MIRC Video: Community Transformation via Technology

Throughout the MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) initiative, participants and invited experts in broadband community development were asked to give presentations on their projects. This week we are going to be sharing some of the videos. The goals of each video was to share lessons learned. Hopefully these lessons will be helpful to others looking to promote better broadband in their communities. I want to note that the intention was to share info; the idea of providing a public archive came later – so it might help to think of these as podcasts more than videos.

In this video School superintendents Matt Grose and Mark Adams from the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative and Paul Thon from Cisco will talk about the work they’re doing to bring technology to Itasca County schools and the communities in which they reside.

MIRC Community Update: Worthington

As the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative winds down, demonstration communities are taking time to reflect on what has happened in their community as a result of added focus on broadband and broadband projects in the area. Each community will go through this process looking at what’s happened, lessons learned and plans for the future. One of the public benefits of federal funding for a project link this is the opportunity each community has to share what they have learned and the opportunity that other communities have to glean from their lessons. And so today I’m pleased to share notes from Worthington (Actually I have notes to share all week. I’ll add this preamble to each for historical context – but each day will be a new community.)

Here are the notes from Worthington (The Worthington Globe also covered the meeting!) …

Worthington had an excellent meeting with representatives of the schools, the city government, economic development, the chamber of commerce, the college and the newspaper.

Here are their project results.

Worthington Schools Project

The schools acquired wireless access and 40 IPADS.  IPADs are distributed across the various school buildings.  The Alternative Learning Center is the leading user.  There are not enough to go around!  In addition to using them for learning, they are also finding applied learning opportunities, such as the student group using them for manage their concessions sales and inventory.  There are now several hundred applications on the elementary school IPADs.

The new wireless access provides great flexibility for students and teachers. It expands the opportunity for online learning.  As classroom space gets tighter, online learning will become even more important.  They are moving towards the adoption of Moodle or other online learning framework.  They are working collaboratively with the regional education district.  They are creating and supporting professional learning networks across districts and doing more video conferencing.  They know that leadership is critical to maintain and increase tech support.

PCs for People

Community Education and the Chamber of Commerce collected two trailer loads of computers.  40 have been distributed and there is a waiting list of people needing computers.  Businesses are interested in donating computers; community education wants to distribute them.  A team is in place to work on this.

WGTN public access TV channel.

Budgets are limited due to community size, etc. so they wanted to extend their reach to the rural portions of the community.  They are now using streaming video to broadcast over the Internet.  They have also archived all city council meetings, etc.  Lessons learned include that this is more complex than they expected.  There was a learning curve for local vendor as this was a first time technology for them as well in terms of web hosting challenges.    The organization will be able to maintain this system through the general budget.  They are using Vimeo as a product.  They are using the system to broadcast many school events.  This is very popular with grandparents and others outside of the community.

Community Education – Nobles County Integrative Collaborative

Using MIRC funds, they were able to create a small computer lab which is open to the public and for classes.  They also created a portable laptop lab which expands their training capacity.  They have offered classes in digital literacy.  Seven classes were held with a focus on non-English speakers. 11 Karen, 60 Spanish, 2 Tigrinya and 1 English – 74 total participants.  The lab is open during the workday and evenings and weekends.  They have Rosetta Stone for ESL.    Students use the lab for homework;  career exploration, FAFSA, college applications, citizenship study and practice tests, Homebuyer and rental education.  Students used the lab computers to create community presentations for MLK day and teenage anti-violence.  79 ESL users, 204 other users.

Digital technology for cultural integration

This project focused on the use of video camera to record cultural events, teach video skills, and sharing video content via web site and social networking site.  They are making progress, but have a ways to go to be where we want.  They are also trying to capture info and stories for the historical society.

They also supported the knowledge worker classes, including classes in Spanish with 19 participants in two sessions.  Also offered twice in English.

Saint Mary’s School received a grant to purchase a smart board.

Internal to the school, there was early resistance to the concept.  Grant funds were used to purchase one system; now indicators of technology and broadband acceptance confirmed with a purchase of three more.

WREDC received a couple different grants – a mobile computer lab – 20 laptops on a cart within the training center.  This makes the building more attractive for training and events.  The first company, Bioverse Inc. is now moving into the incubator building and the education lab is now a priority.  Worthington kept them from moving to South Dakota from Luverne.  Access to the training center will be part of the incentive.  Remotely located owners can video conference in for corporate meetings.

The LightSpeed grant was to install videoconference equipment in two rooms.  Their application for NSF was not funded, but the application process tied local partners together around the project.  They are re-figuring grant for re-submission.  The U of M Extension has been a terrific partner with their strong ties to the ag producer community.

Interpreter training has been a strong focus, including onsite and online learning components – top of the certification is court approved interpreter certification.

Through MES, WREDC hired an intern to work on the WREDC web site.   Modeled after the Redwood County site.  It is designed to be business friendly – business plans info, loan applications, etc.  Links to community assets – city, school district, college, etc.  Links are the key function as community connector.

There is an emerging partnership of Redwood County, MVTV Wireless, Agstar, southern MN Chamber, others to continue social media training.  They want to make this an important thing for local businesses to do.  Drives people to the workshop.  Good success so far with their first two workshops.

MIRC Video: Public Private Partnerships for Broadband

Throughout the MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) initiative, participants and invited experts in broadband community development were asked to give presentations on their projects. This week we are going to be sharing some of the videos. The goals of each video was to share lessons learned. Hopefully these lessons will be helpful to others looking to promote better broadband in their communities. I want to note that the intention was to share info; the idea of providing a public archive came later – so it might help to think of these as podcasts more than videos.

In this video Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors talks about successful models of public private partnerships.

MIRC Community Update: Windom

As the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative winds down, demonstration communities are taking time to reflect on what has happened in their community as a result of added focus on broadband and broadband projects in the area. Each community will go through this process looking at what’s happened, lessons learned and plans for the future. One of the public benefits of federal funding for a project link this is the opportunity each community has to share what they have learned and the opportunity that other communities have to glean from their lessons. And so today I’m pleased to share notes from Windom (Actually I have notes to share all week. I’ll add this preamble to each for historical context – but each day will be a new community.)

Here are the note on Windom…

Windom had a great turnout of community leaders and MIRC champions for their closeout meeting – plus three folks from the nearby Southwest Fiber Project.

Windom implemented eight projects through MIRC. Here are the highlights:

Wireless and new devices in the schools – The school put a new focus on the use of wireless and mobile devices in both high school and middle school buildings. Over 100 students used their own devices on the school network. They created more access wireless points to improve coverage and bandwidth. The need for a more robust wireless network at the high school led them to start new at the high school with the old network being moved to the middle school.

They were able to purchase a total of 44 Ipads using MIRC and Remick Foundation funding. They also purchased a projector, Apple TV and a macbook pro. There was a focus on using these IPADs in STEM courses thanks to the commitment of a team of teachers who were creating content and learning tools on the fly.

Pre-algebra seemed to work best. The instructor created lessons, videos, and tests. To grade the tests took 30 seconds rather than an hour. Lesson plans were altered in light of the test results and individual and/or group assistance could be provided. Videos used for instruction, then students do the work and get the help. The videos were an excellent use for any substitute teachers. They used the videos to drive learning and to create a flipped classroom. They also used Khan Academy video to support locally created content. For the testing, they used Google Form Assessment.

They found that IPADS increase in student engagement. Windom is committed to the use of technology including training for teachers. Students can use the ipads as their own, including itunes, etc. The Windom Tech budget rose from 60k to 150k. Hopefully heading to 1:1 devices to students. They found that school provided IPADS drive community broadband use. Web enables video on demand for science learning; they could watch a series of short video highlights rather than a one-hour documentary. They also found that the use of student owned devices eases school owned device shortage. They recognize that the 1st year of use is tough on teachers in learning the tools and creating the content.

LIFELONG LEARNING VIDEO CENTER at BARC/WECC
They now have 5 video units at BARC and a portable video lab at middle school. These units have high bandwidth for quality video. They are finding that connectivity replaces travel costs and time for meetings and learning opportunities for the schools and for local businesses.

Currently, they have two post-secondary options arranged – the U of M and Ridgewater College. There is no reason that many other sources of content cannot be arranged. They have done business meetings and trainings and completed a needs assessment for local businesses.

They are very interested in creating and promoting centers of local expertise to sell locally created content. They have tied this tech asset to a community need for intercultural communities. They received a BCBS grant to be more welcoming, focus on interpretation training – 44 attendees on introduction. They had 13 attendees from Windom for more advanced U of M interpreter training program. There was collaboration with Ridgewater on a leadership series with 65 attendees. Also health care CEUs and realtor training.

They also purchased four laptops, web cams, headphones, and printer/scanner equipment to improve public access and use. With this range of devices, it provides multiple broadband opportunities in one location. The laptops used for many community purposes including community theatre, senior citizen training and access. The seniors are using skype to connect to family in other places. The also opened up their computer lab, which was pre-existing, but underutilized. Marketing efforts of WECC/BARC have increased through MIRC. Now they have a job club meeting here using the computer lab rather than in prior location where they had to share one computer. There is also a senior computer club.

The first tenant in the incubator office in WECC/BARC has been approved.

WEBSITE AND PORTAL DEVELOPMENT
There was an identified need to improve local website.

Finding Windom was developed to connect the community and market the community to the outside world. It is a community portal with strong use of google maps and places. There is a growing list of organizations and businesses on the site. The city website now links to Finding Windom on the front page of its site.

The City of Windom site has been greatly improved with lots of information, forms, etc. They have included Intelligent Community messaging on the site.

WINDOM PUBLIC SAFETY PROJECTS
They were able to purchase and install 13 laptops with aircards across multiple agencies across the county. More info is now available in the squad car, ties to multiple databases. All forms are now in the squad car so that officers can create the report from the road so their presence is maintained out in the community, not sitting in the office. Fire department has two laptops in two trucks, leveraged two more laptops from state patrol. They have access to MNDOT emergency response guide in the vehicle and hybrid vehicle emergency response information. They have downloaded maps of towns and townships, lakes area as well as maps and building drawings of larger company facilities, schools, hospital, nursing homes etc. They also have aerial photos by address, access to weather spotting and weather radar online. More record keeping is online.

IPADS for Patients, Windom Area Hospital
The hospital was able to purchase 5 IPAD 3 to provide access for patients and visitors to online devices and connectivity. Now they can update patient’s caring bridge site, check email, and use patient education tools around their condition. The hospital is still working out the conditions of use – safety, cleanliness, etc. With some brainstorming by hospital staff, they have identified the IPAD as a tool for speech therapy as a new application; this is sparking ideas for other ideas.

A cool collaboration is that Windom School tech experts are going to train hospital staff based on their own learning experience, easing the learning curve for the hospital!!

They hospital administrator expects higher patient experience ratings. Now, hospital staff wants IPADS. Creating a culture of use!!

Windom is also doing Windom Business Caffeine Meetings, similar to the Social Media Breakfasts.

Here are some of the ideas that the group came up with for continued efforts. Most of these have a team that committed to move these ideas forward.

1. Finding Windom calendar improvement, SEO.
2. Market area (regional) better online, especially Google
3. Chamber CVB site with links to other public entities and businesses
4. Strategy to recruit knowledge workers, tourists and related businesses
5. Unifying counties use each others’ resources including private. Showcase best broadband practices
6. How to get people/tourists to stop in Windom?
7. Sharing lessons learned within the region to solve problems
8. Workshops for businesses in shorter time blocks, over lunch or breakfast
9. How to engage youth in the community and feel welcome to stay or come back?
10. Capture historical sites, unique people and businesses
11. Ag related businesses – renewable energy businesses,

A Glimpse at Tech & Edu in the News

Each week I get an update on education news in Minnesota (and beyond – this week mostly beyond) through a weekly email from Twin Cities Daily Planet. This last week I happened to notice that most of the stories involve technology. So with permission of TCDP I am reposting their bibliography – with a little extra annotation from me.

Both of the above showcase Coursera – a fantastic program I actually learned about at the TED conference last month. They are posting top classes from top universities online for free. It has leveled the playing field for access to education. But there are questions about what impact that will have on paying students. (Free classes do not qualify students for a degree.) I think this is an opportunity for some of the greatest education minds to figure out how to really make online education work. I’ve been reading more and more articles questioning the quality of online education and I think there is probably some reason for concern – but I think that was probably true of blackboard back in its day too. We just need an opportunity like this to take the time to learn how to make the most of it.

The birth of Udacity, an online learning program for folks interested in technology. It includes a lot of videos by instructors and a rigorous classroom assignment schedule. Currently has 11 classes available for free.

The National Education Policy Center recently released a report on K12 Inc – the largest online, for-profit learning provider. The results are not stellar. To quote from Education week…

Among the key conclusions of that analysis is that students in virtual schools run by K12 are performing worse academically and dropping out of courses at much higher rates than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

I was a little surprised to read about the demographics they are serving (from the NEPC report)…

Students in K12 schools are more likely to be white and less likely to be Hispanic relative to comparison states. They are also less likely to be low-income and much less likely to be classified as English language learners. In recent years, K12 is increasingly serving more students with disabilities and students it classifies as at-risk, but it still spends relatively little for special education instruction and student support services. Students in schools operated by K12 Inc. and other virtual schools are also more prone to attrition.

Apparently there are online classes (Credit recovery) you can take now to make up for classes you failed. Sounds like there are fill in the blank sort of exams and that kids are using Google to fill in those blanks. Shocker! The problem of course is that people will sometimes take the path of least resistance. So kids do use Google. And then they “pass” their class – but learn little. The schools’ graduation rates however are improving. So you can see the slippery slope.

MIRC Video: Statewide Partners

Throughout the MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) initiative, participants and invited experts in broadband community development were asked to give presentations on their projects. This week we are going to be sharing some of the videos. The goals of each video was to share lessons learned. Hopefully these lessons will be helpful to others looking to promote better broadband in their communities. I want to note that the intention was to share info; the idea of providing a public archive came later – so it might help to think of these as podcasts more than videos.

In this video MIRC Statewide Partners talk about the different  services and projects they have made available to the various MIRC communities.

Frontier and CenturyLink to accept Connect American Funds

Thanks to Bill Coleman for the heads up on Frontier’s decision to sign up for Connect America Funds (CAF). Telecompetitor reports…

Frontier Communications may go down in history as the first communications service provider to receive support from the new broadband-focused Connect America Fund. The company today became the first large price cap carrier to agree to bring broadband to customers in its service territory that currently cannot get broadband service, in exchange for receiving $775 per line in support from the new Connect America Fund to help cover a portion of total deployment costs. Importantly, Frontier agreed to accept the funding for every unserved line in its territory – a decision some other price cap carriers have hinted they may not make.

Back in April, the FCC said it would target $71,979,104 to Frontier if the carrier agreed to bring broadband to unserved areas within its territory by certain target dates. The carrier said today it plans to accept the full amount, which will bring service to 92,876 new households.

Many providers have voiced hesitation in CAF because $775

And thanks to Andy Schriner for the heads up on similar action from CenturyLink…

CenturyLink to accept FCC Connect America Funds: Company committed to deploying broadband in Minnesota  

MINNEAPOLIS  CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) announced today that it will accept $35 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF) to deploy broadband service to 45,000 homes in unserved rural areas in multiple states. In Minnesota, the company will receive nearly $11 million in CAF Phase I funding to bring broadband service to more than 14,000 homes.

“As a member of Governor Dayton’s Task Force on Broadband, I know the impact this investment will have on Minnesota’s broadband future,” said Duane Ring, CenturyLink’s president for the Midwest Region. “CenturyLink has made significant investments in the state, but we still face deployment challenges in some of our unserved, high-cost to build areas.”

CenturyLink was eligible for nearly $90 million in CAF Phase I funding. However, restrictions on the use of the CAF 1 funds made further deployment not economical.  CenturyLink has filed a waiver application which, if granted, would allow it to deploy broadband services to approximately 60,000 more homes nationally in high-cost areas where reliable and affordable service is currently not available.

“If the FCC grants our waiver, we will be able to invest potentially $18 million, over the next three years, helping Minnesota reach its broadband goals and bring service to more than 24,000 locations in rural Minnesota,” said Ring. “This investment reflects not only federal support, but also a significant matching investment from CenturyLink for unserved markets in Minnesota.”

“We are disappointed that restrictions on the use of these funds will not allow us to deploy rural broadband services to the extent we had originally anticipated,” said Steve Davis, CenturyLink executive vice president for public policy and government relations.  “However, we share the FCC’s overall goal of deploying needed facilities in high-cost areas where reliable and affordable broadband service is not available. Therefore, we will continue working with the FCC to find ways to efficiently and effectively use additional CAF 1 funds to provide broadband services to our rural customers.”

CenturyLink’s waiver application is currently supported by the Washington Public Service Commission, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and other state agencies.