Kids gravitate to technology in the classroom, so it makes sense for teachers to utilize digital projectors—that is, unless no one can see the lessons they display.

This was our situation a couple of years ago at Northwest Elementary School in Chatsworth, Ga., in the summer of 2014. We were having challenges with the technology in our learning environments: Our digital projectors were eight years old, so the projections weren’t very bright anymore, and it was difficult for our students to see the images on the screen. Worse still, sometimes the projectors wouldn’t boot up at all, or conked out midway through a class, which frustrated teachers who needed them for the day’s lesson.

We wanted to include funding for these upgrades in the budget, but after planning for essentials, there just wasn’t much money left over. We looked at replacing a few digital projectors at a time, but we have 29 classrooms–how would we prioritize which classrooms would get the new projectors first? What do you eliminate from the budget so the kids can have another computer? It was frustrating. We thought there was no way we were going to be able to get everything we needed.

But–as you might have guessed–this story has a happy ending.

Taking the Plunge

Then our curriculum coach, Kristy Campbell, told me about the opportunity that would change everything: NEC Display Solutions was sponsoring a contest that would give the winning school $25,000 toward digital display and projector technologies. Mrs. Campbell suggested we enter–and we decided to go for it.

Our school produced a video, “Oh, it Froze,” based on the song “Let it Go” from the movie “Frozen,” featuring our students and teachers singing about our outdated computers freezing during class. And it wasn’t just a contest entry; it also was a fun way to improve morale. Teachers were dealing with curriculum changes with the implementation of Common Core, as well as the budget shortages that were affecting us all, and this contest really pulled our community together.

We sent the video off – and then, knowing that the manufacturer was choosing the winner based on the number of votes, we got to work: The district office emailed contacts throughout the state, and I handed out voting instructions as parents picked up kids after school. Even a local congressman helped drum up support.

Then we held our breath and waited.

(Next page: A digital projector ending; 3 tips to handle a budget shortage)


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