Elysian Valley school reboots computer lab with the help of a third-grader

Dorris Place student in newly refurbished computer lab | Pots Photography

Dorris Place student in newly refurbished computer lab | POTS Photography

Contest winner Gala Lennane-Gordon | POTS Photography

Contest winner Gala Lennane-Gordon | Pots Photography

ELYSIAN VALLEYDorris Place Elementary held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to show off its computer lab that was refurbished with new equipment after a third-grade student submitted a winning essay in an IT makeover contest for schools.

Eight-year-old Gala Lennane-Gordon  wrote the essay after her mother, who founded the school support group Partners of Dorris, was unable to enter the contest after having just returned home from a hospital stay. Competing against schools in a six-county area, Gala’s last-minute essay – We Need New Computers –  mentioned how parents had scrounged for parts to fix the nearly decade-old computers in the lab.

Her submission was selected as the winner of the contest held by Ingram Micro, an Orange County-based distributor of high-tech equipment.The makeover included a brand-new, fully-stocked computer lab as well as security cameras and digital signage.

“We are over the moon about this,” said Principal Susan Grant Schmidt in a statement. “It is a terrific opportunity for our children; we are extremely grateful and excited.”

Photo courtesy PODS

Photo courtesy PODS Photography

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  1. What a terrific kid! Congrats to her, her family, and her school!

  2. 35-year Echo Park resident

    What a great story to read this morning. One bright kid (and a smart corporation also).

  3. Anne Marie Grewal

    delighted to have the new computers, so our Dorris Place kids can keep pace with the technologies they will need to know to succeed. Thanks to all who made this happen from a lucky parent.

  4. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but whenever I view photos of smiling kids staring at computer (or IPad) screens, I wish I could view a photo taken from the rear of the class, so I could see what they’re working on that’s so engaging. Are they reading some text or viewing photos that accompany the text – or are they playing some sort of game? I don’t deny the need for current technology, but I think good, old-fashioned books – and lots of hands-on manipulatives to help children learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and those pesky fractions – are much more important than any computer program.

    • I also share your concern James. There is a lot of value in the good old fashioned way of doing things.

      As a parent at Dorris Place I can assure you that books, projects and teacher interaction make up nearly all of the learning activities at the school. It’s the “Smarter Balanced” testing format that is just now being adopted by LAUSD that requires computer-based testing. Kids no longer take standardized tests on paper.

      We had always relied on the “old” computer lab to teach typing and internet research skills to the kids, since approximately 35% of these children don’t have access to a computer at home. Early computer literacy raises the likelihood of success at the secondary level and beyond.

      We had literally pieced together a rag-tag collection of random computers from the LAUSD salvage yard so that these kids would have regular hands-on research opportunities available to them. The new computers are an amazing improvement since they are fast and reliable. There were so many problems with the old ones that the distraction of rebooting, freezing, etc. made the twice-weekly lab time less productive than it should have been.

      We are just thrilled that this little neighborhood school with over 85% of it’s children qualifying for free/reduced lunch has the opportunity to work on brand new equipment just like the schools in more affluent areas. Regular exposure to computers is essential to preparation for testing. Kids who aren’t familiar with using computers will be at a real disadvantage moving forward. Like it or not, that’s the future of testing.

      Thanks Gala for an excellent essay, the first draft of which was written in pencil in a composition book. Her mom showed it to us!

      • Well, it’s great to see parents get involved in their local public school. Keep up the good work. 🙂

        • i agree it is fantastic that parents are involved in their children’s school and lausd

          but i wish the money was given to teachers not computers

          computers don’t teach, teachers do

          • Bonanza,

            Just to clarify, there was never any money, thus no choice of how to spend such money. The computers came from a contest that was sponsored by a technology distribution company. That company got in kind donations from the vendors they work with, meaning, Samsung donated the mini laptops, Xerox donated the printers etc. Even the installation time was donated. Because teachers are part of the union UTLA, their contract stipulates that their salary comes from the district. They cannot be paid by outside sources. I completely understand the plight for higher wages for teachers and support them fully, but just wanted to clarify that the teachers did not miss out on any type of monetary opportunity due to this computer lab reboot. In fact, the teachers were over joyed by the news and are extremely grateful both to Gala for writing the essay and to Ingram Micro for creating the contest and bringing their vendors along as sponsors.

        • James, you will also be happy to know that the very first project the nonprofit Partners of Dorris ever took on was to refurbish, redecorate, and restock the school library. It is a magical place where kids willingly give up their recesses to go read and tutor younger students, especially under the learning tree (part of the new decor.) Also, one incredible parent, who happens to be a published author, ran a creative writing workshop for the kids that began at 7am each Thursday, a full hour before school begins and the class was filled to capacity. The children wrote stories about the LA River and at the end of the classes, their stories were compiled into a book that was published thereby making the students all officially published authors as well. All proceeds from the book sales were put toward the purchase of more books for the school library. Each year Partners of Dorris, (POD) adds a new program or amenity for the incredibly hardworking students of Dorris Place. First was the library, then a music program with Education Through Music Los Angeles, (ETM-LA) that includes recorders, ukuleles, violins and cellos, with next year’s addition of violas. After that, was a new school garden with the help of our partners at The Home Depot, and then a PE program with the help of our newest partners YMCA. The computer lab was last on this list, and as Jen D. mentioned, thanks to 3rd grade student Gala, just in the nick of time to be able to successfully complete this year’s annual state-wide test, along with the ability to keep the computer lab class curriculum alive. Rest assured, old fashioned book reading, composition book writing, and hands on learning are alive and well at Dorris Place!

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