By Tim Leeds
Congress has appropriated money for two fledgling technology programs at Montana State University-Northern, and the bills are awaiting President Bush's signature to make the funding final.
The third year of funding for the Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, nearly $300,000, has been reinstated, and the North American Rural Futures Institute has received $250,000.
U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., said today that efforts like NARFI are crucial to rural areas.
"Improving the infrastructure in our communities is key to future growth," he said in a press release. "We've go to do what we can from the federal level to provide support to growth and development in communities all over our state, and Havre is no different. Promoting economic development brings jobs."
The money for NARFI will be used to help the institute develop curricula and educational materials for rural development programs. NARFI attempts to connect different communities, organizations and institutes to analyze what current and future technology can offer rural communities, and to find ways to take advantage of what is found.
This is the first funding for NARFI, which grew out of an attempt to obtain a grant from Hewlett-Packard to increase the use of technology in rural areas. Havre did not receive the grant, but in researching the application, members of the group seeking the grant came into contact with other organizations working to research and use available technology. A Web site was created for NARFI, and the Montana Board of Regents officially approved Northern as the site for the institute in July.
Northern nearly lost the money for Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, known as PT3, during congressional budget cutting earlier this year, but the money was put pack into an appropriations bill this week and passed both the House and the Senate. PT3 is a program to incorporate the use of modern technology in teacher education and in the classrooms of current and future teachers.
PT3 coordinates education faculty and local schools' efforts to teach and use technology. Northern has created the Mirror Center, a central location for computers and multimedia technology for education students and local faculty to utilize, through the efforts of the PT3 program.
On the Net: North American Rural Futures Institute: www.narfi.org
Montana State University-Northern Mirror Center: www.mirrorcenter.org