Struggling to fund a state-of-the-art computer center in your school? Technology expert Jeanne Snyder shares suggestions for creating a computer center that actually makes a profit!
School districts across the country constantly struggle with the costs involved in creating and maintaining state-of-the-art computer labs in their schools. What if, instead of costing money, school computer labs could be designed to make money? Is it possible? Education World Tech Team member Jeanne Snyder thinks so! Snyder believes school computer labs should support themselves, generate profits, and be separate from school districts. "The school computer lab," she told Education World, "should be a communications center, serving as a hub for discovery, exploration, creativity, and learning for the entire community, not just for the school."
"The center," Snyder added, "should be operated by a for-profit or not-for-profit training and computer group and not the school district. In that way, the school would receive leasing money for the space as well as on-site support from trainers and technologists in training. In addition, the school would have a first-class training facility for teachers and students without the problems of networking and equipment depreciation."
"My first step in creating a computer profit center would be to re-name the computer lab the communications center or e-hub," Snyder explained. "I'd stock the room with a mixture of all types of electronic knowledge equipment." She recommends:
Total cost: $15,000.
Snyder, who calls herself "an educational architect with dreams that work," designed this dream lab.
According to Snyder's plan, the physical layout of the lab would optimize student learning during school hours. "The layout of the lab," Snyder noted, "would create conversation clusters that encouraged talking and teamwork. All students would be free to wander around, secure help, or receive 'just in time' training from anyone in the room, including teachers, other students, or volunteers. A large job board on the wall would be used to assign and track student responsibilities, deadlines, projects, and jobs well done.
"Students working in the lab would design, create, and maintain all the school's communication needs," Snyder added. Those would include the school Web site, newsletters, parent flyers, multimedia presentations, holiday greetings, family enhancement programs, and special communication projects.
"In addition, during pre-scheduled hours," Snyder continued, "the lab would serve as a small-business incubator, in which owners and employees of small businesses would have access to technology -- and learn with students. That use would provide students with real-life experiences and offer big-business opportunities to small businesses. The lab would also provide businesses and not-for-profit organizations the opportunity to participate in two-way mentoring programs. Students would provide the businesses or organizations with such services as Web sites, flyers, and advertising brochures, and the companies or organizations would provide the school with volunteers willing to teach students about business and careers."
After school, Snyder suggested, the lab could serve as a training facility for the community -- with an outside entrance, so it could open before school and stay open until around 9:00 each night, seven days a week. The lab could then serve as a community enhancement location, providing educational "e-live" programs and chats from around the world.
A small fee could be charged to bring to the community hub quality e-projects such as those Snyder has created, she added. Those programs include Miss Netty's World after-school communication programs; certification and training programs, such as CmomS; and special "e-live" Web casts from all over the world, on topics ranging from pre-natal care to business and financial tips.
"In addition," Snyder said, "online family enhancement programs and games would create fun competition between families and friends across the community and the world. At WhaleNet's tagging program, for example, families or family members can select a dolphin or whale and track its journey. The team whose animal travels farthest in the allotted time wins.
"The list of possible programs," Snyder continued, "is as endless as the imagination of the communication center's community and school enhancement director and staff."
Matching funds from education, community, and government small business loans and grants would help start the program and provide an annual budget for the first three years of operation. However, the lab should be run as a profit center and become self-supporting within three years, Snyder said.
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