MN high school tech education is the worst

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports

In the next 10 years, Minnesota businesses will have to fill 81,000 tech jobs, including 45,000 in the next five years, vacancies mostly from retirements and job changes to other states, according to the Minnesota Technology Association (MTA). In that same span, there will be an additional 6,500 IT jobs.

Minnesota projects to produce only 6,600 new tech workers by 2032, not nearly enough to address all the positions.

Technology is a profitable career choice…

As of 2022, there are roughly 110,000 tech employees in the state. That figure ranks 18th among the 50 states, according the Computing Technology Industry Association. A year ago, Minnesota ranked 12th in net tech employment.

Experts forecast the state’s unemployment rate for tech occupations to stay at 1.1% through 2027. Software developers and analysts are the most sought after workers in Minnesota with more than 7,000 positions advertised each month, though employers fill only 1 in 4 of those positions each month.

In Minnesota, the annual median tech wage is $94,715, 106% higher than the state’s median wage. Depriving students, especially those living in underrepresented communities, from high salaries can be a detriment to the state’s economy, experts said.

Schools are not helping…

Minnesota ranks last in the U.S. in the percentage of high schools offering computer science coursework with only 21% doing so. Of those schools, 12% are in urban areas, according to MTA. The national average of states whose schools offer computer science courses is 53%.

Meanwhile in Iowa, 71% of high schools offer a computer science course, and in Wisconsin, it’s 66%. North Dakota recently signed into law a bill that makes taking at least one computer science or cybersecurity course a requirement for graduation.

Fiber touted as future-proof necessity for Edtech in Minnesota

Minneapolis St Paul Business Journal have a recent article on the virtues of EdTech, including the three steps you need to take to make it happen in a school:

  1. Evaluate your internet service and bandwidth
    Fiber is a proven winner for school networks. While many technologies have the potential to meet growing demand for bandwidth, fiber is a clear leader for several reasons. Fiber is highly secure and can easily scale to speeds of 100 Gbps or more.
    As more edtech devices proliferate on networks and digital learning continues to advance, demand is growing for bandwidth and speed. Fiber is designed to be future-proof and suited for current and future needs.
  1. Shore up your cybersecurity strategy
    Growing your IT network and tech capabilities is a net positive, but introducing more devices inherently comes with risks. It’s a numbers game. The more connected devices you have, the more points of entry there are on a network. If your infrastructure is not properly secured, it’s vulnerable to hacking, phishing, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and other emerging threats.
  1. Be aware of assistance programs such as E-Rate
    Broadband services represent a large share of the technology budget for many districts, making the best available service options — fiber, for example — seem out of reach. The reality is, access to scalable, redundant or symmetrical speed fiber networks is more possible and cost-effective than ever. The federal E-Rate program is a big part of making the best in broadband more affordable.

4,000+ Attend GigaZone Gaming Championship in Bemidji MN

News of the GigaZone Games makes me happy every year…

An estimated crowd of over 4,000 attended the GigaZone Gaming Championship & TechXpo on Saturday, April 22 at the Sanford Center. The event featured free gaming, numerous gaming tournaments, over 35 technology exhibitors, door prizes, and special guest Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. 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 was run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.
Mathew Wagner of Duluth won the 6th annual GigaZone Gaming Championship and the top prize of $500. Shawn
Haines of Grand Forks secured second place and $400. A total of 76 of northern Minnesota’s best Super Smash Bros.
Ultimate players competed on the main stadium stage in the GigaZone Championship Arena.
In addition to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament, there was several other open tournaments including Fortnite, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Madden 23, and Overwatch 3v3, Rocket League 3vs3 plus high score competitions in Pac-Man, Galaga, and Donkey Kong. There were also two tournaments for juniors 13 and Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, “Wow. When we first envisioned this event, we wanted to grow it so we could have a true arena e-sports event. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow so fast and that we would have Steve Wozniak the co-founder of Apple join us. It has been incredible to see the attendance and enthusiasm for the event! By adding the TechXpo, we were able to connect a wide variety of students and potential job seekers with schools and businesses that are utilizing the latest in technology every day right here in northern Minnesota. It was awesome to see so many people from all over come for the fun!” 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 & TechXpo showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.
“A huge shout out to our entire team for putting on one of the most unique events of this type in the country. Thank you to all of the exhibitors that were a part of the first ever TechXpo and our local partners, we couldn’t do this without them. We’re already looking forward to next year!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing
This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidently Cool Games, Northern Amusement, the Sanford Center as well support from several regional and national partners.
For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit 

Public libraries make public computers feel like your own with Personal User Privacy and Security – PUPS

Telecompetitor reports on new sresearch from the University of Kansas Institute for Policy & Social Research on the state of computer use in libraries. The idea that people get access to computers, skills and broadband from the library isn’t new – although it is still valuable. But Telecompetitor picked up on something that is new – the Personal User Privacy and Security…

The University of Kansas developed and is testing, in the libraries, a system called PUPS (Personal User Privacy and Security). PUPS is “a USB-based virtual computing environment… designed to afford public computer users increased customizability, session state per­sistence, and security as compared to the restricted use settings of most library PCs.”

In other words, while library computers are generally locked down and don’t allow for customization, PUPS gives its users the feeling of a personal computer, including the ability to download software and retain their unique user settings. They found that PUPS is most useful to users with digital access but was less useful for users struggling in the second area: digital literacy.

Having worked in libraries, I’ve seen there is a spectrum of skills that walk through the door and there always has been. There are the kids or travelers who are power users. Back in the day, they wanted the DOS prompt to get to their email. As technical as I am, they are often much more so or at least experts in some segment of use. There are folks who may need help remembering how to get to their Gmail. There are folks who, especially since prevalence of smartphones and tablets, aren’t comfortable with the mouse. PUPS targets the first and second group of folks.

There are so many reasons PUPS is a boon. It’s easier to use a computer when it looks like they way you are used to seeing it. (Just think about using a friend’s computer or phone for a minute. It’s disorienting.) Second your digital stuff is always with you. You don’t have to worry about something happening to the computer at the library or having to access “the cloud” every time you want to work on something. Finally, you can open up your files in various locations. So if you move to another part of town, you can still access your midterm report.

PUPS can help users who are digitally astute, but lacking access to a device or broadband, feel more autonomous and more digitally connected.

EVENT April 22: GigaZone Gaming Championship Announce Exhibitors

Here’s the latest from Paul Bunyan Communications on their upcoming Gaming event. I’m sharing it for two reasons. First, because it will be a fun event if you’re a gamer or have a gamer in your life. Second, because this is what happens when you invest in broadband and in the community in creative ways — you get interesting young people connecting with interesting opportunities in your backyard!

The 6th GigaZone Gaming Championship and TechXpo with special guest Steve “Woz” Wozniak the co-founder of Apple is coming up Saturday, April 22 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. The event features free gaming on various console and arcade games, numerous tournaments, door prizes, and the first ever TechXpo.  All the fun is free.

The GigaZone TechXpo is a new part of the event with the mission to spark excitement and create opportunities with technology by connecting students, job seekers, employers, educators, and technology enthusiasts from northern Minnesota. There are over 35 exhibitors that will be showcasing various innovation including virtual reality, drones, simulators, and much more.


The confirmed exhibitors include

  • Minnesota North Community College Hibbing Campus
  • NLFX Professional
  • Simmuk
  • Bemidji State University
  • National Center Autonomous Technologies
  • Rocketman
  • Red Lake Nation College
  • Kinbee
  • Bemidji Aviation
  • Visit Bemidji
  • Pinnacle Marketing Group
  • Sanford Health
  • Wells Technology
  • Enfinity
  • AirCorps Aviation
  • Community Voice Mobile App
  • Marvin
  • Beltrami Electric
  • Northwest Technical College
  • St. Cloud State University
  • HUG Hydronics
  • Bemidji Steel
  •  Ape Man Games
  • Northwest Mutual
  • Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing
  • Center of Excellence
  • Operating Engineers Local 49 Training & Apprenticeship Center
  • Plum Catalyst
  • Digikey
  • First City Geeks
  • Paul Bunyan Communications
  • IT Center of Excellence Central Lakes College
  • Youth Drone Sports Championship Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference
  • ICON Architectural Group
  • Minnesota North Community College Virginia Campus

“We are excited to have so many different exhibitors at our first ever TechXpo which will expose a growing regional audience to technology and help them realize their potential to leverage their technical skills and enthusiasm into successful careers right here in northern Minnesota.” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager

The 6th GigaZone Gaming Championship main stage tournament will feature Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate on the esports stadium style stage in the GigaZone Championship Arena.  In addition to the main stage, there will be tournaments of Overwatch 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Madden NFL 23, Rocket League, Fortnite, Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, and junior tournaments for kids 13 and under of Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.  Registration for all tournaments will start at the Sanford Center April 22 at 10 a.m. and go until full.  For more information visit

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

$80 million federal funds available to train workers to build and deploy infrastructure

The US Department of Labor announces

To maximize the impact of the Biden-Harris administration’s historic infrastructure, manufacturing and clean energy investments, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of $80 million in funding through its Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program.

It sounds like this is funding to build the workforce to help deploy the infrastructure that federal funds will be buying over the next few years. It’s an opportunity to train workers and to build the workers we’ll need close to home. More info on the grants…

The grants will enable partners in the public and private sectors to develop or scale workforce training programs to prepare job seekers in advanced manufacturing; information technology; and professional, scientific, and technical service occupations that support renewable energy, transportation, and broadband infrastructure sectors. These include occupations in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors; broadband and transmission expansion; advanced manufacturing, including biomanufacturing; and electrical, industrial, and civil engineers and technicians who facilitate the design, construction, modernization, and maintenance of the nation’s infrastructure.

Nonprofits, labor organizations, public and state institutions of higher education, economic and workforce entities, and state, county and local governments may apply for grants ranging from $500,000 to $5 million. Applicants must choose one of the following tracks for this grant program:

  • Development track: Establishes local and regional partnerships that will implement new sector-based training programs across infrastructure-related sectors.

  • Scaling track: Expands an existing local or regional training partnership model, with demonstrated success in a specific infrastructure-related sector, to the state or national level.

With the Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program, successful applicants will develop or scale strategies that provide the training and supportive services needed to build a talent pipeline for career pathways in infrastructure-related industries, with emphasis on programs serving people from rural or historically marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented communities. The funding will also support programs that align with the department’s Good Jobs Initiative and embed diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility into the project design.

Learn more about the funding opportunity announcement.

EVENT Jun 12: Telehealth 101: What libraries need to know

I used to work a Reference Desk so I know, librarians are the frontline support for nearly everything, especially digital equity. It’s helpful to be as prepared as possible and the National Library of Medicine is offering a class that will help…

Libraries in locations across the United States are beginning to offer their patrons access to telehealth services as a strategy for addressing inequities in digital access to healthcare. This class introduces telehealth, why it’s important, and how it enables people to have greater access to quality healthcare. Explore how different libraries provided patrons in their communities with access to telehealth services. This class will address privacy and ethical concerns, and review the technology and infrastructure needed to launch a successful telehealth program in your library. The class will consist of three one-hour modules. Each module will focus on one of the course objectives, which are:

  • Recognize the different approaches/models to providing telehealth access within libraries.
  • Describe resources available to the library for Telehealth technology and the role of the library in support of digital skills training for telehealth.
  • Address potential ethical and legal concerns in offering telehealth access within libraries.
Date(s): June 12, 2023 – July 12, 2023
Platform: Moodle
CE Credits: 3.00
CE Categories: CHIS Level 2
Class Experience Level: Beginner
This is a National NNLM class.
Learn more about this class and find other upcoming instances:

Red Lake Nation College gets almost $2 million from feds to expand broadband

The Bemidji Pioneer reports

Red Lake Nation College has been awarded a $1,924,280 grant from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

The program is run by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative, a release said.

Red Lake Nation College is one of 61 minority-serving colleges and universities receiving grants totaling $175 million.

The Red Lake Nation College Connecting Minority Communities project, “Expanding Broadband Capacity at Red Lake Nation College,” aims to upgrade broadband access, capacity and skills for RLNC students, staff and community members, the release said.

The project activities will provide and upgrade on-site internet service and security, upgrade laptop and desktop computers, increase learning software options at RLNC, and provide digital devices and broadband service plans for RLNC students to enable access on and off campus.

The business end of digital skills: everybody wins – households can gain $1,363 to $2,879 per year

The National Skills Coalition took a look at the impact of digital skills training on workers, the word force and businesses…

The findings in this analysis are unequivocal:

There is overwhelming demand for digital skills in the labor market, with 92 percent of all job ads requiring definitely digital or likely digital2 skills. This demand is robust across all industries, and small businesses are just as likely as their larger peers to seek workers with technology skills.

Yet many workers have not had sufficient opportunity to build such skills; earlier research found that nearly one-third of U.S. workers do not have foundational digital skills, and workers of color fall disproportionately into this category due to structural inequities.3

Equipping workers with necessary skills requires action by both private employers and public policy[1]makers. Notably, public investments in workforce development and education are especially vital given the unevenness of private investments and the prevalence of digital skill demands among smaller businesses, which depend on publicly funded work[1]force and education partners to upskill employees.

Closing the digital skill divide has major payoffs for businesses. Prior research has shown that workers value upskilling opportunities and prefer working for employers who offer clear, well-defined path[1]ways to advancement.4 Because turnover has heavy costs for businesses – with estimates ranging from $25,000 for workers who leave within the first year to over $78,000 for workers who leave after five years,5 averting or delaying turnover by ensuring that workers have upskilling opportunities can be economically significant.

Public investments in closing the digital skill divide can also generate economic benefits for individual workers and the broader economy. People who qualify for jobs that require even one digital skill can earn an average of 23 percent more than those working in jobs requiring no digital skills — an increase of $8,000 per year for an individual worker.6 These increased earnings could result in more state and federal tax revenue generated by each worker. Depending on the household size and composition, this could range from $1,363 to $2,879 per year.7

MN State of Talent Tech: Business better poised than workers? If so for how long?

The Minnesota Technology Association has released a report on the MN State of Talent Tech. The executive summary says it all. The opportunities are here but unevenly distributed in terms of training and supporting a diverse workforce…

The Minnesota Technology Association (MnTech) has long heard about challenges in finding tech talent, and in order to understand the true magnitude of this challenge has released the first annual Minnesota: State of Tech Talent report, detailing the current tech talent landscape. This report details how the tech sector continues to contribute to the strong Minnesota economy, with the average annual median tech wage at $94,715, 106% higher than the median state wage, an unemployment rate at only 1.1% in the sector, and 1 person hired for every 4 tech positions posted.

However, much of the good news about tech talent and opportunity ends there. We are 46th in the nation when looking at job growth in large part due to the lack of talent to fill open roles.

Minnesota is in the bottom half of the country for representative diversity in tech, with women, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American/Indigenous (BIPOC) populations all underrepresented as compared to their respective representation in the labor force.

In Minnesota, 89% of all tech job postings require a four-year degree, yet less than 22% of BIPOC talent in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area hold a bachelor’s degree. By most measures, Minnesota is falling behind when it comes to tech talent development. We are last in the nation, ranked 50th out of 50 states for high schools offering foundational computer science courses.

Only 12% of urban schools, 18% of suburban, and 25% of rural high schools offer foundational computer science courses, and women, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American/Alaskan students are taking advanced placement (AP) exams at rates less than half of their respective overall student populations.

Minnesota colleges are not producing enough degree holders to meet demand either, as they are annually producing approximately 600 fewer software developers than for which there is demand. However, over the last decade, Minnesota has more than doubled the number of computer science graduates, showing there is opportunity for increases in the years to come. Given that 72% of graduates from Minnesota colleges stay in the state, the 5th highest in the nation, investing in our college’s computer science programs will help solve our talent challenges today and into the future.

BBC chat on digital equity projects in Big Stone, Lincoln and Pine Counties, Austin and Warroad

Last week the BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities) final cohort met to catch up with what was happening in each community.

Here’s a very high level list of what happening:

  • Big Stone has smart rooms and training through PioneerTV. The are trying to get local government folks to join via streaming versus travel unnecessarily.
  • Lincoln is adding hotspots, adding an Internet safety class and an at-home at Lincoln County program and is getting fiber to some of the last areas.
  • Austin has hosted a PCs for People event (refurbished computer distribution), working on privacy internet kiosks so that people can privately get public access to the Internet, working on getting seniors more comfortable with technology with an online trivia event and digital literacy training.
  • Pine County held come “Going Google” classes, working with a provider to build towers for fixed wireless and working in another areas on deploying fiber.
  • Warroad is working on Wi-Fi on sporting fields to aid in livestreaming, completed Wi-Fi on school buses and enhancing backbone coming into Warroad.


Educause report finds unreliable broadband is a top stressor

Educause has released their 2022 Students and Technology Report; they are looking at undergraduates. Here are some of the top level fundings…

  • Educational technology impacts student wellness. Most respondents experienced technology challenges over the past academic year, and about half of them reported that such issues caused them stress.
  • Physical campus spaces continue to play an important role in students’ access to education. Survey respondents most typically solve technology challenges on their own, but they still use institutional services such as computer labs and Wi-Fi access.
  • The online versus face-to-face dichotomy is being disrupted. Students’ modality preferences have shifted toward online options since 2020. Even survey respondents who prefer fully face-to-face courses want access to a variety of online resources and activities. No matter the modality, students are looking for flexibility, social interaction, and academic engagement.
  • Device access is not a simple issue when examined through an equity lens. Although students generally have access to devices adequate to meet their educational needs, not all students have the privilege of using their preferred devices for their school work. Survey respondents with disabilities and those with pandemic-related housing situations were less likely to use the devices they would prefer.
  • Assistive technology can help all students. Respondents—even those not reporting any disability—indicated that they need to use a variety of assistive technologies. For example, over a third of respondents said that they need captions on videos.
  • Students are whole people with complex learning needs and goals. Completing a degree is the most common way respondents defined a successful higher education experience, but they are also hoping to secure a job, achieve personal growth, secure a high salary, and more.

Diving in deeper, they found that unreliable broadband was a top stressor and concern with students…

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