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10 tips for winning school technology grants

Sheryl Abshire, CTO of Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said school leaders need to be "gamblers" when it comes to writing – and getting – grants.

Corinne Lestch
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Corinne Lestch Education staff reporter - EdScoop, FedScoop and StateScoop

Corinne Lestch is a staff reporter covering education for EdScoop and its affiliate public sector technology news websites, FedScoop and StateScoop...

Sheryl Abshire, CTO of Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, Louisiana, shared her top tips at FETC for getting innovation and technology grants. (Corinne Lestch/EdScoop)

ORLANDO – There's a lot of grant money out there – but getting a slice of the private or federal funding pie can be intimidating and challenging for time-strapped school districts.

Sheryl Abshire, chief technology officer of Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La., offered her tips for writing standout grants and proposals in order to provide students and teachers with innovative devices and programs they otherwise wouldn't have.

She hosted a session with Glenn Larsen, program director of the National Science Foundation, at the annual Future of Education Technology Conference, which brings together school technology directors to learn about best practices and products.

"The funder wants to know exactly what’s happening in classroom – does the proposal tie into the school's overall plan?" said Abshire, who has been working in schools for more than 20 years. But successful grants also have to demonstrate the funds will help launch something innovative, and not just support an otherwise underfunded program. She also stressed applications need make a clear, financially sound business case.

"You want to talk about support within the school so the funder can see clearly that you didn't just wake up one morning after having a bunch of margaritas and say, 'I'm going to write this grant.' You can't just get technology for the sake of technology."

Here are her top tips of checkpoints and questions to think about before submitting a proposal:

  • Does the proposal tie into the school’s overall plan? Does it reflect team effort and support within the school?
  • How will the technology be used?
  • Will the proposal impact student learning? Does the team’s plan improve student learning beyond the norm?
  • How will desired outcomes be developed? Describe specific indicators of how curriculum development will be different or completed.
  • Does this initiative have the potential to be replicated by a larger community? How it might have a far-reaching impact on other communities?
  • Does the proposal tap creativity by tapping into other resources already available in the community?
  • Is the budget clearly defined? Make a case for why private funding should be used. The budget must be perfect. Don’t make adding mistakes.
  • Who will benefit from this initiative? Be very clear about this, and how it helps students.
  • How well does this proposal replicate what the grant funder is looking for? How well do you know the funder and the corporate goals?
  • How committed are you? They want to see your passion in this proposal; they want to be partners.

"You need to be a gambler," Abshire said. "If you want a grant, you have to write one." But she added, if you write one, and keep applying, you'll get one.

The Small Business Innovation Research grant program is also a resource for both established companies and startups that want to expose schools to their products – the program, run out of the Department of Education, recently gave up to $1 million to game designers like Zaption and Schell Games for the work they are doing around educational games.

Here are some other resources:

Abshire's grant website: http://Tinyurl.com/grantsabshire

Get Ed Funding http: www.getedfunding.com

Grants for K-12 Hotline newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/grantshotline

Wyatt Kash contributed to this report.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.

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