Two Walker Elementary teachers were surprised with a $10,000 grant Thursday that will allow their students to connect with classrooms around the world using the most up-to-date technology.

Morgan Cottle and Mark Sherbow were one of five teams of teachers in Oregon to earn the grants from Qwest Technologies this year for their unique way of using technology to enhance learning.

The grant will allow Cottle and Sherbow to purchase computers with video conferencing capabilities and iPods with digital microphones so their students can gain a more global perspective on local issues, anything from water quality to the "eat local" movement, Cottle said.

Sherbow's students have been involved in global exchanges before, sharing their views outside their classroom window, their feelings about peace and even some of their favorite recipes with students from Kenya, India and Romania. This grant will allow more visual interaction, the teachers said.

"Pen pals and e-mail pals are wonderful, but the visual aspect that this new technology will be bringing, our hope and belief is it will create a stronger community," Cottle said.

Students could collaborate with classrooms as far away as Germany or as close as Bellview Elementary, he said.

The Walker project was chosen from 34 proposals for its emphasis on improving learning and problem-solving, instead of using technology just because it's available.

"We weren't just looking to give teachers things to make teaching easier," said Bob Gravely, a spokesman at Qwest Technology who helped evaluate the applications with the Oregon Department of Education and the Organization for Educational Technology and Curriculum. "We were also looking for projects where there seemed to be some teamwork involved and that could be used across a grade or a school. The winners at Walker were one of the best."

Some of the other grant recipients' projects include producing detailed maps using GPS equipment, recording oral histories of local people with video equipment and making math homework more interactive using blogs.

Cottle and Sherbow qualified for the grants because they are involved in regional technology training groups called "cadres" where teachers can receive technology training and share tips on integrating it into their classrooms.

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