• #engagEDnwi | Exploring EdTech June 17+18

    Integrating ever-evolving technology into curriculum is a task every 21st Century educator faces. On June 17 and 18, educators of the Region will have the opportunity to discuss and learn ways to bring new technology into the classroom.

    The engagEDnwi eLearning Conference will be held at Lowell High School. Over the two days, the conference will feature sessions on different educational technologies and methods for utilizing them.

    Jay Blackman, Director of Educational Technology of the Tri-Creek School Corporation (of which Lowell is a member), emphasizes the importance of integrating such new digital methods and materials into the modern classroom.

    Online and blended instruction has had incredible growth over the last few years as an alternative to onsite classroom learning,” Blackman said. “Technology has certainly replaced traditional materials and methods of instruction in some cases.  

    “The challenge to schools is to be able to meet the needs of students who have more requirements and less time than ever.”

    The conference is mostly aimed at school administrators and teachers, although Blackman added that student teachers and workers in higher education might also be interested. The sessions will entail using new programs and technologies, integrating them into instruction, and leadership in building a strong education culture.

    “Attendees will be able to choose from a variety of sessions,” Blackman said, “from specific classroom programs…to strategies that teachers can use to ensure that students are connecting to the material.”

    Topics discussed in the sessions include 3D printing, using tablets and apps, building classroom websites, using Google effectively, and evaluating teachers’ use of technology.

    “The key is selecting technologies that best match instruction,” Blackman said. “It should never be the other way around.”

    The session will also notably feature one of the first official announcements of the new Indiana State standards for math and language arts, which replace the Common Core standards the state recently rejected.

    To learn more visit their website


  • Academic Institutions Series Intro


    The Duneland area is home to many universities and satellite campuses that are growing quickly in popularity for many reasons, including their location and their cost. This blog post is an introduction to a series of blog posts that I will be doing about these sites. So far I have plans for 3 posts in this series. These blogs will be broken down to cover Purdue North Central and Purdue Calumet in one blog, Indiana University Northwest and Indiana University South Bend in another, and Ivy Tech Valparaiso and Ivy Tech Michigan City in the last blog post. So keep your eyes peeled for them. Also, as this develops I might find some other colleges in the area and might add a blog post about them, so be on the lookout for those too. 

  • Academic Showcase: IUN and IUSB

    Indiana University Northwest - Gary, Indiana

    Indiana University Northwest, or IUN, is located on Broadway street in Gary, Indiana. On a 36 acre plot, IUN boasts 9 buildings dedicated to their many degrees ranging from certificates to masters degrees. IUN offers many bachelor degrees in their Arts and Science colleges, as well as master degrees in their Business, Education, Arts and Sciences, and Health and Human services colleges. Because IUN is a satellite school of the famed Indiana University, IUN has the unique capability of offering all the services Indiana University can offer, while retaining the warming atmosphere of a small campus.

    Currently there are a little more than 6,000 students attending IUN. Due to this, class sizes are small and students have more opportunities to interact with their professors. IUN is also very affordable, with credit hours currently costing $204.99 per credit hour. Online classes are also available, as technological learning has been becoming more and more popular every year.

    IUN also offers a Fitness Center, Health and Wellness Clinic, Dental Clinic, and Intramural sports for their students to take advantage of. This is a popular and convenient school for many of you in the Duneland area. I have just scratched the surface of what IUN has to offer. If you haven't heard of Indiana University Northwest before, get online and take a  look.

    Indiana University South Bend

    Indiana University South Bend, or IUSB, is located in South Bend, Indiana right along the St. Joseph River. IUSB is the 3rd largest Indiana University campus which is comprised of 10 academic buildings scattered across 80 acres. IUSB offers more than 100 degrees. Their undergrad programs include Liberal Arts, Sciences, Business, Education, and Health Sciences.

    They also provide an extensive masters program including Sciences, Arts, Business, Education, Liberal Studies, Music, Nursing, Public Affairs, and Social Work. With only 8,300 students attending this university, and a 15 to 1 ratio between students and professors; students get that same small campus community feeling. IUSB is also very affordable with credit hours currently priced at $199.62 a piece. The campus also houses a 100,000 square foot student activities center.

    I have personally been in the student activities center, or as they call it, the SAC, and let me tell you; it is awesome. The SAC contains three full sized basketball courts that is surrounded by an elevated track for runners to use. On the perimeter of the building are offices and racquet ball courts. The SAC is also used to host just some of the school intramural sports, which includes: soccer, volleyball, softball, flag football, basketball, and more.

    Finally, the thing that sets IUSB apart from most of the satellite schools in this area is their student housing. Positioned across the river from IUSB there is an apartment complex dedicated to students that can house up to 400. The apartment complex is linked to the campus by way of a really cool arched bridge. It's a really neat part of campus that gives life and personality to an already very nice campus. If any of these things has caught your attention, check out their website. 

  • Business Showcase & Fundraiser

    Since its launch, Duneland Innovators has reported on innovators and businesses in the area. Now, the site will give businesses the opportunity to meet and network with these individuals, and to also give back to the community.

    The site is proud to announce the Duneland Innovators Business Showcase Event Series. Beginning August 26, these events will connect businesses and their clientele to connect and learn.

    This exciting Event Series has three goals. The first is the opportunity for business clientele to meet other service providers. The second is to give clientele from the area an opportunity to meet new service providers in The Region. And lastly, but certainly not least—as a matter of fact, most importantly—the events aim to raise money for a local charity. The goal is to raise such money through event-based fundraising. This kickoff event will be making it's donations to Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana.

    The first event, taking place August 26, will be in Schererville at AgeLess Medical [Address: 41 US Hwy 41] from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. In addition to meeting vendors from around Northwest Indiana, attendees can make donations to Habitat for Humanity. There will also be a silent auction.

    The event is sponsored by the Northwest Indiana Telephone Company (NITCO). NITCO is a longtime provider of phone, cable television and broadband Internet in the Region, and has more recently undertaken a substantial effort to replace copper wiring with fiber optic cable. 

    Duneland Innovators is looking to open discussions with additional sponsors and charities for future events. Sponsorships are also available at two levels, with all extra costs going to the chosen charity.

  • Climate change does actually effect the Region

    I'm going to write this post on the premise that climate change is real. Some political circles still deny its existence, but the scientific evidence shows there's no doubt about it. It's real, and it's very serious. And while we in the Region may not be affected by such environmental effects as severe droughts, melting ice and rising sea levels (at least not yet), we’re still experiencing its effects firsthand.

    I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving and has already been as cold as the dead of winter. Plus, who can forget the last winter season? But global warming doesn’t mean winter will cease to contain cold and snow, and the idea that very cold weather disproves its effects is a fallacy. In actuality, climate change might have contributed to the severity of last winter’s polar vortex.

    Last year aside, our winters have actually gotten warmer. According to Weather Underground, many daily temperatures recorded by the Gary Airport were higher than the historical average in November and the winter months since the start of the millennium. To be fair, several were only higher by a few degrees, but the number of days with substantially higher temperatures have increased as the years continue. The increase in hotter-than-average temperatures is much more pronounced in the summer months.

    Warmer winters and hotter summers. Extreme fluctuations in temperature, in both directions. More powerful storms, both in the form of polar vortices in winter and stronger and more frequent tornadoes in summer. All are results of climate change, and all are affecting us and many more Americans and costing billions. So why aren’t more people concerned about it?

    My guess: our corner of the country has always dealt with tough winters and tolerated hot summers. So while climate change is a more apparent and direct threat in other parts of the world, its effects here haven't yet been enough to make people change their behaviors. It might not register as a real problem until the situation becomes equally dire for the whole country, like, say, when the food and water supply starts to get affected.

  • Do you need an outlet?

    Are you a writer looking to be published somewhere other than your free blog? Duneland Innovators can provide that outlet.

    Duneland Innovators, a Mystic Waters Media publishing outlet, encompasses Northwest Indiana and the surrounding areas bordering Lake Michigan. The focus is on individuals, organizations and stories from this area in the field of technology, policy, media and innovation. The aim is twofold: to spotlight and report on such happenings in the area as well as to promote the region to the public at large. But we don’t simply specialize in purely journalistic pieces. Our writers also provide commentary on current trends and stories. We also offer the opportunity to share personal experiences and ideas related to these fields.

    Working with Duneland Innovators can be a benefit for writers in many ways. Anyone can publish on their own personal blog or social media, but Duneland Innovators offers the chance to be published professionally. Additionally, seeking out story ideas, researching and interviewing subjects not only helps to improve journalistic skills, but also provides exposure to an under-represented audience's stories that might be passed over by larger traditional media. Also, writing on a regular basis helps sharpen skills as a wordsmith. This particularly applies to Duneland Innovators, as we produce content ranging from journalistic reporting to feature writing more more personally styled blogging.

    Duneland Innovators is looking for new voices to share with the northwest Indiana area, and further. If you love to write and this sounds like an opportunity worth taking, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Duneland Research & Development

    There are two main ingredients needed to run a successful small business; a great idea, and the resources to make that idea into a product or service that sells. Many small business owners have the great idea, but lack the resources needed to get it off the ground. Here in the Duneland area there are a number of location helping to remedy these kinds of problems. Business incubation sites around the region are focused on research, development and technology. These places offer businesses a place to focus on their research, collaborate with other business owners, use state-of-the-art equipment, and even manufacture products. I did some digging on these places to show you what they offer. 

    The Tech Farm

    The Tech Farm is situated just off of US 30 in Plymouth. This 40 acre technological playground is a result of a partnership between Vanco Development, the Redevelopment Commission of Plymouth, and the US Economic Development Administration. The Tech Farm is the perfect place for businesses involved in technology focused on agriculture but is also designed for those exploring the life sciences and light industry. The Tech Farm hopes to become a technological hub for these businesses where they can collaborate and advance together. Businesses can lease or own existing buildings or construct their own. The Tech Farm also offers collaborations with university progams and even has a 130,000 square foot health, fitness, and medical facility. One example of the firms at The Tech Farm is CSpine Inc. This company manufactures orthopedic equipment and develops prototypes as well. The Tech Farm is quite an impressive place and has great potential. They are currently calling out for businesses that focus on these technological areas to come and join in. 

    Purdue Research Park of Northwest Indiana

    Purdue has teamed up with Holladay Properties of South Bend to create AmeriPlex at the Crossroads, a community of technological based businesses, located in Merrillville. The Purdue Research Park of Northwest Indiana is located at the AmeriPlex at the Crossroads. This research park is an extension of the Purdue Research Foundation and comes with all the resources that the vast network Purdue has to offer. The Purdue Research Park is focused on world-class development on health care, advanced manufacturing, and technology based companies. It is already home to 38 different businesses that are geared towards life sciences, information technology, energy, and engineering. The Purdue Research Park offers incubation space for research and describes these places as reasonably priced and flexible. Companies that join the research park are treated to low-cost professional services and, in some cases, can even be complimentary. This place is an oasis for small business owners. With the ability to tap into Purdue's pipeline of resources, small businesses that would never have had a chance to succeed, now have a place to flourish in the technological garden that is the Purdue Research Park of Northwest Indiana. 

    Life Works Business Park

    Life Works Business Park is located in Michigan City and is the result of a collaboration with Indiana University Health, LaPorte Hospital and Holladay Properties. This park is spread over 40 acres and is accessible right off of I-94. It appears to be oriented towards life science and technology businesses. Land is available for purchasing or businesses can lease office space. Unfortunately, there is limited information on the web so for more information you will have to contact Life Works. 

    Notre Dame Innovation Park

    We have previously written about the Innovation Park, click  the title above to read it. The Duneland area is a place waiting to expand and explode. These research parks are giving small business owners a chance to do what would have been impossible for them before. Access to these resources and quality information is what can assist in their success. I would think small business owners would do well to jump on this opportunity while there is still a chance. 

  • Finding media when it doesn't come to you

    How many fellow Region residents know who’s running for governor of Illinois?

    If you don’t, just watch any of your basic local network or cable channels for a half hour. Chances are you’ll see a campaign commercial about Bruce Rauner or Pat Quinn.

    Now how many can tell me what our governor is doing right now? This one might be trickier for a lot of residents.

    Northwest Indiana has always occupied a sort of limbo between the rest of the state and Illinois, especially with the media we consume. Almost all our television channels are Chicago stations (Lakeshore is one of the few exceptions), and all the major networks are. That’s just fine for getting all our favorite TV shows, but it leaves us lacking a medium to get something more vital: the news. Since Lakeshore’s nightly news ended due to lack of funding earlier this year, we don’t have a truly local nightly newscast anymore.

    We have several local radio stations in the Region, and The Times and Post-Tribune are still going. But they have to compete with what Chicago has to offer in both mediums. Plus, I don’t think I have to describe how newspapers aren’t what they once were.

    While it’s not a bad thing to be knowledgeable about a neighboring state or major city, what happens in our own state and affects us directly is more important to know. And while we get flooded with media from Chicago and Illinois, most of it tells us little that we need to know about our state or the area around us.

    Fortunately, we live in the age of an even further-reaching and more influential medium than any of these: the Internet. Citizens can use the web to get the news they want. But there’s still a matter of finding it amongst all the junk online.

    For me, I’ve turned my Twitter account into a tool for finding the media I care about. The way to do this is to follow all the news sources you want to read. That way, instead of having to read between the celebrity gossip garbage on your homepage, your newsfeed becomes a list of just the news that you want. If you live in the Region and want to get news about Indiana, for example, that means following the different newspapers and people (mostly writers) from around the state.

    For the analog, unconnected crowd, the Region’s lack of media options coming to them may be a problem. But for those with web access, there’s no excuse for not knowing what’s going on in your own state.

  • Issues In Our Region

    It's the end of the month but still the beginning of a brand new year. If you haven't already begun thinking about the plans for it maybe take some time to look around you. Improvement is a step-by-step, incremental process that to be holistic is often times also slow. It can seem weighted down under it's size or scope, depending on the project.

    Now is the time to consider large scale plans but also the small-scale efforts we as individuals make. Geographically speaking our region is vibrant and unique, unlike other suburbs or metropolitan regions. So too must our schematics for regional evolution reflect this unique perspective. What 1% change for the better can you make?

  • Lorri Feldt & the ISBDC

    Do you currently own a small business in northwest Indiana? Maybe you've been thinking about starting a new venture or have a great idea for one? There is someone that in our region that can help you get started or move things in the right direction.

    Lorri Feldt is the Regional Director for the Northwest Indiana district of the Indiana Small Business Development Center. "We are statewide, our region focuses on the seven counties of northwest Indiana. We help business take the next step" Feldt notes. With over 20 years of business experience, she is a wealth of knowledge for start-ups and business owners looking for insight.

    There are three main reason why people seek out the ISBDC:

    1. Not happy with profitability
    2. Growing fast and need help managing
    3. Find customers

    Lorri's job leads her to meet business managers where they are, she offers coaching and consultation in a council setting or on a 1-on-1 basis. "It's not easy starting a a business and most folks have some questions," she adds. The organization has a number of people available with skills vital for small business owners, such as people with expertise in law, finance and networking that like to see a businesses take off or turn things around.

    "One thing that's interesting is the array of businesses we work with, in the morning it may be a flower shop or a business providing web services to other businesses or someone producing industrial components. That's part of the fun of this", Lorri emphatically says

    The ISBDC can also provide data on retail spending, competition, for analysis and prospecting. Lorri adds, "You can use it to develop a plan". Big data is a popular topic right now and the fact that this organization is bringing it down from the stars to make it accessible and viable for small business is excellent.

    Take advantage of the services being offered by Lorri Feldt and the northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center to improve the overall financial position of your business. Utilize them as a third party capable of offering an objective opinion about your business's situation and the environment it inhabits.

  • Ride-sharing can get uber-pricey

    You might have seen a litany of negative press directed at ride-sharer Uber—from trying to avoid regulations to issues of driver conduct and pay—but that hasn’t stopped the service and others like it from spreading. It’s now even popping up here in the Region.

    It’s kind of a wonder such services have caught on at all in cities with cheap mass transit and traditional taxi services on top of that. Suburban areas like Northwest Indiana, however, are another story entirely. Between the suburban sprawl, the sheer expanse of the area, and the lack of major public transportation, it would seem like a setting where ride-sharing could flourish.

    But could it replace driving as the regular commute for working people in Northwest Indiana? I had heard such (very possibly apocryphal) anecdotes of people who have ceased to own their own car and only use ride-sharing to get around. Skeptical, I did the math.

    The results are shocking. Not shocking in that I was proven wrong, but shocking as to what degree I was correct.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say gas costs $2.50 per gallon (it's actually slightly less at most Northwest Indiana stations last I checked), and a car has a 12-gallon tank. To fill up would cost $30. If the same car gets 20 miles per gallon, that would be 240 miles for $30.

    Now let’s say that a five-mile shared ride costs $10 (which is actually lower than the average ride of the same length from Uber). At that rate, 240 miles would cost $480.

    Yikes. Admittedly, I lowballed the numbers on gas mileage and tank size, but even if you increase them and factor in yearly car maintenance, driving yourself is still by far the cheaper option. And most ride-sharing services cost more than $10 a trip.

    This isn’t to say Uber, or Lyft, or others are bad things. Speaking as someone who’s never used it, it sounds no less convenient than hiring a traditional driving service.

    But then, who knows anyone who rides to work in a taxi every single day? Ride-sharing daily is probably just as much of a luxury for most people, and it certainly is no solution for a lack of public transit.

  • Zoseco | Co-Working in Valpo

    Zoseco Con-Working space in Valparaiso Indiana

    Eric Zosso of Valparaiso believes there is a value to working around other people. With his company Zoseco, he aims to provide his customer not only with the social value of collaboration, but also a financial one.

    Zoseco provides co-working office space for professional business of all kinds. Located in downtown Valparaiso, the shared space gives individuals a less expensive alternative to renting office space individually.

    Eric Zosso Zoseco co-working RockZip“With an individual office, you pay several hundred dollars a month, plus utilities,” Zosso said. “You also have to make a 12-month commitment. With us, it’s only 200 a month and a month-to-month lease.”

    Renting the space gives members more than just workspace. Membership includes access to general office such as printer and scanners, meeting rooms stocked with white and bulletin boards, and even a kitchen area with coffee. According to the website, plans are in the works to hold events for business members.

    However, the greatest value one gets with Zoseco, according to Zosso, is the shared experience of working alongside other professionals.

    “It gets you away from the distraction of working form home,” Zosso said. “Being near other people and seeing them work hard to solve problems for their business is a good motivator.

    “And it’s more fun because you’re around other people. You may do your own work but you never know where a creative spark might come from.”

    Zosso preference for a collaborative working environment stems from his service in the Air Force. While station in Colorado, he oversaw operations of GPS satellites and trained others to do the same.

    “That wasn’t a co-working space,” Zosso said, “but it was an office of constructive and very dedicated individuals. After I left the Air Force, I didn’t want to just work alone in a coffee shop. I wanted to work around other people.”

    Upon returning to his hometown, Zosso felt that his hometown would be an ideal spot for a coworking space. “I looked at the small business community of my hometown, how thriving it was,” he said. “I really thought I could help people out.”

    Zosso’s idea has received considerable attention, as several local business have signed up to use Zoseco’s space. “We’re excited to be part of the Valpo professional community,” Zosso said. “Seeing people interact within their different niches and find ways to work together has been pretty cool.”