Broadband is transforming school thanks to groups like ECMECC that support the network

Ed Scoop reports on digital learning based on a recent webinar hosted by

Digital learning not only plays a crucial role in preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, it also has an important role in providing more equitable access to education, especially in smaller and remote school districts.

The webinar featured Minnesota’s own Marc Johnson who spoke about the role for an organization such as ECMECC

Marc Johnson, executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative, who joined Fox on the webinar, said Minnesota has 18 regional networks, most of which now use leased fiber-optic networks. This provides the state with a scalable infrastructure, he said, and by monitoring disruptions and usage levels, administrators can buy additional bandwidth to accommodate future growth.

The ECMECC staff provides instructional technology support for districts, which is especially important for smaller ones that may not have full-time tech support people of their own. The staff also manage the network’s shared firewall and other security features that help to prevent cyberattacks. A data center, meanwhile, provides off-site storage and backup.

Moving forward, Johnson and his team will be facilitating schools’ implementation of 1:1 device initiatives, and the introduction of more 21st century digital courses. Districts can make their own through a process he called “curriculum adaptation,” rather than curriculum adoption.

A key aspect of this type of teaching and learning is the increased use of interactive video for online field trips or other activities. Examples include the opportunity for high school students taking health classes to observe and interact with medical personnel as they perform procedures, or observe a musician in a distant city teaching classes and leading rehearsals.

This type of distance learning can be especially valuable for smaller rural districts, but also for underfunded districts in urban areas that may not have the resources to send students to other parts of the city.

EVENT Feb 27 #DLDay Webinar: Innovate! Every Classroom, Every Day with Digital Learning

A fun, free event for educators to celebrate Digital Learning Day

Innovate! Every Classroom, Every Day with Digital Learning

February 27, 2020
12 pm EST


  • Evan Marwell, Founder & CEO, Education SuperHighway
  • Matthew Mayo, Director of Technology, Edgecombe County School District (NC)
  • Erin Swanson, Director of Innovation,  Edgecombe County School District (NC)
  • Jake Ragusa, Director of IS and Technology, Ascension Public Schools (LA)
  • Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission


  • Brianna Hodges, Future Ready Instructional Coaches Advisor,Future Ready Schools®@bhodgesEDU
  • Thomas C. Murray, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools®, Alliance for Excellent Education, @thomascmurray
  • Dr. Adam Phyall, III, EdD,  Future Ready Advisor and Director of Technology and Media Services, Newton Public Schools (GA), @AskAdam3

*Additional panelists will be announced as soon as they are confirmed.

On Digital Learning Day 2020, states, districts, and schools will show how innovation occurs in every classroom, every day, through the effective use of technology. To kick off this year’s celebration, we will take a behind the scenes look inside schools from around the county to show how educators are shifting their mindsets, leveraging technology as a tool for learning, and being empowered to reframe learning experiences each day.

Our hosts, Brianna Hodges, Adam Phyall, and Tom Murray will share and discuss the success stories from schools and districts across the country. They will highlight innovative programs such as a statewide network that provides internet access for each student, effective one-to-one implementation, and examples of how schools break down barriers to ensure that each student has access to opportunities.

The program also will include Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who will share an update on work being done to close access gaps in connectivity.

Our hosts will discuss

  • how a robust infrastructure provides a conduit for shifting teaching and learning practices;
  • ways in which professional learning supports teachers to shift their practice;
  • how communities are working together to make experiences more learner-centered; and
  • ways in which districts are keeping equity in the forefront of their decision making.

You won’t want to miss the opportunity to be inspired by the amazing success stories we will share this Digital Learning Day!

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program application open until April 10, 2020

Big news, big opportunity

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy today announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to help increase access to education, training and health care resources in rural communities.
USDA is making $71.7 million in grants available under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant program. This program helps rural communities use telecommunications-based audio and video equipment to connect teachers, students, medical providers and rural residents with each other and the world.
Applicants in rural areas of 20,000 people or less who provide education or health care services through
telecommunications facilities are eligible to apply. Applications will be scored, reviewed and selected on a
competitive basis.
Applications must be submitted to the applicant’s nearest USDA office or electronically via by
April, 10, 2020. For more information, visit

Learn more and good luck!

Broadband in Swift County means Rick Molenaar lives local yet works out of San Francisco

Thanks to Swift County RDA for sharing this story. I love sharing stories of great use of broadband – so if you have one too, please send it my way…

Rick Molenaar has the best of both worlds. He lives in a place he loves and has a job that he enjoys. That’s all been possible thanks to Swift County’s border to border broadband. Swift County’s partnership with Federated Telephone has provided nearly ubiquitous coverage with speeds of 99.6%, making it the third-fastest county for broadband speeds in the state.

“I work for a company based out of San Francisco, but because of broadband a lot of that work takes place at my kitchen table,” said Rick. His company, Trace Genomics, takes agricultural soil samples, extracting the DNA and mapping the soil’s biology for farmers. It’s cutting edge technology that can have huge benefits for crop output. They already have a few early adopters within Swift county, along with many clients throughout the Midwest.

For Rick, the ability to be close to farmers and to food sources was important for his career, but also for his family. “I like that my children can see how the food we eat is produced at the local level. This is something I value and it is rare. Knowing the story of where your food comes from and how it is produced is healthy for kids and teaches them values,” he said.

Still, if it weren’t for fast broadband speeds in Swift County, Rick wouldn’t have the opportunity to live so close to the farming community. “Broadband has widened my opportunities tremendously. It has enabled me to have the role that I have. Broadband came to Swift County, in part, due to the work of the RDA. I wanted young people in our county to know that they can work for virtually any company while still living in Swift County – thanks to broadband. That’s why I joined the Swift RDA board – to spread the message that you can live in Swift County and have a career you love,” he said.

As a family, the Molenaars have all benefited from Rick’s ability to work remotely from Swift County. Joquel Molenaar grew up in the county, is a local school counselor and the volleyball coach. As a couple, they decided to raise their four boys in Swift County – close to her parents and to the activities they love. They are ten minutes from their lake cabin, with summer and winter activities right out their front door. Within their neighborhood, they have an added advantage of fifteen kids under ten living within a mile of the house – perfect playmates for their boys. “We get to have a lot of fun as a family. Living in Swift County has been ideal for us,” he said.

When asked why other families and young professionals should consider living in Swift County, Rick said, “Living in a small community and getting to know your neighbors is very unique. We know everyone and have built a lot of trust and our kids are able to be involved in every activity they are interested in. It’s also nice to have no traffic and be close to the fun activities we love to do.”

Live in Swift County, Work Anywhere

With border to border broadband and lightning-fast upload and download speeds, Swift County is the ideal place for telecommuters to live. A telecommuter can easily attend video conference calls, upload and email large files, work on video and graphic files, etc. Anyone who wants to live where they play, be able to purchase their dream home at an affordable price and live in a community where neighbors know each other’s names can do so while still working for employers locating somewhere else.

We invite you to consider the many benefits of living and working in Swift County by exploring our website and looking at available properties. Swift County’s broadband provides opportunities – you get to define them!

Science Kits for Public Libraries Grant Application deadline January, 19, 2020

Big tip for libraries (or potential library partners!!) from the Minnesota Library Association…

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Science Kits for Public Libraries (SKPL) Grant is offering up to $2,000 in funding to public libraries in the Midwest for the creation of circulating math and science collections). The grant seeks to be a catalyst for educating students about how math and science are used for the benefit of humanity and to provide seed money for the creation of a science kit collection that will make a lasting impression on the community.

Past grants have allowed several Midwestern libraries to develop science kit circulating collections and give students access to prepared experiments and science materials that they might not encounter in the traditional classroom. Additionally, these libraries have created educational programs that allow students to conduct experiments at the library with the guidance of a librarian. This is a program of IEEE-Region 4 .

Visit for application forms, grant criteria and to learn about the successes of past grant recipients. Send your completed application to:

Dr. Douglas De Boer, P.E, IEEE-Region 4 SKPL Grant Application Chair Science Kits for Public Libraries project

Partner with a MN Library – Girls Who Code 2019-2020

Let’s get this going in rural areas around Minnesota. Contact your local library as a potential partner!

State Library Services is partnering with Girls Who Code (GWC) this year to bring free computer science learning opportunities to your community.

Girls Who Code Clubs are free after-school programs for girls in grades 3–5 or grades 6–12. Please note, this program targets, but is not limited to, girls.

Participants will join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models and use computer science to change the world. Participants learn not only hard coding skills and computational thinking, but also project management skills, collaboration, bravery, resilience, how to positively impact their community, and so much more.

Apply now with the brief GWC Clubs Application through our partnership! When you start a GWC Club, you’ll gain access to free resources, flexible plug-and-play curriculum, funding opportunities, ongoing support, alumni opportunities for your young learners, and more! There’s no computer science experience needed to get started; GWC is there for you every step of the way.

Tekne Awards – the Oscars of MN Tech world – lots of winners & good advice

Last night I was lucky enough to attend the 2019 Tekne Awards. I brought my 15 year old, who is interested in STEM. It was fun to watch it from her eyes. She was excited to hear about what each company was doing and even more interested in hearing about the undergraduate scholarships. Great to see the lineup of recipients with diversity of age, gender, ethnicity. Some were first generation college attendees (and first generation Americans), some were parents, some looked same age as my daughter. But you could see the impact of the funding and the prestige of an MHTA scholarship.

Phil Soran graciously received a lifetime award for his entrepreneurship and generosity. He had advice for the room. For entrepreneurs he said – focus on go-to market. For established businesses he said – make room and opportunity for the up and comers. To everyone he sad – strive. Two public servants received awards – Steve Grove at the Department of Employment and Economic Development and Senator Eric Pratt. These awards emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships in all facets of technology, economic development and education.

I want to give a special congratulations to PCs for People for their award. They have been long time partners with the Blandin Foundation on many projects. Lots of first-time computer owners in rural Minnesota can thank PCs for People and the Blandin Foundation and that’s where entrepreneurship starts – with a computer at home, whether it’s selling your art on Etsy or, like Mr Soran, building a billion dollar business in your basement!

Because in MN we can all be winners (or at least finalists), here’s the list of possible winners going into last night…

Categories and finalists for the 2019 Tekne Awards are: Continue reading