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$200,000 tech grant won by NY Mills, Perham schools

(The following news release was provided by school administrators from Perham-Dent and New York Mills.)

The Minnesota State Department of Education awarded an "Enhancing Education through Technology" or "E2T2" grant to share between Perham and NYM schools in early January. This $200,000 grant is directed toward increasing student achievement in mathematics. The funds will be spent over 18 months on technology and teacher training.

Tamara Uselman, superintendent in Perham, wrote the grant collaboratively with Todd Cameron, superintendent in NYM, and Blaine Novak, high school principal in NYM. The collaboration paid off for both school districts.

Budget challenges have left very few dollars for teacher training and depleted both school districts' technology funds. The E2T2 grant runs 18 months and provides hardware, software, and teacher training in mathematics applications using students' kinds of technology.

The grant requires measurement of specific goals including clearer, measurable math achievement for all students as well as technology skill adoption for teachers and administrators. A final evaluation of the grant will be prepared in June, 2011, when all grant activities and all grant funds must be expended.

The school districts will purchase hardware through Lakes Country Service Cooperative. LCSC buys in large volume for many schools and thus, schools see reduced prices. Perham and NYM administrators believe volume discounts, available through LCSC, will maximize the power of each grant dollar. In addition, leaders at both schools are planning math focused technology training for teachers. The grant requires that a technology integrationist or "coach" work directly with school staff. Technology evolves rapidly; teachers who are busy working with classrooms full of students may find it difficult to keep pace with technology advancements. Feeling confident with technology tools is important. This coach will be available to assist teachers to gain skills in using technology daily in lessons.

"Our students deserve that we focus on math achievement just as we do on literacy achievement," Superintendent of Perham-Dent Schools, Tamara Uselman said.

"This grant will provide classroom technology tools such as interactive Smart Boards, digital cameras, computers, and most of all, an on-site person to assist the teachers in learning to use the new tools well."

Perham plans to expand the use of interactive response systems. Using response systems, every single student must answer when the teacher asks students to solve a math problem. Teachers will know at a glance each day which students did and did not understand the concept. The teacher can provide targeted remediation.

"That will give students a better chance to learn mathematics," Uselman added. "It helps the teacher; it helps the student. We also want the teacher lecture to be available on the web, in a sort of online classroom. When the student is at home working on advance placement calculus, he or she can review the lecture and notes by going online to review the teacher's lesson."

The goal is the teacher-expert information will be available 24/7 on the web. While not all students have web access at home, many do, and many more can find it at the public library or at the school itself.

Todd Cameron, superintendent of NYM schools, plans to use grant funds to purchase digital projectors for all K-12 math classrooms and to train teachers in the use of digital media.

"There are many rich lessons available on the web. Research proves that sometimes hearing the lecture from another source helps the student learn the material," Cameron said. "Our goal is to provide teachers with the tools to access those rich sources and share them with their students. In addition, we will be purchasing digital cameras that will allow our math teachers to record a lecture and math lesson that students and parents can access through the district's website. Our goal is to provide our teachers and students the opportunities and resources to use technology to enhance learning experiences for students with a focus on academic achievement in math."

Uselman and Cameron agree that the two districts' collaboration, group purchasing of technology tools, intensive teacher training, and high expectations for students supported through technology in a 24/7 environment will help out all the students learn high level mathematics skills.