Troy on receiving end of distance learning grant

The Western News

The world of learning available to Troy students got a whole lot bigger this week with news that a technology grant had been awarded.

Troy is among 13 Montana schools that will receive a grant to purchase technology used for distance learning, U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced Tuesday.

“The grant we were involved with were five schools in western Montana that banded together and went for this technology grant,” Troy Schools Superintendent Brady Selle said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for our school to not only get nice equipment but professional development of our staff.”

Along with Troy, other western Montana schools included in the grant are Eureka, Hamilton, Thompson Falls and Victor. Those five schools will split up approximately $494,000, Selle said.

Other schools in Montana to receive the grant are Winnett, Grass Range, Judith Gap, Skyview, Gardiner, Brockton, Moore, Lavina and Hardin.

The schools will use the grants to purchase video-teleconferencing equipment, video cameras, smartboards, and broadband access.

“It allows us to share our resources,” Selle said. “If Hamilton is teaching an advanced placement physics class and maybe we have a student who wants to participate … we can dial it up and be a part of it.”

Teachers and students will be able to experience “virtual field trips” around the world. Teachers will also be able to connect with other grant recipients in Montana and Wyoming to collaborate with their classrooms.

In all, the 13 schools will receive grants totaling $961,464 through the U.S.

Department of Agriculture Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program. The definitive amount each school district will receive is yet to be determined.

Baucus and Tester said making such technology available in the state could pay future dividends.

“These new opportunities will connect students in rural Montana to a whole new world of ideas that will inspire them to think critically about how to create the kinds of good-paying jobs our communities need,” Baucus said through a press release. “In addition, investing in education draws businesses to the state by creating a qualified workforce and sending a signal far and wide that Montana is a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

“Investing in our kids and the tools they need to be competitive in the future is a key for rebuilding our economy with good-paying jobs,” Tester said. “This simple investment will expand the educational opportunities for thousands of Montana students to give them more opportunities for their future.”

Each school will receive a video conferencing device, a mobile cart with a high-definition LCD television to allow video units to be moved from classroom to classroom, an infrastructure package that includes recording and streaming of video that allows playback, and multiple laptop-based video licenses and cameras for mobile use on teachers’ and students’ computers.

The grant also includes development and training for staff on use of the equipment as well as integration of technology into current curriculum. The program is supported and maintained for three years to ensure sustainability throughout the length of the grant.

Troy students have utilized online resources already through the Montana Digital Academy and Flathead Valley Community College-Lincoln County Campus.

“Our high school principal indicated to the board last night that we have 17 students taking online courses for credit with a variety of things from French to digital photography to pharmacy tech,” Selle said. “The great thing is students can get a head start on their college education and get some required courses taken care of early on.”