Joe Nathan, from the Center for School Change, is a name I know from back when I worked in Service Learning. It’s interesting to hear from someone whose focus is education, not technology. He has a column in the Mille Lacs Messenger…
Wendy Hatch, MDE’s public affairs manager, sent me responses received on Friday, April 17. About 230 of Minnesota districts and charters responded. That’s slightly less than half of Minnesota’s 496 traditional districts and chartered public schools. While results varied dramatically from one district to another, they showed that more than 7,000 students didn’t have access to a computer or related equipment, and more than 7,000 didn’t have access to high-speed internet or broadband. This is a huge issue in many rural and suburban as well as urban communities.
That doesn’t include the Twin Cities…
State numbers above didn’t include Minneapolis or St. Paul. Julie Schultz Brown, executive director of marketing and communications for Minneapolis Public Schools, said they’ve found that 1,878 MPS students needed devices, and somewhat less 3,100 needed internet connectivity. That’s after MPS delivered more than 12,000 computers and many internet hot spots, which allow connectivity.
Kevin Burns, director of St. Paul Public Schools’ office of communications, reported that the district has distributed many Chromebooks and hot spots. However, as of April 17, 839 students did not have necessary equipment, and 2,701 did not have internet access.
He has recommendations…
This leads me to several recommendations:
- MDE should make strong home/apartment connections to the internet and needed equipment a top priority for schools receiving federal subgrants. Several groups sent an April 21 letter to MDE urging this. That letter is here: https://bit.ly/3504ii5.
- Since almost every Minnesota family has television, Minnesota should help expand and publicize public television’s home learning resources, found here: https://www.tpt.org/homelearning/.
- Public TV should reach out to students and families as well as educators to allow them to contribute program ideas, art, projects, etc.
- MDE’s group developing future recommendations should include family and student representatives, along with educators and community members. Let’s plan with, not just plan for. This group should talk with, among others, professor Thomas Hatch of Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City. Hatch offers wise, brief, concise suggestions at thomashatch.org reminding us that learning can and should include active, hands-on learning and service, not just screen time.