The Connected Nation Blog: December 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Here Comes Santa Claus: The Jolly Old Man’s Broadband Blip

Santa Claus is coming to town. And now, thanks to broadband, you’ll know exactly when to expect him!
Jolly Old St. Nick is preparing the sleigh for his big night of round-the-world work. And, as soon as he takes to the sky, you’ll be able to track his travel with military precision.
NORAD is the military organization responsible for the aerospace defense of the U.S. and Canada. And now, the North American Aerospace Defense Command is tracking Santa on Christmas Eve.
The “NORAD Tracks Santa” app is available on Apple products, Android, and social media sites. The agency offers information by phone and online about St. Nick's location.
Children can visit the Kids' Countdown Village where there’s a new holiday game available every day until Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Connect Ohio Selected as Semi-Finalist for TechColumbus Innovation Award

The TechColumbus Innovation Awards celebrate the spirit of innovation by recognizing outstanding technology achievements in Central Ohio. Connect Ohio has been selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Innovation in Non-profit Service Delivery category.

“It is an honor to be a Semi-Finalist for this award and to be recognized for our innovations in the delivery of the Every Citizen Online program, which helps prepare state residents without Internet knowledge or access for our technologically-driven society,” said Stu Johnson, Connect Ohio executive director.

On Thursday, February 2, 2012 the annual TechColumbus Innovation Awards will showcase Central Ohio’s many achievements by honoring its top innovators. It is a night of networking, prestige, and celebration. Winners in 13 award categories will be announced to an audience of 1,100+ attendees. This prestigious evening showcases the region’s advancements and promising future. For more information, visit

  • Corporate Innovator of the Year
  • Outstanding Startup Business
  • Outstanding Product (fewer than 50 employees)
  • Outstanding Product (more than 50 employees)
  • Outstanding Service (fewer than 50 employees)
  • Outstanding Service (more than 50 employees)
  • Outstanding Technology Team
  • Green Innovation
  • Innovation in Non-Profit Service Delivery

  • Executive of the Year (fewer than 50 employees)
  • Executive of the Year (more than 50 employees)
  • Outstanding Woman in Technology
  • Inventor of the Year


Minnesota Broadband Task Force Gears Up for Second Meeting

By Wil Payton, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

St. Paul, MN – The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband is set for its second meeting on December 19. The agenda for the upcoming meeting is posted on the Broadband Task Force section of the Connect Minnesota website.

In August 2011, Governor Mark Dayton issued Executive Order 11-27 establishing the Governor's Task Force on Broadband and continuing his commitment to strengthening our state's infrastructure and fostering a strong business climate.

The Task Force is charged with expanding broadband access in Minnesota, with the goal of "border-to-border" high-speed Internet and cell phone access throughout Minnesota.
Such increases in broadband access and adoption will help us further bridge the digital divide while providing new ways of learning in schools, greater opportunity for small businesses, and better connections to family and friends across the state and nation.

The task force is made up of 15 members, appointed by the Governor. Members of the task force represent a balance of broadband interests, including consumers, business and residential users, educational and healthcare institutions, telephone and cable companies, wireless providers, as well as metro and rural local units of government.

Follow Connect Minnesota on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the progress being made by the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Technology is Fostering Unconventional Alternatives in Education

The Wall Street Journal produced an informative article on current trends in telelearning. More kids than ever before are attending school from their living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens. The result: A radical rethinking of how education works. An excerpt from the story is below:

"It was nearing lunchtime on a recent Thursday, and ninth-grader Noah Schnacky of Windermere, Fla., really did not want to go to algebra. So he didn't.

Tipping back his chair, he studied a computer screen listing the lessons he was supposed to complete that week for his public high school—a high school conducted entirely online. Noah clicked on his global-studies course. A lengthy article on resource shortages popped up. He gave it a quick scan and clicked ahead to the quiz, flipping between the article and multiple-choice questions until he got restless and wandered into the kitchen for a snack.

Noah would finish the quiz later, within the three-hour time frame that he sets aside each day for school. He also listened to most of an online lecture given by his English teacher; he could hear but not see her as she explained the concept of a protagonist to 126 ninth graders logged in from across the state. He never got to the algebra..."

To check out the full article, please click here and be sure to follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter for more articles on how technology impacts your life!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beware the Cyber Grinch!

The growing number of online shoppers has a great impact on businesses across the globe. However, the ease of shopping online also comes with its share of risks thanks to those who make their money preying on digital consumers.

This holiday season, Connected Nation wants you to have the best online experience possible, and that's why we're giving you a quick heads up on how you can avoid the Cyber Grinch.

Of late, we've noticed an uptick in "phishing" e-mails. These e-mails attempt to get users like yourself to divulge personal information by claiming to be from different stores or shipping companies. If you get an e-mail that seems mysterious, keep an eye out for the following red flags:

1. E-mails asking you to run a program to check your shipping status.

2. Asking you to click a link to check your shipping status.

3. Informing you of a delivery failure and requesting you click a link.

We'd encourage you to avoid clicking links in any e-mail that seems out of the ordinary. Typically, these e-mails will come from third-party organizations, or e-mail addresses not associated with any major companies or shipping agencies. If you're unsure, call customer service from the sites you've made purchases from rather than taking a chance on an e-mail that doesn't seem quite right.

Online shopping can be a great tool to make your holiday season less stressful and we hope this quick warning helps you steer clear of those who are trying to corrupt the Christmas spirit.

For more information please Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter so we can continue sharing the latest news and information with you!

Stay Connected!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

‘PCs for People’ Provides Technology Access for Low-Income Minnesotans

By Wil Payton, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

Connect Minnesota Program Manager Bill Hoffman recently toured the PCs for People facility to learn more about the great work this organization is doing to bring computers to low-income Minnesotans.

The photo of their warehouse shows shelves of computers waiting to be rehabbed and made available to eligible individuals and families across the state.

The Connect Minnesota 2011 Residential Survey found that only 65% of low-income residents have a computer at home, compared with 85% of citizens across the state.

PCs for People gets computers into the hands of Minnesota families,” said Hoffman.  “That is a vital first step in getting broadband into the home.”

Please visit their website at to learn more and consider donating your used PC or laptop this holiday season. Be sure to follow Connect Minnesota on Facebook and Twitter for more articles on how technology impacts your community!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Your Computer Skills Help Lighten the Tax Load

You have the power to help make the IRS experience a lot less taxing this year.

The Internal Revenue Service is looking for volunteers to assist in preparing tax returns for 2011 at various sponsored sites throughout the state. It’s called the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.

Individuals with good computer skills are especially needed to assist in preparing and transmitting returns electronically through the IRS E-file program. Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. All volunteers receive tax training in cooperation with community partners and the IRS.

Volunteers are needed as Return Preparers, Site Coordinators, and Greeters.
Training is held in January and volunteers generally study online with Link & Learn Taxes to obtain their volunteer certification. The Link & Learn program is an interactive course that teaches the steps needed to prepare basic individual income tax returns accurately. Classroom training is also available.  Once certified, volunteers spend as little as three to four hours per week from early February through mid-April working with people in need of VITA services.

Last year, volunteers helped more than 9,100 Nevada taxpayers receive more than $3 million from the Earned Income Tax Credit and distributed more than $11.7 million in total refunds. However, the IRS estimates that approximately 20-25% of the Earned Income Tax Credit is left unclaimed. Come help families in your community!
In Reno, Orientation is scheduled at United Way/Join Together Northern Nevada, 811 Ryland Street at 12:30 pm and at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 13. Both are one hour long.

To sign up go to Keyword: VITA, or please contact Mike Lee, United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra at 775 325-8913. More information about the IRS volunteer tax preparation programs is available at


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Momentum Builds for Connect Michigan

By Wil Payton, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

Connect Michigan is excited to be partnering with local broadband providers, and the government of Barry County to bring broadband access to more homes in their community!  Check out this great story on our new partnership below:

HASTINGS — Barry County has enrolled in a program seeking to increase access, reliability and use of broadband.

Connect Michigan is a statewide nonprofit organization promoting broadband expansion. Barry is only the second county in the state to begin working with Connect Michigan through a connected community certification program.

“Barry is a rural county with fantastic natural resources; however, those same assets can pose a geographic hindrance to broadband accessibility,” said Valerie Byrnes, president of the Barry County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance.

“Increasing accessibility to residents and businesses will enhance our quality of life through expanded educational options online, ability to do business from home, and accessible social media options that most individuals rely on.”

To check out the full article, please click here and be sure to follow Connect Michigan on Facebook and Twitter for more updates on our efforts to bring broadband to more communities across Michigan!


Wired For Success: Nevada In Action

The Summit Series: Michael Skaggs on Broadband and Economic Development

Nevada’s history-making broadband summit is helping state leaders leap into action. The mission: Spreading high-speed Internet access, adoption, and use to all corners of Nevada and bringing every business sector up to speed.

In this first installment of our 12-week blog series, Wired For Success: Nevada In Action, Mike Skaggs from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development defines the purpose and importance of economic development. Skaggs makes it clear that broadband access, adoption, and use is critical to Nevada’s economic recovery. Broadband also is key to protecting local businesses from future economic downturns.

Nevada businesses with broadband already earn an average of $100,000 more in annual revenue than businesses without broadband. To see how Nevada businesses stack up in broadband access, adoption, and use, check out Nevada’s Business Technology Assessment (

Check back with to stay up to date on this blog series, and follow Connect Nevada on Facebook and Twitter to get all the latest news on our efforts!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Students Demonstrate Computers’ Impact on Learning at Annual Technology Showcase

By Wil Payton, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

Lansing, MI - Some 125 students from nearly 35 Michigan schools recently set up demonstrations to show legislators and the public how they are using technology to enhance their learning experience. The exhibition, held earlier this month at the 11th annual AT&T/Michigan Student Technology Showcase at the State Capital Building in Lansing, provided an opportunity to show policymakers how technology is essential for preparing students for the knowledge workforce of the new economy.

Presented by the Michigan Association for Computer Users for Learning and underwritten by AT&T, the showcase featured:
  • An electronic classroom where 30 students used mini-laptops instead of books for all of their core classes
  • Elementary students creating compelling stories using digital cameras and Microsoft Photo Story 3 software on topics that include European explorers, anti-bullying, and scientific methods
  • Fourth- and fifth-graders comprise a school Tech Force and meet weekly to do technology-related projects, share ideas, and learn troubleshooting techniques
“We had a lab of about 15 computers for us to use,” said Sue Stone, a Beaverton Primary Elementary School instructor. 

“The kids wanted to create something that they could take with them that would be meaningful. In the process they learned a word processing program and they learned how to do pretty much everything on their own.

“We use computers a lot for games, for Photo Story, and PowerPoint,” said Kylie Ray, a student from Pinewood Elementary. “I think technology is really important.”
Students displayed a variety of school projects highlighting how they’ve used technology to learn science, social studies, and language arts.

“Everything from skyping, video conferencing to blogging; but what is most important is learning,” said Mike Oswalt, a showcase organizer. “These students are learning for their future jobs in the twenty-first century.”

Learn more about broadband expansion and access as well as how you can get involved in bringing broadband to more Michigan schools, businesses, and communities. Please Like Us on Facebook and Follow Us on Twitter!