WiFi on School Buses – vendor details

I wrote about the Minnesota state grants to support wifi on buses and other ways to get hotspots to students without access at home when they announced the awards. I thought it might be valuable to other school districts or even community centers to share this press release from a vendor who is providing service to some of the grant recipients…

Districts Receive State Funding to Connect Students Outside the Classroom

MCLEAN, Virginia (PRWEB) February 27, 2017

Kajeet, the industry leader for safe, mobile student Internet connectivity, announces its most recent partnerships as a result of money allocated by the Minnesota Department of Education. Minnesota appropriated $500,000 to fund broadband connectivity to students without Internet outside the classroom. Up to $50,000 was available for each recipient. Of the 12 school districts awarded the Internet Broadband Expansion for Minnesota Students grant, six have already partnered with Kajeet to provide Internet access to their rural students.

“Part of our district has high-speed fiber, and part has nothing. But, with high poverty rates, people can’t always afford Internet,” said Matt Grose, superintendent for Deer River Public Schools. “Now we provide Internet connectivity for homework to kids in our district who didn’t have access at home.”

All applicants applied for the first grant, “Broadband Expansion and Off-Campus Learning,” which aims to enable student access to learning materials available on the Internet through a mobile broadband connection, such as a Wi-Fi hotspot. If eligible, applicants could apply to a second grant, “School Bus Internet Access,” designed to make Internet access available on school buses, enabling students to complete homework while commuting.

Deer River also connected their entire bus fleet, as some students spend over an hour commuting to and from school. “It’s a long time to be on the bus, which breeds trouble and wasted time. This [Kajeet] program is a natural extension of our student device initiatives,” said Grose. “We’re taking advantage of student time spent on the bus.”

Kajeet Education Broadband™ met the criteria for both grants with its Kajeet SmartSpot® and SmartBus™ solutions.

K-12 Broadband Equity Aid – schools need funding for broadband

Last week, the Senate introduced a bill for more funding for broadband for schools (SF 936)…

$9,450,000 in fiscal year 2018 and $9,650,000 in fiscal year 2019 are appropriated from  the general fund to the commissioner of education for K-12 broadband equity aid under  Minnesota Statutes, section 125B.26.
Any balance in the first year does not cancel but is available in the second year.

The bill was referred to the E-12 Finance Committee. What caught my eye was the supporting document submitted

Minnesota schools receive state support to help pay for the cost of high speed Internet access that remains after federal E-rate discounts have been applied. The annual appropriation for public schools was capped in 2010 and is $3.75 million. Total requests for this aid are nearing $10 million and steadily rising. the result is a proration amount of approximately 40% leaving districts to pay the remaining balance. In the graph below, the red line is state funding, the blue line is actual cost (after E-rate reimbursement) and pink is the trendline.


Internet access is mission critical for schools. Digital content, increasingly accessed over mobile devices, requires higher levels of bandwidth. Schools use the Internet in their daily operations including student instruction, food service, communications, transportation, accounting, and procurement.

Use of mobile devices has exploded over the past 2 years. This dramatic increase has severely taxed the capacities of both wireless infrastructure and bandwidth in general.  Minnesota schools need to greatly expand the broadband networks serving their institutions in order to keep up with the demands of their users.

Due to many factors including lack of provider competition, distance between schools and communities, and lack of regional infrastructure, the out-of-pocket cost to provide the same type of broadband Internet service to schools in some parts of the state is as much as 115 times or more per pupil than that of districts in the Twin Cities Metro and other larger communities.

● According to the latest statistics (FY2015) from the MN Department of Education (MDE), Ivanhoe public schools in Southwestern MN pays $140.37 per pupil (after E-rate and state funding) to provide broadband Internet services to their students and staff. This is nearly 2.5% of their total per pupil general aid.
● Suburban Columbia Heights schools pay $1.20 (after E-rate and state funding) per pupil to provide broadband Internet services to their students and staff. This is 0.02% of their total per pupil general aid.
● The average per pupil cost (after E-rate and state funding) in Southwest Minnesota is $49.01 per pupil while in the Metro region, the average cost is $5.95 per pupil.

Support for Digitizing Cultural Resources

Thought this might be of interest to some…

Council on Library and Information Resources: Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives
Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives, an initiative of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), is intended to help digitize and provide access to non-digital collections of rare or unique content in cultural heritage institutions. Through this program, CLIR aims to enhance the emerging global digital research environment in ways that support new kinds of scholarship for the long term and to ensure that the full wealth of resources held by memory institutions becomes integrated with the open Web. Grants, ranging from a minimum of $50,000 to a maximum of $250,000 in the case of a single-institution project or $500,000 for a collaborative project, will be provided to colleges and universities, research centers, museums, libraries, historical societies, cultural associations, etc. To promote broad access, careful preservation, standardization, and usability, approaches to digitization should be coordinated across institutions when feasible. Online initial proposals must be submitted by April 3, 2017; final proposals are due September 20, 2017. Visit the CLIR website to review the program guidelines and application process.

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…


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