By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Students at Madison Elementary School are already reaping the benefits of a PTA-sponsored campaign to bring more technology into the school's classrooms.
The PTA launched an Adopt-A-Classroom program last fall with the goal of raising enough money to put a PolyVision interactive whiteboard in each classroom.
So far, enough money has been raised to buy four of the high-tech devices, though just one has been installed -- in Lori Biswell's third-grade classroom.
Three more interactive whiteboards will be installed soon, "and we're well on our way to a fourth through donations," said Principal Jim Sohn.
Sohn said the campaign has been a big hit with supporters of Madison School. He said the PTA set a goal of raising enough money in the 2012-13 school year to buy three of the boards, which cost between $1,700 and $2,300 each.
"We've surpassed that already," he said.
Chad Larson, chairman of the school's technology committee, said the fundraising campaign has received a strong reception.
"We are happily overwhelmed by the support we have been getting from the school staff and friends of Madison Elementary," he said. "We have many more opportunities for people to help us out in the upcoming months."
Sohn said some supporters have provided enough donations on their own to buy a single interactive board for any classroom they designate. Others have made smaller, undesignated donations into a fund that can be tapped to buy additional boards once enough is raised.
"Those donations are starting to pile up, too," he said.
Sohn, who is in his first year at Madison, said the Adopt-A-Classroom campaign grew out of a discussion about the school's technology needs during one of his first meetings with the Madison PTA last fall. The conversation focused on the value of having an interactive electronic board that a teacher can hook to a computer to display Web pages, draw graphics, show videos, work out math problems and give a wide array of demonstrations.
The PTA hopes eventually to put a board in all 17 of Madison's classrooms.
So far, Sohn said, three of the boards have been designated for third-grade classrooms, and the fourth has been designated for the school's music room. He said the plan is to equip all third-grade classrooms first and then "work our way down" to the lower grades. That way, "everybody will have a chance" to benefit from the technology before leaving Madison after completing third grade.
An PolyVision interactive board is similar to a Smart board except it has a larger screen, can be used as a normal "whiteboard" when not in use, and is virtually "indestructible," Sohn said.
"They can do very similar things, but they have different programs and software that might come with one or the other," he added.
Sohn said teachers will be able to use the boards in a variety of ways to supplement their instructional techniques.
"It's just another tool. It doesn't take the place of a teacher at all," Sohn said. "It's a great focal point for the kids."
Sohn said it's important for school classrooms to be equipped with modern technology. He said this not only enhances the teacher's educational arsenal, but it also makes students more knowledgeable and proficient in using different types of technology.
Sohn said technology will be increasingly important in the future as the Common Core state standards are incorporated into local schools, putting emphasis on the need for students to use technological tools effectively.
All donations to the Adopt-A-Classroom program are tax-deductible and will be funneled through the not-for-profit Quincy Public Schools Foundation.
Once a classroom is fully funded, a plaque will be placed outside the room to recognize the donor or donors.
More information is available by calling the school at (217) 223-6096.