UMD is bringing back telehealth counseling by popular demand

Fox21 Duluth reports

Back by popular demand, the University of Minnesota Duluth will offer telehealth counseling again this school year.

During the pandemic, many schools connected virtually with students. Last year, UMD launched its telehealth program, that offers remote mental health counseling.

Now, the university is bringing it back, after seeing how well-received it was by students.

Virtual, in-person, and hybrid counseling sessions will be available. Free of charge and covered by tuition.

People seemed to like it…

“Last year we did our initial appointments virtually and then we talked to students about what it was they wanted moving forward. We were a little surprised, we thought that everybody would want to be back in the in-person in the office, but that wasn’t necessarily the case for all people.”

Baribeau-Thoennes went on to say, it’s important to keep virtual options available, especially during the cold, Minnesota months.

“Our no-show rates for appointments went down. Somebody might be like “oh no my car is blocked in and I have to shovel,” and normally they might have canceled the appointment, but now they just call and say can I switch my appointment to virtual.”

There are policy hiccups…

The kicker is — providers can only give services in their licensed state. Meaning UMD students have to be in Minnesota to use the telehealth option.

2022 Student Home Internet Connectivity Study

I’m borrowing the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society excerpt of the Consortium on School Networking‘s report, the 2022 Student Home Internet Connectivity Study…

In a previous study, CoSN examined the network connectivity experience of students who participated in virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that many students have returned to their school locations, CoSN wanted to see how things changed. Major findings of the 2022 Home Internet Connectivity Study include:

  1. Addressing insufficient home internet connectivity must continue to be a priority for educators and policymakers.
  2. Students experience significantly slower network speeds outside of school hours than during school hours.
  3. There remain ongoing gaps in network performance and Internet speeds at all grade levels for students connecting from outside the school.
  4. Large disparities persist among student subgroups around home connectivity, particularly by ethnicity and for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

FCC Announces Nearly $159 Million In Emergency Connectivity Funding – one award in MN

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced it is committing nearly $159 million in two new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program, helping to close the Homework Gap. The funding supports applications from all three of the program’s application windows, supporting over 300,000 students across the country, including in Alabama, Guam, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Texas, and West Virginia. Nearly $2 million from the first and second application windows will provide support in the upcoming school year for approximately 15 schools and 4 libraries. For the third application window, the Commission is committing nearly $157 million that will support over 350 schools, 50 libraries, and 4 consortia. Total funding committed to date is nearly $5.3 billion.

One award was made in Minnesota:

Holy Trinity Catholic School in South St Paul total award: $18,638.00

Howard Lake (MN) gets Hometown Grant award from T-Mobile (Wright County)

T-Mobile reports

In April 2021, T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) announced T-Mobile Hometown Grants, a $25 million, five-year initiative to support the people and organizations that help small towns across America thrive and grow. Since the program’s start, T-Mobile has given more than $4.4 million dollars to kickstart 100 community development projects across 36 states, including the latest grant winning recipients.

The list includes Howard Lake…

Howard Lake, Minn.: Construct a community library facility to provide vital connectivity resources such as public-use computers and Wi-Fi, tele-commuter conference room and a soft interview space for the local police department.

OPPORTUNITY: Common Sense is looking for Emergency Connectivity Fund Stories

Common Sense reports…

The Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a federal program that allows schools and libraries to provide laptops, tablets, and home internet service to students and library patrons who would otherwise lack them. It was created, in part, based on our research into the homework gap. To date, the ECF has connected over 12 million people nationwide. However, the fund will soon run out of money, and, when it does, the millions of students and patrons it is connecting may fall back into the digital divide.

Here’s the info for MN…

In Minnesota, there are 52,474 Home internet connections 192,276 Laptops and tablets and $66,210,500 ECF awards

There will be issues if the funding ends, but you can help especially if you know (or are) someone who has taken advantage of the funding…

 If the ECF ends, the connectivity represented in this map will, too. Help us highlight the ongoing need for student connectivity by sharing your story below.

What broadband brings to New Ulm MN – and other rural areas

In Newsweek, Minnesota native and Clearfield CEO, Cheri Beranek, talks about what a difference broadband makes to towns, like her hometown of New Ulm…

As I watched New Ulm Telephone become Nuvera, it grew bigger and provided additional services, and the surrounding areas benefited from that growth because high-speed access in rural communities can attract new businesses. When large facilities in these areas are already equipped with broadband, satellite offices or satellite manufacturing centers can move in more effectively. In the past, manufacturers would only go into rural markets for lower-cost labor, but now, they need labor anywhere they can find it. With broadband, companies can bring these well-paying jobs to rural environments where people need work and draw in even more types of businesses to support that growth.

When broadband brings opportunities into a rural community, it brings them to everyone, including children. Just north of New Ulm are several little towns where kids have to take an hour-long bus ride to get to the nearest school. With broadband in these areas, children could access quality educational services, tools, classes and support from anywhere, and a rural education could provide the same opportunities as one in a city….

The pandemic has shown us how hard life can be without access to quality health care and how much better broadband can make it, but people in rural communities have long understood these disadvantages. From economic and transportation concerns to workforce shortages and insurance coverage, barriers to health care in rural communities lead to less healthy people. When COVID-19 started to spread, the lack of broadband compounded all these barriers. As broadband expands into these areas to provide easier access to health care and telemedicine, a healthier population can drive a healthier economy.

After 12 years the Computer Commuter rides into the sunset (LqP County)

Mary Magnuson and I finished our tour of Western MN, with a final visit to the LqP Computer Commuter, a mobile computer lab and classroom that has been touring 6 sites a week around Lac qui Parle County. In 12 years, they have served about 500 people out of a county of 7,000. It received early funding from the Blandin Foundation. We thought it might be around for 5 years tops but Mary Quick has kept it running well past expected lifespan.

Mary drives the tricked out former hotel van around helping people use technology. Originally, the bus served a lot of students with new computers and free printing but in the last few years the patrons have aged. While we were in the library, Mary and I heard from the librarian that she had spent time in the Computer Commuter using the CC computer to watch videos while trying to learn new software on her own laptop. So many people have great stories like that. In fact, if you have a grandparent from LqP who knows how to use Zoom, you can probably thank Mary!

Many of the patrons have helped keep the Computer Commuter going the last few years with donations and generous memorial donations. Mary is moving out of the area but, as she says in the video, she’s there to help anyone who is interested in a similar project in their community.

Madison Mercantile: When broadband makes community easier (LqP County)

On our trip to Western Minnesota, Mary Magnuson and I stopped in to visit the Madison Mercantile. The folks at the UMVRDC (Upper Minnesota River Valley Regional Development Commission) had clued us into the interesting things they were doing. And while this isn’t a broadband-forward project, it’s an example of what folks can do when broadband is ample and the community is engaged – in part because they have been connected, even during the pandemic, via broadband.

The Madison Mercantile is a coffee shop, art gallery innovation center built in a rehabbed hardware store. The footprint is huge. We walked in and saw tables people chatting, art and the coffee shop. The proprietor/creator Kris Shelstad immediately apologized for the mess. (She was working on replacing part of a carpet.)  Then she quit what she was doing and gave us the whole tour, with backstory, despite the fact that she had no idea of who we were.

As briefly as possible, Kris is originally from the area. She moved away to Austin TX, joined the army, got married and a couple years ago lost her spouse. That led her back home, but she missed the scene in Austin. So, she decided to create the same opportunities for art and beer and music and community by buying out the old hardware store. She started to rehab it based on the needs of the community, ways to minimize heat bills and her vision. Her vision included creating a space to showcase art left to her from her friend Janice Anderson. Janice’s art is mixed media collage with an eye for color nuances, clever messaging and inherently rural appeal. It feels like through Kris, Janice is helping boost and nurture a local art scene.

Along with a couple of art galleries, the space hosts local musicians and serves as a “third space” community center. You can pop in for coffee or you can host your birthday party. There are spaces for local discussions and classes. In fact, when we were there a group of local entrepreneurs gathered to talk about using social media. (Funny enough, I recognized one entrepreneur from a social media class I taught in the area 10 years ago!)

There’s also a maker space or innovation center. It created itself because retired farmers from the community, who used to hang out at the hardware store kept showing up wondering if Kris needed any help or time to chat. Kris recognized the need and opportunity and made room. There’s also a museum of medical supplies like walkers and wheelchairs, which folks can borrow as needed. Apparently the 90 year old woman, who used to lend these from her home, donated them.

There are also plans for public computer access, a wellness center and Zoom room. If you are in the area, you will have to check it out. It’s the best example of a bottom up solution I’ve seen. Kris told us that she decided that for one year she’d say yes to everything. She has and she’s tired but man is that a cool center and it can’t help but engage community!

Wi-Fi On School Buses Eligible For E-Rate Funding

From a speech from FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel to the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training as summarized by the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society...

For more than two decades, E-Rate has provided vital support to help connect schools and libraries to high-speed, modern communications all across the country. It got its start as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Over 25 million children take the bus to school every day. In rural areas that ride can be long. It can easily be an hour to school and an hour to return home at the end of the day. It’s good for young people to spend some time daydreaming, decompressing, and talking to friends, but wouldn’t it be nice if kids had the option of using this time to connect for homework? The good news is we have a workable, common-sense solution. We can connect our school buses and make them Wi-Fi-enabled—think of it as Wi-Fi on wheels. I am proposing a plan to my colleagues to make Wi-Fi on school buses eligible for E-Rate support. This is not a far leap to make. It’s both consistent with the law and the history of the program. After all, for many years E-Rate supported the use of communications for school buses—like wireless phones used by drivers—when shepherding students to and from school.

Grand Marais broadband project nominated for national award

From The Ranger newsletter

Grand Marais broadband project nominated for national award
Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) is a broadband partnership that was launched last year between Blandin Foundation, Northland Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. The trio made available a pool of grant funds for local organizations working to support a broadband-fueled economy in northeastern Minnesota.

Minnesota Children’s Press of Grand Marais was awarded a $35,000 grant from the funding pool to deliver broadband education services. Children’s Press launched Litter Lab, a program designed to teach elementary aged children how to use technology to help solve a community litter problem with the potential to pollute Lake Superior.

Approximately 65 children ages 5 to 13 collected litter last summer in the harbor area of downtown Grand Marias. The children sorted, categorized and inventoried the litter according to the GPS coordinates where it was found. Some of the categories included clothing, food packaging, plastic bottles and containers, general paper products, and hygiene products such as plastic dental picks. Their field data was then entered into ArcGIS, an advanced online GIS engineering platform made by Esri that uses interactive maps and data-driven analysis tools that rely on top-tier broadband service to manage  data. ArcGIS produced reports that considered the types of litter,  coordinates of the litter’s location and proximity of nearby trash and recycling receptacles. From the reports, the kids could develop hypotheses about why litter was more prevalent in certain areas of the harbor. They also theorized about alternate, less bulky and non-plastic packaging design and options for some of the more commonly found items such as drink cups and bottles.

“As the project progressed, the kids began to see themselves as problem-solvers,” said Anne Brataas, founder of Minnesota Children’s Press. “The report data spurred great group discussions about effective placement of community trash receptacles, size and shapes of receptacles to accommodate varying sizes of waste items, and potential solutions for reducing litter.”

Brataas believes the success of the Grand Marais project could prompt the concept spreading into other communities across northeastern Minnesota. Communities can use the data and reports to make decisions about community recycling and the placement, design and signage for public trash receptacles. It could also lead to a mass rethink of how people stay hydrated such as bottle-refilling stations to reduce the amount of single-use plastic water bottles.

Littler Lab will be recognized at the Esri Education Summit on July 10 in San Diego, California. Brataas was chosen to present preliminary findings of the Grand Marais project,  “Kids Thinking Spatially, Acting Sustainably” at the annual Esri conference during the session titled Building Environmental Literacy Through Experiential Learning.

“Litter Lab is an excellent example of how technology in northeastern Minnesota can be used to creatively solve community problems,” said Whitney Ridlon, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation community development representative. “It engaged the youngest of our rural population in the broadband economy by showing them how technology and internet connectivity can be used for the betterment of their very own community.”

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the AIR broadband initiative with $150,000 in Development Partnership grants. For more information email Whitney Ridlon at Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation or call her at 218-735-3004.

Lincoln County students learn about downsides of Internet and Social media

I’m thankful to the Tyler Tribute for letting me reprint their article on a recent meeting of students and lawyers about some tricky areas of internet and social media use by teens. I have done similar training in the past so I know how important it is. Often kids are given a very powerful tool with limited safety training, which can be dangerous. Lincoln County schools (with help from the Blandin Foundation) found a way to open dialogue…

Three schools gather at RTR for assembly on downside of the internet

Tuesday, March 22 the students in grades 5-8 from RTR Public school, along with Hendricks Middle School and Lake Benton Elementary, met in the RTR Performing Arts Center for an informative meeting about

the downside of the internet. The presentation was given by Joshua Heggem and Kristi Hastings of Pemberton Law Firm, located in Fergus Falls. The presentation was brought to the schools by the efforts of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.

Hastings has represented numerous school districts for many years and talked about social media, technology and mistakes that other kids have made on social media that in turn will hopefully be a good learning tool to

prevent kids making these mistakes themselves.

This presentation came about as a response to the amount of cases they were seeing coming in, “When we started this, it came about because we were seeing so many disciplinary things coming across our desks. Expulsions and other serious consequences; Three kids getting kicked out of sports they love playing because of mistakes they were making on social media,” Hastings told the group. They came up with this presentation with a desire to get ahead of the rise they were seeing in cases based around social media, bullying using social media, and technology use and the dangers it presents.

Statistically, 97% of all kids in grades 5-8 are using social media of some sort every day. “I’m a huge fan of social media myself, so you’re not going to hear that it’s bad or that you shouldn’t use it at all because there are so many positive things that come with social media—the ability to connect with people all over the world, communicate with family and friends—these are all positive things that prior generations didn’t have.”

Hastings went on, “We are just focusing on the downside of social media and unfortunately, as lawyers, we see a lot of it.” Joshua Heggem shared a story of how quickly things can happen when social media is involved. “An instance I had once; a group of seventh graders who had made a Snapchat group for their class—they made it with the intent of bullying one classmate.

During these hateful comments aimed at the student, someone said they were going to put a hit out on the classmate. Within hours there were sheriffs at the school interrogating kids for terroristic threats.” Heggem recanted to the kids, “Some kids were charged with crimes; kids were getting suspended. The kid who made the threat, I believe was expelled from school.” Heggem made it clear that expulsion comes with heavy consequences, “That means you can’t set foot on school grounds, you can’t play any sports, you can’t even go to a sporting event, you can’t go to the football field.” Along with all those who faced charges and school consequences, there were also kids that needed mental health services after the ordeal, including the child who had been the subject of the bullying. Even if the kid who said the threat never meant it, the words were still out there on social media and have to be taken seriously. Heggem made it clear to the kids that things can’t be taken back once said on social media no matter how safe or secure you think it is. Hastings touched on things that don’t happen on school grounds; for instance, a kid initiating a fight at the park across the street of the school as opposed to on school grounds. “These school rules follow you when you are at a school sponsored event, when you’re here on school grounds, but also when you do things that negatively impact other kids’ ability to come here and learn,” Hastings explained.

This brought them to the next topic, “We do have a state law here in Minnesota that prohibits bullying of your classmates; things that are intimidating, threatening, abusive or harmful,” Hastings touched on. “Any bullying

that you carry over online is treated the same way. So, for instance, if you push a kid into a locker, that is the equivalent of bullying online and will carry the same punishment.”

They brought up “group thought” which is the concept that someone comes up with an idea and the group just goes along with it. “It happens a lot in our school cultures and climates because kids have not fully developed. Often times, the ability to say no I’m not interested in that idea/activity,” Hastings explained. An example used was one of another small school in Oakes, North Dakota which gained national news recognition.

“They had a tradition there of making a straw man before the homecoming game every year. So they would make the straw man and then burn it in a bonfire and then play their game,” Hastings told the kids. “A couple of

years ago, someone in a group came up with an idea—let’s make a noose and hang the straw man. Then someone comes up with the idea to put a jersey on it. Well, they put the number of the only player that is a person of color for the other team on the jersey. Someone in the group took a video of it, probably shared it with their close friends and contacts and someone recognized it was quite racist and it made national headlines. What it does, is it makes the world look at your school and question who lives there, what are they teaching here,” Hastings further explained to the kids.

The presentation touched on many topics that kids today are coming in contact with more and more every day—things like sending/receiving nude photos being a technical form of child pornography which is punishable by law, sharing pictures of your friends as a joke from the locker room is a form of privacy invasion and punishable by law. All the topics were relevant and appropriate.

Another presentation was given for the high school grades 9-12, after the middle school was done as it is a topic of discussion worth having from middle school on.

Update from Libraries without Borders: Mobile Home Community Libraries in Minnesota

From the Libraries without Borders newsletter…

In July 2021, we transformed the storm shelter in the Park Plaza Cooperative into a 21st-century library equipped with books and technology. By working closely with residents, we designed a community space for people of all ages, with storytime and health literacy resources. This project was made possible through the support of ROC USA, NNLM, the Anoka County Library, and the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation.

This month we won a $400K grant from the Minnesota Department of Housing to transform the Hillcrest Mobile Home Community’s storm shelter into a 21st-century library where residents can access technology, high-speed internet, books, and digital literacy materials. Construction is already underway and, once the dust clears, we will work with the United Way of Freeborn County, Albert Lea Area Schools, and Albert Lea Public Library to deliver in-person educational programs to the Hillcrest community. Stay tuned!

FCC Announces Third Application Window, Emergency Connectivity Fund Commitments

The FCC reports on another funding opportunity…

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is opening a third application filing window to award at least $1 billion in Emergency Connectivity Fund support. The third application filing window will open on April 28, 2022 and close on May 13, 2022.
During this third application filing window, eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services between July 1, 2022, and December 31, 2023. Given past demand, the third application filing window will likely be the last opportunity for schools and libraries to request funding before the remaining Emergency Connectivity Funds are exhausted.

Additional information on the third application filing window can be found here.

A cheer for libraries and access to broadband in Alexandria

A recent Echo Press letter to the Editor, points out the value of the library and a nig part of that is access to broadband…

Public libraries provide access to vital technology and broadband, supporting students, families and lifelong learners of all ages. In 2020, VLS began circulating Wi-Fi hotspots, a service which one library patron called “a lifesaver for seniors and the homebound.” Stories like this one happen in all 365 Minnesota communities with a public library. Every Minnesotan benefits from our libraries.

As a former Reference Librarian, I’m going to take librarian privilege here to add that while it’s great to get access at the library but it’s even better to have access at home too. It makes a big difference to be able to work and to schoolwork from home. BUT the library is a great on ramp to broadband. Librarians are great with helping patrons get started using technology. Many libraries offer classes and most librarians are able to take the time with handholding when a patron needs it.

Also, it’s nice to have a communal place where people can work online. Students know this well. It’s great to have a place where you can collaborate. Small business owners are starting understanding this as well. A place that’s quiet or has a room with good broadband and you know the Zoom will work and no dogs or kids will interrupt. So there will always be a place for libraries and librarians but we’d like it to be the alternate place to get online.

1 in 7 Minnesotans who needed reliable broadband during pandemic, didn’t have it

A report from APM Research Lab finds…

According to our Minnesota’s Diverse Communities Survey, only half of those from households that included someone either working from home or attending school online reported a “very reliable” internet connection. One-third indicated that their internet connection is “somewhat reliable,” with the remainder split between “slightly reliable” (9%) and not at all reliable (6%).

The survey looked a broadband access and use of broadband during the pandemic (did anyone in household work or go to school online) and cross referenced with demographic information.

Despite a large proportion of Minnesotans with reliable internet access, more than 1 in 7 Minnesotans who needed a reliable internet connection for work or school did not have one. A small but notable proportion of Asian (excluding Hmong) and White Minnesotans reported lacking an internet connection in their home.

Among those who needed the internet for work or school, a higher proportion of residents of the Twin Cities 7-country metro had a “very reliable” connection than is the case for residents of the remainder of the state. Somewhat surprisingly, a similar gap exists between those identifying as Democrats versus those identifying as either politically independent or Republican.

They found that affordability was an important as access…

Our data from the Minnesota’s Diverse Communities Survey suggests a similar conclusion. Since there is a strong correlation between education level and income, the fact that fewer Minnesotans with less education report access to reliable internet than Minnesotans with more education implies that this difference hinges on the affordability of high-speed internet.

While the state has made great progress on overall access to broadband, there is still a lot of work to do—especially in terms of affordability and adoption—before every Minnesota household and business can regularly and reliably use the internet. The reliance on internet-based schooling during the pandemic has further underscored the equity concerns at the heart of the push toward universal broadband.