This Month’s Learning Innovation: Message From Me
“Children today, we call them digital natives. They’re born to be able to pick up the iPad because it’s just part of their world,” according to Sue Polojac, the director of programming for PAEYC, the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
Even the youngest children can easily master an iPad or simple digital device. But how can that help them educationally and in learning to be better communicators?
“About five years ago, one of our funders challenged us to come up with something for young children,” says Emily Hamner, senior research associate of the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. If anyone could create something to meld education and technology, it’s the CREATE Lab, a place where researchers, engineers, designers, psychologists, educators and artists work together to develop socially meaningful innovation and technologies.
“Most technology is aimed at older children,” Emily continues. And, she explains, at that time the CREATE Lab wasn’t even sure if young children should be gaining access to technology. CREATE director Illa Nourbakhsh wasn’t convinced until a personal incident changed his mind.
“Illa’s mother-in-law works with an early childhood community. She told him that the connection between what happens at school and at home isn’t really consistent.” Imagine asking your three-year-old to relate what happened at their Early Childhood Center that day… So CREATE decided to figure out a way for children to communicate with their parents.
Emily led the team that developed “Message from Me.” These are simple kiosks at childcare centers that enable young children to record their daily experiences by using cameras and iPads to take pictures, microphones to record a message and email to send them to their parents. This allows young children to practice their communication skills and build their self-confidence by talking about their day.
It was tested out at the Children’s School of CMU. Then PAEYC stepped in. They wanted to partner with the CREATE Lab to get these kiosks in centers throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. With funding from PNC and their Grow Up Great program and the Grable Foundation, PAEYC began placing the kiosks throughout Allegheny and Westmoreland County. Over 2000 youngsters are participating, in family childcare centers, Pittsburgh Public Schools, AIU3 Head Start programs, nearly 100 classrooms and centers serving low to moderate income children, ages three to five.
“It’s changing communication between the home and school,” says Sue.
Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children
Environmental Charter School 6th and 7th grade students visited the Andy Warhol Museum to devise objects for pre-schoolers to use at the Museum. (Photo by Norton Gusky)
Allegheny Intermediate Unit recently held a transformED workshop. Here educators learn about the Hummingbird Robotics kit. (Photo by Norton Gusky)
This original bird sculpture was created for Propel Hazelwood students with artists from the Mobile Sculpture Workshop. It is intended to help beautify Hazelwood and the Propel campus.
Assemble summer camps are in full swing. These young scholars are using technology to help tell a story. For information: http://assemblepgh.org.
This youngster recorded an audio Father’s Day card for his dad at Saturday Light Brigade’s broadcast studios. (Photo courtesy SLB Radio Productions)
Propel Hazelwood students stand alongside the bird sculpture outside their school which now has a name – Hazel! Students gave the bird -- created with help from local artists from the Mobile Sculpture Workshop -- its new name.
Over a dozen different workshops were given to educators and “learning enthusiasts” at the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute, a project of the South Fayette Township School District. Here teachers learn about environmental literacy. (Photo by Norton Gusky)
Dr. Tom Lauwers, founder of BirdBrain Technologies, leads an Arts and Bots workshop at the recent STEAM Innovation Summer Institute, given by the South Fayette Township School District. (Photo by Norton Gusky)