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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.

Message From Me - CMU CREATE Lab
Message From Me

Other Resources:
Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children

AIU, Leadership Pittsburgh Honor 7 ‘Unboxed’ Teachers

Seven area classroom teachers have been named as “Unboxed Teachers” by The Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) and Leadership Pittsburgh Inc. Nominated by their superintendents, the teachers embody the principles of unboxed learning and consider learning in the broadest sense of the word.

These winners were nominated because they seek new ways to engage their students’ imaginations. Among their teaching methods: gamification, flipped learning, authentic assessing and discovery.

These teachers are changing public education in southwestern Pennsylvania by helping students become the drivers and masters of their own learning, according to Dr. Linda Hippert, executive director of the AIU.

“We know that in the classroom our teachers are making a positive difference in the lives of children. The innovation and creativity is contagious,” she said.

Winners will attend Leadership Pittsburgh Inc.’s Unboxed Edges of Learning Conference at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort Nov. 14-15, an invitation-only event for Pittsburgh’s changemakers from businesses, foundations and academic organizations. Winners will also submit proposals for potential funding and present the results of their learning.

The winners are: Melissa Cwynar of Avonworth School District; Mary Wilson of Elizabeth Forward School District; Tina Raspanti of Mt. Lebanon School District; Karen Kircher of Northgate School District; Alan Welding of Chartiers Valley School District; Veneashea Davis of Woodland Hills School District and Melissa Drake of South Fayette School District.

WQED In Media Consortium to Spotlight Remake Learning

WQED Multimedia and our media partners, 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh have been focusing on learning innovations for the past year. This year, we’re doing it again, under the banner “Remake Learning.” We will continue to focus on everything from innovations in Early Childhood learning to computer science, STEAM and robotics.

This is the first time we can recall that four media outlets are working together to focus on the wonderful innovations happening in our area. We have it covered – TV, radio, magazine and the web – and will spotlight Pittsburgh educators and community leaders who have helped make this area a flagship in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times.

Made possible through a grant from the Grable Foundation, Remake Learning focuses on the Pittsburgh region's need to prepare its young people for college and the work force by building on the basics, finding the motivation and connecting students with hands-on learning experiences that develop relevant skills.

Look for new stories, videos and content every month, on WQED-TV, iQ Kids Radio, and on WQED Interactive, and visit our partners at WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.

Spread The News

Do you have a story of learning innovation? A program, teacher or parent who is making a difference? Tell us about it and we'll share it on our Remake Learning webpage. Submit stories and videos to learning@wqed.org!

Photos



At Propel McKeesport, 8th grade science instructor Lori Mascara uses Pasco resources to bring science to life in a revamped STEM focus. Students collect and analyze real-time data with equipment used in universities.



The Remake Learning Digital Corps is helping young people like this Carrick student learn new digital literacy skills like coding, programming and basic robotics.



This summer, students served as interns at The Heinz Endowments. They worked with Saturday Light Brigade Radio to create radio features focusing on community issues as part of the Green Compass program. (SLB Radio photo.)



The Allegheny Intermediate Unit3 recently held its first STEAM showcase, with 25 grant recipients demonstrating their innovations. These East Allegheny School District students spent a year creating a virtual city.



Another AIU3 grant recipient was McKeesport Area School District. They brought a SMALLab to the elementary school, where these students have fun while learning math concepts.



Preparing a group of educators for the taping of the next iQSmartparent – focusing on digital badges -- is WQED’s Director of Education Jennifer Stancil, WQED's Executive Director of Educational Partnerships.



Environmental Charter Schools at Frick Park brings these artists from Assemble to the school each week to work on STEAM art projects.



Environmental Charter Schools has a special room where even the teachers get to explore – The Thinking Lab. These two educators are trying out new techniques to use in the classroom.

Made Possible By:

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    The poignant story unfolds as we explore Black’s lost art career, seek out elderly veterans who encountered Miss Black on the battlefield, and present to amazed and appreciative families portraits that never arrived.
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    Where classical music crosses paths with rock and roll, world music, folk music and jazz. Listen to interviews with people who make good music here.

featured specials

  • Portraits for the Homefront: The Story of Elizabeth Black
    The poignant story unfolds as we explore Black’s lost art career, seek out elderly veterans who encountered Miss Black on the battlefield, and present to amazed and appreciative families portraits that never arrived.
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    Where classical music crosses paths with rock and roll, world music, folk music and jazz. Listen to interviews with people who make good music here.

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