The $12 million in federal grant money will be used to study how effective the program’s approach is in rural communities over the next five years.

The program is called enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching strategies (eMINTS). Executive Director Monica Beglau says the program usually only has the funding to set up in 6 to 10 Missouri classrooms a year.

“This will allow us to put eMINTS in 40 school districts this coming year and an additional 20 school districts in 2014,” Beglau said.

Beglau says the application process for the grant was as competitive as the “Race to the Top” program. The “Investing in Innovation Fund (i3)” was part of the stimulus act of 2009.

“About $10 million of that will go directly into the school districts to purchase the equipment, pay for the professional development and provide stipends for the teachers who are participating in the program. So the bulk of the money will go into our Missouri school districts to create these technology-rich classrooms and train teachers how to use the equipment and teach differently,” Beglau said.

As part of the application process for this grant, eMINTS also had to secure some corporate partners. Beglau says those sponsorships added another $3 million to the budget of the program. It’s one of 49 entities across the U.S. to get this grant money.

“The hope with this grant competition is that the research that is done on these different programs will show that there is a significant difference in how students perform when they’re in these programs. Then the department of education can study the programs and see what might be possible to scale those up,” Beglau said.

eMINTS was founded in cooperation with the University of Missouri 10 years ago, and Beglau says its approach has seen a lot of success.

“Approximately half of the districts in Missouri have at least one eMINTS classroom or have had one. The program involves helping teachers use technology in their classrooms so it really changes how students are learning, how they’re engaged, and the projects that they do in the classroom,” Beglau said.

Beglau says the grant will enhance an already strong program, which has expanded to eight more states since it began, and also reached classrooms in Australia. While the grant money will be used to study its impact in rural school districts, Beglau says eMINTS classrooms can be in rural and urban areas, K-12.

“The focus of the program is really on helping teachers learn to use technology in instructional ways as opposed to just teaching students how to keyboard or use certain software programs. It’s really a very intensive professional development or professional learning program for teachers. The equipment in the classroom, the technology in the classroom, is really kind of the catalyst for that, if you will,” Beglau said.

It’s estimated over the next five years, this grant money will reach more than 10,000 Missouri students and 240 teachers. Follow this link for more on the program.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]