MN Broadband Task Force Sep Meeting: Education acerbated needs and creative tech solutions during pandemic

Today the MN Broadband Task Force heard from folks who work to help families and children get and use the technology they need – especially in these times of distance and hybrid learning. They also heard from folks involved with Blandin Foundation Accelerate!, a program that supported and recharged some of the least served communities in Minnesota. (Blandin in looking for a new cohort of Accelerate communities!)

Hand outs from the day:

TF Connected MN MN Broadband Task Force_09.15.21 Final
TF MilleLacs slides broadband task force 9.15.21
TF Online Learning Update – 9-2021

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development Update

  • They are waiting on the guidance from the Treasury Department on federal funding that they can use for the next round of Border to Border grants. (Legislators decided to use federal, rather than state funding for the grants and that has slowed down the process considerably. They hope to hear this month (Sep).
  • The Office of Broadband Development is hiring!

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. MN Department of Education Online/Distance Learning Presentation
Jeff Plaman, Online and Digital Learning Specialist

  • Families have become much more aware of online learning options since the pandemic
  • There’s more personalization and options in online learning
  • Unfortunately the Dep of Ed didn’t have a great assessment of who had what in terms of technology; schools last submitted tech plans in 2015
  • Now they are working on gathering data on the schools’ and the students’ access to technology

10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.  East Central MN Rural Broadband Panel
Heidi Steinmetz, Kanabec County Economic Development Director;
Lezlie Sauter, Pine County Economic Development Coordinator;
Beth Gruber, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Director of Planning & Community Engagement

Accelerate is a four-month process to spur community acquisition and deployment of federal and state broadband funds hosted by the Blandin Foundation. Kanabec, Pine and Mille Laces Tribal Economy were three of the four communities that participated in Accelerate this year. Here’s a glimpse at what each community has done:

  • Kanabec: working on a feasibility study (to be completed in Feb 2022)
  • Mille Lacs Tribal Economy: working on NTIA grant with CTC to build tribal-owned network
  • Pine – worked with Mille Lacs on the grant and received DEED Small Cities grant for $3.1 million to deploy broadband around Hinckley

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Partnership for a ConnectedMN (Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation)
Anne Hoyt Taff, Associate Vice President of Community Impact
Dustin Moretz, Community Initiatives Program Manager

ConnectedMN works to ensure students from high-need and underserved communities have the tools and support they need to participate in digital learning and digital life. Lessons learned:

  • Holistic  solutions are critical
  • Listen to communities and students
  • Consider resources beyond the grant

11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ECMECC Digital Navigator Project
Marc Johnson, ECMECC
Dihanna Fedder, Digital Navigator, Pine City Public Schools

Heard from a frontline digital navigator.

12:00 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Subgroup Reports

12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, October Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

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