“Tech efforts getting noticed”

Sunday’s Advertiser carried a story that —as my father might have said—”Does Lafayette proud.” I recommend locals and fans give the full story a read. The article hangs its hook on Kit Becnel’s Academy of Information Technology (AOIT). A school within a school at Carencro High, AOIT prepares students for careers in the broad field of information technology and is affiliated with the national academy foundation. AOIT is a leader in the national academy and its leadership sits on several committees driving changes in the national program. The award cited in the story was actually given to Louisiana Public Broadcasting and showcases several of Lafayette’s tech jewels including LUS Fiber, LITE, AOC, and AOIT:

Louisiana Public Broadcasting partnered with Lafayette Utility System, Bay Area Video Coalition and Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) to enhance technology and instruction at Carencro High School. This project provided more bandwidth to the school, expanding instruction to include creation of 3-D models and training students for careers in technology.

But beyond AOIT’s award the article also delves into Durel, Huval, and Bertrand’s recent appearance at Google’s DC headquarters. Not surprisingly, since attendees at that conclave included the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Bay Area Video Coalition, and the CIO of San Francisco AOIT’s reputation was already well-known.

…many of those invited to the event at Google’s headquarters already knew about the academy and Becnel’s work.”The pioneering spirit exists in Lafayette with our LUS Fiber and the work and energy of people like Ms. Becnel,” Bertrand said at the meeting. “You’re going to hear her name again and you’re going to hear it a lot. The entire United States is envious of what we’ve done. It’s no small feat.”

Also in this mix is Acadiana Open Channel (AOC) who is providing support and training for AOIT. Part of the conversation

The invitation-only event in D.C. was a workshop on broadband and the public interest, and was co-presented by the Ford Foundation and the Paley Center for Media….”Their purpose was to talk about how digital public media networks should advance in broadband and enrich connected communities,” Huval said…

Lafayette officials discussed LUS Fiber, including how it is used in all Lafayette Parish public schools and is expected to be throughout the whole city by this summer. As the infrastructure portion of it nears completion, Huval said the focus will turn toward how fiber can be applied in both schools and the community.

That last (my emphasis) is what the community is waiting to hear. The benefits to education through the school system and to public media through AOC are simply the entering edge of the wedge.

The dreams continue to come…Huval, widely know for his prowess on the fiddle and his advocacy of Cajun culture, tossed out this one which will surely resonate with Lafayette’s Creole and Cajun communities:

“You could have the ability for a French immersion school to work on a project with students in Paris, France, and have this real-life collaboration,” Huval said. “The technology now allows you to have the exchange of ideas and understanding that you could only get in-person before. This is only the beginning. To have this little oasis of Lafayette, La. have the ability to do these kinds of things is really exciting for a lot of people.”

Perhaps unknown to Huval the futuristic dream of cross-cultural francophone educational collaboration is already being realized in a project organized by WSIL (World Studies Institute of Louisiana). The pilot project, underway currently, connects classrooms in New Brunswick, Louisiana, and Haiti. Students and their teacher collaborate through Lafayette Commons, a Lafayette nonprofit that supplies the educational edition of Google Apps and support to the project.

The benefit of a community-owned fiber-optic telecommunications system to Lafayette and communities like Lafayette lies less in the technology than in the fact of public ownership. Having built our own network we can now choose to do things to benefit the people and community institutions.

Building our network was the first step—and that is nearing completion. Taking the resource of our new network and firing up the process of doing something useful with it was the next step. That process has already begun.

(full disclosure: I sit on the board of AOC, the advisory board of AOIT, and help supply services via Lafayette Commons to WSIL’s project.)

Lagniappe: LUS and Lafayette have applied for the Google Gig FTTH project; apparently as a direct result of conversations held at the meeting in DC according to an exchange I had with Huval…more on that surprise when I get a little time.

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