Another reason for ubiquitous broadband: adherence to Open Meeting Laws

The Pine Journal reports

The Barnum School Board was recently found to be in violation of the Minnesota Open Meeting Law under a chapter of the state statute, which does not allow for public bodies to hold in-person meetings while limiting public attendance to electronic monitoring.

This finding, as cited in an April 19 opinion by Minnesota Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis, has led to new guidance issued by the Minnesota School Board Association regarding meetings during a pandemic.

The new guidance states that school board meetings should either be held in person — without restrictions on public attendance — or held completely virtually.

If everyone had equal access to broadband this would be less of an issue…

Krampf explained that the public has not had equal access to all meetings during the pandemic, citing the lack of broadband internet available in Carlton County.

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Administration issued an advisory opinion to the district, citing violations of the open meeting law by the board on Sept. 22, 2020, Nov. 24, 2020, Jan. 5, 2021, and Jan. 26, 2021.

“The School Board did not comply with the OML when a quorum of the public body held in-person meetings … while the public was limited to remote attendance,” the opinion read.

According to Superintendent Mike McNulty, the decision to livestream meetings was made out of concern for public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. He explained that the board room is a small space and does not allow for large groups of people to remain socially distanced.

Future leader in Autonomous Vehicles? Grand Rapids MN!

Grand Rapids in on the cusp of being the first cold weather, rural community to deploy autonomous vehicles (AV) – maybe in the world! That’s pretty exciting but I feel like I’m burying the lead because there are so many good things included in this pilot project. Their focus is on access, especially for folks who cannot get driver’s licenses and becoming a hub for autonomous vehicles, starting with getting kids interested in trained in the schools.

I spoke with Myrna Peterson about the project. Originally from Iowa, Myrna moved to the area many years ago; she is a former teacher. She has been in a wheelchair since a serious car accident in the 1990s. She has unique experience understanding the need for accessibility and understanding the need (and how!) to get kids involved in educational opportunities that will lead to jobs. But of course she’s not doing the work alone. There are a host of project partners, including the Blandin Foundation, Mobility Mania, several economic development leaders, research and academic partners and private sector partners, such as May Mobility, the AV experts.

The plan is to create a 12-mile route to local hotspots, such as the grocery store, church, schools and communal living settings. The AV goes about 25 mph, so the path will stick to slower roads. (So smart to avoid annoying other vehicles driving on 169!) Broadband plays a role both in helping the AV’s with offloading (a lot) of data and connecting that data to the back office. It also allows riders to connect to the AV app to make reservations and otherwise communicate. The AV collects data in the environment and uses Multi-Policy Decision-Making system to as a brain to drive. (Learn more on the May Mobility site.)

The need for AV to collect data has opened a door to looking other use of sensors and spurred discussions with Smart North. Now the community is looking at smart street lights and tech hubs. The community is also making sure that the AV experience meets the needs of all riders, which means wheel-chair accessible, accommodating visual and hearing impairments and more. They are looking to not only be ADA compliant but to be comfort-forward and welcoming for everyone, which is how you get people to use the AV. There will be an attendant on the AV to make sure everything is going smoothly.

But as I mentioned, this goes beyond a ride. They are working with the schools to create programming and opportunities for students to learn more about AV, starting with a STEM camp this summer. They are working with the K12 schools, local colleges and are working to create apprenticeships. They are also planning to leverage the shuttle project to showcase the region’s innovative mobility program through Smart Rural Mobility seminars where the Grand Rapids community members will have an information sharing forum, and they will be empowered to share their mobility stories with other government leaders and technology companies.  So, not only will Grand Rapids be the first cold weather, rural AV community but the people in and from the area will be leading experts. It’s an opportunity for a whole new industry cluster.

EVENT May 8: Appapalooza 2021, a live-pitch event for girls ages 10-18

Technovation[MN] sends an invitation

We are back! Technovation[MN] is excited to host Appapalooza 2021, a celebration and live-pitch event for girls ages 10-18 who have worked hard to build mobile applications to make an impact on their communities. Appapalooza is Technovation[MN]’s largest event, bringing teams of girls, their mentors, judges, the Minnesota tech community, volunteers, friends, and family together to celebrate, support, and nurture a future diverse technology workforce pipeline. Come to have fun, celebrate and be inspired. Registration is now open!

Hunter Branson Wins Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament for 2nd time in a row at GigaZone Gaming Championship 5

Fun news from Paul Bunyan Communications

The last Saturday of GigaZone Gaming Championship 5 was held virtually Saturday, April 24 with the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament.

Hunter Branson who won the Super Smash Bros. Tournament in 2019, defended his title in 2021 and won $500.  Ronnie Nguyen of Bemidji got 2nd Place and $400. Kenneth Crocker of Grand Rapids finished in 3rd place for $300.  Noland Anderson of Bemidji finished in 4th place for $200.

In addition to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament, there was a CosPlay contest, and door prize drawings throughout the day and Grand Prize drawings were held at the end of the day.

Grand Prize winners included:   Playstation 5-Mary Sullivan, Bemidji;  Xbox Series X   Michael Strauch, Bemidji;

Occulus Qwest 2 Ningozis White, Bemidji

CosPlay Contest-

1st Roselynn Jones, Cass Lake                          $300

2nd David Harper, Ponsford                               $200

3rd  Khoriana Vaerconum, Hibbing                   $100

 

CosPlay Popular Vote Winners-                       $200 each

Hannah Elizabeth Cheney – Cook

Roselynn Jones, inquisitor – Cass Lake

GigaZone Gaming Championship 5 was held virtual over 3 consecutive Saturdays.  The Overwatch 6v6 Tournament was held on Saturday, April 10 and won by Team Yes.  The Madden 21 tournament was held on Saturday, April 17 and won by Dain Walters from Grand Rapids.  For the official results of GigaZone Gaming Championship 5 visit www.paulbunyan.net

“What an incredible job our team has done in pivoting to a virtual event his year!  I’m very proud of all the hard work and dedication put in to provide these three weekends of online gaming fun for the region,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager

This one-of-a-kind regional gaming event is free to play or watch and is being held virtually due to the pandemic.  It showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology to make the virtual event possible.  The event leverages the speed of the GigaZone one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country and the entire event is run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.

“The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.

This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidently Cool Games, Northern Amusement, as well support from several regional and national partners.

For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,500 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties. The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Services including the GigaZone, digital and high definition television services, digital voice services, Residential and Business IT services, and is also northern Minnesota’s certified Apple Service Center.

Online school makes life easier for some students – MN schools seem especially interested

I reported last week that Senator Klobuchar had heard from folks that some students preferred online classes and now the NY Times is reporting the same…

A year after the coronavirus set off a seismic disruption in public education, some of the remote programs that districts intended to be temporary are poised to outlast the pandemic. Even as students flock back to classrooms, a subset of families who have come to prefer online learning are pushing to keep it going — and school systems are rushing to accommodate them.

Steps are already being taken to get it started in some areas…

In a study by the RAND Corporation, “Remote Learning Is Here to Stay,” 58 out of 288 district administrators — roughly 20 percent — said their school system had already started an online school, was planning to start one or was considering doing so as a postpandemic offering.

Other districts will likely feel like they need to at least look into it…

Districts said they were simply responding to demand from parents and children who want to stick with remote learning — some because of student health issues, some because of concerns about bullying or discrimination in their school, and some who just prefer the convenience of learning at home.

Districts that fail to start online schools could lose students — along with government education funding — to virtual academies run by neighboring districts, companies or nonprofits, administrators said. To pay for the new online offerings, some districts said, they are using federal coronavirus relief funds or shifting resources from other programs.

Minnesota schools seem particularly interested…

The momentum for online schools is particularly evident in Minnesota. The state’s Department of Education said it was processing about 50 applications for new virtual schools, compared with two or three a year before the coronavirus.

“It was a small club before of people who really understood and were practicing online learning,” said Jeff Plaman, the digital learning specialist who manages applications for new online schools at the Minnesota Department of Education. “Now it’s the entire work force.”

Team YES wins Overwatch 6v6 Tournament at GigaZone Gaming Championship 5

Some fun news in a tough week from Paul Bunyan Communications

The first of three consecutive weekends of GigaZone Gaming Championship 5 was held Saturday, April 10 with the first tournament, Overwatch 6v6.

Team YES won the Overwatch 6v6 Tournament and the top prize of $1,800.  Team YES team members are Kelly Whipple, Kylie Elliott, Tien Nguyen, Connor Broderick, and Coby LaCroix from Bemidji and Isaak R Smith from Deer River.

Second place and $1,200 went to The Clean Up Crew with team members Thomas Berge of Bemidji, Ethan Hunt and Ewan Newbold of Pine River, Tristan Jourdain from Red Lake, Jacob Peterson from Red Lake Falls, and Kohl Belgrade-Gotchie from Akeley.

Third place and $600 was won by ISSA Team with team members all from Bemidji including Tristan Lawrence, Naziah Matt, Devon Rainey, James Jones, Matoskah Veaux, and Dakota Veaux

In addition to the Overwatch tournament, there were door prize drawings throughout the day and the CosPlay Contest started accepting entries.  Madden 21 is the featured tournament this Saturday, April 17 and Super Smash Bros is the featured Tournament on Saturday, April 24. The tournaments are free to play and open to anyone who lives within the 218 area code but registration is required at www.gigazonegaming.com  Anyone interested in either tournament should register now before they are full.

“What an incredible job our team has done in pivoting to a virtual event his year!  I’m very proud of all the hard work and dedication put in to provide these three weekends of online gaming fun for the region.  I hope everyone gets the chance to check it out over the course of the next two Saturdays,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager

This one-of-a-kind regional gaming event is free to play or watch and is being held virtually due to the pandemic.  It showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology to make the virtual event possible.  The event leverages the speed of the GigaZone one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country and the entire event is run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.

“The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.

This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidently Cool Games, Northern Amusement, as well support from several regional and national partners.

For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com

Libraries Without Borders US and Blandin working to bring the library to patrons in rural MN

The last year of pandemic has shone a light on the need for better access to technology at the very local level. By access, I’m talking about that three-legged stool: broadband, device and the skills to use both. Those of us who have them take it for granted; those who don’t are in danger of falling farther behind especially as work, school and healthcare move online. This move didn’t start with the pandemic, but the pandemic accelerated it and exacerbated the divide between those to have and those who don’t.

The library has always helped level the playing fields for the have-nots. Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US) and Blandin Foundation are working on some ways to extend the reach of the library beyond the ways – to meet people where they are literally and in terms of where they are with their needs. (Do they need broadband, a device or training.) As LWB US reports on a project in Nobles County… 

So how can rural communities be connected to critical resources, considering obstacles that span from a lack of connectivity to finding a way to get to a local library? Our answer: by bringing library resources directly to these communities. LWB US, the Blandin Foundation, and local partners have teamed up to design and implement digital literacy labs and pop-up libraries, equipped with digital resources and programming ranging from monthly story time and ESL classes to workforce training and digital literacy workshops. 

Both organizations focus on creating solutions with the local organization, not for, and that’s the special sauce here. LWB US and Blandin have expertise and experience but the people on the ground know the needs and trusted places. LWB US spoke to participants working to develop the digital pop-ups. 

Andrea Duarte-Alonso, Lead for America Hometown Fellow at the Southwest Initiative Foundation commented…

The [Southwest Initiative Foundation’s] interest came from wanting a creative and innovative idea that would support community members through resources that are often not accessible to them. This support also encourages closing the technological and educational gap for families. It provides literacy to families without transportation or other needed amenities to access books and technology. 

 Katherine Craun, board member and past president of the Nobles County Library and alum of the Blandin Leadership program noted… 

Access, Access Access.  All citizens need to be connected and involved in community activities. First individuals and families need the hardware and software to connect.  Second, they need a location to connect.  Pop-ups would be a great way to meet needs of isolated housing units, small towns/villages, and rural farms. 

The project is shifting from design to deployment. I look forward to finding out how, where and when the digital labs pop up and about the difference they are able to make to the patrons! (For more details and more on participant interviews, please check out the original article from LWB US.)

Sen Klobuchar hears that some students may want to continue online post-pandemic

West Central Tribune reports…

The mental health of students and teachers, free and reduced lunches, and the possibility of distance learning into the next school year were at the top of local school leaders’ concerns in a conversation with Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Wednesday, March 31.

Klobuchar met in a conference call with the superintendents of four northwest Minnesota school districts — East Grand Forks Public Schools, Stephen/Argyle Central School District, Park Rapids Area Schools and Greenbush Middle River School District — to discuss how the districts have fared during the pandemic, as well as their concerns going forward. The intent was to help guide Klobuchar’s legislative priorities in Washington.

They discussed topics I expected…

The superintendents also brought up the issues of rural internet access, which is still limited in many areas of northwest Minnesota, and of mental health, which impacted every level of the school communities during the pandemic.

And one that I did not…

The discussion was expected to cover distance learning, high-speed internet, nutrition and mental health, according to a media advisory. But other topics arose and seemed to take the senator by surprise, particularly a concern raised by East Grand Forks Superintendent Mike Kolness, who worries some students who have found they thrive in a virtual setting may depart from the district next year in favor of a virtual academy.

“I get asked this question probably daily about are we going to have to continue with distance learning next year,” Kolness said. “And that’s a big question for families and educators and, whether it be mandated by state or federal government or just by the loss of students, if we don’t provide that service and we have 100 students still want to participate in distance learning, we’re going to lose those students to a virtual academy somewhere. That’s concerning.”

There are approximately 2,000 students in the East Grand Forks district, Kolness said, and the district transitioned back to full-time in-person learning for all students after middle and high school students spent the first semester in a hybrid learning model. However, he estimates there are still about 150 students who have opted to remain in a full-time distance learning program.

A decline in the student population could bring financial impacts to the school district, as some state and federal funding is based on student enrollment. This semester, East Grand Forks schools already reported their lowest enrollment numbers in several years.

I am envious of a family that likes distance education but I understand the conundrum. It is a reminder that “going back to normal” post-pandemic is going to look at lot different and opportunities are going to look more similar in urban and rural locations – as long as there’s adequate, affordable broadband.

EVENT April 27: Digital Inclusion + Human Connection: Libraries Serving Youth Meetup

This is an event for librarians but I thought some folks might be interested and/or some folks might be interested at least reading about libraries are doing these days…

Did 2020 leave your patrons and students struggling to connect to reliable internet? Are they in need of new devices to fully participate and engage in distance learning? Could they find the support and instruction they needed to use new virtual tools?

Ensuring equitable digital access has long been a focus of libraries, but the whirlwind of 2020 put a glaring spotlight on internet dead zones, inadequate equipment and insufficient support for youth and families.

The seventh annual Meetup for school and public library staff serving youth will feature speakers finding solutions to digital exclusion in Minnesota. Join us for an afternoon to hear from these amazing advocates and discuss how we can create and improve digital inclusion efforts in our communities!

When: Tuesday, April 27, 2-5 p.m.

Where: A Zoom link will be sent to registrants one week before the event.

Speakers and panelists include:

If you’re interested, please contact Ashley Bieber (651-582-8849) for assistance with any questions.

 

Wisconsin is using drones to bring broadband to students in Northwoods

People are so clever. I love the innovation here. It’s not a permanent fix but what a great way to reach people who currently don’t even have enough cell coverage to support students or workers trying to get online at home. I know there are areas in Minnesota that are in the same boat! Wisconsin Public Radio reports

Rural Northwoods students who lack reliable internet at home will soon be able to connect to their school networks via a drone-powered cellular signal.

A Wisconsin startup will be part of a state-funded pilot program in the Eagle River area that will test the use of drones as a way to expand internet connectivity into rural areas.

It’s a partnership between the new company Wisconsin Telelift and the Northland Pines School District. The drones will be fitted with cellphone towers, allowing students throughout the sprawling Northwoods district to get online, even in rural areas where cellphone service and broadband access are unavailable or unreliable.

It’s a real need in a district that is among the state’s largest geographically, spreading over 435 square miles in Vilas and Oneida counties.

As many as 15 percent of the district’s 1,340 students have no internet access at home, said Northland Pines administrator Scott Foster, and half of its students have unreliable connections that don’t always allow for streaming video and other tools used in educational software. The district provides Chromebooks to its students and portable hotspots to those who need them — but the hotspots can only work where there is a strong cellular signal. In much of the district, that’s just not the case.

Study of Libraries in pandemic indicate need to focus on home internet access

New America released a report on libraries and COVID. I’m sure no readers will be surprised, but it turns out that the pandemic highlighted disparities between folks who could get online at home and those who couldn’t…

The pandemic has laid bare the extent of social and educational disparities by racial group, income, and education level. It has particularly affected those without high-speed home internet access, a group in which people of color, low-income Americans, and rural communities are over-represented. These disparities are the legacies of systems that were not built with everyone’s welfare in mind—such as library systems that were originally segregated and educational systems and technology networks designed by and for those able to afford and connect to the internet. The disparities are affecting the way people become aware of, connect to, and use their public libraries, and they need to be addressed head-on by libraries, education leaders, and policymakers both during and after the pandemic.

Our findings highlight the need for more inclusivity, more focus on providing internet access, and more awareness-raising initiatives with local organizations and schools. The stories in this report—of libraries developing mobile Wi-Fi options, creating digital navigator programs to support digital literacy, launching more online programs, and making use of outdoor spaces—show the possibilities of transformation and partnership. The report concludes with eight recommendations for investment in library transformations, expansion of policies such as E-Rate and the Emergency Broadband Benefit to provide better internet access at home, and more collaboration with local schools and organizations. With these changes, libraries can leverage the lessons of the pandemic to help launch more equitable ecosystems of learning across communities, providing access to knowledge, resources, and training, online and off.

The prevalence of broadband in the recommendations highlights the importance of broadband…

For policymakers:

  • Invest in efforts by libraries and schools to bring internet access, online resources, and other tools to underserved households and communities.
    • Expand the E-Rate Program so that libraries and schools can get discounts on the technology services that patrons and students need to get online from home.
    • Support schools, libraries, and community-based organizations in distributing devices such as tablets, laptops, and hotspots.
  • Improve broadband access to low-income households.
    • Make the new $50-per-month Emergency Broadband Benefit permanent and integrate it into the Lifeline program.
    • Require internet service providers to be more transparent about internet costs and hidden fees.
    • Enable municipalities to provide internet service.
  • Encourage collaboration by developing grant programs and other incentives for community-based organizations, libraries, and schools to work together in raising awareness and jointly delivering library services.
  • Provide funding for the expansion of tech-support programs such as Digital Navigators and other programs that enable on-demand, one-on-one troubleshooting, mentorship, and guidance.
  • Provide funding for needs assessments and other research to take stock of how public libraries are used within communities that are marginalized or underserved.

For libraries:

  • Increase outreach and communications efforts to make more residents aware of offerings both online and off.
    • Target outreach so that low-income households; Black, Hispanic, and Asian households; and patrons whose first language is not English are welcomed and connected to the library.
    • Experiment with mobile offerings that bring the library to underserved communities.
    • Establish Digital Navigator programs and similar mentoring initiatives that help patrons build technological fluency, digital literacy, and media literacy skills.

For educators and leaders of community-based organizations:

  • Develop deeper partnerships with libraries to build awareness of resources for clients and students.

  • Include library leaders in strategic planning for programs and services.

ConnectedMN awards $2.35 million in grants to get kids online

From the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity

Community-led digital equity solutions reach more Minnesota students
$2.35 million in grants awarded through a joint effort of Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity and Partnership for a ConnectedMN will advance work of 29 community organizations
MINNEAPOLIS – For students to succeed in school today, access to digital tools, reliable internet and support services is crucial. Almost a year after the COVID-19 pandemic made glaringly obvious the long-standing digital inequities that affect many Minnesota students, community-led solutions continue to be most successful in addressing these disparities. Today, 29 Minnesota non-profits’ digital equity work will advance as a result of $2.35 million in grants
delivered from a partnership between the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) and Partnership for a ConnectedMN (ConnectedMN).
30,000 Feet, an organization that empowers Black students in St. Paul through culture, art, technology and social justice, will use their grant to expand their distance learning support program. The program ensures that at least 100 students will have access to a laptop computer, small group tutoring sessions and holistic services that support mental and physical well-being.
“We’re fortunate to have deep connections on the East side of St. Paul. We’ve been around a long time, with a rich reserve of families that we’ve been successful with — and those families trust us,” said Kevin Robinson, Executive Director of 30,000 Feet. “This pandemic has shown we
need to move with urgency to deal with the digital divide, and the easiest way to do so is with organizations like ours that can deepen existing relationships. Relationship-focused solutions will have the best long-term ramifications for our community’s growth.”
The grants awarded support a variety of strategies to enhance digital learning for Minnesota students, focusing on organizations serving students who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color in kindergarten through grade 12. These strategies include:
• Technology tools, internet infrastructure and connectivity: Examples include the distribution of laptops, tech licenses and creation of comprehensive device solutions for students by Change Inc and Breakthrough Twin Cities, fiber internet installation for student computer labs in the Lower Sioux Indian Community in the State of Minnesota
and the dissemination of reliable internet hotspots in the Twin Cities metro area by PCs for People.

•  Culturally responsive and wrap-around support approaches: Organizations are responding to the unique learning needs of their community, like the Centro Tyrone
Guzman, CLUES, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Hmong American Partnership, South Sudanese Foundation and Project Nandi, fiscally sponsored by WoMN Act.
• Safe spaces for learning, tutoring and mentoring: Organizations including Boise Forte Tribal Government will provide computer labs for students without adequate home access to school and tech support. Positive Image that will create virtual tutoring initiatives to provide Black and other underrepresented mentors and tutors to students.
• Unique financial solutions: A partnership between Venn Foundation and Youthprise will provide loans to families for devices and/or digital support that will be reimbursable
from the family’s K-12 Education Tax Credit.
Grants were awarded based on expert insights identifying key priorities for allocating funding, and a review committee comprised of community members with a broad range of experience and geographic representation chose the recipients. Funding will be provided to programs
throughout Minnesota, in a mix of urban, rural and Indigenous settings. A full list of grant recipients and the grant award process can be found here.
“These partnerships are evidence philanthropy can come together in Minnesota and make an impact even in isolated, remote parts of the state that are often forgotten. This pandemic created a different landscape of understanding what access means in Minnesota’s rural, isolated and sparse populations, from the inability to connect to reliable and affordable internet to the immense toxic stress added by the financial crisis of lay-offs and the State shutdown,”
said Tuleah Palmer, CEO of Blandin Foundation, which serves as one of the founding partners of ConnectedMN. “This effort to collectively advance issues that improve the quality of life for folks shows we don’t have to breakdown — we can breakthrough. We are not going back to normal; we are going to bounce forward into a whole new level of well-being and I am excited to see what we get done next.”
A Collective Approach
Grants were supported by 36 local companies and foundations through MCBRE and/or through ConnectedMN. These organizations include, Best Buy, Bush Foundation, Cargill Foundation, Target and The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Fund at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.
A full list of funders to both organizations be found here.
Says Dave MacLennan, chairman and CEO at Cargill, “As a global company based in Minnesota, we know that a strong K-12 education system is how we prepare a strong future workforce and keep our headquarters’ community competitive. Systemic inequality persists in education and
digital access is one of the greatest divides. Minnesota deserves more. The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity connects Cargill with other Twin Cities companies, allowing us to combine our resources and deliver much-needed impact.”
More Help is Needed
To reach more students, companies and organizations are encouraged to contribute financially to the Digital Learning Fund or provide in-kind gifts (like devices and connectivity services).
Learn more about these opportunities here. Educators, local governments and prospective grant applicants are also encouraged to reach out.

GigaZone Gaming Championship Returns Virtually in April

Big news from Paul Bunyan Communications for gamers in the 218…

GigaZone™ Gaming Championship 5 will be held online three consecutive weekends in April starting April 10. The event will feature a different gaming tournament each weekend, Cosplay contest, and door prizes with over $5,000 in cash and prizes to be given away. It is free to play or watch.
This one of a kind regional gaming event showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology and leverages the speed of the GigaZone™ one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country. The entire event is run off a single residential GigaZone™ Internet connection.
This year’s main tournaments are Overwatch April 10-11, Madden 21 April 17, and Super Smash Brothers April 24.
Registration for all tournaments can be done online at http://www.gigazonegaming.com It is free to enter and main tournaments are open to anyone living within the 218 area code, but space is limited. The gaming will start each Saturday at 10 a.m.
It’s free to watch and will be live streamed on www.gigazonegaming.com.
“There is a large gaming community in our area and it’s been so cool to see the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship take off. While we can’t get all together in person this time around, it will be a fun three weekends of fun online! said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members. The GigaZone™ provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.
“There is no other gaming event like it anywhere I’ve seen. I’m very proud of our team for embracing the challenges in
going to an all virtual platform. We invite everyone to hop online to watch or play!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.
For more information on the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com.

OPPORTUNITY: MN Safe Learning Survey

This is a slight wheel into another lane, except access to broadband impact the experience of online learning…

The University of Minnesota is working with MDE and launched the MN Safe Learning Survey in an effort to provide MDE, policy makers, and educational leaders a sense of how students, families, and educators are feeling about the school year. We are eager to get it out far and wide so that we get as many student, family, and educator responses as possible. Could you help us by sharing with your networks and on social media? Here is the link:

 

https://z.umn.edu/MNSafeLearningSurvey

EVENT Feb 24: Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Digital Navigators

Just a reminder for folks that this conversation is happening on Wednesday…

Digital Navigators What, how & why (Feb 24 noon to 1pm CST)
Digital Navigators are individuals who help people (or organizations) through the process of finding the best digital solutions to meet their needs. It scored highly on our interest survey last month and we have (at least) two Lunch Bunchers who are willing to share their expertise with the group – one national and one focused on Minnesota schools. So please come with questions, ideas and solutions. Register here.

I’m excited to have two experts on deck to share their wisdom:

  • Marc Johnson, Executive Director of (ECMECC), a telecommunications & technology cooperative of school in East Central MN. You can catch him talking about digital navigators with North Branch Area Public Schools, if you want a sneak preview.
  • Paolo Balboa is the Programs and Data Manager for the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, where he applies his background in adult literacy and data management to developing digital equity programs.