Jerry Schnabel is the Director of Information Technology with Area Education Agency 267.
Last fall, when I said I would write this article, it seemed like a good idea. The topic of how technology can help save time and money seemed like a no brainer. But when I sat down to write this, I experienced writer’s block! And then I realized it–technology has become so a part of how Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) does business that the examples were no longer obvious! After reviewing my day, I began to see the many ways in which we are using technology to save funds. Here are just a few examples.
At the beginning of my day, I took a look at a Google Doc that someone at a school in another town had shared with me. In 2010, Iowa’s AEAs entered an exciting partnership with Google to bring innovative tools (such as Google Docs) into the classrooms. With Google Docs, you can share a document with someone via the Internet and they can make changes and you can see them in “real time.” No more emailing a document back and forth and forgetting which was the current version. A Google Doc provides a revision history, so you can look back to see each change made. This makes collaboration on the same document a snap. Over 40 schools in AEA 267 are “Google schools.” Our agency has provided close to 70 training opportunities for schools this year to learn how to use the tools Google has to offer!
Next, I logged into a webinar (recorded visual presentation) on our agency website that some of our staff had previously presented live to 100 teachers over the Internet the day before. The webinar format was created, so people like me who couldn’t make the first session, could hop on the Internet and view it when we had time. This is extremely beneficial for teachers who often have very hectic schedules and find it difficult to leave the classroom for professional development. AEA 267 has done over 200 webinars this year for educators and internal staff; with literacy, science, special education, early childhood education and media/technology topics being the most popular topics.
After lunch, I was talking with another staff member who is teaching an online class for teachers in Iowa. Last spring, Iowa’s nine AEAs collectively launched AEA Professional Development Online (AEA PD Online), a one-stop shop for Iowa educators’ online professional development needs. Online classes allow teachers to virtually connect with colleagues across the state and take a class that might not have been offered locally. It also gives the flexibility to work on the class when it is convenient for them, such as after school, at midnight, or Saturday morning. With no need to drive to class and no time on the road, the time saved could be used for learning. The money spent on gas could be used elsewhere in the family budget.
Toward the end of the day I participated in a meeting about Medianet, the AEA 267 online catalog of professional materials we make available to all of the educators we serve. In Medianet, a teacher may search for all the materials the AEA provides such as books, DVDs, kits, and equipment. Everything can be ordered and shipped via van to the school (like when you order something on Amazon!) but no credit card is needed. Teachers can also view or download streaming video that may be used in the classroom. During the meeting, we also talked about Iowa AEA Online, a collection of 12 online products provided to every accredited school in the state by the AEAs, such as online books, streaming video and Britannica Online. All of these products are available to teachers and classrooms with a click of the mouse. Time saved? Immeasurable. Cost savings? Huge.
At the beginning of this article, I couldn’t think of anything. Now I am leaving examples out so this will fit in the space for the column. How about you? How does technology save you time or money? You may be surprised.