Q&A: Director of the eMINTS National Center Discusses Philosophy Behind Collaborative Education Program, Impact of Project-Based Learning

Q&A: Director of the eMINTS National Center Discusses Philosophy Behind Collaborative Education Program, Impact of Project-Based Learning

Fourth-grade students in Missouri are taking an active role in their classroom learning experience. Recently, on a project about the Lewis and Clark expedition, they took over the front of the classroom with projectors, interactive whiteboards and various software programs to chart the course of the historical expedition. In the process, the students demonstrated how project-based learning transcends traditional opportunities for classroom education. This is the view held by the eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) National Center, a collaborative education program sponsored by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the University of Missouri System Office of Academic Affairs.

Catering to schools nationwide, eMINTS uses a sustained and intensive “train-the-trainer” professional development model to give teachers concrete skills in using technology in education. Monica Beglau, director of the eMINTS National Center (www.emints.org), took a moment to speak with T.H.E. Journal about the center’s mission.

T.H.E.: Describe the philosophy of the eMINTS program.

Monica Beglau: [Our] philosophy is based on transforming teaching using inquiry-based methods and strategies powered by technology. The eMINTS program seeks to help teachers use technology in ways that change student engagement and student products through high-quality professional development and in-classroom support.

T.H.E.: How do you think project-based learning can impact students more effectively than traditional textbook-based learning?

Beglau: Project-based learning allows teachers to help students make the vital connections between subject disciplines in ways that give students opportunities to learn about multiple subjects while completing a single project. An inquiry in science, [for example], can use mathematical skills, communication arts tools and social studies concepts. The efficient use of project-based learning requires more up-front planning on the teacher’s part, but it results in a deeper student understanding of complex concepts. Students also retain comprehension of these con-cepts longer and are able to apply them to other life situations.

T.H.E.: What role d'es technology play in the eMINTS programs, and what technology tools do the students use?

Beglau: Technology provides the power for the mind tools that students in eMINTS classrooms use to transform how they think and learn. The technology list is a carefully selected blend of equipment and software that helps teachers unpack their school’s or their district’s curriculum in ways that are specific to the needs of their students. The list of equipment required for teachers in the eMINTS program for grades 3-6 includes a teacher laptop and workstation; an interactive whiteboard and projector; a scanner, printer and digital camera; one Internet-connected computer for every two students; software limited to office (productivity tools) and concept mapping tools; and minimum connectivity to the school T-1 line. Other equipment configurations, including one-to-one laptop deployments, are also acceptable for students in middle and high school grade levels.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.