MN distance education need ubiquitous broadband

This evening, Governor Walz closed restaurants, bars and usual places for social gathering. And he answered questions, including the one below on distance learning. As you can hear, the questioner asks why the Governor has cancelled school until March 27 only. Gov Walz allows that this is likely to be extended but that in starting with two weeks the goal was twofold. First, this gives time for teachers to work out how they will teach online. Second, we need to figure who doesn’t have broadband.

Gov Walz gives a nice nod to Comcast for their expanded service to meet the needs of students and alludes to others. Three cheers for all of the providers who have stepped up! The difficult part is going to be reaching the students who don’t have service now. Walz alludes to hotspots but that’s a stop gap at best. Students need access at home both to maintain social distance but also because on a practical basis they need full time access to keep up with their peers but also to keep sane during a quarantine! I hope we are able to build what we need to meet the needs of Minnesotans during this strange time. It is infrastructure that will outlive any virus.

I appreciate Walz recognizing that also teacher need time to figure out how to teach online. Many years ago I worked with teachers on how to incorporate broadband (OK, just internet back then) into their curriculum. First, teachers need to feel comfortable with the technology – at least as comfortable as the students. Second, they need time to develop a whole new curriculum and/or become comfortable with existing resources.

I have one daughter in high school (rest in college). They cancelled classes starting today and so today we got the tech assessment form, asking if we had what we needed at home to facilitate online learning. We’re in St Paul so most, if not all, will have access to broadband but the question is affordability and are there enough computers/devices for all the students at home. And my kid goes to a classical academy charter school – so while I know there is existing online curriculum, I’m not sure what they’ll find for Latin or Rhetoric.

Broadband is key to allowing many facets of life to continue in times of social distancing but again, only for those who have it. Hopefully Governor Walz and legislators will recognize the need to funding ubiquitous access.

This entry was posted in education, Healthcare, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

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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