Reposted with permission from the Southwest Initiative Foundation

Educators know the importance of hands-on learning, so when Lac qui Parle Valley Schools Superintendent Renae Tostenson shared that their student to computer ratio was 4.2 to 1—below a 2008 average of 3.8 to 1—it was clear there was a need to better connect and teach students with technology.

A recent $150,000 grant for the school’s 1:1 Chromebook Initiative is helping do just that. Grant funds helped purchase Chromebooks—mini laptop computer devices—for one-to-one use in the school district.

The goal of this initiative is to develop a system over the next two years for all students in grades 5 through 12 to use a personal device as a learning tool in school, in the community and at home.

Support comes from the Joint Powers Area Community (JPAC) Fund administered by SWIF. JPAC is a unique resource that helps improve the quality of life in and around the communities of Appleton, Madison, Marietta and Milan.

The fund was created in 1989 through a grant from the State of Minnesota and acknowledged these communities for their innovation as the first rural school district to build a single, consolidated school building. The original grant required a local match, which SWIF provided.

The JPAC fund is advised by five local representatives, one from each of the fund’s communities and one from the LQPV School. SWIF administers and monitors the fund, including the application process which is by invitation only.

Since being established, the fund has supported its communities primarily through business loans, but the school’s Chromebook Initiative presented an opportunity to support an innovative project.

The grant to LQPV School District not only represents a large investment on behalf of JPAC, but it also helps leverage the investment and impact of the Blandin Broadband Community efforts currently underway. These efforts are helping make sure rural Minnesota has access to high-speed and high-quality broadband internet and technology services.

SWIF Vice President Scott Marquardt was quick to point out there are other connections to this investment beyond JPAC, including links to SWIF’s Technology and Telecommunications Initiative which was a focus in the early 2000s. These investments are supporting students, families and communities not only today, but well into the future.