Elvehjem Elementary parents lead push to upgrade classroom technology

Gayle Worland:

When the Elvehjem Elementary School parents who raised $200,000 for a playground outside the school last year started looking for a new fundraising project, they thought of the teacher on the itty-bitty chair.
She’s someone like Julie Fitzpatrick, a first-grade teacher at Elvehjem who uses a nearly decade-old classroom computer to track attendance, fill out report cards and answer parents’ e-mails. The bulky monitor and sluggish hard drive sit on a desk sized for the 6- and 7-year-olds who also use the terminal, one of two PCs in Fitzpatrick’s room.
Even if the teacher wanted to bring more modern equipment from home, like a laptop, she couldn’t access the Internet with it. There’s no wireless connection.
“I go in to take my son to his first day of school, and I see these two ancient-looking computers with floppy disc drives,” said Brian Johnson, vice-president of operations for a Madison high-tech firm and a parent in the group LVM Dreams Big Technology, which hopes to raise $20,000 this summer to buy the school some of the latest classroom tools: document cameras that can project computer and other images on a screen, an interactive “whiteboard” called a Smart Board, and a message board with an LCD screen at the school entrance to announce the day’s activities. They hope to come up with another $5,000 for grants aimed at teachers wanting to try new technologies.