Internet access for students is gaining more attention as schools across Minnesota seek to develop plans to provide distance learning over an extended period of time. Not all students currently have broadband access due to affordability or availability.
MREA has been actively advocating to improve broadband access for students and families across Greater Minnesota for years. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the lack of infrastructure is becoming more evident and is a challenge for schools faced with delivering distance learning for an extended period of time. MREA is advocating for a statewide solution.
Technology access is one of the key data points that the Minnesota Department of Education is now requesting school districts to report daily during this planning period for distance learning.
It is important to keep in mind that distance learning is not the same as e-learning and schools will need to continue to seek innovative ways to reach students – with and without access to high-speed Internet. Technology is only a part of the solution for delivering distant learning, not the complete solution.
Here are some steps school leaders can be taking now as they prepare distance learning plans.
Steps to Take
Together with Mark Diehl, director of information and technology services for Little Falls Public Schools, MREA offers these steps for IT directors and other school leaders to take related to Internet access with distance learning:
- Be a champion that distance learning is not the same as e-learning and needs to be approached in a more holistic manner. Learn more
- Look for local business partners who can help provide Internet access to students by allowing them to access their wireless network. Internet service providers, both large and small, have announced plans to provide free Internet service and unlimited data to families in need, during this time.
- Determine how to use other district assets (like school busses) to distribute learning. Whether the content is downloaded to an electronic device or delivered via traditional books and paper, focus on providing the content that students need.
- Leverage tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts to provide a means for those without Internet access to still connect to the learning through their phone conferencing abilities.
- Use your district’s social media to connect with your community about your plans and what is happening within your district. At times like this, the community is talking, but what are they talking about. Keep them informed and educated as to the steps that the district is taking to solve the problems.
MREA developed a series of guides to help schools respond and plan for the spread of COVID-19:
Stay apprised of resources and news on COVID-19 for schools at: MREAvoice.org/covid19