By Tim Leeds
A successful program at Montana State University-Northern that's looking for a new source of funding held a special workshop showcasing its operations.
Montana State University-Northern's Mirror Center held a workshop Thursday and Friday focusing on using modern computer and communications technology in the teaching field.
The money that paid for the creation and initial operation of the Mirror Center, which is part of Northern's College of Education, was from a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology program.
Tara Neumann, Northern's coordinator for the project, said the center is looking for ways to continue the funding when the Department of Education grant ends this summer.
"We're trying to see if we can find some grants that fit into the scope and sequence of what we want to do with the Mirror Center," she said.
Some of the work sponsored by the grant is now embedded in Northern's teaching curriculum, but Neumann said the Mirror Center itself and its staff are funded by the PT3 grant. She said she is confident that additional grant funding can be found.
"We have the history of the accomplishments happening on the campus and we have a very good chance to continue to receive funding," she said. "We've kind of opened up the door and we've got to keep it going."
The workshop, titled "Partner Exchange," was created as a professional development opportunity to celebrate and continue the success of the program at Northern.
"The students that are coming out of this college are being introduced to technology not being taught at other institutions," she said. "What's great about it is that it then sparks the teacher in the classroom to learn more."
The work done through the Department of Education grant has been incorporated into the curriculum of the College of Education. The center has implemented a course specific to technology in education and has added use of technology to the curriculum of other classes in the College of Education.
One of the focuses of the technology being taught at Northern's College of Education also was a focus of the workshop. Helen Barrett, known in the education field for her development of using multimedia presentations for resumes, was one of the presenters at the workshop. She is the "guru of electronic portfolios," Neumann said.
The electronic portfolio uses modern technology to organize a teacher's or student's work to show efforts, progress and achievements over time. Barrett gave three-hour presentations on the concept Thursday and Friday morning and afternoon.
Neumann said Northern graduates get a lot of benefit from the portfolios.
"When they walk into a job fair they get a lot of attention with their electronic portfolios," she said.
Leah Noel, administrative assistant at the Mirror Center, said the portfolios have allowed students to be "hired on the spot" when prospective employers look over the portfolios.
"It's been a really powerful tool for our students," she said.
Other presentations included workshops on the Jason Project, which uses multimedia presentations to take classes on virtual tours of areas of the world and expose them to the work of leading scientists. This year's tours are of the rainforests of Panama.
The workshop also included sessions by Classroom Connect, an organization providing professional development and online curriculum to promote use of the Internet in education. The workshop included an introduction to classroom management for project-based learning, where teachers create tasks similar to real-world problems that require work in different disciplines to solve. Another aspect of the workshop was to show methods to increase interactive, student-centered learning.
In a recent interview, Harlem Superintendent Neil Terhune said Northern's College of Education is doing a very good job in teaching its students to integrate technology in the classroom. That benefits the school and the students, as well as the other teachers in the schools that hire Northern graduates, because they pick up on the use of technology, Terhune said.
The Mirror Center, which opened in the spring of 2001, is a collaborative partnership between Northern, Fort Belknap College, Blackfeet Community College, Stone Child College, Havre Public Schools, St. Jude Thaddeus School, the Golden Triangle Curriculum Cooperative, and the Montana Office of Public Instruction.