Evergreen School District Pushes for More Technology in Classrooms

Junior high shows off 3D printers, devices during Gov. Steve Bullock’s visit

By Justin Franz
Eighth-grade teacher Vic Dalla Betta instructs Caelus Hattel on how to use a 3D printer as Gov. Steve Bullock tours Evergreen Junior High to learn about new technology in the school on Sept. 1, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Gov. Steve Bullock visited Evergreen Junior High School on Sept. 1 as part of a weeklong back-to-school tour. The Democrat touted the importance of putting computers and other high-tech devices in the hands of students.

Chromebooks and iPads have become a critical part of the curriculum at the Evergreen School District, which requires every eighth-grade student to take a technology class. With the help of federal grants, the school district has spent thousands of dollars to put top-of-the-line devices in every classroom, and Superintendent Laurie Barron said the by end of the year they plan on having enough Chromebooks for every junior high student.

“This technology is an incredible resource that we need to prepare all of our students for an increasingly digital world,” she said.

Barron said teachers try to incorporate the computers into everyday classes, but notes that they are not a lesson replacement and are used at the teacher’s discretion. Barron said officials have found that iPads are especially useful for younger students, while the older kids have embraced the Chromebooks.

For this fall, the school also purchased two 3D printers that will be incorporated into its technology class. During the tour, Bullock was given a school medallion that was made on the printer. The governor marveled at what the kids knew and how computer technology has advanced since he was in school. During the tour, Bullock told teachers that when he left Helena High School in 1984 he got a typewriter as a graduation gift from his parents.

“I don’t even feel that old, but it’s amazing to see how much the technology has changed since then,” he said. “This technology here will help open up a whole new world of opportunity for these students.”

Barron said most of the school’s technology improvements have been funded through grants from the federal government. During his visit, Bullock said he hopes to push a bill in the next Legislature that would put $1 million toward matching those federal technology grants. Bullock noted that having a technology literate workforce will be more important in the years and decades to come.

Bullock’s visit to Evergreen comes as the gubernatorial race is heating up. The governor’s Republican challenger, Greg Gianforte, has also talked about the importance of getting technology in the classroom and is pushing a plan to require computer education in every high school in the state. Bullock criticized the Republican’s tax proposals, however, and said they would result in steep cuts at schools across the state, undermining efforts to put more technology at students’ fingertips.

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