Tag Archives: Schooling and Formal Education

De-Mystifying Learning Frameworks

Have you found yourself confused by all the new terminology being used to describe learning? Us too. That’s why we embarked on a project to distill the key elements of some of the new learning frameworks we’ve been reading about. Whether you’re an educator looking to demystify some of the buzzwords you keep hearing, or you’re entering the ed-tech startup scene, this series will help you speak the language of education innovation.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll dig into a few of the learning frameworks we’ve seen adopted by educators in the Remake Learning Network, as well as a few others that we’re just beginning to learn about:

  • The P21 Framework prepares students for college and careers with collaborative, creative, and communication skills.
  • Connected Learning facilitates the creation of learning environments where students can explore their interests around peer groups and mentors.
  • Deeper Learning encourages teachers to create project- and problem-based learning experiences with technology to prepare students for college and the workforce.

Though each framework uses different interventions, they all share the goals of improving learning outcomes, enhancing student engagement, and better preparing young people for today’s world. The series will cover these frameworks in more detail and give examples of their implementation in the Pittsburgh region.

We’ll be rolling out a three part series of blog posts detailing each of these frameworks over the coming weeks. But before we get started, we thought it might be helpful to dispatch with a few key definitions of words and phrases you’ll see over and over again.

New methods of teaching and learning require new vocabulary. Many of these words appear frequently in discussions about education, and many of today’s frameworks focus on these ideas. Below, you can find a list of buzzwords that are used often when describing these common learning frameworks.

  • Framework – A way of organizing a complex concept for better understanding and structuring its key elements for better implementation.
  • Competency – The ability to do a task effectively by using skills and applying knowledge.
  • 21st Century Skills – A catch-all term for describing the diverse sets of skills thought to new or particular to learners growing up in the early 21st Century, including mastery of digital technology, capacity for creativity and critical thinking, effective group communication and collaboration, and more.
  • Blended Learning – The combined use of traditional classroom instruction by a teacher and technology to deliver learning content to students.
  • Project- and Problem-based learning – Giving students an extended period of time to learn by working to solve a complex challenge, often collaboratively.
  • College and Career Readiness – A student’s preparedness to gain entry to and succeed in post-secondary education or entry-level employment.
  • Inquiry-Based Learning – A method of instruction that emphasizes the asking of questions and guiding students through a process of discussion, exploration, and reflection.
  • Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge – The combined mastery of technological tools and educational content necessary for an educator to effectively deliver technology-enhanced instruction.
  • Social-Emotional Learning – The process through which learners develop mindsets and skills to manage their emotions, relationships, decision-making, and goals.

Further Reading: Education Reimagined has been doing a long-running series in their online magazine comparing education today and education in the future. It covers some of these ideas while translating the vocabulary of yesterday’s education frameworks to more modern terms, and is worth a read for more information.

Should the Internet be a Public Good?

In a recent New York Times piece, a high school student in Donna, Texas, named Perla describes how she rides the school bus an extra three hours a day because she needs the bus’s wi-fi connection to do homework. Another set of siblings, Isabella and Tony, stand outside their school at 7 pm just to access its wi-fi hot spot and download their math homework on their phone.

The story comes on the heels of a new Rutgers University report that found that while 9 in 10 lower-income families can access the internet in some way, a quarter can only connect by smartphone, and half of those with a connection say it is too slow for reliable use.

In short, American internet service is falling behind. Americans pay too much, and average connections are sluggish when compared with speeds in many European of Asian countries. Huge swaths of rural America are locked out of any broadband access, and low-income kids without a reliable connection at home are struggling to benefit from a full education. Competition among providers is slim. Six in 10 Americans have either one choice or no choice in broadband providers.

Thinking about the internet like a public utility is a shift in how we have historically treated internet access, as well as how we think about what kids really need to access equal education.

Does it have to be this way? The short answer is no. But thinking about the internet as something everyone should have—like a public utility—is a shift in how we have historically treated internet access, as well as how we think about what kids really need to access equal education.

Going back almost 100 years, the country thought of access to communications tools very differently. In 1934, Franklin Roosevelt signed the Telecommunications Act, which broke up monopolies and regulated companies that provided telephone lines, which the government saw as critical to the nation’s growth and prosperity

When the internet era arose, providers faced very little regulation, even as the web began to occupy the same importance in American life as phones once did. Last year, the FCC adopted “net neutrality” regulations that allowed it to regulate broadband a little more like a utility. For example, the new rules stop providers from purposely slowing down speeds or charging companies like Netflix to use internet “fast lanes” for their content. In a vote next month, the FCC will decide whether to reform its Lifeline program, which would expand a phone subsidy program to include broadband access for low-income Americans.

Still, the new net neutrality regulations don’t mirror the rules for telephone lines, which are still considered a public utility. The FCC won’t regulate broadband rates or enforce quality or availability standards. While cities like Chattanooga, Tenn., have created high-speed, municipal-owned fiber networks (Comcast tried to sue), many Americans are left with only one option, and it is often financially out of reach.

“We treated the telephone industry like a utility and people don’t seem to be surprised by that,” Susan Crawford, author of “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly in the New Gilded Age,” told TIME magazine. “High-speed internet access plays the same role in American life. It’s just that these guys have succeeded in making us think that it’s a luxury.”

The “these guys” Crawford is referring to are Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, which doled out $44 million to lobby Congress in 2015 alone. But ask any student standing on the street at night just trying to download his or her math homework: the internet isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessary part of day-to-day life in 2016.

In today’s schools, the internet is critical for researching and in some cases completing homework. But the Rutgers University report found kids without internet access at home were also less likely to look up topics they are interested in—a world on knowledge they could tap into every evening. The report also found that 42 percent of lower-income families without home access said cost is the biggest barrier. And internet prices are up more than 21 percent since two years ago, reaching and average of $47 per month—the price of a tank of gas, an electric bill, or a unexpected parking ticket. For many Americans, an added monthly expense of around $40 is too much on a tight budget.

One of the most telling examples of how lack of home internet access exacerbates inequality comes from a district superintendent in Texas, who told the New York Times teachers try to accommodate students without access, but at the same time the district can’t “hold back on our use of technology in the classrooms” because it has to prepare children for the world awaiting them.

The United States shouldn’t be faced with this choice—hold back basic technology in classrooms, or leave kids without access behind. But without rethinking our philosophy on internet access, that choice holds us all back from realizing the full potential of the internet, and the full potential of today’s children.

Pittsburgh Students Rise to the Challenge of Addressing World Water Crises

In March, students from four Pittsburgh area high schools came together for a two day Water Design Challenge. Hosted at the University of Pittsburgh‘s William Pitt Union and supported by a Hive Grant from The Sprout Fund, students were asked to brainstorm to raise awareness about real world water crises. Emily Stimmel shared this story on the Kidsburgh blog.

The problem: raising awareness about real world water crises. The problem-solvers: 55 students in grades nine through 12 from four local high schools.

In March students from Chartiers Valley, Elizabeth Forward, McKeesport and Mt. Lebanon high schools participated in a 2-day Water Design Challenge at University of Pittsburgh’s William Pitt Union. The activities were designed to inspire students to think as local and global citizens and consider the social and environmental implications of something most of us take for granted—water.

Though the project was multidisciplinary in scope incorporating social studies, world language, science and technology–and drawing faculty and students from all four schools–it was pioneered by Mt. Lebanon High School social studies teacher Tina Raspanti. After reaching out to Veronica Dristas, the assistant director of outreach at Pitt’s Global Studies Center, for help in developing a global studies program geared to high schoolers, she felt inspired.

“She told me to dream big,” Raspanti says. So, with a team of likeminded Mt. Lebanon High School teachers, Raspanti approached The Sprout Fund for a grant from its Hive Fund for Connected Learning and the group immediately got to work setting the project in motion.

With funding, Raspanti and her team were able to cover the costs of food, transportation and overnight accommodations offering an “equal playing field for all school districts.” Because no single school was responsible for footing the bill, students from the four schools had equal access to the Water Design Challenge leading to a more diverse, innovative pool of ideas. “It was great to see how they melded together,” says Raspanti, noting that “think globally, act locally” became the teams’ shared motto.

Students engaged in brainstorming sessions and evaluated their ideas using the concepts of human-centered design thinking championed by the event’s facilitator Pete Maher of LUMA Institute. Ultimately, the judges selected two winners—one presenting a local solution and the other a global one.

Make it Rain, the winner in the category of local solutions, promoted a rain barrel system that offers tax credits to residents who use it to water their lawns, encouraging conservation through financial incentives. In the global category, Women 4 Water created a detailed website describing how far women in developing nations walk to retrieve potable water. The average distance was six kilometers, so the all-female team chose a 6K race as the vehicle for raising awareness of the issue while generating funds to support these women.

Students weren’t instructed to use specific tools or methods for awareness-raising, but they naturally gravitated towards social media with most of the groups setting up simple websites and mock online fundraising campaigns.

They also weren’t asked to recruit the next cohort of participants, but they’ve eagerly taken on the task. Though the pilot project focused on water, the essential element of the Challenge is uniting a diverse group of students to collaboratively solve a problem. With Water Design Challenge as a model for future Challenges, the teens who participated in the pilot project are brainstorming the next topic and spreading the word to their peers. With additional funding, Raspanti hopes to develop the project into an annual event uniting diverse groups of students from schools across the region.

Project Zero: What Does Learning Look Like?

Nearly 200 teachers took to Harvard Square one summer afternoon. They wandered the grounds, observing, touching, and documenting their surroundings. The professionals were participants in the Project Zero Classroom (PZC), an annual summer institute for educators. The hosts of the PZC sent their guests outdoors to get “an experiential feel” for their learning materials.

When Project Zero (PZ) began in 1967, it “functioned as a loosely knit think tank,” wrote former director Howard Gardner (the current director is Daniel Wilson). In this early form, the Harvard Graduate School of Education project, founded by philosopher Nelson Goodman, focused its research on cognition and the arts. The name was a snarky nod to the state of research on arts education at the time: Virtually “zero” was known about the field.

In the following decades, PZ expanded to encompass a much broader range of inquiry. Now, many of its programs and studies examine learning at large. PZ asks: What does learning look like? What type of learning is relevant for these students in this moment and in the future? What is the nature of understanding?

PZ asks: What does learning look like? What type of learning is relevant for these students in this moment and in the future? What is the nature of understanding?

At the most basic level, this means an emphasis on all types of engaged, self-directed learning and a departure from standardized, test-based teaching.

During a period of expansion in the 1990s, PZ built the bridge between theory and practice that is now its hallmark. At Gardner’s insistence, the PZC institute began, encouraging educators to participate in the same type of critical, interdisciplinary thinking they foster in their students.

“We need to have the individuals who are involved in education, primarily teachers and administrators, believe in this, really want to do it, and get the kind of help that they need in order to be able to switch, so to speak, from a teacher-centered, let’s-stuff-it-into-the-kid’s-mind kind of education to one where the preparation is behind the scenes and the child himself or herself is at the center of learning,” Gardner said in an interview.

Although dozens of initiatives and programs under the PZ umbrella have launched and ended, a few foundational principles have remained constant. Teaching for Understanding, a concept developed in the 1990s, refers to the idea that understanding is an ever-changing activity, not a static condition. Initially a five-year research project that produced a template for a curriculum, Teaching for Understanding has become a guiding framework.

Visible Thinking is another fundamental phrase in the PZ lexicon. Although we might assume we know how we arrived at a conclusion, “Mostly, thinking happens under the hood, within the marvelous engine of our mind-brain,” according to the PZ website. Visible Thinking is a call to get kids—and adults—to trace their cognitive processes, and to integrate this type of thinking-about-thinking with traditional content-based learning.

So what do these concepts look like when applied to modern-day classrooms? Like the educators at the PZC, students might spend an afternoon taking a hands-on walk or contemplating a painting. But PZ calls for learning tailored to today’s world. And the project is a fertile setting for digital learning.

Speaking in 1997, Gardner encouraged teachers to use interactive technology to reach different types of learners. “We have this myth that the only way to learn something is to read it in a textbook or hear a lecture on it,” he said. “But that’s nonsense. Everything can be taught in more than one way. And anything that’s understood can be shown in more than one way.”

Kristen Kullberg, a Washington, D.C. teacher, told Greater Greater Washington her students’ “comprehension has sky-rocketed” since she began implementing the principles of Project Zero. “They begin to understand that ambiguity and unanswered questions don’t need to be sources of frustration,” she explained.

Another D.C. government teacher, Karen Lee, said PZ “provided a framework for deep thinking” in an exercise in which her students drew connections between a Langston Hughes poem and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Here in Pittsburgh, collaborations between schools and Project Zero have taken many forms. Most notable was the five-year Arts PROPEL program in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The Arts PROPEL curriculum emphasizes making, as well as time to observe and reflect.

And recently, teachers at Quaker Valley School District have spearheaded the development of a consortium of five school districts to participate in ProjectZero training and workshops exploring how school extension activities can incorporate lessons learned from decades of ProjectZero practice.

If it seems like Project Zero is expansive, multifaceted, and maybe a bit nebulous—well, that’s because it is.

“Attempts to create a short and sharp ‘mission statement’ for Project Zero have never succeeded,” Gardner wrote. “Project Zero is too loose a confederation of researchers and practitioners, and it is too much subject to the whims of national priorities and funding preferences, to lend itself to a simple formulation. In that sense, our ‘zero’ is both a benefit and a curse.”

 

 

 

Why Silicon Valley Wants Humanities Majors

It’s no secret the traditional humanities in higher education, especially at the graduate level, are struggling. Fewer students are enrolling in humanities classes as undergraduates, and fewer graduates of humanities doctoral programs are finding the jobs they expected.

But slowly, scholars and universities are beginning to break down the longstanding divide between the humanities and STEM disciplines. Digital humanities researchers are mapping the spread of ideas, crowdsourcing digital archives, and making manuscripts accessible to answer timeless questions about what makes us human. Stanford University recently announced it is developing new majors that integrate computer science with humanities disciplines like English and music.

And engineers and entrepreneurs are taking note. When the New York Times asked techpreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa to write a 2011 opinion piece on where to spend higher education funds—on STEM or on liberal arts programs—they expected him to argue for STEM. But he didn’t.

Wadhwa and a team of researchers surveyed more than 650 CEOs and leading product engineers at more than 500 technology companies. They found that about half had earned a STEM degree at some point in their academic career (bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D.). The rest held degrees in a variety fields, including the humanities. “Gaining a degree made a big difference in the sales and employment of the company a founder started,” Wadhwa wrote. “But the field that the degree was in … was not a significant factor.”

Students of the humanities bring skills to the table that engineers don’t—like how to tell a good story. That’s a skill in high demand among tech businesses, as Silicon Valley chronicler Michael Malone discovered when he invited entrepreneur Santosh Jayaram to speak to his writing students. As Malone described it to the Wall Street Journal, he extended the invitation but begged Jayaram not to “dash their hopes” by telling them to leave the humanities.

But Malone, too, was surprised. “English majors are exactly the people I’m looking for,” Jayaram said. He explained that to create a successful tech startup today, you must research “that one undeveloped niche you can capture” and sell the idea to investors, partners, employees, and customers. “And how do you do that? You tell stories.” According to Jayaram, good storytellers are much harder to find than good engineers. “That’s why I want to meet your English majors.”

As Christine Henseler, a leading scholar in the digital humanities movement, wrote, “To write or represent a good story, we have to think about the power of the image, the sound, the word, the logic behind our arguments, the cultural perspectives of our audiences, the faith, or lack thereof, in what we do.” That’s what the humanities teach students.

The classroom discussions and group projects in history, English, and other humanities disciplines also foster social intelligence in a way that traditional STEM disciplines have not always done. “Social intelligence is not what schools specifically train people in, but the highest growth right now and the highest salaries go to people with high social intelligence skills. These are skills better fostered by the humanities,” said Kevin Stolarick, a researcher on the “creative class” who recently spoke at Pittsburgh’s Creative Industries Summit. (For more of his perspective, plus a look at our local creative class and our ability to attract and keep creatives, check out this post.)

The Kids + Creativity Network is helping Pittsburgh-area children and youth develop skills not only in STEM, but in arts and imagination—key building blocks of a humanistic world view. Projects like Crossing Fences, the Literary Arts Boom (The LAB), and Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Youth Media Program combine the best of the humanities—asking questions, reflecting on stories, and discovering the common elements of the human experience—with cutting-edge technology and communications tools. Thanks to these kinds of experiences, Pittsburgh’s next generation will seize—and likely, create—new pathways to integrate the humanities with STEM.

 

Photo/ Kaitlin Phillips

Why High Speed Internet Matters for Cities (and for Schools)

Oh Chattanoogans, how I envy you. It takes 33 seconds to download a two-hour, high-definition movie in Chattanooga. In my house, it’s more like 33 minutes. And streaming? We still suffer through the dreaded “buffering” halfway through the movie.

Chattanooga, or Gig City, as Chattanoogans sometimes call it, has the fastest internet connection in the nation. Its download speed rivals that of Hong Kong. In Chattanooga, citywide ultra high-speed, fiber-optic connections transfer data at one gigabit per second, or 50 times faster than the average home in the US.

The city’s fiber-optic network—known as “the Gig”—has been in the planning stages for several years and was boosted along with help from the feds in the form of an $111 million federal stimulus grant. Signs suggest that the municipal-owned service has paid off, attracting the coveted “creative class” and new business, capital, and talent. And none too soon. According to the New York Times, “Telecommunications specialists say that if the United States does not keep its networks advancing with those in the rest of the world, innovation, business, education and a host of other pursuits could suffer.”

The same could be said for education, a little farther down the pipeline of talent-production. As the members of the Kids+Creativity Network well know, technology helps kids develop the critical skills they’ll need in the future. And Pittsburgh is at the forefront. From the classroom flight simulator at Shaler Area Elementary School to Allegheny County’s new digital playground for teachers, technology lets educators engage kids in new ways.

But technology in the classroom needs bandwidth, something in short supply in many schools. While schools might offer the same internet speeds that parents have at home, in-home connections don’t have to contend with 100 kids online at once.

That’s one reason President Obama recently announced $750 million in commitments from US companies to begin wiring more classrooms with high-speed internet.

According to an Associated Press article,

“Apple is pledging $100 million in iPads, computers and other tools. AT&T and Sprint are contributing free Internet service through their wireless networks. Verizon is pitching in up to $100 million in cash and in-kind contributions. And Microsoft is making its Windows software available at discounted prices and offering 12 million free copies of Microsoft Office software.”

The Federal Communications Commission is also setting aside $2 billion from service fees to connect 20 million students to high-speed internet over two years.

While it might not be Chattanooga, it’s a start. Education, after all, is at the core of a competitive, global marketplace.

Come to think of it, maybe Pittsburgh should throw down the gauntlet and challenge Chattanooga to a face-off. Pittsburgh already has the edge in attracting the creative class. Google’s been here since 2006 and is expanding. And as Eric Shiner, director of Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum told Next City, Pittsburgh “is an incredible place right now filled with artists and young tech people—just a really eclectic group of people trying to envision a better city.” (Indeed, some 70 percent of the people who are moving to the Pittsburgh region are between age 22 and 34.) The new mayor, Bill Peduto, is pushing to expand transparency through big data, with the goal of empowering people to dig in and help develop solutions to pressing problems. And now, to cement Pittsburgh’s status, the painfully hip Ace Hotel is moving to town. Can artisanal pickles be far behind?

Seriously, though, we here at RemakeLearning.org would place our bets on Pittsburgh, without or without the gigabytes. But that’s just us.

 

Photo/ C. Simmons

3D Printing: Coming to a Classroom or Museum Near You

In museums and classrooms across the country, 3D printers are teaching design and engineering, bringing historic treasures into young hands, and letting budding inventors try and try again.

If 3D printing—which builds an object layer by layer based on precise, computer-assisted design specifications—hasn’t come to a school or museum near you yet, you can bet it’s on its way. Some industry watchers predict 2014 will be a big year for 3D in the classroom. While top-of-the-line models still cost a pretty penny, CNN has reported some smaller, stripped-down 3D printers are selling for only $200-$300.

The technology has already made quite a splash. As Pittsburgh’s own Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, recently pointed out in the Huffington Post, “People are already using 3D printers to make edible food and artificial body parts (what?!).” No kidding. (Read more about those body parts here.)

Since 2011, DIY-ers of all ages have flocked to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh for a chance to play around with the 3D printer in its MAKESHOP. “I’m a big believer that if you provide materials for kids and if you provide them with inspiration and you provide them with mentors, they will be inspired,” Jane Werner, the museum’s executive director, told us last year.

Here are just a few ways 3D printing is inspiring young people’s learning in museums and classrooms around the country.

Print Your Own Dino Bones

Or animal skeletons, or archeological finds from ancient civilizations, or other replicas of artifacts students don’t normally get to touch. At New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, students explore the intersection of paleontology and technology by examining allosaurus bones and using 3D printing to make a model skeleton. “It really taught me how paleontologists reconstruct and study dinosaurs and how they deal with disarticulated bones…and broken bones,” said Jordan, an 8th-grader, in this video about the experience.

Last November, the Smithsonian Institution launched a 3D scanning and printing project that makes more of its treasures accessible worldwide. You can browse the 3D collection, or sign up to be notified about the spring release of Abraham Lincoln: The Mind behind the Mask, a new, interdisciplinary resource for high school teachers that combines 3D images and prints of the two life masks taken of Lincoln—before and after he assumed the presidency—and shows the drastic physical changes he underwent.

Make and Bake

At The Browning School in New York City, kindergartners aren’t just baking cookies—they’re making the cookie cutters, too. Engineering has become part of the curriculum across the grades, from 3D-printed cookie cutters to homemade Lego-style building blocks. You can see photos and video of their work here.

To broaden access to the technology, MakerBot has developed a 3D printing bundle and encourages public school teachers to request it on DonorsChoose.org.

Tinker ‘Til You Get It Right

At Black Pine Circle School in Berkeley, California, middle school teacher Christine Mytko runs an afterschool Maker Club and also uses her 3D printer for classroom projects. The Maker Club is a great place to test out a variety of ideas and to keep testing and trying until you get it right. Read about one student’s epic journey to build an iPad stand here. (Mytko was also recently profiled in the Atlantic  about STEAM learning.)

Build Prototypes for Local Businesses

Since 2008, students at Chico High School in Chico, California, have been using 3D printing to build fast, accurate prototypes for local companies, starting with a water bottle lid for Kleen Kanteen. IT instructor Mike Bruggeman now has two 3D printers in his classroom and his engineering and architecture students continue to develop prototypes for other companies. You can read more about their work here.

Win Competitions

At Benilde-St. Margaret’s School, a Catholic school in a Minneapolis suburb, science teacher Timothy Jump leads high school students in Advanced Competitive Science, a three-year program focused on engineering. In 2004 his students won the US Robocup Rescue engineering competition, building an urban rescue robot that outperformed models built by students in prestigious university engineering programs. Having a 3D printer on site cuts down the time involved in creating and testing prototypes, which accelerates student learning. “Students are fascinated by the printer,” Jump said in this case study. “They’re just mesmerized that this technology is even possible.”

And maybe, if your students really get into it, they’ll build themselves an energy-efficient car like the Urbee 2. This electric/methanol hybrid car is built from 3D-printed components, which should eventually make mass production of the vehicle cheaper and more sustainable. In 2015 it will cross the US on less than 10 gallons of gas.

 

Photo/ Don DeBold

Robust Digital Environments for Every Student

There’s a huge, exciting event kicking off this week, and no, it’s not the Olympics. Digital Learning Day is February 5, designed to inspire educators to integrate digital learning into their classrooms and libraries throughout the school year.

Over 1,300 events, ranging from Skype sessions with French pen pals to QR code scavenger hunts, are planned throughout the day from Alaska to Maine. Plus, to help teachers kick-start tech-filled activities, the Alliance for Excellent Education (which sponsors DLD) is providing a bevy of amazing lesson plans, toolkits, and instructional strategies. The resources go way beyond PowerPoints by delving into concepts such as how social media can inspire social change or how computer programs written with Scratch can beat humans at strategy games.

Digital Learning Day has roots in our region—inspiration for the campaign started with the idea of a paperless day at Mountainview Elementary in Morgantown, West Virginia.

“The idea behind No Paper No Pencil Day was to encourage teachers. I wanted them to build confidence in the use of technology,” says Karen Collins, principal of Mountainview Elementary, in an Alliance for Excellent Education video about the origins of Digital Learning Day. While the day has grown to a national scale, its goals remain similar. The day aims to promote meaningful technology use in schools and support teachers with high-quality resources.

Of course, only one day of digital learning isn’t enough to prepare kids for a world that’s basically dependent on technology. As Digital Learning Day organizers note on their website, the event “is about giving every child the opportunity to learn in a robust digital environment every day, with the goal of success in college and a career.”

Pittsburgh’s learning ecosystem is making this happen. Students in our region are tinkering, building robots, and filling their summers with hands-on learning. Technology is being woven into all children’s education, no matter where they live. I wrote last month about the challenges and opportunities that technology presents for rural schools. Not surprisingly, rural districts in our region are at the cutting edge.

Here’s a peek at a few of the cool things happening in and out of Pittsburgh in conjunction with Digital Learning Day:

  • After School Alliance, Edutopia, and the National Writing Project are teaming up to promote the #Make4DLDay challenge—a set of digital storytelling activities that let kids become and makers on Digital Learning Day. Teachers choose from three different “levels” of technology-created stories: a narrative-driven photo slideshow, a Prezi, or a stop-motion video. Then, students are encouraged to share their work on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Instagram using the #Make4DLDay hashtag.

The challenge’s multimedia activities are designed to introduce kids to digital storytelling and encourage a shift from consuming media to actively making “digital artifacts.” By learning the first critical baby steps in digital storytelling, kids become equipped to tell any story they want later down the line—something we recently wrote about.

  • PAIMS Pennsylvania’s statewide “Find Your Inner da Vinci” event encourages student teams to invent something that will make the world a better place by solving a real-life problem. (The concept sounds a lot like the design thinking process catching on in education.) The students will share their inventions with other students around the state through videoconferencing. Track their progress with the #PADLDay hashtag.
  • The Center for Creativity is hosting a digital learning symposium in its super-interactive transformED space. Through digital and video events, educators and students will learn about the different innovative ways technology is being used in Allegheny County’s 42 school districts.

The center is also hosting its own Live Digital Learning Streaming Event as part of the  statewide da Vinci program and is encouraging districts to put together small teams to find solutions to real-world problems. The center emphasizes that teachers don’t have to dive into anything new. Rather, they can work off what they’re already teaching to incorporate technology in a new way.

  • The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is hosting myriad of live events and will serve as a “hub” for Digital Learning Day activities. Schools can hop online and join in on any part of the full day of speeches from policy makers and learning experts, live chats, live demonstrations, and interactive polls.
  • New Hope-Solebury High School near Philadelphia is just one of the schools whose journalism students will be joining in on a Google hangout debate with Vijay Ravindran, Chief Digital Officer of the Graham Holdings Company (formerly known as the Washington Post Company) about whether modern news outlets can keep up with social media when it comes to breaking news.

 Photo/ Brad Flickinger