On Digital Learning Day, teachers and students tinker with the latest classroom technology

The Center for Creativity unveils a digital playground, TransformED, for teachers in Southwestern Pennsylvania

On February 6, 2013, teachers and students across the country will celebrate Digital Learning Day with activities that highlight how technology is being used effectively in the classroom. Here in Allegheny County, educators will step into a new digital playground, where they can explore instructional technologies, such as iPads, robots and 3D printers, at the Center for Creativity’s launch of TransformED.

We spoke with Rosanne Javorsky, Assistant Executive Director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, where the Center for Creativity is housed, to learn more about the activities planned for Digital Learning Day.

This year marks the 2nd annual Digital Learning Day. How will the Center for Creativity be celebrating?

We decided that it would be great to have the launch of TransformED occur on Digital Learning Day since there are events being held all across the country to highlight what’s happening with digital learning and technology integration. The TransformED space is about technology but it is also about the “maker” movement and creativity. We’re planning on having between 10-12 events, where teachers and students will demonstrate some of the things happening in their schools in our new playground.

What does this new digital playground look like?

We wanted to create a safe and playful space where teachers and other educators could learn about the latest and greatest technologies. The space is at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Central Office and formerly housed the administrative offices of STREAM Academy. We converted a very modest room with subdued colors to a very bright room painted firework red and koi green.

We had a contest for kids to design a mural about what technology means to them. The winning design was from West Mifflin Middle School. Right now, there are actually three art teachers and a team of students who are painting the mural on the wall downstairs.

What are some of the technologies you’re providing to teachers?

We purchased a 3D printer for the TransformED space. On Digital Learning Day, we will demonstrate some of the things you can do with a 3D printer, like teaching cell formation in biology. The space will also have iPads, Chromebooks, Hummingbird robotics kits, Arduino, Gigapan cameras, Nook tablets, Macbook Air, Design Board, and Apple TV.

What are the goals of Digital Learning Day?

We want to help teachers and educators rediscover their passion for teaching and learning, and increase their exposure to new technology. We want people to think about teachers as learners, makers, tinkerers.  Also, we want to model some of that collaboration between both K-12 education and informal learning organizations, such as Shell Games, Children’s Museum, Birdbrain Technologies, and libraries. We have pockets of educators who know about some of the resources available, but we’re really trying to help K-12 educators connect to people who are key to this region.

How are schools in Allegheny County using digital media and technology in learning?

Allegheny County is very diverse. We have 42 school districts, not including Pittsburgh schools. School libraries are becoming a hub of technology more than shelves of books. Librarians are the ones who are really pushing the idea of how to integrate technology and digital media into classroom practice. Instructional coaches help teachers understand what resources are available to them and how to use them in the classroom.

You may recall from your days of being in school when a teacher’s idea of using media was to put in a video, or if you’re like me, a reel-to-reel film, and let it run. Now, instead of showing a film from start to finish, you can show relevant modules that are tied specifically to your lesson. We have teachers that use e-books and Scratch, a basic programming language that allows for the creation of games and other interactive simulations.

iPads are the tool of choice for many districts. The North Hills school district developed a digital textbook for history, using iAuthor. Based on the success of the North Hills digital textbook, we are facilitating the development of a digital textbook for Algebra that will be available to our school districts.

How will teachers and students share their Digital Learning Day experiences?

Our intent is to capture photos and videos on the Center for Creativity’s website. We asked schools to submit videos about what they’re doing on Digital Learning Day, as well as what they do on a regular basis with digital media and technology.

How can people get involved with Digital Learning Day?

We are sending out invitations to superintendents, school board members, teachers, media, foundations, and the business community to join us on Digital Learning Day.

One of the easiest ways to get involved is to visit digitallearningday.org. If you look on the Google map, it will tell you all the things that are happening in your area. At the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, we’re planning activities that will take place in our TransformED space. Teachers and students will demonstrate the use of Hummingbird Robots, the Gigapan camera, iPad Band, Robotic Poetry, and Green Screen.

[alert color=”black” background=”#fdb82f” border_color=”#fdb82f” show_close=”false”]Come see how technology is transforming education in Allegheny County. For a complete schedule and list of events, visit digitallearningday.org.[/alert]

Published January 31, 2013