Monday, February 25, 2013

Grant Writing Advice: 5 Things I Know

 During my time as a Technology Coordinator for my school district I wrote or co-wrote many grants.  I learned a great deal while a part of that team and through writing and implementing these grants.

Match the Grant with Your District Strategic Plan
No matter how cool the opportunity, if it doesn't fit with  your district vision, mission and strategic plan, you may end up with cool tools or a neat program that doesn't go any deeper than that. I know that sounds obvious, but I've been tempted to do this, I'm guessing you might be too. Your strategic plan should be a living document, so live within it so you can meet your goals. Sort of like asking yourself,

"Would you buy those shoes on clearance if they were still full price?" If the answer is no, don't buy them. If it wasn't important enough to include in your plan, walk away. Focus

Talk to the People the Grant Will Affect
I once worked on a grant with my superintendent to get video conferencing equipment for our entire school district. It was a really complicated, long process to write this grant. Eventually, we DID get the grant and then the fun began, it was super time consuming to implement and report on. The time spent on this grant in relation to the amount of use the equipment got was a fail.  The teachers in the buildings really weren't ready for or interested in video conferencing at the time. They already had a bunch of new tech tools, and a million other things on their plate. Actually, the whole tech department had a lot of new tech tools and a lot on OUR plate.  Eventually we made good use of the grant, but the timing was bad, talk to people who will actually use the equipment/program etc.. before applying.

Keep Copies of Everything
So many grants are now "submit online only".  I highly recommend writing everything in Word or Google docs, save it. Especially the section that asks for data that you will use over and over again as you apply for other grants.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I filled in info on an online form and had the form freeze up and I LOST IT ALL. (Nope, not really, I really really do put it all in word and then copy and paste it in. )

Check Yourself
In working on a grant  with a fellow administrator, we wrote a truly incredible grant, I mean, we were on fire,  it was an amazing plan. The only problem? We both had actual full time positions with the district already and the grant plan we had written would take a ton of time to implement, measure and report on. So we "checked ourselves". What is the essence of what we want to get out of this grant, what CAN we actually manage, we scaled back in order to do it well. And, we got the grant! 

Follow the directions
Sounds simple, right?
Surprising how many people don't do it. If the grant is to be double spaced, a certain font, font size, specifies no more than two attachments, wants you to stand on your head while faxing the app and singing God Bless America, DO IT.
Just follow the directions.

Lastly, where are my go to places to find grants besides just watching my Twitter Feed? These two.
eSchool News Funding Tab
EdWorks Facebook Page

Don't forget about your own state DOE, local community foundation and big chain stores like Target who often run mini grants for teachers:)

Happy grant writing!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let's commit to not just talking about "student voice" but actually listening to it!

The phrase "student voice" is getting a lot of traction lately.  Whether it is a part of our #PBLChat conversations where you often here the phrase "voice & choice" or if you have been following the #stuvoice hashtag we know we should be listening to students, but I'm not sure how often it truly happens. 

One place I know students feel at home sharing their voice is on Twitter.  I am so proud of how the voices of students have grown organically as a part of #PBLChat.  Each week we have a number of students join us , they lend an authentic voice to our conversations, several of our topics have even been student suggested.

We have a number of students who jump right in to our chats each week and they would be happy to be a member of your PLN as well.  The tricky part for you might be knowing that they are students.  They confidently share their opinions, advice and philosophy about learning in such a profound way that I bet some of our chatters have no idea they are talking to HS students.    Due to the busy lives of work, school, FFA 4H, sports and more the group changes from week to week and I find it even more impressive that they choose to take the initiative to learn alongside all of us.

These students found this outlet for their voices mostly because they were already connecting professionally via Twitter with their teachers or as a part of different projects in their school. I love how I see the students now connecting with each other, across states and time zones to discuss and share.

Here are some sample tweets from a few of our "regular" chatters. 



I love this next one!

Doesn't it illustrate how we all feel after a great connection with our PLN? 

Some of these students share topic ideas in our #PBLChat google doc, in fact, it looks like this week's topic will be one from a student.  I love how it is an exact concern we often hear from teachers!

Ask any teacher who has left the classroom for other positions what they miss the most and they will say "the students".  I love that students joining in on our chats makes me miss that less.  Sometimes, I even get to meet this student PLN in person.

I always love going to learn with students and teachers but this last visit was special. I got to meet @MrMackAttack1 and @Emcredible3 in person, tour their school and even have time for some great face to face conversation.

Let's commit to not just talking about "student voice" but actually listening to it!