At Northwest Elementary School in Chatsworth, GA, teachers were plagued by classroom technology that was unreliable and that at times just didn’t work. Ageing projectors produced images so faint that it was difficult for children to see their lessons and the school’s computer lab contained buggy equipment that often froze.
Northwest administrators considered replacing the classroom projectors, but quickly realized they did not have the money to buy new technology for all 29 of the school’s classrooms. They also had issues with the computer lab that still needed to be addressed. All that changed when a curriculum coach approached principal Paula Martin with an idea. She had seen a video contest advertised by NEC where one K-12 school could win $25,000 worth of technology. All Northwest had to do was put together a video explaining why they needed a technology makeover.
With the help of the school’s music teacher and her husband, Northwest Elementary put together a video inspired by Disney’s recent hit movie, “Frozen”. The video features a teacher and students singing to the tune of the movie’s title song “Let It Go,” but their version is called “Oh it Froze” and it highlights the struggle teachers and students experience in the computer lab on a daily basis.
“We have a couple members of the school who are really talented with everything from video editing to just being dramatic,” Martin says. Those members of the school community were enlisted to star in the video musical and everyone featured is part of the school community.
The way the NEC Tech Makeover Contest works is that the company chooses 10 K-12 schools as finalists in the video competition. All submissions are then posted to the NEC website and the contest is opened for public voting.
“We went into it excited and felt that we had a good chance to be one of the 10,” Martin says.
They did better than that and Northwest Elementary went on to win the contest and with it the coveted $25,000 in tech. The school chose 29 NEC VE281X 2,800-lumen, high-brightness mobile projectors and digital signage as part of its prize winnings. Northwest classrooms now have projectors that produce bright, crisp images for students.
“One of the teachers realized that she did not have to turn her lights out with the new projector so that spread rapidly through the building and the teachers were really excited,” Martin says. “It’s the simple things, but it does make a difference.”
Before the new projectors were installed, teachers had to turn out the lights completely to see projected content. Now, that isn’t a problem. The new NEC projectors use ActivBoards as their screen. Special programming allows the projectors and the boards to work together so students can interact with and manipulate projected content.
Winning the NEC contest and replacing classroom projectors at no cost, had the added benefit of freeing up some additional technology funds for the district.
“Not having to worry about that expense has allowed us to add computers in our lab and things that we definitely needed but did not have money for in our budget,” Martin says.
The school also received eight 19-inch NEC AS192WM desktop monitors with built-in speakers to complement the new computers as part of their prize. In addition, 23 NEC E324 32-inch LED edge-lit commercial-grade displays were ordered for Northwest classrooms.
The new technology is up and running at Northwest Elementary. Martin says the teachers are “thrilled” with their new tools, but she cites the recently installed digital signage as having a particularly big impact on the school community. A large monitor now hangs in the main area where parents drop off their children in the morning and check them out at the end of the day. The display is used to communicate important information and to advertise events like the school’s Thanksgiving dinner. It’s also used to play the school’s morning announcements, which features students, giving parents the opportunity to see their child on TV.
“It has been a great highlight,” Martin says. “It’s been fun and educational for parents.”