Funding IT education

Ann Gouge talks about the challenges facing IT managers in schools and the opportunities to apply for financial or resource grants.

About the author
Ann Gouge is the Head of Department Information Technology, Kepnock State High School, Bundaberg. She has a Graduate Diploma in Computer Education and is currently undertaking studies in the Certificate IV in IT (Multimedia). She is planning a series of IT workshops in multimedia and web page design in 2002.

Funding IT education

One of the greatest challenges of an IT manager in a school is to manage a plan which will cover maintenance and development of the school’s computer network, professional development and futures development, as well as providing for the integration of IT into the curriculum. There are many opportunities to apply for financial or resource grants. Some of these are the i-STAR Program, the Quality Teachers Program (QTP) and Networking the Nation. At Kepnock State High School in Bundaberg, we have been successful in applying for IT funding through these programs.

The i-STAR Program
The i-STAR Program is managed through the Queensland Government Department of Innovation and Information Economy, and provides financial assistance to industry, educational and training institutions, and local authorities to undertake projects that contribute to overcoming the ICT skills shortage, especially in regional Queensland. There have been two rounds so far, with information relating to Round 3 (Financial Year 2002/2003) being available by the end of 2002.

i-STAR funding is available to Queensland local government agencies, educational and training institutions, and community organisations and/or clusters (for example, industry association or body).

The best way to find out about the program is through the website http://www.iib.qld.gov.au.

The i-STAR Project funds a program at Kepnock State High School called Wired Bay. Wired Bay involves the development of a Web Writers Learning Circle and Network, and concerns the development of a regional web writers group involving students, educators and the community. The aim is to develop the expertise, skills and knowledge of educators in web page development and implementation and to empower them with the ability to inspire and involve students.

Funding has been obtained to develop the first node of the network, to provide workshops for teachers and to train two staff in Multimedia and Web Page Development. So far 38 women have completed the web page workshop organised by the Bundaberg Branch of AWE. Workshops are planned for a further 40 IT teachers in the Wide Bay area. Currently, we are being funded for studies in a Certificate IV in IT (Multimedia) through the QANTM Co-operative Multimedia Centre (Brisbane) and we are applying for recognition of prior learning for a Certificate IV Workplace Assessor and Trainer. This will be essential for us to introduce Certificate III and IV IT courses to the school.

The Quality Teacher Project
The Quality Teacher Program (QTP) is a Commonwealth-funded project within the national initiative—“Teachers for the 21st Century”. Its major outcomes are to:

  • improve and update the skills and understanding of teachers;
  • enhance the status of teaching as a profession.

The project at Kepnock aims to develop the web writers’ network at a regional level through a variety of means, including a public forum, the development of a course tailored to teachers who will become Node Managers, and workshops conducted by each of the Managers with their nodes at sites throughout the Wide Bay. Information about the QTP can be found at http://www.education.qld.gov.au/learning_ent/ldf/qtp/.

You can read all about projects in other schools at this site as well as develop ideas about your own project.

Networking the Nation Project
Networking the Nation is a Commonwealth grants program providing over $400 million in funding to not-for-profit organisations to support activities and projects designed to address a range of telecommunications needs in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Networking the Nation is part of the Commonwealth Government’s strategy to ensure that the benefits of new and existing telecommunications facilities and services can be accessed and enjoyed by all Australians.

The objective of Networking the Nation is to assist the economic and social development of regional, rural and remote Australia by funding projects which:

  • enhance telecommunications infrastructure and services in regional, rural and remote areas;
  • increase access to, and promote the use of, services available through telecommunications networks in regional, rural and remote areas;
  • reduce disparities in access to such services and facilities between Australians in regional, rural or remote areas and those in urban areas.

Networking the Nation is managed by a Secretariat in the Commonwealth Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, located in Canberra. Before applying for funding under the program, contact the Secretariat on 1800 674 058 to discuss your proposal or idea. A wide range of supporting information is also available from the program’s website, at http://www.dcita.gov.au/rtif.html.

An independent Board, appointed by the Commonwealth Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, is responsible for deciding which activities and projects will be funded, in accordance with these guidelines and within the overall funding allocations provided to the States and Territories.

The NTN project at Kepnock involves the development of a Community Communications Centre which utilises the school’s facilities to provide out-of-school time for telecommunications access and training to target groups in the Bundaberg community. These groups have been identified as technologically disadvantaged within the community and the program aims to redress this imbalance. Funding has so far been obtained to develop a business plan for the project.

Possible strategies for funding
Kepnock High has the advantage of having an administration and P&C with the foresight to employ a Project Officer, who researches possible sources of funding and then works with staff to develop submissions. This is a highly successful partnership and it is worthwhile for a school or a cluster of schools to investigate developing such a position for themselves. If this is not an option, then there are many websites giving details of funding for which schools may apply. Use a search engine using the key words funding andIT and you will find many options. Schools in Australia are also eligible to apply for overseas funding from international foundations and agencies.