in my Digital Wish account, and I wasn’t really sure what I needed, so I left it there,” says Goodman. “When my principal asked me to consider doing a digital photography club. I went inside the Digital Wish account and purchased the iPad folio cases using the $300 dollars. “

Seek Grants from Philanthropies

Philanthropies and corporations also fund classrooms from time to time. However, the scope of projects taken on may be more narrow given the specific missions of the philanthropic organizations. The grant writing process may also seem a bit more tedious than websites like DonorsChoose (that offer users editing support) since the philanthropies often do not offer users writing help.

The LilySarahGrace Foundation started in 2012, has given over $1 million to support the arts and inquiry-based learning in underfunded elementary schools. Their definition of art is broad encompassing everything from dance to robotics, theater, 3D printing and software development. The submission period starts September 1st, and only teachers working in Title 1 K-5 schools may apply. Teachers should also note that $450 is the maximum amount offered each classroom.

Look to the Your District

Not many school districts have cash laying aside, but some have begun to set up funds to help educators tech-up their classrooms. For instance, New York City’s Department of Education currently gives educators $250 (up from $220 last year) dollars each to help them buy any kind of classroom supplies they need.

The funds come from the Teacher’s Choice program, a partnership between the City Council and the United Federation of Teachers. Educators note that though the funds are not enough to stock the class with iPads, the money does help with some basic needs throughout the school year.

A Little Advice Before You Begin Stocking Up

Goodman says teachers seeking to supply their classrooms should wait until they meet their students in order to accurately identify the urgent classroom needs. Once teachers understand their student's needs, they will be able to research other classes and teachers that have sought to fund similar projects.

She also warns educators to stay away from requesting items simply because they’re trending or popular.

“Stay away from the buzzwords,” says Goodman. “For the longest time teachers all wanted iPads just because they could. Start slow and get your feet wet, do one project and focus on that.” 

Technology in School

No Begging Required: Teachers Share 5 Creative Ways to Fund Classroom Technology

By Jenny Abamu     Aug 7, 2017

No Begging Required: Teachers Share 5 Creative Ways to Fund Classroom Technology

Teresa Danks made national headlines this year after spending days in the heat on the side of the road in Oklahoma with a sign that read, “Teacher needs school supplies, anything helps.” She is not alone, as educators around the United States get ready to start the 2017-18 school year, supplies—particularly technology—can cost classrooms hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Luckily for educators, there are ways to get tech tools into the classrooms that don’t involve panhandling. We interviewed a few creative teachers to get their advice on supplying classrooms without breaking the bank.

Districts and Teachers Choose DonorsChoose.org

A popular platform teachers use fund classroom technology is DonorsChoose.org, a website started in 2000 by a teacher. The platform allows educators to fund everything from technology supplies to professional development trips. (In some districts, it’s the only platform that districts allow educators to use to raise funds for classroom supplies.).

Ellen Goodman has been a teaching technology for over 20 years in Brooklyn. With more than 177 projects funded through the website, she is known as the DonorsChoose guru among New York City’s education technology community.

“This is a process. You should always put your best foot forward as an educator,” says Goodman, who also volunteers with DonorsChoose helping other educators get their classrooms funded. “Always put your students in the best possible light you can think of. We don’t want them reading about themselves and thinking, ‘apparently she thinks I am a loser.’”

Goodman is just one of the many teachers on the platform. According to Chris Pearsall, the vice president of brand and communications for DonorsChoose, there are approximately 9,700 technology projects up on the website requesting around $10 million. Pearsall notes that this school year teachers are expanding their definitions of technology projects to include more maker centers and coding curriculum.

“Computers, tablets, and listening centers/headphones continue to be our most popular and common technology projects,” says Pearsall. “As the maker movement catches on, we're seeing more requests for things like MakerBots, 3Doodler pens, and robotics kits.”

Teachers turning to DonorsChoose must be willing to gamble, however. Similar to other crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, it’s an all or nothing bet: projects that are not fully funded send money back to the donor as DonorsChoose credit. In those cases, the teacher does not get any money.

Social Network Gift Exchanges

Social networks such as Reddit can also serve as a source of classroom funding for educators. Sarah Dill, a former Dallas ISD teacher, told EdSurge that she participated in an online gift exchange for teachers through Reddit that helped her supply her classroom with several technology tools.

“I gathered some great supplies from the Reddit Gift Exchange for Teachers. It was awesome and free! There are some great people out there who want to help educators and their students,” says Dill.

Started in 2012, Reddit's teacher gift exchange works by pairing up educators and donors who sign up on the website. Donors send gift packages to teachers based on their requests. Last year, the exchange raised $21,665, and according to data released by Reddit, reached 24,955 students.

Websites: Digital Wish and Adopt a Classroom

Adopt a Classroom is similar to DonorsChoose, but instead of picking a particular project, teachers write an essay describing their classrooms and list some things they would like. People can then put money into teacher’s accounts so they can shop, spending as much or as little as they want of those funds.

Kari Shirek Vargas, a teacher from California, told EdSurge that she has been using Adopt a Classroom for more than eight years, and it has saved her hundreds of dollars worth of classroom supplies, including a color printer, computer speakers, and even tablets for students to borrow and take home.

“I wish I could send a computer home with every kid, but our district isn't there yet,” says Vargas. Things are a little easier with the help of her classroom sponsor, though. “Someone in the neighborhood where I teach has adopted my classroom, about $600 a year.”

Digital Wish is on online store where educators can purchase donated technology equipment or software bundles. Donors can put money into accounts to help teachers shop. Goodman says those looking for classroom funding should consider Digital Wish. She turned to the platform a few years ago when her principal wanted students to use iPads for a digital photography club.

“A couple of years back a parent put $300 in my Digital Wish account, and I wasn’t really sure what I needed, so I left it there,” says Goodman. “When my principal asked me to consider doing a digital photography club. I went inside the Digital Wish account and purchased the iPad folio cases using the $300 dollars. “

Seek Grants from Philanthropies

Philanthropies and corporations also fund classrooms from time to time. However, the scope of projects taken on may be more narrow given the specific missions of the philanthropic organizations. The grant writing process may also seem a bit more tedious than websites like DonorsChoose (that offer users editing support) since the philanthropies often do not offer users writing help.

The LilySarahGrace Foundation started in 2012, has given over $1 million to support the arts and inquiry-based learning in underfunded elementary schools. Their definition of art is broad encompassing everything from dance to robotics, theater, 3D printing and software development. The submission period starts September 1st, and only teachers working in Title 1 K-5 schools may apply. Teachers should also note that $450 is the maximum amount offered each classroom.

Look to the Your District

Not many school districts have cash laying aside, but some have begun to set up funds to help educators tech-up their classrooms. For instance, New York City’s Department of Education currently gives educators $250 (up from $220 last year) dollars each to help them buy any kind of classroom supplies they need.

The funds come from the Teacher’s Choice program, a partnership between the City Council and the United Federation of Teachers. Educators note that though the funds are not enough to stock the class with iPads, the money does help with some basic needs throughout the school year.

A Little Advice Before You Begin Stocking Up

Goodman says teachers seeking to supply their classrooms should wait until they meet their students in order to accurately identify the urgent classroom needs. Once teachers understand their student's needs, they will be able to research other classes and teachers that have sought to fund similar projects.

She also warns educators to stay away from requesting items simply because they’re trending or popular.

“Stay away from the buzzwords,” says Goodman. “For the longest time teachers all wanted iPads just because they could. Start slow and get your feet wet, do one project and focus on that.” 

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