Remake Learning Digital Corps launches in Pittsburgh

New initiative connects digital learning experts with afterschool program providers to activate digital literacies among youth.

Dozens of educators, designers, researchers, youth workers, and community members gathered at the Sarah Heinz House in Pittsburgh on Thursday, November 21st to learn about the Remake Learning Digital Corps, a new program of The Sprout Fund in partnership with APOST.

Responding to the fact that today’s youth spend an average of 8 hours a day using digital media, the Remake Learning Digital Corps will create opportunities to harness the learning potential offered by these experiences.

“Students are finding ways to navigate their digital landscape – like sailors once used the constellations, they are finding reference points and going boldly to the sea,” said Dustin Stiver, Program Officer at The Sprout Fund. “And even though star maps have been replaced by search engines, there are still many opportunities for youth and adults alike to travel together through uncharted waters – in fact, we need to be sure we are preparing youth to be able to do just that: thrive in a future that is unknown.”

Youth in Allegheny County will have new opportunities to develop the digital literacy skills they need to thrive in school, college, the workforce, and life thanks to the Digital Corps. By matching newly trained digital learning experts with afterschool programs throughout the area, the initiative aims to lower barriers that prevent the effective use of digital tools in out-of-school programs.

“The program is being designed to encourage positive youth-adult interactions and peer-to-peer activity, letting the students teach one another, collaborate, and share in a safe environment,” said Ani Martinez, Sprout’s new Program Associate in charge of the Digital Corps, speaking at the launch event. “The theory is that by learning some basic digital tools, students will build a foundation strong enough to move on to other digital learning resources at their own pace.”

The presentation launching the program generated engaging discussion among those attending, with topics ranging from the prospects for developing a future youth-led version of the Digital Corps to the use of micro-credentialing tools like Open Badges to recognize positive learning outcomes among participating youth.

Following remarks, digital learning practitioners demonstrated some resources that the Digital Corps will use. Heather Mallak demonstrated Thimble, a Mozilla Webmaker application that allows anyone to easily design their own webpages. Representing The Labs @ CLP, Molly Dickerson showed off creations made using the Hummingbird Robotics Kit, a no-experience-necessary robotics kit designed by BirdBrain Technologies. Rounding out the showcase of digital learning resources was MAKESHOP Manager Rebecca Grabman, who showed how youth can use Scratch, programming software developed by MIT Media Lab, to create and share interactive stories, animations, games, and more.

The Sprout Fund is currently seeking applications to build the first cohort of Digital Corps members and host sites. Members of the Digital Corps will receive training and be eligible for stipends to compensate their work to create digital learning opportunities in afterschool programs. Digital Corps host sites will include community centers, afterschool programs, youth clubs, and other out-of-school learning environments where Digital Corps members can work with program providers and educators to deliver digital learning experiences to participating youth.

Applications are due Friday, December 20th. Apply now to be a Digital Corps Member yourself or to Host Digital Corps Activities at your site. All interested applicants are encouraged to attend an upcoming information session and happy hour scheduled for Thursday, December 5th at Harvard & Highland. Learn more about the Digital Corps Happy Hour and RSVP to attend.

Published November 22, 2013