By Martin J. Kidston
Montana State University-Northern was awarded major funding this week to train teachers to use the technology that has found its way into Montanas classrooms.
Senator Max Baucus announced that MSU-Northern in Havre, along with four other Montana communities, will split $500,000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Preparing Tomorrows Teachers to Use Technology program. Bozeman, Helena and Billings also received a portion of the educational award.
MSU-N Assistant Professor Curtis Smeby said the Havre-based campus will receive more than $172,000 under the award. Smeby, who helped write the grant, said the money will go far in assisting Northerns faculty and students to better use technology.
Well be trying to work with the faculty in the Teacher Education Program to help them use technology in a more integrated capacity, Smeby said. The hope is the students who become certified teachers themselves will be able to use this technology when they graduate.
Smeby said that MSU-Northern will act as the lead organization by guiding its consortium partners in the program. The consortium consists of the Golden Triangle Curriculum Cooperative, Havre Public Schools and St. Jude Thaddeus Schools, all which serve an area, according to the programs abstract, that is economically disadvantaged due to its remote isolation and sheer geographical size.
The sparsely populated area served by MSU-Northern is a vast, rural expanse of Montana, approximately 50,000 square miles, or 48 times the size of Rhode Island, the abstract reads. Schools in this area serve populations of students from small towns, Indian reservations and other rural locations, all of whom face barriers to educational opportunities of one kind or another.
The abstract suggests that this sort of isolation puts a young students education at risk and hampers constructive cooperation, partly because the extent to which technology is used in the classroom, such as a computer, depends on the teachers, their attitudes and their training. The grant enables MSU-Northern and its consortium to equip new teachers with the skills necessary to implement technology into the classroom.
The biggest impact from the award will be the support network that we can now develop in integrating technology, Smeby said. Up to this point, I dont think its been a lack of willingness that has prevented the integration of technology, but a lack of resources. The award will get us started in the right direction.
Smeby said the money will be used in a variety of ways.
We will purchase some equipment to fit two classrooms with technology, and use it to train both faculty and students in its use, Smeby said. That technology may include some digital equipment, videos, projection systems and web access, all to be used in a capacity that will help increase the learning of students.
Teachers of the new millennium must be proficient in modern research methods. That means knowing everything from Dewey Decimal to Internet research, digital equipment, graphing calculators and other high-tech items, all which have brought learning to the cutting edge, and cast the days of chalk and the abacus into the dark ages.
We know that teachers need to be comfortable in using technology, Smeby said. So we need to expose them to it as much as possible.
Smeby called the award capacity building, and said its a one-year financial boost that could go toward implementing other programs in the upcoming years.
Its a pretty big deal for us, he said. We were pleasantly pleased.