New feature on DonorsChoose puts districts' tech guidelines at teachers' fingertips

The crowdfunding nonprofit says the new tool helps teachers get what they need while reducing headaches for administrators and IT departments.

Ryan Johnston
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Ryan Johnston Editorial Fellow
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(Donorschoose.org)

Teachers who use DonorsChoose.org to request crowdfunding for classroom technology will now be able to verify that the hardware and software they seek is in line with their district’s tech guidelines.

The nonprofit site has been successfully connecting teachers with donors for nearly two decades, but until now there was no built-in way to ensure that a request — which could be anything from basic classroom supplies to expensive robotics kits — fit with a district's acquisition policies. Districts can now embed them directly into DonorsChoose.org, and the site will show teachers which items are the right fit from one of its 22 vendor partners.

The new feature will greatly streamline the process for teachers and eliminate some headaches for school districts, according to Katie Bisbee, an executive vice president for DonorsChoose. The site allows public school teachers to submit publicly viewable requests for classroom and laboratory materials. The projects are vetted and categorized by a team at DonorsChoose, and range heavily in price and substance.

Eleven districts have embedded their guidelines into the site so far, according to the nonprofit.

“It’s a good thing for everybody when the right technology gets in the classroom," said Bisbee. "Teachers are able to use their device inside their four walls, students get to learn and district IT staff get to attach the device to their system and track what’s in the school. And donors, whose intent was to buy technology that teachers can use to teach students, get their intent fulfilled,” said Bisbee.

When requesting a new computer, for example, teachers will now see a simple summary of their district’s preferred vendor and a link to the district's full technology guidelines. Bisbee said that this will help eliminate errant requests for technology that isn’t licensed by the district — a teacher purchasing a Google Chromebook in a school that uses Microsoft Surface devices, for example — and isn’t supported by any IT staff as a result.

IT administrators can manage things like software updates, privacy settings, network access and apps all in a streamlined way, Bisbee said, but only if teachers have the knowledge to purchase the right materials.

The site, which was started in 2000, has become a key tool used in more than 11,000 districts. In March, cryptocurrency company Ripple donated $29 million in funding to cover 35,600 projects benefitting nearly a million students, according to the site.

Boston Public Schools (BPS) CIO Mark Racine, a former BPS teacher himself, said he has used DonorsChoose to fund his classrooms in the past.

“The tech guidelines will provide teachers with our recommended technology specifications and allow them to make informed decisions when asking for classroom technology. This will allow us to provide improved support for technology, including setup and delivery, as well as repairs and warranty support,” Racine told Edscoop in an email.

DonorsChoose is an important tool for educators to tap into the generosity of outside donors, said Guadalupe Guerrero, superintendent of Portland Public Schools, in a statement.

“By clarifying up front both the relevant district-level policies and system requirements of any hardware or software, new technologies can more seamlessly and effectively be introduced into the school environment to support excellent teaching and learning,” Guerrero said.

Reach the reporter at ryan.johnston@scoopnewsgroup.com and follow him on Twitter at @RycJohnston.



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Education IT News, K-12, Policy, STEM, Donorschoose.org, Boston Public Schools

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