Digital Inclusion is more than access – it’s about use, especially with youth

The World Economic Forum reports..

[A] new research from the OECD, which found that richer teenagers were more likely to use the internet to search for information or to read news rather than to chat or play video games.

The report, based on data from more than 40 countries, concludes that even when all teenagers, rich and poor, have equal access to the internet, a “digital divide” remains in how they use technology.

There’s a misgiving that “digital natives” know how to use technology to do homework, to get jobs, succeed on the job, to do anything. Unfortunately, knowing the technology doesn’t mean you know strategy.

I do training with all ages on how to use social media. Training with non-youth (certainly 40+) is often about the logistics of using tools (Twitter, Instagram…) such as tagging or when to post. Training with youth is much more about strategy – how to define a purpose and then use the tools to meet that need.

A very simple example: my kids can use Instagram but they are terrible with Google Maps because they don’t drive. They don’t read maps. They have limited experience being responsible for directions. That is something they must learn – as they must learn how to do homework, get a job or keep a job. The OECD report makes a similar conclusion…

While the report acknowledges efforts to close gaps in internet access, it argues that developing all young people’s literacy skills would help to reduce digital inequality.

“Ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than will expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services,” it says.

Kids need to learn. Unfortunately technology without the power to use it runs the risk of deepening the digital divide. Unfocused technology can be distracting – while focused technology pushes the user farther header, faster.

Google Grants Promote Professional Development for Computer Science Teachers: deadline March 19

Keeping teachers on the cutting edge is a good way to keep students on the cutting edge of computer science education…

Grants Promote Professional Development for Computer Science Teachers from Google Computer Science for High School
Google Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) is an annual program dedicated to improving the computer science (CS) educational ecosystem by funding computer science education experts to provide exemplary CS professional development for teachers. The funding focuses on three major growth areas for teacher professional development in CS: facilitating the development and delivery of content that increases teachers’ knowledge of computer science and computational thinking, allowing providers to customize learning content to meet local needs and the sharing of best practices for engaging all students, and addressing the building of communities of practice that continue to support teacher learning throughout the school year. Research institutions, universities, and educational nonprofit organizations such as professional development organizations, school districts, and local offices of education are eligible to propose professional development opportunities for their local school teachers. The application deadline is March 19, 2017. Visit the CS4HS website to submit an online application.

Lt. Gov Tina Smith, Dep of Ed Announce State Grants to Help Greater MN Students get brooadband at home & on buses

Good news for 12 school districts…

school-wifi

Lt. Governor Tina Smith, Department of Education Announce State Grants to Help Greater Minnesota Students Access High-Speed Internet

Twelve school districts across Minnesota receive grant funding to expand wireless internet access

Grants will allow districts to help students access the internet at home and on long bus rides

Over 30 districts applied for the grants, highlighting the significant need for rural high-speed internet access

ST. PAUL, MN – Lt. Governor Tina Smith and Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius today announced new state grants that will help 12 school districts provide students with the high-speed internet connections needed to complete homework and access other online learning opportunities. Without this funding, these students would lack access to reliable high-speed internet, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with their urban peers. The grants awarded today will be used to provide students wireless access at home and while riding the school bus.

“Too many Minnesota students are on the wrong side of the digital divide. These grants will help level the playing field for students in Greater Minnesota by providing them the same educational opportunities as their friends and family in the cities,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Governor Dayton and I will continue advocating for high speed, affordable, reliable internet access until all Minnesota students and families are connected.”

Lake of the Woods School District, which received grant funding, reports that students spend more than two hours a day riding the bus to and from school. Students participating in extracurricular activities often have even longer bus rides. This experience is common for students in rural districts across Greater Minnesota.

The new grant funding will allow districts to equip buses with wireless hotspots, enabling students to complete homework while commuting. The funding also will be used to purchase wireless hotspots, data cards, and other mobile broadband devices that students will be able to check out for use at home.

“Technology is a part of Minnesota classrooms. If we want all students to be successful, we need to make sure we are providing them the tools they need,” said Commissioner Cassellius. “Where a student lives and their family income should not determine whether they are able to complete their schoolwork or not.”

In 2016, the Dayton-Smith Administration worked with the Minnesota Legislature to invest $500,000 in grants for school-based high-speed internet. These grants are designed to expand broadband access to students across Minnesota, with priority given to applicants demonstrating a combination of students from low-income families and with long bus routes. Low-income homes with children are four times more likely to be without broadband than their middle or upper-income counterparts, according to the Pew Research Center.

Given the limited funding, only 12 of the 33 applicants were awarded funding – highlighting the ongoing need for investment in rural high-speed internet. Of the 12 districts receiving funding, 11 are in Greater Minnesota. The legislation capped the grants at $50,000 per district.

See a list of school districts awarded broadband grants below.

School District Broadband Grant Award
Deer River School District $39,267
Fertile-Beltrami School District $41,922
Lake of the Woods School District $49,840
Lake Superior School District $50,000
McGregor School District $46,500
Pine City School District $44,831
Princeton School District $44,916
Rothsay School District $46,500
Shakopee School District $34,574
St. Cloud School District $40,546
Thief River Falls School District $30,484
Tracy School District $30,620
Total: $500,000

Digital Learning Day in February 23 – tools to help plan

Just wanted to share this for teachers, digital inclusion folks and any of us who might want to plan…

Digital Learning Day 2017 is right around the corner! On February 23, 2017, teachers and students from around the country will participate in the nationwide celebration highlighting great teaching and demonstrating how technology can improve student outcomes. Will you join them?

Interested, but not sure what to do? Visit our interactive lesson plans page for ideas and inspiration.

If you’re planning to participate, add your event to our map! Then visit our graphics page to help spread the word about your event.

Add Your Event

That which gets counted, gets attention: broadband and the census

In November, Blandin hosted a webinar on the census, the theme was: Minnesota is better when everyone counts. One message was the importance of getting full participation..

To ensure fair representation and allocation of resources, and access to complete and reliable data to support community engagement, planning and economic development.

Later in the month there was an article in the Washington Post warning that the census may not be ready – actually they are maintaining that many features won’t be ready before the big testing scheduled to begin in August, 2017. The article also extolled the virtues of the greater use of technology planned for the 2020 census…

The decision to innovate with technology, instead of creating new systems, contributed to a significant cost savings, according to census officials. The 2020 Census will cost $12.5 billion, a $5 billion savings over “the paper-and-pencil-based design of the 2010 Census,” Thompson, the Census Bureau director, said.

Census officials are “under no illusions that the task before us is an easy one,” Smith added. “In fact, it is very difficult.” But he’s confident “the foundation to carry out a successful census is in place.”

And the pitfalls…

One innovation will allow replies to census questions via the Internet. Yet, “while the large-scale technological changes for the 2020 Decennial Census introduce great potential for efficiency and effectiveness gains,” the GAO warns that it puts people “more at risk for phishing attacks [requests for information from authentic-looking, but fake, e-mails and websites].”

It’s an opportunity for a push at the national level for public service announcements and education on digital literacy and cyber security. It’s also an opportunity to push better, ubiquitous broadband. (Maybe some of the $5 billion saved could be used to increase education and infrastructure to reach the census takers!)

The fear of not going to extra/last mile to reach to the far corners of the country is that we could get a skewed view of where we are and what we need. A recipe for widening and deepening the digital divide.

Increasing commutes and wear on physical infrastructure makes case for better broadband

Did you know that since the Paleolithic Era, people have always lived roughly 30 minutes from their work even as transport tech evolved from bare feet to carriage to train to automobile? Well apparently that was true, but it’s changing – according to an article in HyperLoop

Commuting rings just kept expanding outward. But Marchetti’s Constant has broken down in most big cities. New data collected from the public transit app Moovit shows average round-trip commute times are now 93 minutes in Philadelphia, 77 minutes in San Francisco, and 86 minutes in Boston and Chicago. A third of the people in Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia say they commute more than two hours each day.

So what does this have to do with broadband? Well, the article is written to spur conversation…

But the maps are great conversation-starters for transportation planners and policymakers pondering how and where to deploy the potential billions the incoming Trump administration wants to spend on new and repaired infrastructure. Investment decisions should consider the way people live and work across boundaries of culture, politics and electoral districts. Transport should support and connect these dynamic economic zones to foster business formation, job mobility and personal economic freedom.

It seems to me that broadband could and should be part of the solution.

The article includes some compelling maps of commuting around the Twin Cities. In the red-orange map, “high volume, shorter commutes make up the bright yellow core while longer and less frequent routes show in red.” In the second darker maps looks at the same data but removed boundaries. Suddenly we see not one epicenter but several regional centers.

Imagine the improved quality of life for the commuters and economic potential if the commutes were less frequent or non-existent.