The lost city of gold: Funding to support computer science in your school
Editor's note: The following is a contributed piece by Bryan Miller (@EdTechNerd), former director of educational technology at Pine Crest School in Boca Raton, FL. Miller speaks internationally on educational technology and is the education community manager at Wonder Workshop.
The evolution of education technology has taken us from implementation of project-based learning, 1:1 programs, to the wide-spread adoption of maker-spaces, to now, the drive and push for computer science within K-12 curriculum.
Each initiative of course comes with its own challenges. The growing concern with CS implementation is, how can we as a school afford to implement the tools and resources that we know benefit our students, without affecting our operation and curriculum budgets?
Decisions by school administrators often come down to the “bottom-line,” and in this case the bottom-line is the added cost. Administrators know from years of experience in the classroom that tools and resources can enhance curriculum, and in turn greatly affect the positive learning outcomes of students. In many cases, however, administrators and teachers may not know where to look for additional funding support beyond their school or district.
Are you ready for the secret? Funding for computer science is a “city of lost gold” that many schools often dismiss because of the amount of work it often takes to find and apply for grants. This secret has never really been a secret, but more of a conglomerate of loopholes and confusing wording; an onslaught of questions and paperwork. With a little bit of perseverance and guided direction, you can tap into the potential of non-traditional funding opportunities to bring CS to your school.
Funding opportunities can come from many places — private companies, state or national grants, donations, fundraisers — and all have the potential to change access to technology in your school.
Many companies have put aside funds to support technology initiatives in K-12 learning institutions. Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, and Texas Instruments have dedicated funds to education, and generously award schools for their innovative growth and strategic plan initiatives.
Texas Instruments Foundation provides support for educational and charitable purposes primarily in the communities where TI operates. Its focus is providing knowledge, skills and programs to improve STEM education.
Motorola Solutions Foundation STEM grants fall under its Innovative Generation Grants program, which has given more than $34 million to programs in the United States and Canada.
State and federal grants have particular guidelines that must be met in order to complete an application. Because of this, many educators fear of the magnitude of the actual process. Those that can explain how their initiatives could fit within the boundaries of the grant — even if it takes some creative thinking — are often the ones who are awarded. You may not be approved the first time you try, but you’ll become familiar with the process that can help you secure a bountiful grant in the future.
For example, let’s consider the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 611. IDEA funding supports special education services and products for children ages 5-21 to provide education in the “least restrictive environment.”
How could computer science funding fulfill an IDEA grant? Let’s take a look at two of my favorite coding robots, Dash & Dot. These hands-on learning tools enable learners with kinesthetic or visual learning differences, and those with limited verbal abilities, to demonstrate their knowledge in non-traditional ways.
Accompanying applications for Dash & Dot support the development of critical thinking and fine motor skills at varying levels, a common goal for students with special needs. These lessons are meant for small groups, so a special needs student can collaborate with peers and have a successful experience while contributing at his/her ability level.
These same principles can be applied to the wealth of computer science tools available. Think about the implications of a tool for the whole child, rather than fixating on individual guidelines.
Explore the City
Looking for extra help in the application process? Seek out the help of experts in the field, or others that have been awarded grants to assist in this grant writing process. Learn what is available in your local area in terms of matching grants, or privately and federally funded grants, and don’t be afraid to take a leap and complete process. The extra effort can only bring meaningful tools and resources that will enhance your students learning experience.