|The Media Center|
What Would You Do with $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000?
|by Mary Alice Anderson • Lead Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, Winona, Minnesota|
|MultiMedia Schools • October 2002|
Assess your needs. What do you already have? Is it well used? What new purchases will have the greatest impact on student learning or on a teacher's ability to provide hassle-free and meaningful learning experiences?
Visit any two media centers in a region, county, or school district, and you will find a wide range of technology available. One may have a hundred or more computers; multiple classes can simultaneously access computers to find and produce information. In another, only a handful of students can use a media center computer at the same time. And, down the road, there is absolutely no technology in the media center. Equitable access and opportunity are not realities.
How would you spend money if you had a windfall? Perhaps your district's budget situation improved or you received a grant. What can you do with $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000? While $1,000 would be a wonderful gift for some media centers, for others it would be a drop in the proverbial bucket. Similarly, $100,000 would fully equip some media centers or even some schools. Others could use the money to enhance a technology-rich program.
The No/Low-Tech Media
Getting Started: $1,000!
Do you already have a good computer? If so $1,000 could also purchase a digital camera, a scanner, and ink jet printer. Why purchase today's hot items? A digital camera and scanner can be the hooks that capture reluctant teachers' attentions, furthering their technology skills and bringing them to the media center. A digital camera provides instant feedback and instant success. People are amazed at how easy scanning is. These purchases come with a price tag. Plan to also spend money on color ink, photo-quality paper, and possibly more storage. And, plan to spend a lot of time helping teachers with photo editing, multimedia presentations, and printing.
A Real Chance to Do Something—$10,0000!
Many secondary media specialists, including some managing media centers with good collections, report they only have eight to 10 computers for students to access the online catalog and databases or use for productivity. One media center serving a high school of 1,700 has only 14 networked computers. Another with 800 students has only 10. These students, like secondary students everywhere, need access to quality databases and the Internet. In both high schools, students end up doing their research in a lab, possibly without the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher and a hallway away from other resources and the media specialist. Sometimes teachers and the media specialist juggle schedules so students can begin their work in one setting and then move to another.
That $10,000 would purchase another eight to 10 computers for each media center. A majority of one class could use the computers simultaneously while other students are using print resources. Productivity software is as essential as online information access so the computers can be serve multiple purposes. I'd also be sure to include some laptops to allow flexibility in where the students work and to have something for the teachers (or maybe kids?) to check out for overnight or weekend use.
Don't need to purchase quite so many computers? If you don't have an online encyclopedia or other quality information databases, these should be top-priority purchases. The online encyclopedia for our entire district of over 4,000 students costs less than $2,000. Be sure the encyclopedia isn't already available through your state or a regional agency. A video projector is also a wise choice for part of the money. A respectable model can be purchased for $2,500.
All of the options will attract more students to the media center and be a catalyst for increased teacher/media-specialist interaction. Set aside some of that $10,000 for staff development and planning with teachers, because students and staff will be using the media center and its resources in new ways. If you can afford it, pay the teachers a stipend to attend training. If you're down to just a few dollars left, buy treats to entice them to an after-school training session.
You're not automated and the collection is small? That $10,000 will purchase an automation system for a collection of less than 10,000 items. The automation system also sends a signal that things are about to change. Automation usually requires extensive weeding, another nice way to change the media center's image. Be prepared to spend the time it will take to get the system fully in place; you have to invest in your time before it gives you time by freeing you from labor-intensive tasks such as filing card catalog cards.
A Real-Life Scenario—$100,000
I'd sink $60,000 into a full lab and state-of-the-art computers for each classroom. A wireless lab would provide flexibility. Teachers may want to opt for a laptop they can take home. Why share the media center's windfall with the classroom? Teachers are the key to providing technology-rich experiences for students. Without their enthusiasm and improved skill, any new technologies will be underutilized.
A few thousand dollars would have to be used to improve the infrastructure and purchase a server. Two laser printers, one for the lab and one in a central location, would solve printing problems. Earmark $5,000 for curriculum-specific software. A projection system to be shared by everyone would be another wise investment. Old computers could be recycled as online catalogs, since this application doesn't require great speed. Others could become extra classroom word-processing stations or kept aside as spares. The remaining dollars, approximately $25,000, should be dedicated to intensive staff development for all staff, including administrators and support staff.
THE HIGH-TECH MEDIA CENTER
Another media specialist said she would use newfound money for VCR/DVDROM/MP3 players for teachers who use a lot of streaming video and mixed media in the classroom. I would reward the champions by making sure teachers who want to keep moving forward have a state-of-the-art computer.
I'd quickly spend about half of that $100,000 on a wireless lab that could be used anywhere in the school, thus reducing scheduling and space problems because the 110 computers in our media center are not enough. I'd purchase more video projectors so there would always be one available and equip our auditorium with a permanent video projector, VCR, television, and slide projector so we are always ready for any group that wants to use the auditorium. Time and hassle saved would be worth the expense.
The remaining dollars would go for a permanent smart board, and a high-end computer equipped with all the software and peripherals necessary to conduct demonstrations in the media center's instructional classroom. Also on the wish list is an adult staff development lab with 15 to 20 computers and furniture like that found in a corporate training or meeting center. Wouldn't teachers be impressed if they could attend training sessions in plush surroundings? Either or both spaces could double as a distance-learning classroom. And of course I'd set aside a portion of that $100,000 for training.
What If You Could Hire
Staff with That $100,000?
Administrators from a small district inquired about how they could best spend their money if they had money to hire additional staff. The district had a teacher who served part time as a technology coordinator, handling the hardware and wires, but no media specialist. A school secretary was handling a few library functions. They recognized the technology was not well used and integration was lacking. But class size was also a little too high in some grades. The superintendent wondered if he should hire another teacher or a media specialist. The answer was obvious: The right media specialist could move the integration efforts forward and help out the busy teachers. The return on the investment already made in technology would improve. Everyone wins.
It's Fun to Dream ...
Mary Alice Anderson is a frequent contributor to professional journals, a conference presenter, and an adjunct instructor in the College of Education at Winona State University. The Winona Middle School Media/Technology Program has received both state and national recognition and awards. She is also the lead media specialist for the Winona Area Public Schools and was a Library of Congress American Memory Fellow in 1999. The Winona Middle School Web site can be accessed at http://winona.k12.mn.us/wms/index.html. Communications to the author may be addressed to Mary Alice Anderson, Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, 1570 Homer Road, Winona, MN 55987; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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