Many South Dakota schools use digital learning platforms. The Regental institutions use Brightspace/D2L. The Spearfish School District uses Moodle (which is open source, bless you, Spearfish!). Digital learning platforms, also called virtual learning environments, extend the classroom to a safe, online space where students and teachers can create and share materials, converse, and take care of course administrative tasks.

Digital learning platforms must also be implanting liberal microchips in your kids, because Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35/Rapid City) is leading a group of conservatives in proposing House Bill 1184, which would regulate digital learning platforms and allow parents to opt their kids out of using these nefarious dens of digital iniquity.

Section 1 of HB 1184 defines "digital learning platform" as "an interactive digital platform that collects and records any personally identifiable student information." By that definition, Google Drive is an digital learning platform. Teachers use Google Drive all the time as a quick, easy solution for student collaboration and homework submission. It's interactive, students log in with distinct IDs, and they submit essays, slideshows, and other projects under their own names. Arguably, the Internet as a whole could be viewed as a digital learning platform, since websites collect data about the computers from which students log in, how long they visit, and which links they click, not to mention any data the students may enter as they interact with the websites.

Section 2 is where that broad definition gets sticky. HB 1184 would require schools to provide adult students and parents of minor students "a formal written explanation of the goals and capabilities" of any digital learning platform intended for classroom use, "including of any software, whether the software is loaded onto the platform or hosted externally by a third party." Specifically, schools must detail the following:

  1. How the platform works and the platform's principal purpose or purposes;
  2. The title and business address of the school official who is responsible for the platform, and the name and business address of any contractor or outside party maintaining the platform for or on behalf of the school;
  3. The information the software is designed to collect from any student or capture and record about any student, including any data matches with other personally identifiable student information;
  4. Every element of data that the platform or software will collect or record about any student, including personal psychological characteristics; noncognitive attributes or skills such as collaboration, resilience, and perseverance; and physiological measurements;
  5. The purpose of collecting and recording the data;
  6. Every contemplated use or disclosure of the data, the categories of recipients, and the purpose of any use or disclosure;
  7. A full explanation of the privacy policy maintained by the digital-learning provider; and
  8. The policies and practices of the school regarding storage, retrievability, access controls, retention, and disposal of the records collected and recorded by the platform [House Bill 1184, original text, posted 2015.01.30].

There goes my innovation in the classroom. Suppose I find a quick and easy classroom wiki that looks like a good fit for a new assignment I'm doing this month with my students. I have no idea if I'll want to use the wiki in the future; I'd just like to test drive it, see if it's student-friendly. Under HB 1184, I need to research and write-up that eight-point analysis (which, if I responsibly fulfill HB 1184, should run several pages) and send it to the parent/guardian of every student in the school (the bill does not limit notifications for course-specific implementations to students in that course). Never mind—we'll just make posters with construction paper.

Section 3 says any digital learning platform must include "a portal or other mechanism allowing parents access to the platform and to all the content available to the students using the platform." Sure, no problem: I love having parents visit my classroom to see what students are learning and creating. I like students to know that their work could be seen by members of the public, not just by me.

But let's play lawyer: HB 1184 says "all the content available to the students." It doesn't say, "parents may access all content available to their child or children." My casual legal reading says HB 1184 lets me demand access not just to my child's homework submissions but to every other child's classroom work products. If your school runs a secure site like D2L, where grades and comments from instructors are available to students, HB 1184 gives parents access to everyone's grades and comments. (Rep. DiSanto, really, why don't you call me before you post language like this?)

HB 1184 throws our aspirations to 21st-century online learning into complete chaos with Section 4, the opt-out clause:

Unless a school accredited by the state certifies that the platform is essential to the school's educational mission and provides an explanation for the basis of that certification, a student who has reached the age of eighteen, or the parent or guardian of a minor student, may opt out of the use of any digital-learning platform [HB 1184].

Essential? I like to say I can teach anything with chalk and good shoes, but Socrates, the archetype for great teaching, walked around the agora barefoot and didn't write anything down. The Internet could blow up tomorrow, and while my heart would ache, I could still ask kids provocative questions and help them become intelligent citizens. No digital learning platform is "essential" to a school's mission. Thus, under HB 1184, any student can opt out of the use of any digital learning platform, and my plan to turn all South Dakota students into responsible online citizen journalists is foiled. Curses!

Maybe the hearing on House Bill 1184 in House Education will clarify Rep. DiSanto's privacy concerns. But trust me, Rep. DiSanto: I can corrupt your youth whether or not I can require them to log in to Moodle. Perhaps you should drop HB 1184 and turn your intense concerns about privacy to warrantless searches, the burdensome documentation requirements for drivers licenses, and—oh yeah!—your fellow Republican Senator Corey Brown's conversion of petition reform into an invasion of unfortunate political candidates' medical privacy (see Senate Bill 69, Section 19).


Jason Gant is sleeping in today... which may not be different from most of the last four years when he had to drive to Pierre to be Secretary of State. Working the impression out of his office chair is Shantel Krebs, South Dakota's new chief of elections, keeper of seals, and only female besides Public Utilities Commissioner Kristie Fiegen* in a statewide elected office in the Capitol.

Job 1: fix the branding! Team Krebs is already hard at work scrubbing her predecessor's name and replacing it with hers:

Top of, 2015.01.02, 08:30 CST

Top of, 2015.01.02, 08:30 CST

Hmm, better work on that style sheet a bit. That thin white font floating inconspicuously in the corner seems entirely unlike the dynamic Secretary Krebs we all expect to make a deep impression on the office.

Team Krebs has launched the new @SOSKrebs Twitter account:

Screen cap from midpage,, 08:44 CST

Screen cap from midpage,, 08:44 CST

New PIO Jason Williams must not be in the office yet. Hop to it, Jason!

Secretary Krebs does have her smiling face up on the SOS homepage, with an image so big I have to switch to full-screen view to take it all in:

Screen cap from bottom of homepage,, 08:46 CST

Screen cap from bottom of homepage,, 08:46 CST

That image file is 361 KB, and it's on the template for every page. Holy cow, Team Krebs! Free up some bandwidth! Move that image to the top and shrink:

Modified banner

Modified banner

And if you can get Secretary Krebs to jump 3-D over my browser tab, that would be really cool. Carry on, SOS Web team! (And remember: don't call Pat for Web advice!)

Update 09:03 CST: We can spend the day watching the SOS website evolve before our eyes. Team Krebs has already changed some of the subsections to reflect my suggested change, shrinking that splendiferous image file and copying it to the banner: banner, screen cap, 2014.01.02.09:03 CST banner, screen cap, 2014.01.02.09:03 CST

I think that's now three distinct fonts in the banner—Bill Fleming may have issues. And as expected, Krebs's name didn't stay that small ghostly floater in the corner; it's now all caps, in gold, and a couple pixels larger than the name of the office. That's the SHANTEL KREBS we expect to own the room!

Correction 10:09 CST: In my original post, I forgot PUC Fiegen! Shameful! With Keystone XL bubbling, it is inexcusable that I forget one of the three state officials who can save us from the great black snake from the north. Commissioner Fiegen, I apologize for my oversight.


Two weeks ago, South Dakota media eminence gris Doug Lund lobbed a blog blast at Patrick Lalley, content strategist of that Sioux Falls paper. Lund got the impression that, in the paper's November 19 100 Eyes podcast, Lalley showed no feeling toward his numerous colleagues whom Gannett canned in downsizing the paper. Lund also took umbrage at Lalley's claim that broadcasters don't do reporting.

Pat Powers picks up Lund's statement because it gives him a chance to slobber over what he passive-aggressively question-mark-calls a "slappy fight."

Pat Powers does not cite Lund's invitation to an intelligent discussion of the differing demands and merits of print and broadcast journalism, because... well, golly, what does Lund say that would keep Pat from mentioning that?

What Mr. Strategist knows and isn’t saying is that when his two pet reporters need more time for investigative reporting or to read Cory Heidelberger’s blog for ideas, they will have it and all the page space they need.

He also knows that stations like Keloland turn out five newscasts and one web newscast a day... while maintaining the top web site in the state. Reporters, including anchors, are expected to contribute daily packages that tell the story with facts and interviews while fitting it into the newscast time restraints... or going live from the scene when a situation warrants [Doug Lund, "The Only Good Reporter Is [a Sioux Falls Paper] Reporter,", 2014.11.21].

There's a reason you don't see much original video here. Video is a pain. It takes much more time to rehearse, edit, and publish quality video than it does to pound research into good text. Give me a studio, a couple camera operators, a producer, and a maybe live studio audience (are you listening, KELO?), and I could put together some quality weekly infotainment that would tickle the masses. But that's more resources than I'm going to pull out of my backpack.

Every hour I spend wrestling with video software is an hour I'm not reading the Governor's budget or my EB-5 documents. If my job is to help other people get ideas, I probably do it better cranking out five text posts than I do one video post.

That equation does inform a distinction between the news content in our print media and our broadcast media. We get more news stories and more detail in most news stories in the paper than on TV and radio. But print and broadcast media are changing their content and their business models because of the Internet.


Photographer and freethinker Jered Dawnne of Sioux Falls started the Thinking Unenslaved podcast in 2010. He took a break in 2011 after 22 episodes. Tomorrow night, Wednesday, October 29, he's back, relaunching what he hopes will be a fascinating series of conversations:

Thinking Unenslaved is a weekly podcast from the perspective of a secular humanist living and working among the people of the Northern Midwestern United States. The intent of the show is to foster dialogue to bring an understanding of the need and purpose of humanistic and secular concepts into the mainstream for a better world. Naturally, political and sociological concerns are the primary focus of the show, but subject matter also delves into religion, agnosticism, atheism and related topics from time to time. Frequent participants on the show come from all walks of life, so every episode is a unique experience [Jered Dawnne, personal communication, 2014.10.27].

Dialogue, understanding, secular concepts, political and sociological concerns... hey! Sounds like my kind of program! So much so that Dawnne is inviting me to join him for a segment of tomorrow night's two-hour show. Thinking Unenslaved runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Jered plans to have me on right after the big KELO Senate debate, which is supposed to wrap up at 8 p.m.

Dawnne will also chat program sponsor and Siouxland Freethinkers member Josh Tordsen, as well as high-powered Democratic consultant turned Sioux Falls kaffeemeister Steve Hildebrand.

If technology cooperates, you can listen live on If you want a wilder more interactive experience, you can tune in via that site will have a chat room! But if you find yourself too drowsy after playing the Mike Rounds "South Dakota Common Sense!" drinking game during the KELO debate, you'll be able to download the podcast to cure your hangover in the morning. Live or recorded, you should find Dawnne's conversations great fun!


Even the Internet doesn't trust Chad Haber:

Untrusted: Haber for Attorney General; screen cap, 2014.09.29

Untrusted: Haber for Attorney General; screen cap, 2014.09.29

The above warning came up this afternoon when I tried to access Haber's fake attorney general campaign website. No truer words could have popped onto my screen.

Meanwhile, Marty Jackley road tests images for his 2018 gubernatorial campaign:

Marty standing in empty courtroom talking to himself—no. Frozen family shot for last ten second of ad—awkward. Angela striding boldly toward the camera in those boots—yes!


An Exclusive Madville Times Interview

Somewhere in my piles of stuff is a photo of Senator Larry Pressler with me and a nice girl from Vermillion, Angeline Wilson, at the U.S. Capitol on a muggy June day 25 years ago.

Larry Pressler, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2014.08.23

Larry Pressler, Independent candidate for U.S. Senate, proudly displays a photo of his grandkids.

On this muggy Saturday in Sioux Falls, as candidate Pressler and I discussed policy and politics at his Sioux Falls office, I mentioned that brief meeting, one of thousands the Senator politely hosted during his time in Washington. Pressler said recollections like that are one of the small joys of his campaign. As he tours the state, people come up to shake his hand and say they're glad he's running again (though Pressler himself muses that maybe those folks are just being kind to an old man). And often they'll show him a picture from back in the day of Mom, Dad, and the kids (now with grandkids) with Pressler in D.C. or the State Fair or some such remarkable moment in their families' lives.

Ah, nostalgia. It's like Styx coming back and riffing out "Mr. Roboto" on the casino circuit. But will we elect Dennis DeYoung to the Senate?

You wouldn't think so, when Pressler has maybe a hundredth of the money of his main-party opponents. Pressler admits that, as a rule, "Money is determinative" of electoral success. "We"—and he looks around the office at his wife Harriet, his one paid staffer, and a friend-volunteer—"will be the exception."

Pressler's run at age 72, 16 years after losing his seat to the now retiring Tim Johnson, is not a return from retirement. Pressler has been teaching and serving on boards ever since leaving the Senate. He says he will always work. But he'd like to give South Dakota six more years of his work.

Pressler's Legacy: The Telecommunications Act

Pressler runs on the record of what he achieved for South Dakota. He refers to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as his "magnum opus," a project that consumed his efforts for ten years. That law created the Universal Service Fund, a tax that he had to rename a fee to get past the Gingrich Congress (sound familiar?). Pressler notes that Tim Johnson was one of only 16 votes against that fee and the final form of the bill in the House. Johnson may have had his reasons, but Pressler says the Universal Service Fund subsidized installation of fiber-optic cable across the country.

Larry Pressler, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2014.08.23

Maybe Al Gore invented the Internet, but Larry Pressler brought it to Pukwana. Candidate Pressler discusses the importance of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Basically, says Pressler, the USF allowed us to have Internet and cell phone service almost everywhere in South Dakota, not just Sioux Falls and Rapid City. The Telecommunications Act made long-distance calls an ancient artifact, made phone calls cheaper than they were in the 1950s, and stimulated the economy by bringing almost everyone, including rural folks, access to the newest communications technologies.

Pressler says he wanted the Telecommunications Act to include cable TV regulations that would have given customers à la carte channel selection, pricing controls, and a 15% cap on ad time. But Pressler says that after attending a cable industry convention in Las Vegas, President Bill Clinton sent VP Al Gore to the Senate to kill those regulations.

Pressler would like the chance to revisit those regulations and restore the public service requirements for broadcasters. However, Pressler would place more priority on enforcing existing anti-trust laws to keep media companies from consolidating and monopolizing. Calling himself a "Teddy Roosevelt trust-busting conservative," Pressler says Time-Warner and Comcast are too big and that we need more competition in the media. He says the big media companies got a break by getting Congress to move anti-trust enforcement on their industry from the Department of Justice, which knows anti-trust law, to the Federal Communications Commission, which finds anti-trust law somewhat out of its ken.

Deficit and Taxes

Larry Pressler will raise your taxes. He said at Dakotafest that he would cut corporate, personal, and charitable tax deductions. In our interview, he said he would vote to increase the gasoline tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund. He says Congress's temporary fix is irresponsible, since it adds to the deficit. Pressler sees great danger in the deficit and says we must get serious about fixing it.

Military and Foreign Policy

Pressler is the only candidate for South Dakota's open Senate seat who served in the military (U.S. Army, Vietnam, two tours, 1966–1968). The veteran is not eager to give today's young men and women the same experience. When it comes to foreign military intervention, Pressler labels himself a "Ron Paul Libertarian": he would send troops overseas only to secure "substantial American foreign policy interests."

I asked if that standard justifies intervention in the Islamic State's slaughter of the polytheist Yazidis in Iraq. Pressler said it may, depending on information that the President may have, but where there is doubt, he would err on the side of non-intervention.

Pressler worries that President Obama has erred in the other direction with his use of force in Iraq this month. He notes that he voted for Obama in 2008 for conservative reasons, expecting Obama to entangle us in fewer wars than John McCain. Pressler says McCain would have maintained permanent U.S. military presences in Iraq and Afghanistan and sent troops to Syria.

Pressler regularly cites the example of a U.S. fort that he and his wife visiting in northern Italy. Far from repelling the Slovenian menace, that base serves mostly to stimulate the local economy. If the military must be a jobs program, Pressler would prefer to bring those jobs home and boost the economy here. But "the whole economy has been taken over by the military-industrial state," says Pressler, and he would like to restore our military focus to military objectives, not big money.

Defining Independence

Pressler holds out his own Senate candidacy as a jobs program for young pols across South Dakota. He vows to serve just one more term, meaning that a whole crop of aspiring candidates will be able to rev their campaign engines in 2020. I ask if there's any chance he could be re-seduced by the power and celebrity of D.C. life. Pressler says absolutely not: he's been there, done that, and won't get stuck. One term—Pressler means it.

Larry Pressler with Joe Lowe photo of Mount Rushmore. Pressler campaign office, SIoux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

Hanging on Pressler's office wall is this panoramic photo of Mount Rushmore, a unique view showing the most-photographed faces in the world small in the breaking dawn, in the context of the entire geological formation. The photographer? Rapid City artist Joe Lowe, a Democrat who ran for governor last spring.

That one-term promise is crucial to his expectation of what he regularly refers to as "the glorious freedom of independence." He says Senators and Congresspeople of both parties have to spend more than half of their time in Washington raising money. They aren't just filling their coffers for their own reëlections; the party leaders set quotas on contributions to colleagues' campaigns as conditions for plum committee appointments.

Pressler says nuts to that. While John Thune runs across the street each day to beg for money, Pressler says he will be working full-time for South Dakota. Even if he did reach for cash, Pressler knows he'd come up short, since the special interest groups don't stand to gain from candidates who free themselves of partisan and reëlection pressures. Ah, independence!

Blogospheric Curiosity

Say, remember that Internet that Pressler's Telecommunications Act helped bring to everybody? (Harriet jokes that she thought Larry, not Al Gore, invented the Internet.) Candidate Pressler shows a marked curiosity about the Web he hath wrought. He spent a few minutes at the beginning of our interview grilling me about the South Dakota blogosphere and the journalistic quality of its various nodes, including my own. I wouldn't say Pressler is taking his cues from the blogs, but he is paying attention to them.

Pressler's curiosity about our homegrown use of the Internet stands in marked contrast to his opponent Mike Rounds, the former governor who leaves all that Web stuff to his lackeys. Rounds's techno-aloofness makes him a little less qualified to legislate amidst the ongoing technological revolution than the ever-curious Pressler, who gave that revolution an early boost.


KELO notes Google's claim that the search giant helped generate $55.6 million in economic activity in South Dakota in 2013. According to Google's nationwide economic report, that's the third-lowest amount of Googly economic activity, behind only Alaska and North Dakota.

A low raw-dollar figure is to be expected, since we have the fifth-lowest state population. But compare the per-capita economic impact Google has in our region:

Google EconActiv (millions) Biz/Orgs using Google Ads population (2013) Google EconActiv per capita
SD $55.6 2,300 844,877 $65.81
MN $1,900.0 24,000 5,420,380 $350.53
IA $147.0 8,900 3,090,416 $47.57
ND $52.7 1,600 723,393 $72.85
MT $64.0 4,000 1,015,165 $63.04
NE $1,400.0 6,000 1,868,516 $749.26
WY $70.2 1,800 582,658 $120.48

Google stirred up $65.81 in economic activity per South Dakotan in 2013. Google thus rang the relative till harder here than in Iowa or Montana. But in Wyoming, Google generated almost twice as much business per person. In Minnesota, there was over five times as much Google economic juice per person, and in Nebraska, over eleven times.

The national per-capita figure for Google economic activity was $353.65. Here's a list of all states (plus DC) with population and Google economic impact per capita:

Rank State population (2013) Google Econ/Activ Google Econ/Activ per capita
1 District of Columbia 646,449 882 $1,392.43
2 New York 19,651,127 18300 $934.81
3 Massachusetts 6,692,824 5800 $872.80
4 Vermont 626,630 522 $833.93
5 Nebraska 1,868,516 1400 $754.57
6 California 38,332,521 25400 $668.42
7 Illinois 12,882,135 8100 $629.46
8 Utah 2,900,872 1760 $616.49
9 Washington 6,971,406 4200 $609.11
10 Nevada 2,790,136 1280 $464.72
11 Connecticut 3,596,080 1520 $423.19
12 Minnesota 5,420,380 1900 $353.18
13 Colorado 5,268,367 1800 $346.86
14 Florida 19,552,860 6500 $336.43
15 Arizona 6,626,624 2100 $320.55
16 Delaware 925,749 283 $308.60
17 New Jersey 8,899,339 2200 $248.09
18 Georgia 9,992,167 2400 $242.04
19 Pennsylvania 12,773,801 2800 $219.36
20 Maine 1,328,302 286 $215.28
21 Texas 26,448,193 5600 $214.88
22 Kansas 2,893,957 611 $211.76
23 Virginia 8,260,405 1700 $207.66
24 Maryland 5,928,814 1200 $203.91
25 Oregon 3,930,065 780 $200.01
26 Missouri 6,044,171 1200 $199.19
27 Michigan 9,895,622 1700 $172.02
28 Rhode Island 1,051,511 173 $164.71
29 New Hampshire 1,323,459 206 $155.87
30 Ohio 11,570,808 1800 $155.80
31 Wisconsin 5,742,713 862 $150.58
32 South Carolina 4,774,839 650 $137.61
33 Tennessee 6,495,978 815 $126.26
34 Wyoming 582,658 70.2 $121.74
35 Indiana 6,570,902 762 $116.55
36 North Carolina 9,848,060 1100 $112.84
37 Idaho 1,612,136 164 $102.78
38 West Virginia 1,854,304 174 $93.72
39 North Dakota 723,393 52.7 $75.14
40 Arkansas 2,959,373 201 $68.14
41 South Dakota 844,877 55.6 $66.66
42 Montana 1,015,165 64 $63.65
43 Hawaii 1,404,054 82.3 $59.20
44 Kentucky 4,395,295 255 $58.22
45 Oklahoma 3,850,568 199 $52.15
46 Iowa 3,090,416 147 $47.80
47 Alabama 4,833,722 203 $42.14
48 Alaska 735,132 27.3 $37.38
49 Louisiana 4,625,470 170 $36.94
50 New Mexico 2,085,287 75.5 $36.24
51 Mississippi 2,991,207 60.2 $20.16

Notice that the top ten are an interesting mix of urban centers and rural places, while the bottom ten have are more uniformly large, rural states. If we take Google economic impact as a sign of overall online economic activity, these data suggest that rural states can exploit online tools (not just search, but online ads, YouTube, and analytics) to generate revenue as effectively as urban places like New York and Massachusetts.

These numbers may also suggest something about interstate trade. It is possible that the states with lower Google economic impact per capita have more insular markets, with more businesses relying on local sales and word of mouth. I am really curious, though, what difference has Nebraskans spending so much more time and money on Google tools than we South Dakotans next door.


Here's a low ranking in which South Dakota can find relief: South Dakota is among states with low participation in the white-supremacist hate forum Stromfront.

Stormfront participation by state, 2014. Source: Analysis of Stormfront U.S. user profiles by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

New York Times graphic, 2014.07.12 based on analysis of Stormfront U.S. user profiles by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Stephens-Davidowitz found 12 South Dakotans participating in Stormfront's particularly vile community of loathing of "the other." According to his data, South Dakota ranks 34th per capita, below the national average, on this metric. Nebraska has the lowest per-capita Stormfrontery in the area, with a ranking of 44th for the 18 profiles Stephens-Davidowitz found.

Stephens-Davidowitz, who writes for the New York Times and wields a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, offers one other bit of hopeful data about South Dakota's online racism. In a 2013 paper, Stephens-Davidowitz found that South Dakota ranked 40th among states for Google searches including the n-word. Wyomingians, Minnesotans, and, interestingly, Stormfront-avid Montanans searched that term even less than South Dakotans.

I wonder: is casual Googling among the broader population a stronger indicator of racial animus than active participation in an online hate group? If we're feeling hopeful, let's interpret the Montana data as a demonstration that Stormfront is a fringe element with little impact on overall statewide characteristics, kind of like South Dakota's Constitution Party.


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