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Facebook and Utah Valley University Fund Tech Training Program for Utah Elementary Schools

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Photo of a Forbes Elementary School student courtesy UVU

AMERICAN FORK, Utah, May 13, 2021 –  Facebook’s involvement in Utah technology education has grown since it broke ground in 2018 on its  data center in Eagle Mountain, a growing community on outskirts of the “Silicon Slopes” community here.

“STEM curriculum and hands-on educational opportunities are incredibly important for students of today to be career- and college-ready, and we’re proud to partner with Utah Valley University and the Alpine School District to support this new marquee technology,” said William Marks, community development regional manager at Facebook, told the Daily Herald.

During a recent school day at Forbes Elementary in American Fork, students and teachers felt like it was Christmas morning when a trailer full of donated science, technology, engineering and math teaching tools, games, and books were unloaded as part of a new K-6 STEM curriculum created and funded by Facebook, UVU, Utah State University and the local school district.

Kate Elliott, the head UVU student assistant, said “The kids are really excited, so it’s really fun to watch them. It has been fun to teach something they don’t always get to do.”

Indeed, the elementary classroom becomes the birthplace of imagination and ingenuity and must be safeguarded and supported in order to create the leaders of tomorrow.

Called the SEEdPOD project, coming from Utah’s Science and Engineering Education (SEEd) standards that combine principles of engineering with science subjects, lesson plans and materials are stored in trailers called “pods.”

Teachers in the Provo and Alpine school districts review the lessons, with funding from UVU and Facebook. USU provides research support.

Other SEEdPOD trailers are scheduled to be delivered to elementary schools in Blanding, Utah, and other communities in Utah County here.

Indeed, through the partnership, awareness is spreading about the education needs of teaching in three-dimensional ways. This is especially so given that technology has changed from the traditional school classroom setting from prior to the onside of the COVID-19 pre-pandemic.

Training teachers to use Utah’s new SEEd standards has been a challenge due to COVID-19, said Krista Ruggles of the UVU School of Education. The SEEdPOD project aims to close the gaps between education and training with technology.

Education

Coalition Says FCC E-rate Portal Proposal Could Create More Problems

Industry officials say the commission’s approach to E-rate competition would burden applicants.

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John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 21, 2021 – The executive director of a broadband coalition for anchor institutions said the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to force providers to bid for school and library services through a new portal will burden those applicants.

The agency proposed Thursday to force service providers to submit applications through a bidding portal overseen by the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the E-rate program that provides broadband subsidies to schools and libraries. The current approach is that libraries and schools announce they are seeking services and service providers would apply directly to those institutions.

By giving USAC the ability to see service provider applications before they go to the institutions, the agency said this would eliminate at least some forms of abuse or fraud, including participants who may misrepresent their certification or circumvent competitive-bidding rules.

But John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, said that while he applauds the effort to listen to consumer needs, the portal’s one-size-fits-all approach would ultimately burden E-rate applicants and service providers.

He also claimed that there is not enough evidence to show that a new portal is needed and that it “would add a lot more federal bureaucracy on a program that is running pretty well right now.

“You would have federal employees at USAC trying to make determinations about what’s…in the best interests of the schools or libraries,” said Windhausen, “And we don’t think they’re really qualified to do that.”

Windhausen also sees potential conflict between the new bidding portal and some state laws already governing E-rate bidding. In a scenario in which state law and FCC policy conflict, it is not clear which policy would take precedence.

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Education

FCC Commits Another $603 Million in Emergency Connectivity Fund Money

The agency has now committed $3.8 billion from the $7.17-billion program.

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, December 20, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission’s latest round of Emergency Connectivity Fund money will disburse $603 million to connect over 1.4 million students in all 50 states, the agency said Monday.

The FCC said it has now committed $3.8 billion of the $7.17-billion program, which provides funding for schools and libraries to buy laptops, tablets, WiFi hotspots, modems, routers and connectivity to help students stay connected off school premises. The money comes as a new Covid-19 variant sweeps the nation again, putting face-to-face interactions at risk once again.

The agency also said Monday that it has allocated an additional $367 million in its first commitment and nearly $236 million in the second commitment.

The agency in October said that previous rounds had committed $2.63 billion from the fund since its launch in June.

The total amount committed to go to support 9,000 schools, 760 libraries, and 100 consortia for nearly 8.3 million connected devices and over 4.4 million broadband connections, the agency said in a Monday release.

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Education

Texas High School Students Enter the Fight for Better Connectivity

Students in a Houston-area school district hosted a panel on connecting schools and libraries as part of a national event on bridging the digital divide.

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John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2021 – Generation Z students are making their mark at a Houston-area school district by adding broadband access to the list of issues they are actively working on.

The high school students in the Fort Bend Independent School District organized a panel conversation on internet access in education as part of Connected Nation’s national event titled “20 Years of Connecting the Nation,” and were able to host some high-profile guests in the world of telecommunications.

The November 17 panel included John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, Chris Martinez, division director of information technology for the Harris County Public Library, Heather Gate, vice president of digital inclusion for Connected Nation, and Meredith Watassek, director of career and technical education for Fort Bend ISD.

Nine percent of residents in Harris County, where Houston is located, reports that they do not have a connected device at home and 18 percent say they do not have access to an internet connection. These gaps in access are the focus of the panelists’ digital equity efforts.

With Windhausen and Martinez present on the panel, a key point of discussion was the importance of helping libraries to act as anchor institutions – institutions which help enable universal broadband access.

Watassek pointed out that she has been helping oversee distance learning in Fort Bend ISD for six years, starting such a program to enable teachers to teach students in several of the district’s buildings without having to drive to each one, and has seen that with time and learned experience it is possible to work through distance learning logistical issues that school districts around the nation are currently facing.

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