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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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$8.7 million technology grant enables teachers to train teachers

Forty teachers from throughout New Mexico, including eight from Las Cruces, will receive technology training at a "Train the Trainers Summer Institute" at New Mexico State University June 10-12. Each will, in turn, give technology workshops for other teachers in the coming year.

Topics for the three-day training include leading on-line investigations on the Internet, designing problem-centered learning opportunities and teaching for creativity.

Within five years, 10,000 of the state's teachers will learn to use technology more effectively in their classrooms through such training sessions, sponsored by a project known as RETA -- Regional Educational Technology Assistance program. The New Mexico RETA program is funded by an $8.7 million U.S. Department of Education Technology Innovation Challenge Grant. The grant, administered by NMSU and the Gadsden School District, is one of 20 awarded nationally.

Improving teachers' technology know-how benefits students in grades K-12 all over New Mexico, said Carmen Gonzales, an NMSU education faculty member. Gonzales co-directs the RETA project with New Mexico Sen. Cynthia Nava, deputy superintendent of the Gadsden School district. RETA reaches 89 public school districts in New Mexico as well as several private schools.

The project's design is simple: Give teachers training in ways to incorporate into the curriculum such technologies as multimedia, digital imaging and the Internet. Once teachers are trained, pay them to instruct other teachers, and administrators, at their schools and other schools.

"When I first began teaching other teachers, I found that it solidified my knowledge of technology," said Cissy Lujan-Pincomb, who teaches third, fourth and fifth graders at Las Cruces' Jornada Elementary School.

Lujan-Pincomb said she uses technology whenever possible in her teaching. For example, when she invited a guest to class to demonstrate candle making, one student took photos with a digital camera. Students wrote the candle-making steps in Powerpoint.

Gonzales believes teacher training is the key to the effective use of technology in the classroom. "Schools are getting funding to put in a technical infrastructure. They are getting equipment, but a lot of people don't know how to use it," Gonzales said.

RETA's mission, she said, is to establish a human infrastructure, at both local and regional levels, of teachers and administrators familiar with educational technologies and their uses.

To coordinate the statewide effort, regional centers have been established at Eastern New Mexico University, Western New Mexico University and Santa Fe Community College, Gonzales said. RETA has an advisory board of school board members, elected officials, teachers and parents. The project has a Web page at http://reta.nmsu.edu.

RETA is a continuation of an NMSU-based project that began three years ago with a grant from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Gonzales said. To date, about 1,000 New Mexico teachers have been trained, she said. "Every time we go out to schools, there are people who are eager to become instructors."

Gonzales credits U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman for getting the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant monies earmarked for professional development. In April, Gonzales was invited to Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress about the need to continue this type of teacher training.