Spotlight shines on northern Minnesota schools’ tech initiative

Posted in Broadband, Grants

They say everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame — and today it’s the Itasca Area School Collaborative‘s turn.

The seven-district consortium’s $1 million federal RUS grant to bring telepresence to 20-plus schools was featured in an MSNBC article about the changing landscape of technology in America’s schools.

While the story may bring 15 minutes of fame today, the project is poised to deliver long-lasting benefits for the region’s learners. Nearly 6,000 elementary and high school students will have access to more educational resources, including  foreign language classes, college courses and online field trips. In addition, the telepresence — which provides a richer digital connection that can simultaneously display video and graphics screens, for example — is available for adult education opportunities during after-school hours. Telepresence learning launched last year with three immersive classrooms used for Spanish and Ojibwe language classes. This fall, offerings range from composition and short stories, to personal finance, world history and calculus. More immersive classrooms, plus 18 smaller studio sites, will be used.

“This really levels the playing field,” said Matt Grose, chair of IASC and Deer River Schools superintendent. “Once school starts, the studio units will be used for virtual field trips, connecting classrooms and staff, and community education offerings.”

The telepresence project is one component of IASC’s most recent technology plan. You can also see how Deer River schools incorporate technology into learning in the final few minutes of this video.