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
GameJam was recently held at South Fayette. Students from three partner schools, South Fayette, Ft. Cherry and Manchester Academic Charter School met in the challenge to create a game in a single session.
Students in the Highlands School District STEAMM Academy work on creating a moving dragon for their upcoming production of “Shrek.”
Ellis students collaborating on the K’Nex design challenge. They will meet in a region-wide competition this month.
Saturday Light Brigade’s Crossing Fences oral history project recently gave Northside participants Kindle Fire HDs. Photo by SLB Radio Productions, Inc. check it out: neighborhoodvoices.org/crossingfences.
Young artist at work at a recent assemble drawing party in Garfield.
Elizabeth Forward School District’s Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd Keruskin gets a computer programming demonstration from a student at the recent opening of the Dream Factory..
The Romibo robot is being used in a variety of therapeutic settings ranging from autistic youth to senior adults throughout the area.
Anthony Carrington and Elijah Peterson interview Leonard Brown at his home in Beltzhoover during the Crossing Fences program. Photograph courtesy SLB Radio Productions, Inc.
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