Strut Your Stuff Tour: Lake County uses technology to connect youth and seniors and prepare for FTTH

On Wednesday the Blandin Broadband Team visited Lake County and Lake Connections to hear about the Blandin Broadband Community projects. Lake County received money to build out Fiber to the Home (FTTH). Building that network was an arduous battle – but they are moving forward and they are starting to sign up customers. But the process has been slower and no one gets fiber as fast as they want. One attendee noted that this work was good but it would be even better if we could build the network with the snap of a finger. So the BBC community has been the balance that acts as cheerleader for the network and primes the pump to take advantage of opportunity as soon as it’s available.

We heard about the many successful projects they have been able to create – “ to take the network and find uses for the common good.” They found computers for low income families, they provided hours of training to a wide range of people, they have community iPads to get people started. A couple of things that struck me in their meeting – the technology has really been used as a tool to build bridges between young and old. Bridges have been built in the community through intergenerational training. Bridges have also been built between aging parents living in the area and kids who have moved away. One attendee spoke passionately about broadband being a tool to keep in touch but also to demonstrate to kids in other areas that mom and dad are doing OK in Two Harbors – no need to move in with anyone in the Cities!

Also the meeting included a number of people who had been through the Blandin Leadership training. I haven’t been through the training but have heard only good things. It was clear that the attendees yesterday had a deeper experience and appreciated the reach of the tool because the understood the potential of leadership.

YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/lakecountydigital

Broadband Training in the Community

  • Held 65 classes through community education
  • 370 people attended a range of classes
  • Blandin funding allowed for classes that didn’t get 20 attendees – even if there was one person, we held the class. Capped the classes at 6 people.
  • Used iPads from the school
  • Held a few events such as Senior Surf Day, Senior Heath and Technology Conference and Students to Seniors: Multi-Age Tech Training. One young attendee remarked, “The people who came seemed much younger and able than I expected… If I did this again I would allow more time … the night passed too quickly.”
  • They also have an open time where students came to do ad hoc training with seniors in the local senior coffee shop
  • 30 iPads in the school – introduced with a scavenger hunt that got the teachers using the iPads

North Shore Area Partners

  • One-on-one training with seniors and iPads
  • Some students come back repeatedly – it has broken down age gap barriers
  • One senior has learned to love the freedom that the patient portal has meant – no more waiting for the doctor to call
  • Work with deaf and hard of hearing specialist trainers
  • Have a Grandmother in Finland who learned how to Skype to see granddaughter in Wyoming

PCs for People

  • 50 computers – more than 50 applicants but were able to choose 50 families
  • The school has a parent portal – most of the 50 families have signed up for the portal

Upcoming Projects – Community WiFi and Community Web Portal

  • Hopefully the portal can help promote calendars and promoting community events.

The impact on local folks:

  • Moved to the community in March – husband died March 23; now use computer and have a smartphone. It’s a whole new lifeline.
  • Technology lets the “55s and better” prove to their kids that they are on the ball. They are living independently. They don’t want to move in with their kids in the Cities. That’s good for the seniors, that’s vital to the community!
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About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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