MN K-12: In the loop, but needing higher speed


by Ann Treacy • Thanks to Dustin Artwohl at Video Guidance for sending me info and a video from Southland Public Schools in Adams in SE Minnesota. They talk about how they use broadband to better serve the students and save money.

Blandin on Broadband offers information on broadband use, access, and trends especially in rural Minnesota. Sponsored by the Blandin Foundation and their Broadband Initiative.

Here’s the intro to the video from Ryan C. Luft, the Principal of Southland Middle/High School:

This past Monday, Southland and Leroy-Ostrander students and administration had the opportunity to show the State of Minnesota what is happening down here in education. We have been working with Riverland Community College in Austin, MN to deliver college level courses over our ITV system for our students. It has been a huge success! There was a meeting in Dover-Eyota where 7 local Minnesota Legislators, as well as many Southeastern Superintendents, met to discuss the bandwidth issues in this part of the state. We were asked to showcase what we are doing here at Southland and will be developing a model that hopefully will go region/statewide in a couple of years.

Here’s the video:

The students are now able to take classes from Riverland Community College while staying on campus, which means the money for classes-per-student stays on campus. Also the students are able to save money themselves and avoid the hassle of going back and forth between campuses.

The school talks about how they want to take the next step – meeting the Governor’s challenge to move classes online – but lack of broadband is standing in their way. They only have a T1 and that’s not enough.

They want to share instructors and kids to help make the most of their shrinking budgets.

Students from the class talk about their experience too. You can see where paying for gas to take classes off campus is a big issue for them. Plus it’s more fun to be on campus.

Sitting in the Task Force meeting on a couple of weeks ago it struck me how quickly people were ready to say and believe that Minnesota is not underserved when it comes to broadband. I suspect that people have “broadband” though 90+ percent of the state. But as someone on the Task Force said in an aside to me – aren’t they the Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force not the access task force?

Next month the Task Force is going to hear from K12 and other users. I hope they hear stories like this that demonstrate that adequate broadband is in the eye of the beholder. People are being hindered by slow speeds and we need to think about a policy that removes broadband as a bottleneck for innovation (for school, businesses, homes..).