A recent news story cited the Virginia School for Deaf and Blind (VSDB), to show how an IT implementation can go wrong. One very surprising aspect of the story, is that it happened in the United States, which leads Ireland in the availability of technology and resources to deaf & hard-of-hearing children.
The story details how VSDB, a school of 115 students with sight or hearing issues, ranging in age from preschool to college level, is planning to slash its entire computer stock from around 200 to 80 PCs (personal computers).
Unlike other entities in the region, VSDB is under the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA), meaning it must pay $330,000 annually for computers and services. For VSDB to ‘get out’ from under VITA, the state law or state budget would need revision, which explains why the school is being forced to cut down its IT resources.
So, what can Ireland learn from this schools-ICT example?
The website Anseo.net notes that, “In the UK, according to the Tipperary Institute of Technology, only 20% of schools’ ICT budgets go on hardware. Thirty-four per cent of the budget goes on technical support.” This statistic is in direct correlation to Ireland, where budget is for computer hardware only.
Simon Lewis, editor of Anseo.net, IT insider and principal of Carlow Educate Together National School, is mystified as to why VSDB’s IT system cost this much to maintain. He adds that schools in Ireland simply don’t have the finance to hire a company to maintain IT equipment: “Most schools hire an IT guy… Some schools are lucky to have parents who can do this”.
To avoid another VSDB-type situation, schools wishing to implement any type of IT system should first ensure they have the capital to install it, and the capital to maintain it. After this, it is vital that IT funding applications are properly classified as such, and schools are as self-sufficient as possible.
Simon puts forward an alternative idea however, “clusters of schools getting together to buy into a (IT) service to cut costs.” For example, a few schools within an area group together to “buy” tech support. While Simon concedes that this scheme would be expensive, his idea is certainly not without merit.
It is clear that Irish schools need IT maintenance budgets to provide better resources for students. Particularly in mainstream schools with deaf & hard-of-hearing students, who lean on technology as a learning tool and for inclusive education. Acquiring IT budgets for the schools is the big challenge.
(compiled by Nicola Fox)
- The Necessity Of Teaching ICT Skills In Schools
- Making Literacy And Classroom Tools Accessible
- The Need To Re-Think Learning For Universality
- Website Makes Irish Accessible To Deaf Students
- Australia To Take Classroom Captioning ‘National’
- What Tertiary Supports Do Deaf Students Need? (relevant to post-primary)