What should we buy?

We have some technology funds to spend in my department. The computer lab that we provide for our on-campus graduate students is brand new and, other than some needed software, is in pretty good shape. We have large numbers of off-campus graduate students that never derive much benefit from the university technology fees that they pay each semester because their classes are online or are in remote locations several hours away.

If you were in our situation – with tens of thousands of dollars to spend on hardware, software, online systems/tools/accounts, and other classroom technologies for use by Educational Administration and Higher Education graduate students and faculty – what would you buy?

13 Responses to “What should we buy?”

  1. Well, based on what you’ve stated, it would seem that there is a disconnect between your off-campus population and the lack value of place-based tools for that group. With that, it would seem that a way to extend your presence virtually and/or synchronously may benefit these students. What do you have in the way of tools that grad students could use to collaborate online? If they are like my grad students, are there support structures in place to assist them in developing communication/collaboration skills? Is there an online conferencing suite they can use to work together in real-time?

    What about helping to offset the cost of a cam/headset combo?

    I’m envious that you actually have money to spend. In my institution, academic tech is not highly valued and our budget is non-existent for all intents and purposes. I’ll be interested to see how you target these funds.

    John Martin
    Skype/Twitter: Edventures

  2. Thanks, John. I’ve been thinking along the same lines. Got any specific suggestions for particular tools/systems?

  3. How about Clickers, something like the ones from TurningPoint technologies. If you have professors that stand and deliver with lectures, I am sure you have a few, I don’t think there is any better technology to get them to engage their students in class. I have seen this really change some of our very “traditional teachers” in our k-12 district and get them started down the path to futher integration of technology.

  4. In my ture always be prepared thinking, I might purchae bulbs for those projectors you have all over campus – they will most certainly die. An arsenal of thise in your supplies will be valuable.

    How about also looking into purchasing a few of the EEE laptops? Maybe begin a piloting to see if they would be more feasible for campus life than bulky laptops?

    Last resort: send me about 5K so my school can get in to at least the 1990’s.

  5. I like the clickers idea. My school just test drove some Senteo clickers, by SmartTechnologies, and they are amazing. They have a lot more functionality than other clickers.

    I don’t know what your program is like there, but my program is very non-practical. I would spend it on things to make your program more practical. Camera/microphones to interact with guest speakers that won’t have to travel to your campus, software to help students learn how to do master scheduling and school budgets, and I am sure there are probably others.

  6. How about developing a lending library for the off-campus/online students? Include:

    Palms loaded with software
    Inexpensive web cameras
    Headsets for podcasting
    Online access to web services for educational administration (so they can compare – eventually, they will have to make recommendations for their school)
    Kits of data probes/graphing calculators/LabQuests – they need to see what science can do with them, so when the science dept asks for them, they can make informed decisions
    Reimbursement for workshops, state conventions, professional activities related to technology

  7. Dr. Mcleod,
    I think a great way to spend these resources may be to purchase some palm pilots with e-walk or other data gethering or data management software on them. Then aid some of us that are interested to see just how useful data gathering can be in assessing the implementation level of a specific program. We talk a great deal about the need to monitor implementation of new initiatives or strategies, but have not been really given any effective strategies to gather and keep this type of data efficiently.
    I think it is great that you actually asked for input on this issue rather than just buying new machines for a lab which will get very little use. I like that you have exposed us to new ideas on using technology and also model effective leadership/administrator practice in the selection and implementation of new technology.

  8. Well, as a grad student (ABD in Higher Ed Leadership) and in a distance ed situation myself, I LOVE having a student license for RefWorks (WMU has a site license for it).

    Open Mind (made by matchware) is another piece of software that, for a grad student, is great for organizing your thoughts and exporting to a semi-constructed paper in APA or MLA format. With the site license, I believe students can purchase a home copy for $10.

    Do your grad students need to use any kind of stats package for data analysis? Maybe a site license for something along those lines would be helpful? The student version of SAS or SPSS maybe?

    Automatic backup software and server space for doing auto-saves of theses/dissertations would be nice too.

  9. I was just going to suggest asking the students what they need 🙂 Glad to see some are chiming in.

    I would also say–what are your goals as a dept. and school? What are those that are most pressing?

    Buy with the end in mind 🙂

  10. Do you guys have cable hooked up for students? I was just talking to a colleague (fresh out of school) who loved being able to call the library, request a movie, and then see it on one of the ten channels reserved for the school. Or you could watch lectures missed. Maybe you already have this at your school. Sounds neat though–and makes me wish I could go back to school to experience education in this new way. (Graduated in 94 in Seattle right when it was starting…)

  11. Playing with the new DimDim web conferencing software. This might be a nice service if you don’t have/can’t afford Elluminate, WebEx or the like.


  12. A few ideas came to mind… if you want to revitalize a computer lab there is a system that I almost purchased for my school last year. It uses a host computer and some peripherals and eliminates thousands of dollars from the cost of a new lab. The company is NComputing – http://www.ncomputing.com/ncomputing/products/direct.php

    I know this doesn’t benefit your off-campus students. For them, you might consider a license to a training site like Atomic Learning. They would benefit from the tutorials and it wouldn’t be tied to just those students who visit campus.

    Also, what about Turnitin.com? Not sure where you stand on the argument for checking that students adhere to academic standards but I’ve had a lot of success with this service.

    Hope this helps-


  13. AH, The end of the year spending spree – where universities find all the “extra” money that has to be spent THIS Fiscal year. I just finished going through this myself so I always have a Dream List. Here is mine:
    -Computer/Projector/SmartBoard combo for every classroom or checkout use
    -Multimedia kit (classroom set) of digital cameras, video cameras, and ipods with mics
    -Clickers (I do like Turning Point)
    -VoiceThread Account for school
    -Laptops for semester long checkout

    I could go on – but I have to buy stuff 🙂

Leave a Reply to David W. Keane