Remake Learning Roundup: December 2017 to February 2018
From a new grantmaking program to major media features and a slew of sold-out events, it’s been a marquee quarter for Remake Learning—one that began, fittingly, in a movie theater.
On December 1, more than 100 parents, educators, and policymakers packed the Hollywood Theater in Dormont for Remake Learning’s 2017 Network Assembly. Leading advocates — including Wilkinsburg Superintendent Dr. Linda Iverson and Pennsylvania State Rep. Jake Wheatley — spoke passionately about igniting change and supporting vulnerable learners, while speakers Judd Pittman from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Donna Peduto of the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative charted the the future of education in our two states.
The blockbuster event ran the emotional gamut: there was joy as we celebrated the year’s successes, from an expanded Remake Learning Days to the release of Learning Together, the network’s ten-year impact report. There was excitement as we launched The Great Remake, a new micro-grants program designed to encourage and elevate the network’s most creative ideas. There was sadness, too, as Anne Sekula and Mary Murrin — the network’s longtime Director and Co-Chair, respectively — moved on to other roles. And there was a renewed sense of purpose as Sunanna Chand, Remake Learning’s incoming director, issued the crowd a challenge: how might we ensure that all children — especially those who’ve historically been left behind — can access engaging, relevant, equitable learning opportunities?
As a network, we’ve set out to meet that challenge together.
LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill has stepped up to lead Remake Learning’s Computer Science Working Group, an effort to provide universally accessible, high-quality computer science programming to learners across the Pittsburgh region. Charged with helping schools and out-of-school organizations “level up” computer science, the group joins a national push to ensure that every student can learn this essential new language.
Members of Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem, meanwhile, visited Urban Academy — a small-but-mighty elementary school in the city’s Larimer neighborhood — in hopes of observing culturally competent pedagogy in action. Piloting an observation model of STEM learning in formal teaching environments, the Ecosystem is working to learn more about STEM efforts that already serve black and brown students. The group plans to develop an evaluation tool that addresses quality and cultural competence, build evaluation capacity among stakeholders, and provide constructive feedback to STEM program directors and educators.
Elsewhere, Community Manager and Chief of Operations Ani Martinez has curated a series of meetups and lunch & learns designed to spotlight the efforts of local leaders and spark much-needed dialogue about issues facing learners. Maisha Moses of the Young People’s Project, for example, led a hands-on workshop about math literacy. Futurist Jason Swanson sat down with educators to discuss “The Future of Readiness” — that is, the skills and dispositions needed to thrive in the automation age. Donnie Yawn’s meetup about employment and partnership opportunities with Pittsburgh Public Schools quickly sold out and spilled onto a waitlist, as did two consecutive meetups designed to give white teachers tools to start and have successful conversations about race, led by Jawanza K. Rand.
But that’s not all. As Dr. Gretchen Generett said during one recent workshop, “the work of equity takes exquisite intentionality.” That’s why we’re diving even deeper: in mid-January, 25 professional development providers came together to spend two full days focused on equity. Reflecting on identity, community, and the intersections of bias and unjust systems, workshop attendees collaborated with colleagues from across institutions to bring an equity lens to their work in next-generation professional learning. The experience “laid bare the work we must do to understand ourselves and our contexts in order to remake learning for a more just and equitable world,” Chand wrote afterward. “It also demonstrated plainly that there are many people willing to dedicate time and energy to this critical work.”
Indeed, more people are getting involved than ever before. Over the past three months alone, more than 70 individuals, projects, and organizations have joined Remake Learning’s directory. Fifteen funders have generously agreed to sponsor this year’s Remake Learning Days, a nine-day celebration of innovative teaching and learning that will span more than 200 events across the region. The network’s staff has met with dozens of educators, community leaders, and students; and the Remake Learning Council — in addition to welcoming Dr. Valerie Kinloch as its new co-chair — has added 10 new members: Lee Ann Wainwright of Chevron North America; Steve Catt of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute; Heidi Ondeck of Quaker Valley School District; Kenya Boswell of the BNY Mellon Foundation; Lisa Johns of the Hillman Family Foundation; Paul Siefken of the Fred Rogers Company; Mac Howison of the Heinz Endowments, Sala Udin of the Pittsburgh Public School Board; Tim James of Google Pittsburgh; and Rebecca Lucore of Covestro.
The world is taking notice. US2020 — an organization working to match 1 million STEM mentors with students by the year 2020 — recently named Remake Learning one of 15 finalists in its STEM Coalition Challenge. The Challenge, which calls on communities across the country to propose innovative ways to bridge the opportunity gap for underrepresented students, convened the finalists here in Pittsburgh on January 31, where they were joined by STEM experts and creative community builders to share, learn, and inspire one another. Remake Learning will now compete for $1 million in resources comprised of financial, consulting, and staff support, with winners to be announced this spring.
In the meantime, it’s easy to catch up on all things Remake Learning: simply turn to the Pittsburgh Business Times. Or Pittsburgh Parent Magazine. Or even the Boston Globe. Everywhere we turn, the network’s in the news, whether it’s an op-ed in the Post-Gazette, an in-depth feature in GeekWire, or an entire series in Getting Smart. As Remake Learning’s profile rises, we hope to draw even more learners, educators, and innovators into the fold, bringing transformative learning experiences to students throughout — and increasingly beyond — the Pittsburgh region.
That work has already begun. As The Great Remake’s application deadline draws near, in-person information sessions are already reaching capacity, packed with educators aiming to catalyze change. And in March, a remarkable cohort of 15 people will represent Remake Learning at SXSWedu, a four-day festival of workshops, panels, and exhibitions focused on innovative teaching and learning. After last year’s acclaimed panel discussion, “Remaking Learning in Mister Rogers’ New Neighborhood,” demand at the festival soared; this year, no less than five conference sessions will highlight the network’s efforts.
Additionally, the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference is approaching in April, and Pittsburgh has been accepted to present our region’s successes. We’ll share our efforts around STEM Workforce development and we will showcase the work happening at the University of Pittsburgh, where a team is leveraging a National Science Foundation grant to broaden student participation in STEM. We’ll also highlight the network’s impact by sharing our Pathways to Shared Prosperity report, linking K12 maker education programming to post-secondary education and advanced manufacturing careers in the region, and information about our plan to take Remake Learning Days across America.
And that’s just the beginning. As winter melts into spring, stay tuned for even more big news. Together, we’ll remake learning for every student, until every kid and every family has the tools they need to thrive in our fast-paced, ever-changing world.