Not all institutions of higher learning have funding for cutting-edge technology and improving digital tools — or the means to train instructors. That’s where educational technology grants can help.
But finding out about educational technology grants — especially ones that are relevant to higher education — isn’t as straightforward as one might imagine. Indeed, there are entire firms dedicated to matching grants with grantees (for a fee, of course). And the vast majority are geared toward K–12, supporting low-income students and schools.
Within the post-secondary world, finding and applying to educational technology grants is a much trickier business, though not impossible. If you’re going down this path, you’ll require time and patience (and possibly professional assistance). There’s even grant management software available, demonstrating the complexity of the grant-proposal process.
Rita Lorraine Hubbard on Dummies.com writes: “There are no magic formulas, short-cuts, or sure-fire methods to follow when you’re hoping to get a grant. You won’t even be able to track down a standardized process for grant application.”
Educational technology grants are available from federal and state government agencies, as well as private companies, foundations, charities, non-profit organizations and individuals. Many more grants are designed to sponsor and support education programs in general, or promote learner innovation, without necessarily specifying technology in the classroom.
Fortunately, there are a number of online databases that can help narrow down your search and provide information about various grants.
You’ll find a listing of government grants at Grants.gov, including Technology and Media Services and State Grant for Assistive Technology. Other databases include GrantWatch (geared toward non-profits, but includes universities) and GrantSelect (includes educational and research grants).
Some states, including Maine, Delaware and Idaho, have made substantial state-level commitments toward digital access and connectivity, according to the Office of Educational Technology. But state funding varies.
“In some cases, professional development funding can be applied to professional development related to digital learning,” according to the office. “Some states offer competitive funding to fuel digital learning resource enhancement. Library, literacy, and career and technical funding often relate to digital learning as well.”
As well as from the public sector, the private sector also provides educational technology grants. Global corporations such as Google, Toshiba and Siemens offer grants towards advancing and improving classroom technology — but don’t overlook local firms, particularly technology-focused ones, which may also offer grants for edtech.
Philanthropic organizations are another good bet. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, previously announced $9 million in grants to support “breakthrough learning models” in post-secondary education, which aim to “provide more students with an affordable opportunity to receive a high-quality postsecondary credential with labor market value.”
Among its investments is $1 million to MIT for developing a prototype computer science online course — offered for students for free through edX — using a flipped classroom model that targets low-income adults.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan, through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, have donated $308 million in education grants since January 2016, focused on personalizing the student learning experience and reshaping teacher training. A comprehensive listing of its grants, to date, can be found on Chalkbeat.
And the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation provides grants, including educational technology grants, to universities looking to “become more entrepreneurial — not only in what they teach and how they teach it, but in how they operate.”
For members of the National Education Association, grants are available to educators in public schools or public institutions of higher education. Its website encourages education support professionals to apply; it’s currently giving preference to proposals that incorporate STEM and/or global learning into projects.
How to write an application for educational technology grants
Once you’ve gone through the process of finding applicable grants, it’s time to prepare your grant proposal, which is a process in itself. The proposal should include everything from your mission statement to a budget that shows exactly how you plan to use the funds (The Balance provides a comprehensive list of what to include in every grant proposal).
Grant-proposal templates can help, such as PandaDoc and Slidebean, though it could be worth hiring an expert to write the proposal. You can get help, for a fee, at organizations such as the Foundation Center or GrantWatch. The Foundation Center also offers boot camps on writing grant proposals.
Since donors grant money based on what matters to them — after all, they’re not expecting a monetary return — make sure your proposal and its outcome matches their mission. If your proposal is accepted, you’re expected to use the money exactly as you’ve outlined; if not, you could be required to refund the money or even be charged with fraud.
If you’ve been awarded a grant, congratulations — but the work doesn’t stop there. You’ll be held accountable for results, so you’ll need to keep track of outcomes and provide regular progress reports.
While it’s a lot of work and requires time and patience, educational technology grants could be well worth the effort and help to fund cutting-edge edtech initiatives that will make your instruction more innovative—and enhance your teaching strategies.