Remake Learning http://remakelearning.org Thu, 24 Jul 2014 02:10:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Can We Improve MOOCs? http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/07/23/how-can-we-improve-moocs/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16967 Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:13:40 +0000

How Can We Improve MOOCs?

With help from Google, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon have launched a new initiative to make massive open online courses (MOOCs) more effective. They're starting by paying attention to learning styles.

Photo/ Ilonka Hebels

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are one of the most-hyped recent developments in education.

As Eric Westervelt reported for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock-star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera, and other MOOC platforms.” These online courses seemed capable of fulfilling the internet’s early promise of making knowledge accessible to all.

But whether MOOCs can make good on that promise remains to be seen.

Despite the high enrollment numbers, according to many estimates approximately 90 percent of people who sign up for most MOOCs fail to complete the course. In addition, a few high-profile flops have made headlines in the past two years. For example, San Jose State University’s highly publicized experiment in offering for-credit MOOCs, in partnership with online course developer Udacity, fell far short of its goals.

“Completion rates and grades were worse than for those who took traditional campus-style classes. And the students who did best weren’t the underserved students San Jose most wanted to reach,” Westervelt said in the NPR segment.

The University of Pennsylvania released a 2013 study of MOOCs that said only approximately one-half of those who registered viewed a lecture and that completion rates for the courses averaged only 4 percent.

Even Sebastian Thrun, cofounder of Udacity, has acknowledged the failure of MOOCs to live up to their early promise: “Online education that leaves almost everybody behind except for highly motivated students, to me, can’t be a viable path to education.”

The major reason for these failures, posits Geoffrey A. Fowler in the Wall Street Journal, is that “for all but the most self-reliant, online learning can be isolating.” Disengaged students are more likely to perform poorly or drop out altogether.

Some instructors mitigate this problem by recording more audio or video segments instead of only providing written lessons. They also update content frequently, send motivational messages to students, or congratulate them for work completed. Online mentors, active discussion boards, quizzes, and other activities to break up lessons also have been proven to increase student retention and engagement.

Another tactic some online course providers have used is charging a nominal fee, from $30 to $90, to confirm a student’s participation in and completion of a course. Coursera found that students who had shelled out cash for a course were more likely to complete it.

Regardless of the delivery method, social interaction is key to effective learning, studies have found. “The most important thing that helps students succeed in an online course is interpersonal interaction and support,” Shanna Smith Jaggars, assistant director of Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, said in the Wall Street Journal article.

A recent study has suggested that blended learning, which combines interactive online components with face-to-face instruction, can be effective as traditional classroom instruction.

Now comes the recent announcement that Carnegie Mellon University has received a Google Focused Research Award to tap the potential of MOOCs. A multidisciplinary team of researchers will use data-driven approaches to develop techniques for “automatically analyzing and providing feedback on student work, for creating social ties between learners, and for designing MOOCs that are effective for students with a variety of cultural backgrounds.”

As part of the research, Emma Brunskill, assistant professor of computer science at CMU, and Kenneth Koedinger, professor at CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and director of the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, will leverage machine learning techniques to personalize MOOCs for each user, identifying which subject areas the student has already mastered and which might offer additional learning opportunities.

The second component—led by Carolyn Rose, associate professor in CMU’s Language Technologies Institute, and HCII professor Robert Kraut—will consist of determining ways to improve retention through increased socialization opportunities, such as mentoring and team tasks. The two will also explore how to better identify students at risk of dropping out of the course and more effectively engage these at-risk students in coursework.

Finally, the team will research ways to make courses more fun and engaging through game play and culturally relevant content for users outside the United States. That component will be led by Amy Ogan, assistant professor in HCII, and Jessica Hammer, assistant professor in HCII and the Entertainment Technology Center.

Google will provide $300,000 in annual funding for two years, with the potential to extend the research to a third year.

CMU hopes that the research will help MOOCs live up to that early hype.

“Unless the MOOCs pay attention to how people actually learn, they will not be able to improve effectiveness, and will end up as just a passing fad,” said Justine Cassell, associate vice provost of technology strategy and impact at CMU and codirector of the Simon Initiative, a university-wide program to use science and technology to improve student learning.

Photo/ Ilonka Hebels

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For Urban Kids, the City is a Campus for Learning http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/07/21/for-urban-kids-the-city-is-a-campus-for-learning/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16894 Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:15:37 +0000

For Urban Kids, the City is a Campus for Learning

How four cities are using their home turf to connect more kids with learning opportunities and to document what they learn with digital badges.

Steeltown Entertainment Project's Teen Production Crew / Photo: Ben Filio
On a recent Saturday in July, kids and their parents visited Dallas’ Love Field Airport to learn about aviation. The kids took tours of the airport, learned how security and baggage claim worked, met the fire crews and bomb squads, and played around with ticketing.

“These were kids who’d never been to an airport in their lives,” said Ed Meier, chief operating officer of the education nonprofit Big Thought. “We were introducing them to aviation.”

The month before, kids and their parents took over the new Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge—spanning West Dallas to downtown—to learn about art and science and hop on a bus converted into a multimedia studio on wheels.

These “turn-up” events were Big Thought’s way of introducing Dallas kids and their parents to Dallas City of Learning, a new initiative that’s part of the Cities of Learning movement from the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation, the Digital Youth Network, and Badge Alliance. The initiative helps kids connect with the learning opportunities happening in their cities and earn digital badges for their efforts.

Cities of Learning started in Chicago last summer, when the mayor’s office contacted the MacArthur Foundation about ways to connect digital badging to existing summer programming. The MacArthur foundation went to the Mozilla Foundation, which had built the technical infrastructure for digital badging. Then Chicago’s Digital Youth Network created the blueprint to make the idea actually work.

Multimedia Bus, Dallas/ Photo: Graham White

“How do we make visible all the learning opportunities happening in a city 24-7 that kids are already doing?” Nichole Pinkard, founder of the Digital Youth Network, asked. “How do we recognize what kids are learning with badges? And how then do we help kids and their parents link to other learning opportunities they might not know about?”

When Chicago debuted Summers of Learning last year, 20,000 kids participated and 100,000 badges were awarded. (Summer of Learning has since changed its name to Cities of Learning). Then, Pinkard said, “it took on a life of its own.” Cities around the country started calling the Chicago mayor’s office to ask how they could do it. Fast forward to summer 2014, and Cities of Learning is happening in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Pittsburgh, with Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio, joining in the fall.

Khalif Ali is the program manager of the Badges for Learning project at the Sprout Fund in Pittsburgh. “What struck me about Cities of Learning,” Ali said, “is that all of these places are interested in creating cities as campuses, where learning can take place anytime anywhere.”

How do we make visible all the learning opportunities happening in a city 24-7?
The idea of connected learning—which seeks to marry kids’ own interests with real-world learning opportunities both in and out of school—has been around for a while, but people like Ali are excited that Cities of Learning takes connected learning to the next level. The Digital Youth Network created a customizable website where cities can list all of its learning opportunities, whether through community centers, museums, or city park departments. Kids and parents can search by ZIP code or by interest, and the site makes recommendations. Google Maps pop up to show where programs are located, and boxes announce related programs. And all of it is tied to digital badges.

“It’s not so much about creating something new as recognizing the opportunities that already exist and making visible what kids are doing with badging,” Pinkard said.

Take Pittsburgh, for example. Plug “robotics” and “making” into the search box, and you’re led to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s “Magic of Electronics” workshop, TechShop’s “21st Century Printmaking,” and Holy Family Academy’s “Build Your Own Desk Project.” On the Dallas site, “robotics” leads you to the Dallas Public Library’s junior robotics camps and “Basic Robotics: LEGO Mindstorms.”

And it’s not just that kids participate in the summer programs; it’s that they’re given badges to acknowledge what they’ve done. The idea is that the badge, thanks to the digital infrastructure, follows kids for life.

“It’s an online symbol that you have acquired a particular competency,” Ali explained. “And the metadata in the badges is verifiable because there might a be a link to a YouTube video of a you building a desk or facilitating a meeting. It’s a permanent record of what you’ve achieved.”

Young Naturalists

Young naturalist in Pittsburgh’s parks. Photo: Ben Filio

In other words, Ali said, the badges become “currency.”

This summer, Ali expects approximately 3,000 kids will participate in Pittsburgh.

Luis Mora is an administrative coordinator for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond the Bell, which runs after-school and summer programming. He was struck by the way Cities of Learning provides the back-end infrastructure but allows each city to make its own priorities. In Los Angeles, workforce development is important so the program offers badges that reward financial literacy, learning how to fill out job applications, creating résumés, and developing interviewing skills.

Mora was also intrigued by the online challenges Digital Youth Network created, which all cities can access. There’s “Lil’ Musician,” where kids use everyday objects to make musical instruments, an “App Inventor,” “Introduction to Animation,” and “Digital Video Apprentice.” College students back in Chicago from the Digital Youth Network assess the challenges.

For those piloting Cities of Learning, the big questions are how to reach low-income families that may not have easy access to the internet and whether high school teachers, universities, and employers will take badges seriously.

The question for Mora is one of traction.

“What actually happens with the badges?” he asked. “How portable will they really be? Will employers or universities really want this type of certification?”

As for the equity piece, Mora is creating drop-in centers at eight schools in low-income areas.

Students visiting Love Field in Dallas.

Students visiting Love Field in Dallas. Photo: Graham White

For Ed Meier of Big Thought in Dallas, the creation of “turn-up” events such as the one at Love Field are an attempt to introduce people to Dallas City of Learning and drive them to the website. “That’s what we’re struggling with now,” Meier said.

“How do we keep the kids engaged? How do we find more access points for them to get on computers, which they might not have at home?”

Next up for Meier is finding a way to bring Dallas City of Learning to kids’ mobile devices, because, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, 78 percent of teens have cell phones.

For Pinkard, the success of the program will depend on its ability to reach underprivileged kids.

“The fear I have is we provide this great system that ends up empowering parents who are already active to snap up the best opportunities for their kids,” Pinkard said. “We don’t want to create more barriers for the kids who need this the most. That’s how we’ll hold ourselves accountable—how do we nimbly move the program so it’s not just accessible but desirable to a wide range of kids?”

In the meantime, Pinkard said 25 cities from all over the world have been in touch and want to get involved.

For Ali in Pittsburgh, the goal is to have badging opportunities year-round. He’s looking to a day when school counselors scroll through a student’s badges and help students pursue their interests in a more personalized way.

“That’s the kind of connected learning we’re talking about,” he said.

 

 Heather Chaplin contributed to this story.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for July 18th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/07/18/16883/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=16883 Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:32:47 +0000

STEM-ing the Tide of Long-Term Unemployment

How to combat unemployment with a focus on STEM education; Family game night can help make better students; Pittsburgh wins $200k youth healthcare grant; 4 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

Although there’s been some good news about the unemployment rate, long-term unemployment continues to make headlines. According to a recent USA Today article, approximately 3 million people, or 30.4 percent of the unemployed, were out of work for 27 weeks or longer as of last month—down from an all-time high of 48 percent in 2010 but still the highest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track.

Amid this (mostly discouraging) news comes a new report from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program highlighting the ongoing shortage of workers in STEM fields.

Using data from labor market analysis firm Burning Glass, the report analyzed the skill requirements and ad duration for millions of job postings. It concluded that positions in STEM fields take longer to fill than positions in other fields. In fact, the average STEM vacancy was advertised for twice as long as a non-STEM vacancy.

In addition, more jobs were posted in STEM fields relative to available workers. For every unemployed computer worker, the study discovered, there were five job openings; for every unemployed health care worker, 3.3 job openings; and for architectural/engineering and science professionals, 1.7 and 1.1 job openings, respectively.

“Even though the job market for STEM positions is white hot,” the article said, “there is still a dearth of new graduates in these fields relative to other fields like business and humanities. This strong demand combined with the limited supply work together to drive up the pay for these positions.”

So, as many workers struggle to find work, employers in STEM-related industries struggle to find workers and will pay generously for them.

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STEM-ing the Tide of Long-Term Unemployment http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/07/17/stem-ing-the-tide-of-long-term-unemployment/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16891 Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:28:27 +0000

STEM-ing the Tide of Long-Term Unemployment

Strengthening STEM knowledge prepares students for the lucrative, high-demand jobs of the future.

Photo/ Steve Jurvetson

Although there’s been some good news about the unemployment rate, long-term unemployment continues to make headlines. According to a recent USA Today article, approximately 3 million people, or 30.4 percent of the unemployed, were out of work for 27 weeks or longer as of last month—down from an all-time high of 48 percent in 2010 but still the highest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track.

Amid this (mostly discouraging) news comes a new report from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program highlighting the ongoing shortage of workers in STEM fields.

Using data from labor market analysis firm Burning Glass, the report analyzed the skill requirements and ad duration for millions of job postings. It concluded that positions in STEM fields take longer to fill than positions in other fields. In fact, the average STEM vacancy was advertised for twice as long as a non-STEM vacancy.

In addition, more jobs were posted in STEM fields relative to available workers. For every unemployed computer worker, the study discovered, there were five job openings; for every unemployed health care worker, 3.3 job openings; and for architectural/engineering and science professionals, 1.7 and 1.1 job openings, respectively.

To put those figures in perspective, there were only 0.7 openings for every legal professional in need of work and only 0.2 and 0.1 for out-of-work production and construction workers, respectively—meaning fewer jobs to go around than the number of unemployed professionals in those fields.

Among all major job types, computer skills were associated with the highest salaries and longest ad durations.

In the Pittsburgh metro area specifically, more than one-third—37.3 percent—of the 14,252 ads for job openings in the first quarter of 2013 required STEM skills, according to the Brookings report.

“These indicators,” the report explained, “signal that STEM skills are in short supply in the labor market, relative to demand.”

According to Forbes, recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree and less than three years of experience in their industry earn an average of $39,700 a year. In-demand STEM professionals can earn more than double that. The top-paying STEM job for a four-year college grad with three years or fewer experience, petroleum engineer, has a median annual salary of $88,700. Average pay for nuclear engineers, the second-highest paying STEM job for recent college grads, is $62,900. And the third-highest-paying job for new grads, marine engineer, clocks in at an average annual salary of $62,200.

Even without a four-year degree, STEM jobs pay well. Half of all STEM jobs are available to workers without a four-year college degree, according to “The Hidden STEM Economy,” a 2013 report by Brookings, and these jobs pay $53,000 on average—a wage 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements. These jobs could include those in the green economy, for example, such as doing electrical retrofits of buildings or residential energy efficiency jobs, or the many technician jobs in health care.

“Even though the job market for STEM positions is white hot,” the article said, “there is still a dearth of new graduates in these fields relative to other fields like business and humanities. This strong demand combined with the limited supply work together to drive up the pay for these positions.”

So, as many workers struggle to find work, employers in STEM-related industries struggle to find workers and will pay generously for them.

Remake Learning’s work in fostering learning innovation in the region is helping to prepare students for this evolving career landscape.

Providing students with opportunities to gain STEM skills not only prepares them for future careers in those fields, it also helps them develop critical thinking skills—and that will put them in good stead for whatever the future job market holds.

Photo/ Steve Jurvetson

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Making It http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/07/15/making-it/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16860 Tue, 15 Jul 2014 16:15:37 +0000

Making It

Eleven-year-old Caine Monroy has finally closed down his homemade cardboard box arcade. But at Assemble, a makeshop in Pittsburgh, there’s plenty of tinkering still going on.

Learning by making at Assemble

It’s been more than three years since Caine Monroy’s elaborate cardboard arcade in front of his dad’s used auto parts shop was catapulted to fame by Nirvan Mullick’s short film. But last summer, after two years and tens-of-thousands of customers, Cain “retired” on his eleventh birthday and closed Caine’s Arcade to the public. 

The last day was probably a first step for Caine, though. The film has been seen 8 million times and counting, and it has spun into a movement that’s spawned numerous think pieces, a scholarship fund, and a TEDx talk. Most notably, it spurred the creation of the Imagination Foundation, which aims to find, foster, and fund creativity in kids through programs such as the Global Cardboard Challenge and pop-up learning spaces called Imagination Chapters.

Last week, the foundation featured a piece on Assemble, aptly titled “Making it in Pittsburgh.” Assemble is a one-of-a-kind gem, and the folks at the Imagination Foundation have noted how Assemble has become a home for invention and creativity in the Garfield neighborhood.

From kids soldering solar panels, to extracting DNA from a strawberry, to building windmills, the article details the day-to-day tinkering, making, and collaborative learning that happens in the space.

The article also touches on Saturday Crafternoons, free weekend workshops where local makers and crafters lend their skills to help make community-focused projects that merge science, art, and craft. A few months ago, kids created a mosaic timeline of Nelson Mandela’s life in the Nelson Mandela Peace Park around the corner from Assemble. And yes, on one Saturday afternoon last year, kids went all out with the Global Cardboard Challenge.

“When kids make something, they glow with not just enthusiasm, but knowing that they can. Knowing that you can is the biggest part of the battle.” 

“I hope that when they leave, they understand that someone made up everything in the world around us, from the food that we eat to the clothes that we wear and the buildings that we live in,” Assemble director Nina Marie Barbuto told the foundation.

As the article explains, Assemble and Pittsburgh’s other spaces, such as MAKESHOP or TechShop, are a small part of the much broader maker movement that’s been picking up even more national attention recently. The White House just hosted its first Maker Faire, and national media descended on the 17-foot-tall robotic giraffe that strolled along the White House lawn. People around the country saw creations, such as 3D-printed models of viruses and a shoe insert that charges an iPhone by walking (invented by Pittsburgh’s SolePower startup!).

With all the attention surrounding making, journalist Katrina Schwartz at Mind/Shift recently asked if hands-on learning and tinkering had entered the mainstream discussion enough to make its way into more classrooms. It’s probably too soon to tell, but the massive response to Caine and other maker kids, such as Sylvia of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show and Joey “Marshmallow” Hudy, may suggest that a growing number of parents and educators are picking up on the value of making.

It’s bizarre, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying how the internet propels people and things into the cultural mainstream in a matter of days. Sometimes, viral sensations are just cat-related and ridiculous. But other times, there’s one element that connects with society on a deeper level. At a time when shop classes have been cut and kids are more plugged in than ever, seeing Caine create a world of tape and cardboard struck a chord with parents, educators, and even kids who took to their own cardboard boxes.

Although when we talk about making we often gravitate toward 3D printers and robotics kits, making—in essence—is about exploring and hands-on learning, not the materials. Tech wizardry is one route to enhancing that process, but Caine’s Arcade was simply the idea of kids learning all sorts of STEM and “soft” skills through making, whether with cardboard or code.

That’s what Assemble and so many Pittsburgh organizations give kids the chance to do: to find the power in being creators, not just consumers.

Barbuto summed it up well in the Imagination Foundation piece: “When kids make something, they glow with not just enthusiasm, but knowing that they can. Knowing that you can is the biggest part of the battle.”

For kids in Pittsburgh and throughout the country, the maker movement entering the mainstream is, hopefully, only the beginning of a larger role of self-directed learning in and out of the classroom. And as far as Caine’s next move? He’s opening a bike shop.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for July 11th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/07/11/16836/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=16836 Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:45:37 +0000

The Impact of After-School Arts Programs

Studying the positive effects of after school programs; Teachers using social media to teach civics; nominate your colleagues for this year's EdSurge awards; 5 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

We know places that let kids explore arts are vital parts of a learning network. We also know that art is every bit as important as STEM for instilling skills such as problem solving and imagination. But can after-school arts programming do even more? A recent report from the College & University Research Collaborative finds that enrolling more kids in after-school arts classes is associated with a decline in juvenile crime rates.

The researchers analyzed education, crime, and census data from 39 Rhode Island cities for five years. Two of the three statistical models showed that participation in educational after-school activities was associated with lower juvenile crime rates in the same year. In one of the statistical models, a 10 percent increase in participation was associated with a 4 percent decrease in juvenile crime rates.

Higher participation rates in lower-income towns—towns with median incomes less than the area’s median income—was slightly more effective: a 10 percent increase in participation meant a 5.4 percent decrease in juvenile crime.

As one student who is part of Rhode Island’s Everett: Company, Stage & School explains in the report, “By middle school I slipped into the pattern of behavior typical to the youth surrounding me; I joined a gang and began engaging in risky behaviors. [Then] my best friend and I discovered break dancing, and somehow also found Everett. . . . From preparing for shows . . . across the state to being exposed to places and people I otherwise would never know, these experiences changed the course of my life.”

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The Impact of After-School Arts Programs http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/07/09/the-impact-of-after-school-arts-programs/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16825 Wed, 09 Jul 2014 17:28:37 +0000

The Impact of After-School Arts Programs

For kids in low-income neighborhoods after-school arts programming helps keep them off the streets and provides access to needed enrichment. Can it lower crime rates too?

YOUmedia Chicago / photo: Alexander Garcia

We know places that let kids explore arts are vital parts of a learning network. We also know that art is every bit as important as STEM for instilling skills such as problem solving and imagination. But can after-school arts programming do even more? A recent report from the College & University Research Collaborative finds that enrolling more kids in after-school arts classes is associated with a decline in juvenile crime rates.

The researchers analyzed education, crime, and census data from 39 Rhode Island cities for five years. Two of the three statistical models showed that participation in educational after-school activities was associated with lower juvenile crime rates in the same year. In one of the statistical models, a 10 percent increase in participation was associated with a 4 percent decrease in juvenile crime rates.

Higher participation rates in lower-income towns—towns with median incomes less than the area’s median income—was slightly more effective: a 10 percent increase in participation meant a 5.4 percent decrease in juvenile crime.

The report points out that much more research is needed to address remaining questions. For example, do the effects of the programming last? Furthermore, there’s no data on participation rates in after-school programs that are specifically arts-based; therefore, the analysis focuses on broader after-school activities with more in-depth interviews, untangling the effects of arts programming specifically.

Researchers found arts-based programming in many cases had turned around participants’ lives. 
What we do know already, though, is that kids from low-income families have less access to quality after-school programming, even though they’re the ones who need it most. For one thing, heading to a dance program or theater rehearsal is an alternative to spending those after-school hours at home in front of the television or in neighborhoods that may be affected by crime or drug use. Nobel Prize−winning economist James Heckman found in a 2006 study that following early education with after-school programs can cut young people’s chances of starting drugs by one-half. 

As one student who is part of Rhode Island’s Everett: Company, Stage & School explains in the report, “By middle school I slipped into the pattern of behavior typical to the youth surrounding me; I joined a gang and began engaging in risky behaviors. [Then] my best friend and I discovered break dancing, and somehow also found Everett. . . . From preparing for shows . . . across the state to being exposed to places and people I otherwise would never know, these experiences changed the course of my life.”

Beyond keeping kids in safe environments, after-school arts programs give low-income kids similar chances to learn and explore their own interests that their higher-income peers have been receiving at origami camp or during saxophone lessons for years. By the time kids born into poverty reach sixth grade, they will have spent approximately 6,000 fewer hours learning than their wealthier counterparts. (If you do the math that’s approximately five school years.)

Approximately one-half of those missed learning hours come from after-school and extracurricular activities that their higher-income peers have been partaking in since day one. Those hours have a snowball effect, and that achievement gap too often carries on throughout high school and beyond.

Of course, it’s about more than only hours put into learning. The more difficult challenge is filling those hours with quality programming that will make a difference. Through interviews and observations, the Rhode Island researchers found arts-based programming in many cases had turned around participants’ lives. In addition, an emphasis on retention, an evolution of youths’ roles, and family engagement were keys to a program’s success. The researchers also found that programs integrating skill-based training or providing resources to help students graduate, apply to college, or earn scholarships are critical to a program that works.

The Wallace Foundation also investigated what factors draw low-income tweens to after-school art programs. Through hundreds of interviews with students, the report found instructors who are professional artists and programs taking place in dedicated, welcoming spaces are among the most important elements for attracting students. Learning Labs in libraries and museums, such as those in Pittsburgh and 23 other cities, are taking those elements to heart.

The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild also embraces those elements. Bill Strickland, who founded the guild in 1968 in Pittsburgh, talked with us last winter about the success of his growing urban art centers. He touched on how the arts engage kids in learning in an intrinsic way. In fact, we learn exclusively through creative activities for our first five years of life.

“I think it’s how we’re built as humans. Creative activity releases a part of your consciousness that is essential to mental and physical health,” he said.

Sure, art instills 21st-century skills employers will be looking for down the line, such as imagination or divergent thinking. But kids don’t love paper mache because it teaches them the basics of structural engineering; rather, they’re drawn to it because there’s something fundamentally human about ideas flowing into your hands and creating art.

All kids deserve a chance to tap into that human experience, whether it be through programs in Pittsburgh that teach audio recording,or photography, or ones that encourage art inspired by social change. Strickland explained—and the Rhode Island report noted—that providing kids with a creative outlet in the right space can create enormous potential for learning and for their lives.

“Many of these kids are coming from environments where there are no parents or only one parent. They’re dealing with welfare, drugs, poverty and violence,” Strickland explained. “We create an environment for them that says, ‘We care about you. We’re not going away. We’re here for the long term. You’re part of us, now, so let’s go.’”

 

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Teachers Use Twitter to Promote Civics Discourse In Class http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/07/07/teachers-use-twitter-to-promote-civics-discourse-in-class/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16778 Mon, 07 Jul 2014 17:19:44 +0000

Teachers Use Twitter to Promote Civics Discourse In Class

KQED’s “Do Now” helps youth build civic engagement and digital literacy skills by discussing social issues in real time on Twitter. This summer, with the help of the National Writing Project, they’re training teachers, too.

Screenshot/ KQED

What if—instead of banning cell phones from the classroom—schools made phones part of the learning process? That’s exactly what teachers taking part in KQED’s “Do Now” program are doing.

Most teachers are familiar with the concept of a “do now” activity—short exercises students complete in the classroom, often at the beginning of class while teachers take attendance. But as an Education Week blog post points out, students often end up socializing or staring into space instead of completing the activity.

Encouraging students to take out their cell phones and log into Twitter might be just what teachers need to make this time count. KQED’s “Do Now” prompts have students grappling with current issues and engaging in a dialog with peers throughout the country and world using social media tools such as Twitter. Along the way, students build critical 21st-century skills in digital media tools and literacy.

Each week, the Bay Area public radio station posts a new activity at kqed.org/donow. Students read a brief introduction to a topic and then respond to the question, either in the comments section of the website or via Twitter. A media resource with audio and video content informs students’ responses. The entire activity takes approximately six to eight minutes.

Tuesday’s topics rotate between science and arts/popular culture, and Friday subjects deal with civics, government, and politics.

For example, the June 6, 2014, prompt asked, “What’s Your Favorite Dance Move?” and invited students to tweet the name of their signature move or capture it in a Vine, YouTube, or Instagram video and share it online. The accompanying KQED video featured a three-minute montage of dance moves, from the Charleston to the Harlem Shake. Students wanting to dig deeper could view additional resources, including videos on choreographers Alonzo King and Margaret Jenkins.

Through “Do Now,” students at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School in San Francisco have weighed in on topics from affordable housing to access to health care. In a YouTube video, students said the activity was “really interactive” and “more fun than writing on paper.”

“The first time we did it, it was on the topic of 9/11. And when they saw it actually gong up on the feed, they would get all excited and tweet, tweet, tweet themselves because they saw their response live and other kids would respond to it,” said Wendy Berkelman, a teacher at Burton High.

“And then we started getting feedback from around the world. And that just really hit home for them that they were part of a global community. They felt connected. It gave them a really big thrill and a sense of empowerment, I think.”

This summer, from July 7 to August 17, KQED will host a collaborative learning experience for teachers called #TeachDoNow, in partnership with the National Writing Project. With weekly activities centered on the “Do Now” prompts, the MOOC will guide teachers in using Twitter and other social media tools to promote civic engagement with students.

Moderator-led discussions will address questions such as “How can we use connected learning principles to promote 21st-century learning and address Common Core State Standards?” and “What media making and social learning tools are best at engaging learners?” It kicks off today with a webinar on “Strategies for Assessing Professional Learning Online” at 4 p.m. Pacific.

Interested educators can sign up on the blog or join the #TeachDoNow Google+ community.

Here’s what students are tweeting about at #DoNow this summer:

  • @agreen71220: @KQEDEdspace yes I believe that e-cigarettes should be regulated because we don’t know the long term effects. #DoNowECigs
  • @kkimberlyphungg: @KQEDEdspace I think that #BringBackOurGirls brings awareness to the world and it is trending which helps even more. #DoNowNigeria
  • @tori_ramiirez: @KQEDEdspace I think graffiti can be used for both art and vandalism, it all depends on intentions #DoNowGraffiti
  • @katelynnkwok: @KQEDEdspace When using the internet you have to be safe. Don’t talk to strangers or post your information online. #DoNowInternet

To receive the “Do Now” prompts, follow @KQEDedspace on Twitter.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for July 3rd http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/07/03/16723/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=16723 Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:37:41 +0000

Why Networks are Crucial to Innovation

Why networks are crucial to innovation; Digital Promise kicks off micro-credentials with summer pilot program; kids better at creative problem solving than college students; 2 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

The geography of innovation is changing. Say goodbye to cubicles and “research parks” with secrets to guard in faraway suburbs, and say hello to city waterfront lofts with shared office space, where startups and businesses of different stripes rub elbows and spark ideas.

“A new complementary urban model is now emerging,” writes the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner, “giving rise to what we and others are calling ‘innovation districts.’”

On the surface, innovation districts aren’t new. Silicon Valley, for one, springs to mind. Although now a sprawling corridor and no longer a fit for Katz’s definition, it started as walkable, wired (human) hub for geeky engineers in 1957.

In Katz and Wagner’s rendering, the innovation districts of today have returned to these roots, with a few additions.

“Innovation districts constitute the ultimate mash up of entrepreneurs and educational institutions, start-ups and schools, mixed-use development and medical innovations, bike-sharing and bankable investments—all connected by transit, powered by clean energy, wired for digital technology, and fueled by caffeine,” they write. Indeed, every shared office space I recently visited in Chicago has an espresso maker front and center.

In Pittsburgh, the innovation district—according to Katz and Wagner—is in the Greater Oakland neighborhood near Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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With New Learning Labs, Teen Programming at Local Libraries Goes Digital http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/07/02/with-new-learning-labs-teen-programming-at-local-libraries-goes-digital/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16718 Wed, 02 Jul 2014 16:50:56 +0000

With New Learning Labs, Teen Programming at Local Libraries Goes Digital

In Pittsburgh this summer teens can mix music, tinker with robots, and take courses in digital design. All at their local library.

The Labs @ CLP. Photo/ Ben Filio
There’s some good news for libraries—and library patrons. The bleeding appears to have stopped. Library budgets—although not growing—are at least not shrinking any more, after years of tough going.

The recession slashed the budgets of most public libraries in the nation, leaving them struggling to maintain services, including the higher-cost digital services that community residents have come to rely on. E-books, internet connections, and 3D printers are the “World Book” set of years ago—the expensive, scarce resource that libraries provide when families cannot.

For many libraries, those kinds of services have become harder to fund. States cut funding to libraries by more than 37 percent from 2000 to 2010, as a recent Stateline article reports, “forcing libraries to rely more heavily on local funds.” Throughout the nation, local governments shoulder approximately 85 percent of the costs of public libraries. The federal government picks up a small tab, amounting to less than 1 percent of the total budget. But even those funds decreased. In Pennsylvania, federal funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services—which provides leadership through research, policy development, and grant making—declined from $6.31 million in 2010 to $5.49 million in 2014.

However, as Stateline reports, funding cuts appear to have ceased. Budgets are leveling off, if not growing, which is welcome news.

Photo/ Ben Filio

Pittsburgh’s libraries are at the forefront of innovations for kids and families, and teens in particular. The Labs at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Labs @ CLP) joins 23 other Learning Labs nationwide to advance hands-on, interest-driven learning for teens, focused on digital media and tools. This fall, with funding from the Cindy and Murry Gerber Foundation, the East Liberty branch will create a space for teens to cultivate their digital and creative skills.

The Learning Labs’ core philosophy is that youth are best engaged when they’re following their passions, collaborating with others, and being makers and doers as well as consumers of technology and information.

The 24 Labs have spent the last few years planning for their launches, building partnerships with other organizations in their respective cities and involving teens in the planning and design processes. In Nashville, Tennessee, for example, teens worked directly with architects planning the Lab space. Other Labs have been piloting programs that build teens’ creativity and problem-solving skills.

Teens in the Learning Lab in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for example, used geocoding and mapping tools to tell the story of their city’s rebirth following the devastating tornado in 2011. The Learning Lab there is a partnership between the Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Tuscaloosa Public Library. Libraries excel in storytelling, and the museum is a federal and state repository of maps on the campus of the University of Alabama. Combine the two, and you have story mapping. In this case, the teens combined urbex-ing—urban exploration of buildings, often abandoned or decaying—with geospatial tools, coupled with mentors from the university’s geography department, to tell the story of the role of destruction in a city’s renewal.

The result was “another way to look at the history and story of our city,” said Lance Simpson, a teen services librarian at Tuscaloosa Public Library.

In the San Francisco Bay area, the Learning Labs focus on media making and teen voice for social justice. KQED Public Radio, the San Francisco Public Library, California Academy of Sciences, and the Bay Area Video Coalition are all collaborating to help teens tell their stories.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Learning Lab is preparing teens for future jobs in the area as a leading employer, Hallmark, expands into digital storytelling. The partners in the Lab—the Kansas City Public Library and Science City at Union Station—focus on coding, digital storytelling, videography, and other digital tools. The skills will prepare teens to enroll in new digital storytelling degrees at Johnson County Community College and the University of Missouri.

In Pittsburgh, the Learning Lab at East Liberty branch will feature a freestanding music studio and a variety of digital tools and software. It will also offer workshops with practicing artists, technologists, and other experts, said Corey Wittig, the Learning Labs director. During the summer, they’ll be offering a two-week photography course with Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program.

During the school year, the Lab at East Liberty offers diverse programming, focusing on a different subject each week, from audio production, to graphic design and printmaking, to photography and videography. Teens’ ideas and interests are what guide much of the programming, explained Wittig. Staff mentors help students build their confidence in skills, such as using a vinyl cutter or a video camera, and more expert teens work on their own projects as well. Other Learning Lab sites in the city focus on gaming or host open jam sessions, among other options.

WESA, Pittsburgh’s local NPR affiliate, visited the East Liberty library branch last month, just a few days after school let out. They found teens engaged in an ancient Egyptian design workshop. Carnegie Library Teen Specialist Andre Costello said workshops like these are helping change our vision for how we think about libraries.

“Before we thought of them as a pantry, whereas now we’re thinking of them more as a kitchen,” he said. “So rather than taking the information home and just using it there, you can actually use the library as a place to create.”

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Why Networks are Crucial to Innovation http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/30/why-networks-are-crucial-to-innovation/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16704 Mon, 30 Jun 2014 17:54:31 +0000

Why Networks are Crucial to Innovation

The Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz says “innovation districts” are the way of the future—places where groups cluster together to share ideas and collaborate. In Pittsburgh, our network of learning innovation uses the same principals.

Photo/ Barbara Ray

The geography of innovation is changing. Say goodbye to cubicles and “research parks” with secrets to guard in faraway suburbs, and say hello to city waterfront lofts with shared office space, where startups and businesses of different stripes rub elbows and spark ideas.

“A new complementary urban model is now emerging,” writes the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner, “giving rise to what we and others are calling ‘innovation districts.’”

On the surface, innovation districts aren’t new. Silicon Valley, for one, springs to mind. Although now a sprawling corridor and no longer a fit for Katz’s definition, it started as walkable, wired (human) hub for geeky engineers in 1957.

As Tom Wolfe wrote in “Two Young Men Who Went West,” an essay in the “Hooking Up” collection, Silicon Valley in the 1950s was still a bunch of warehouses among the apricot trees where workers hunched over microscopes cutting little pieces of silicon. But GE and IBM were there, as was the fledgling Hewlett-Packard, and Stanford University was nearby. It was the perfect place for two newcomers from Grinnell, Iowa, to start Fairchild Computers, setting up shop on Charleston Avenue in Mountain View, a stone’s throw from a winner of the Nobel Prize for creating the semiconductor. Freed from the conventions of old-school business and surrounded by people with revolutionary ideas, the team at Fairchild would go on to invent the integrated circuit (and found Intel). The iPhone was a mere 50 years away.

In Katz and Wagner’s rendering, the innovation districts of today have returned to these roots, with a few additions.

“Innovation districts constitute the ultimate mash up of entrepreneurs and educational institutions, start-ups and schools, mixed-use development and medical innovations, bike-sharing and bankable investments—all connected by transit, powered by clean energy, wired for digital technology, and fueled by caffeine,” they write. Indeed, every shared office space I recently visited in Chicago has an espresso maker front and center.

In Pittsburgh, the innovation district—according to Katz and Wagner—is in the Greater Oakland neighborhood near Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

But what struck me while reading Katz and Wagner’s ideas (first raised in Katz and Jennifer Bradley’s book, “The Metropolitan Revolution”) is just how much the innovation district resembles Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning initiative.

Although Katz and Wagner are talking mostly about innovation as it relates to creating goods and services, I see the learning network in Pittsburgh as a different kind of innovation district. It’s more dispersed physically, but it is still connected in critical ways, embodying a fundamental element in Katz and Wagner’s definition of innovation districts: networks.

At the heart of an ecosystem for learning is an ability to draw upon the assets of an entire city or community to support students.

Recently, Michele Cahill, vice president for national program and program director of urban education at Carnegie Corporation of New York, wrote about the importance of an ecosystem in education, asking: What will take the smart innovations in education to scale?

Her answer: networks.

“I have come to see that an ecosystem for learning is essential. . . . At the heart of an ecosystem for learning is an ability to draw upon the assets of an entire city or community to support students as they grapple with the two primary tasks of adolescence: building competencies and forming their identities,” said Cahill. 

That sounds a lot like what the Remake Learning community is doing, along with the Hive Learning Network, in Pittsburgh.

The collaboration between groups, with different and complementary areas of expertise, creates opportunities, Cahill writes, for kids to have:

“relationships with adults and experiences that literally expand the world that is well-known to them through connections with cultural organizations, professional and business settings, science and technical organizations, or community services. Students have opportunities to take on new roles and try out identities that can motivate them and build confidence and effort.”

Katz and Wagner stress the centrality of this kind of ecosystem of networks as well, including them as one of the three features of any innovation district. Networks, they write, “fuel innovation because they strengthen trust and collaboration within and across companies and industry clusters” and “provide information for new discoveries.”

The networks of museums, educators, scientists, and artists that make up the ecosystem in Pittsburgh have always existed, but the Remake Learning initiative has taken them a step further. The Sprout Fund ensures that the individual networks are stitched together in new and specific ways. It also introduces groups that haven’t thought about working together and helps support new relationships while strengthening old ones.

In essence, the Sprout Fund and Remake Learning nurture and develop both the loose and strong ties that every network needs to be healthy.

If you’re looking for a job, you need close friends and associates who can vouch for you, but you also need a wide and diffuse network to hear about a bigger pool of job openings. The same is true for innovation. Too familiar, and the group gets stuck in a rut. Not familiar enough, and it’s hard to get traction for an idea.

In their book “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives,” Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler stress this point:

“Teams made up of individuals who had never before worked together fared poorly, greatly increasing the chance of a flop. These networks were not well connected and contained mostly weak ties. At the other extreme, groups made up of individuals who had all worked together previously also tended to create musicals that were unsuccessful. Because these groups lacked creative input from the outside, they tended to rehash the same ideas that they used the first time they worked together.”

That’s why the Remake Learning network mixes groups that share different cultures and missions and that have seldom, if ever, worked together. It strives for that in-between sweet spot “that combines the diversity of new team members with the stability of previously formed relationships,” as Christakis and Fowler put it.

The Remake Learning ecosystem plays another role for an innovation district. Call it the farm team. The network of museums, science centers, maker spaces, schools, and other like-minded entrepreneurs is creating the future talent that will be renting the shared office space in the innovation districts in years to come.

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Reporting from the NAEYC Early Childhood Professional Development Conference http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/27/naeyc-prof-dev-con/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16646 Fri, 27 Jun 2014 18:29:36 +0000 ,

Reporting from the NAEYC Early Childhood Professional Development Conference

NAEYC recently held their National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development conference, and PAEYC directors Sue Polojac and Cara Ciminillo were in attendance.

Sue Polojac and Tanya Smith presenting at the conference

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development has long been one of NAEYC’s premier conferences. This conference brings together early childhood professionals who are passionate about assuring that educators are knowledgeable and on the cutting-edge of the latest research. The 2014 conference “Excellence for Every Child: Standards without Standardization” highlighted some of the country’s leading early childhood education professionals in Minneapolis, Minnesota this June.

We, as an early childhood education community, are bearing witness to increased exposure on the local, state, and national levels for the work that we have been advocating for to be seen as a profession for many years. Never in history has early childhood education been mentioned in the political landscape as much as in this presidential administration. Now more than ever, we need to be sure that we are continuing to support the lives of children, families and communities as advocates for best practice when educating today’s young children.

Thanks in part to the support of The Sprout Fund, The Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC) joined several other partners from the Kids+Creativity Network as presenters at the conference.

Sue Polojac, Director of Programming at PAEYC co-presented “Engaging Families in dialogue about today’s media and technology landscape” with Tanya Smith, Ele Coordinator at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. This session explored appropriate and secure ways to engage families using Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and Pinterest with families. Sue and Tanya also co-presented “Integrating digital media literacy and technology into early childhood standards and practice” with Chip Donohue, PhD and Amanda Armstrong from the TEC Center at the Erikson Institute in Chicago.

Chip Donohue set the stage by using the NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center joint Position Statement on Technology as a guide to select and implement technology in effective, developmentally appropriate, and intentional ways.

The presenters shared another useful tool for educators, the Pennsylvania Digital Media Literacy Project’s Checklist for identifying exemplary uses of technology and interactive media for early learning. The checklist helps educators use media tools in a manner that support the technology position statement. Pittsburgh and the surrounding region continue to lead the national discussion on digital media literacy and early childhood.

PAEYC Director of Operations Cara Ciminillo and Executive Director Michelle Figlar also presented on behalf of the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, a group of local entities including the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Carnegie Museum of Art, Let’s Move Pittsburgh, The Sprout Fund, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and others who are working to raise awareness about the importance of play in the development and health of children, family and our communities.

The conference reminded us that the reciprocal developmental relationship between individual educators and learners is, in the words of Junlei Li of the Fred Rogers Center, ‘the active ingredient’ in any learning setting.

Presenting alongside Junlei, Cara, and Roberta Schomburg of Carlow University, Hedda Sharapan of the Fred Rogers Company presented this simple and yet powerful message with a  reminder of the wise words of Fred Rogers:

“If you look carefully, listen carefully…there is a lot that you can learn carefully. Look and listen.”

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for June 27th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/06/27/16682/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=16682 Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:12:58 +0000

Aspen Report Says Learning Networks Key to Kids’ Success

Study says learning networks are key to student success; new Verizon ad encourages parents to support girls' interests in STEM; teens get hip-hop mentoring at CMU's Arts Greenhouse; 3 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

Last year, the Aspen Task Force on Learning and the Internet was charged with a big task. The team of 20 leading minds in education, technology, business, public policy, and online privacy was asked to understand how young people are learning and to come up with ways to optimize new learning in safe, trusted online environments.

They found that an entirely new vision of learning is emerging. The Industrial Age education model, which revolves around the school as a central storehouse for information, is out of date. This approach to education fails to acknowledge that kids grow up accessing hoards of information online. And it doesn’t harness all the valuable learning that happens outside of a schools’ walls in places such as libraries, museums, afterschool programs, and online. (After all, students spend only 14 percent of their time inside the school.)

The report encourages a shift from the outdated system toward learner-centered environments, including traditional places for education, while making safe, trusted online environments a priority. The report’s five major recommendations and 26 steps for action lay pathways for making that shift a reality for all students, no matter where they live.

The report also emphasizes that learning networks, particularly online networks, must be interoperable, that is, they have to share information and data to be effective. Tools too often exist in separate “silos,” or closed systems. They don’t talk to each other. But it’s “impossible to have a seamless connected learning experience,” the report notes, if the data and information on what is learned or where kids get stuck can’t be transferred without sacrificing a student’s privacy and identity.

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Program Brings Tech Professionals Into Communities to Teach Digital Literacy http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/26/program-brings-tech-professionals-into-communities-to-teach-digital-literacy/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16687 Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:09:30 +0000

Program Brings Tech Professionals Into Communities to Teach Digital Literacy

We sent a corps of local technologists into libraries and after-school spaces throughout the Pittsburgh region to teach digital literacy. Turns out the students aren’t the only ones who learned something.

Mentor working with kids at a Digital Corps event in Homestead / Photo: Ben Filio
Sylvan Hemingway came up with a novel way of introducing kids at Assemble to coding with Scratch. First, he wrote code that reflected a hacked system. Then, he had the students look at the code and figure out what was incorrect. The activity both familiarized them with the kids programming language and gave them confidence to work with it themselves.

With a background in robotics and a firm belief in the importance of STEM education, Hemingway was part of the first cohort of 40 teacher-mentors who took their considerable skills and experience into communities throughout Pittsburgh this spring as part of the first Remake Learning Digital Corps.

“Students are in front of computers all the time, and so many have smartphones,” Hemingway said. “The challenge is in educating and empowerment. We need to help them find confidence in their ability to make things happen with technology. It’s there, it’s accessible for everybody, but who’s going to use it except those who are empowered to do so?”

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes particularly tech-savvy villagers to train kids in digital technology.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes particularly tech-savvy villagers to train kids in digital technology. Run by The Sprout Fund, in partnership with Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST), Digital Corps connects kids with mentors who can guide them through hands-on, technology-focused learning and exploration. The mentors attend training sessions on tech tools such as Scratch, App Inventor, Thimble, and Hummingbird—so they are well prepared to teach.

With the teachers’ guidance, the 400 teens and tweens who were enrolled in the six-week pilot program created animations, designed web pages, and built robots in 11 libraries and after-school spaces throughout the region.

The long-term goals of the program include strengthening kids’ STEM skills and boosting digital literacy in the Pittsburgh region.

But the program has other benefits. “It’s not just about jobs or school, though those are predominant and really important factors,” said Digital Corps Manager Ani Martinez, “but also just about knowing how the world around them functions, how people communicate. Making projects like this with hardware and electronics helps you organize your thinking. It helps you work collaboratively.”

With the ubiquity of smartphones, we might assume everyone is familiar with digital technology. But familiarity doesn’t equal fluency. Eszter Hargittai, sociology professor at Northwestern University, has studied the digital skills of millennials. This young generation may be plugged in—but digitally savvy? Not so much. Her findings “paint a picture not of an army of app-building, HTML-typing twenty-somethings, but of a stratified landscape in which some, mostly privileged, young people use their skills constructively, while others lack even basic Internet knowledge,” writes Megan O’Neil in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Among Digital Corps students, fluency in digital technology also varies greatly. “I’ve worked with sites where students have already mastered Scratch and want to go right into creating games and HTML, and it’s really exciting that we can provide that kind of programming,” Martinez said. “But there are other sites where students don’t know what right-clicking means, and that’s also greatly rewarding, that we can facilitate a program that can basically help with what should be new literacy skills. It’s just as essential as learning to write.”

Digital Corps’ emphasis on STEM learning through digital media and mentorship fit naturally with The Labs @ CLP, the teen learning labs at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. But by locating in library branches without established Labs programs, Digital Corps will enable the library to reach more underserved students.

The type of community connection Digital Corps fosters is often lacking in some lower-income neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that are isolated because of a lack of comprehensive public transportation, explained Corey Wittig, program manager at The Labs @ CLP. “If we keep putting programs in vibrant areas,” Wittig said, “we’re missing the opportunity to reach kids who come every day to the library and are not getting this opportunity.”

“We need to help kids find confidence in their ability to make things happen with technology.”

So far the program has set up bases at the Carrick and Woods Run branches, with plans to expand.

The Carrick branch hosted successful digital media programs before Digital Corps launched, according to Jon Antoszewski, manager of teen services. Last summer, 30 teens pitched in to direct, film, and edit a 20-minute horror movie called “Chairpocalypse!”. Still, there was some hesitation when he pitched the Digital Corps idea to them.

“When you’re tossing around words like ‘web design’ and ‘building robots,’ there’s an intimidation factor,” he said. “But the students ended up having a blast each week and surprising themselves about how much they could get accomplished.”

And the students weren’t the only ones who learned something. Despite the deep background in technology the teacher-mentors brought to Digital Corps, they also faced a learning curve.

A mechanical engineer working in software design, Greg Cala joined Digital Corps as an instructor at the Hilltop Computer Center. He’s accustomed to teaching software skills to adults but says teaching young people required an adjustment, particularly with the broad age range of his group. Among the 20 kids who showed up for his first session were students as young as first grade who had tagged along with older siblings.

The continual shifting caused by kids dropping in and out of the program also made it challenging to continue projects from one week to the next.

One thing was easier with kids, though: It was clear when they were bored. “Adults don’t yell across the room,” Cala said.

This summer the Digital Corps team plans to reflect on what they learned from the launch while expanding the program to 23 sites.

One insight they’ll be sure to carry over, according to Martinez: “We confirmed that snacks are mandatory after a long day of school.”

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Aspen Report Says Learning Networks Key to Kids’ Success http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/24/aspen-report-says-learning-networks-key-to-kids-success/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16664 Tue, 24 Jun 2014 20:47:25 +0000

Aspen Report Says Learning Networks Key to Kids’ Success

A new Aspen Institute report focuses on building strong learning networks that facilitate learning anytime, anyplace, while keeping kids safe online.

MAKESHOP at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh / photo: Ben Filio

Last year, the Aspen Task Force on Learning and the Internet was charged with a big task. The team of 20 leading minds in education, technology, business, public policy, and online privacy was asked to understand how young people are learning and to come up with ways to optimize new learning in safe, trusted online environments.

They found that an entirely new vision of learning is emerging. The Industrial Age education model, which revolves around the school as a central storehouse for information, is out of date. This approach to education fails to acknowledge that kids grow up accessing hoards of information online. And it doesn’t harness all the valuable learning that happens outside of a schools’ walls in places such as libraries, museums, afterschool programs, and online. (After all, students spend only 14 percent of their time inside the school.)

The report encourages a shift from the outdated system toward learner-centered environments, including traditional places for education, while making safe, trusted online environments a priority. The report’s five major recommendations and 26 steps for action lay pathways for making that shift a reality for all students, no matter where they live.

Its overarching recommendation is to build learning networks filled with online and physical places that empower students to learn anytime, anywhere. As the report explains, “New learning networks connect it all.”

The report’s ideal networks look a lot like what we’re creating here in Pittsburgh. The report even gives a shout-out to Hive Learning Networks as an example of “new learning” in action. Schools here in Pittsburgh still play a critical role in education, and many of them are on the cutting edge with high-tech learning labs, robotics, and game-making classes. But when the school bell rings, for the end of the day or for summer vacation, the Hive Network’s consortium of programs and organizations turns the city into a giant, messy, engaging classroom.

What does this network look like? This summer, kids in Pittsburgh are making science videos in the ti5 High Def Summer Smash Jam. They’re tinkering in maker spaces and creating art for social change. Meanwhile, New York City’s learning network takes shape in programs such as Digital Ready, which has matched 10 public high schools with Hive New York organizations to teach students everything from coding, to game making, to sculpting with welded steel. If they want to document that experience, they can earn online badges, a new form of credential that employers and educators, among others, can see.

The report also emphasizes that learning networks, particularly online networks, must be interoperable, that is, they have to share information and data to be effective. Tools too often exist in separate “silos,” or closed systems. They don’t talk to each other. But it’s “impossible to have a seamless connected learning experience,” the report notes, if the data and information on what is learned or where kids get stuck can’t be transferred without sacrificing a student’s privacy and identity.

The report’s last recommendation deals with safety. An increase in learning networks must come with a commitment to safe and trusted online environments. For example, data sets are an important tool for individualized instruction. Teachers can see in real time where a student is stuck or where the entire class is hung up. But there’s growing concern about how students’ individual data is used by third parties, and the report recommends re-examining and possibly modernizing federal and state regulations on student data use.

But when it comes to broader online safety, the task force claims tight restrictions and fear-based strategies, such as banning mobile devices from classrooms, don’t work. These strategies ultimately limit the internet’s potential for education. Rather, arming kids with digital literacy skills to protect themselves fosters critical thinking and gives them a lifelong skill. (Researcher danah boyd writes about this very topic in her new book.)

Responding to the Aspen Task Force’s recommendations, HĀSTAC and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced a $1.2 million challenge dubbed the Trust Challenge. The challenge will offer year-long grants of up to $150,000 to teams with promising innovations for creating the types of trusted online learning environments recommended by the task force.

Successful teams will develop tools that build privacy and safety into its online offerings and “build awareness around data and trust.” This could take the form of online applications, digital badging systems, data management platforms, or learning content. Plus, the challenge is open to any part of a learning network: museums, libraries, higher education institutions, community organizations, developers, researchers, and others.

All working parts of modern learning ecosystems, outlined in the report, bring the famous John Dewey quote to mind: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” We want kids to be prepared for the changing world out there. Learning networks let them take advantage of deep, interest-driven learning that enhances their lives not only today, but also when they graduate. That’s a future worth working for.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for June 20th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/06/20/16569/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=16569 Fri, 20 Jun 2014 19:00:52 +0000

A Special Message on National Summer Learning Day

Celebrating National Summer Learning Day; Teacher Quest comes to Pittsburgh; President Obama talks about manufacturing and making at Techshop; 6 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

School’s out. For some, this means days at the pool, campfires, or family road trips. But for many children in our communities, the end of the school year means losing access to things that are crucial for their growth and development: books, mentors, meaningful enrichment, or even healthy food.

Studies show that low-income kids in particular lack these resources during the summer months. These are often the same children who typically lag behind their upper-income peers in academic achievement, especially in reading.

These deficiencies are serious and can have long-term consequences. According to the National Summer Learning Association and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, four out of every five low-income students fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade, making them four times more likely to drop out of high school. Today is National Summer Learning Day, which aims to highlight the importance of high-quality summer learning programs.

Here in Pittsburgh, we’re intervening by joining these initiatives and with other national organizations. We want to make sure our city has broad commitment to helping all of our students access learning opportunities year round. This means giving kids the chance to participate in intellectually ambitious and hands-on enrichment activities during the summer in our city’s schools, libraries, museums, and community centers. And it means using digital badges to help kids show what they know.

We call our initiative Pittsburgh City of Learning. We’re joining Chicago; Columbus; Dallas; Los Angeles; and Washington, D.C., in this effort to make our whole city a “campus” for our young people and to take advantage of all our city has to offer in the summer.

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Why We’re Making Our City a Summer Camp http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/20/why-were-making-our-city-a-summer-camp/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16587 Fri, 20 Jun 2014 10:00:23 +0000

Why We’re Making Our City a Summer Camp

Today is National Summer Learning Day. We’ve launched Pittsburgh’s City of Learning initiative to ensure learning doesn’t stop when school lets out.

Pittsburgh City of Learning
School’s out. For some, this means days at the pool, campfires, or family road trips. But for many children in our communities, the end of the school year means losing access to things that are crucial for their growth and development: books, mentors, meaningful enrichment, or even healthy food.

Studies show that low-income kids in particular lack these resources during the summer months. These are often the same children who typically lag behind their upper-income peers in academic achievement, especially in reading.

These deficiencies are serious and can have long-term consequences. According to the National Summer Learning Association and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, four out of every five low-income students fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade, making them four times more likely to drop out of high school. Today is National Summer Learning Day, which aims to highlight the importance of high-quality summer learning programs.

Here in Pittsburgh, we’re intervening by joining these initiatives and with other national organizations. We want to make sure our city has broad commitment to helping all of our students access learning opportunities year round. This means giving kids the chance to participate in intellectually ambitious and hands-on enrichment activities during the summer in our city’s schools, libraries, museums, and community centers. And it means using digital badges to help kids show what they know. 

Badges are a way to capture, promote, and transfer all of the learning that occurs within a broader community context—in-school, out-of-school, and online.

We call our initiative Pittsburgh City of Learning. We’re joining Chicago; Columbus; Dallas; Los Angeles; and Washington, D.C., in this effort to make our whole city a “campus” for our young people and to take advantage of all our city has to offer in the summer.

Participating programs will offer youth the opportunity to earn digital badges, a new way for students to display the skills and competencies they develop through activities and achievements to teachers, college admissions officers, or future employers. Badges are a way to capture, promote, and transfer all of the learning that occurs within a broader community context—in-school, out-of-school, and online.

This broad, cross-sector, public-private partnership brings together government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to provide more than 3,000 youth with better access to academic and hands-on learning opportunities, many of which are free. We emphasize media making as well as digital, maker, and STEAM learning.  

For example:

    • Through the i5 High Def Summer Smash Jam, a program of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project and Carnegie Science Center, middle and high school students will participate in digital video workshops to create science-oriented video projects.
    • At branches of the Carnegie Library teens can produce original music, make films, or participate in technology workshops through The Labs @ CLP.
    • Young Naturalists, a summer learning program of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, will give high school students opportunities to get outdoors and gain unique work and leadership experience through environmental stewardship.
    • Reading Warriors, a summer learning program of the Neighborhood Learning Alliance, provides high school reading mentors to 100 elementary school children, teaching them that reading isn’t just a skill to learn but a powerful way of interacting with the world.
    • Through Art in Action, part of Pittsburgh Public School’s Summer Dreamers Academy, students will learn how to use music, art, drama, dance, and media to ignite change in their school and community.

Programming began this week and will culminate in a citywide Maker Party free learning event, in August.

Through partner organizations in the Pittsburgh Kids+Creativity Network, learning experiences will take youth on new paths of discovery; encourage them to explore the city’s rich resources; and help them find out what they can learn, make, do, and ultimately become.

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Report from the intersection of Games, Learning, and Society http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/19/games-learning-society-recap/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16545 Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:32:46 +0000

Report from the intersection of Games, Learning, and Society

What have you done to change the world today? Believe it or not, you probably need to play more games.

Tabletop Gaming at GLS / photo source: http://glsconference.org/2014/playful-learning/

Gary Gardiner of Idea Foundry and Dream Flight Adventures shares his reflections from taking part in the annual Games, Learning, and Society conference last week in Madison, Wisconsin.

Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and this week some of the most intelligent researchers, academics, and thought-leaders in the world convened to discuss how games can be one of the most powerful tools for improving education.  It all came together at the Games, Learning and Society conference in Madison, Wisconsin.  Thanks to Working Examples and the generous support of The Sprout Fund, I had the honor of presenting at GLS, and now I’m here to make an impassioned plea to get up and play.

This year marks the tenth year of GLS—and learning games have been around much longer than that.  But even so, the use of games for learning and teaching isn’t nearly as widespread as its research-backed benefits would warrant.  There are lots of reasons for this, but I’m not one to linger on the problem—especially when there are so many simple and accessible solutions at our disposal.  Instead, here are some practical ideas and arguments from GLS to help you get through the roadblocks that stand between you and learning or teaching through games.

Roadblock #1:  I don’t have time to play games.
As Jessica Lindl, General Manager of GlassLab would say, “There’s always time for a game.”  This isn’t to be dismissive of the concern, but rather to highlight that games come in every shape and size.  In addition to the usual suspects of video games and mobile apps, don’t forget about board games, card games, sports, puzzles, brain teasers, make believe, storytelling, and unstructured play.  Play doesn’t have to be something new to add into your already busy schedule—it can be a different approach to things you’re already doing.  Show up in costume, incorporate humor in your conversation, frame hard work as challenges and chances to win.

Drew Davidson speaking at GLS10Roadblock #2:  It’s hard to find the right games.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the slew of resources to find good games like Graphite and BrainPop, but it’s also important to note that games don’t have to be a perfect fit to be worthwhile.  Games offer benefits across many dimensions, so try to focus on what you’re gaining through play rather than what a particular game is missing.  And as one GLS presentation reminded us, don’t let perfect stand in the way of progress.

Roadblock #3:  I’m not good at making games.
We’re seeing a strange phenomenon in the world today:  “game designer” is a job title.  But as Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design and Director of PETLab reminds us, “all kids are game designers.  Just look at a playground.”  The ability to transform ideas into play is something that’s inherent in all children, so release your inner child, or—better yet—hand over the keys to children and let them design their own games.  Colleen Macklin also notes, “The best thing I’ve learned about creating a game to teach is having the players teach you.”

Roadblock #4:  Games don’t cut it.  Learning is supposed to be hard work.
Games are hard—in fact, if they weren’t challenging they wouldn’t be any fun.  As I overheard on Twitter at #GLS14, “Students don’t mind hard content to further story. They DO mind wasting time.”  Games can encapsulate a tremendous amount of rigor and depth, but because it’s not drudgery players are actually willing to do more work in pursuit of those goals than if the work was simply assigned.  WoWWiki.com, a player-generated site focused on the game World of Warcraft, is one of the largest wikis in the world.  And don’t forget the famous quote by Fred Rogers:  “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.  But for children play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of childhood.”

Roadblock #5:  It’s hard to assess the impact of games.
This indeed is a challenge.  One of the key takeaways from GLS this year was the urge for game developers to spend more effort on capturing and reporting the learning that their games facilitate.  Fortunately the situation gets better each year, and the recently-announced Playfully.org will soon provide a suite of tools to make it even easier for game makers to track this data.  Even so, as GameDesk so eloquently put it, “Kids should always be put in the position to articulate what they are learning through games.”  Put some of the onus on the kids’ shoulders.  Ask them to explain what they’re learning and let them rise to the challenge.

There’s a vast treasure trove of other useful insights that stemmed from GLS this year, but there’s not enough time to cover them all here.  Hopefully these few morsels will help you make games a bigger part of what you do—and in turn enhance our collective learning and society.  I’d be happy to spin more yarns from GLS, so if you’re thirsty for more just grab your favorite board game and we’ll chat while we play.  Until then, I’ll close with a wise snippet from game guru James Paul Gee:  “Games are pieces of the mind, set free.”

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President Obama Hosts the First-Ever White House Maker Faire http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/18/president-obama-hosts-the-first-ever-white-house-maker-faire/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16553 Wed, 18 Jun 2014 06:34:04 +0000

President Obama Hosts the First-Ever White House Maker Faire

President Obama proclaims June 18 a National Day of Making and turns to Pittsburgh for inspiration.

photo: Ben Filio

Well, folks, it’s finally here. The hands-on headquarters, the nucleus of DIY, the faire that eats the old White House Science Fairs alive: the first ever White House Maker Faire.

Along with young makers showing off their projects, today’s faire is part of a nationwide Day of Making. Communities across the country are hosting open houses, volunteering, and celebrating learning through making stuff. (You can follow along with #NationofMakers.)

As the Maker Movement enjoys the White House spotlight, guess where the Obama Administration is looking for incredible examples of making? Yep, Pittsburgh. And rightly so. We’ve been the leading the way in creating a thriving maker community for youth and adults for quite some time now.

Yesterday, President Obama visited Pittsburgh for the third time this year to tour TechShop and announce a new manufacturing initiative that includes giving entrepreneurs access to $5 billion of equipment in research and development facilities. He used TechShop as an example of how increasing access to manufacturing and prototyping tools could boost the economy and encourage innovation. As TechShop’s Elliot Kahn told Obama, “We’re at a point where a person can have an idea at breakfast and a prototype by lunch.”

Mayor Bill Peduto was invited to the White House Maker Faire to help share the regions successes and explore how the White House can propel the movement even farther.

Peduto hosted a roundtable with the leaders of Pittsburgh’s maker community as part of the Mayors’ Maker Challenge. Just looking at the lineup of participants is a good illustration of the making scene, as leaders from the Children’s Museum, Carnegie Library, BirdBrain Technologies, and the Society for Contemporary Craft were all present.

“This is the first time this community has been engaged formally with city government,” Peduto said. “What we start here today is what we take to the next step, and the next.”

It’s great how the city is receiving some well-deserved attention for the making culture it has harbored for years. But Pittsburgh makers know that tinkering doesn’t happen at political press conferences or in the carpeted hallways of City Hall. Neither of these venues has nearly enough hot glue!

Rather, making in Pittsburgh happens in places such as Assemble, a community maker space that is limitlessly creative in how it brings people together.

The MAKESHOP at the Children’s Museum is another hub for Pittsburgh’s making world. On any given day, kids and families are “painting” with light, taking apart old technology, or tinkering with magnets and tools the pros use. Last summer, families visiting the MAKESHOP constructed a 12-foot trebuchet that threw the first pitch at a Pirates game.

And it’s not limited to only community spaces. Making has found its way into Pittsburgh’s classrooms, too. At Elizabeth Forward Middle School’s Dream Factory, students are using laser cutters, 3D printers, and microcontrollers to infuse learning-by-doing into the school day. (This summer, the lab is open to students from around the region as well.) And after school, students at Maker’s Place are coordinating their own reclaimed-denim fashion show and bolstering it by learning robotics and HTML.

The city’s start-up community is definitely maker-esque, too. In true Pittsburgh collaborative fashion, innovations from local entrepreneurs often end up back in the hands of young makers. Check out this video of Allegheny High School students using of BirdBrain Technologies’ robots to dive into computer science.

At the national scale, making is seen as a way to deepen STEM learning and invigorate a pipeline of future scientists, engineers, and manufacturers. But on a more individual level, educators here have seen the less-technical skills that making also encourages—skills such as grit, confidence, and communication.

As Assemble intern and all-around maker extraordinaire Caroline Combemale explained to us last year, “I think I kind of grew up a little bit working at Assemble because I became more mature, and really learned how to act around adults. Whereas before I was kind of just this hyper child who just loved to do everything but didn’t know how to communicate with anybody.”

Pittsburgh is packed with ways youth and their families can make, build, and tinker. But anyone who looks to those examples will also see a region that’s harnessed making as only one facet of a connected learning ecosystem. For us, that’s the only type of learning we believe will prepare our kids for the future ahead.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for June 13th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/06/13/16506/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=16506 Fri, 13 Jun 2014 14:30:14 +0000

Don’t Overlook Manufacturing as a STEM career

4 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

Fueled by reports of industry growth and a shortage of workers, kids are increasingly nudged toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—ranging from computer scientist positions to rocket scientist jobs at NASA.

But there’s another often overlooked route to lucrative STEM jobs: high-tech manufacturing. The route to these jobs—through community college or technical school—is more immediate (and cheaper) than training in many other fields. Modern manufacturing jobs usually don’t make it into the mainstream STEM discussion, but they should. The jobs are often rewarding, well paid, and don’t require a decade to secure.

STEM careers that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, such as many manufacturing jobs, can pay well, too. A Brookings report aptly titled “The Hidden STEM Economy” found that a whopping one-half of all STEM jobs don’t require a four-year college degree. These jobs pay an average of $53,000 per year—10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements.

Despite these revealing numbers, the stigma surrounding associate degrees or certificates is still hard to shake. Another Georgetown report found the United States hasn’t increased its sub-baccalaureate attainment since the Baby Boom era. Furthermore, we underinvest in the whole system. The Brookings report also says only one-fifth of the $4.3 billion spent annually by the federal government on STEM education and training supports sub-bachelor’s level training.

Some groups, however, are forging a path for youth.

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Don’t Overlook Manufacturing as a STEM Career http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/11/dont-overlook-manufacturing-as-a-stem-career/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16473 Wed, 11 Jun 2014 05:28:31 +0000

Don’t Overlook Manufacturing as a STEM Career

In discussions of how to build the future STEM workforce, modern manufacturing jobs usually don’t make the short list. Here’s why they should.

photo: Ben Filio

Fueled by reports of industry growth and a shortage of workers, kids are increasingly nudged toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—ranging from computer scientist positions to rocket scientist jobs at NASA.

But there’s another often overlooked route to lucrative STEM jobs: high-tech manufacturing. The route to these jobs—through community college or technical school—is more immediate (and cheaper) than training in many other fields. Modern manufacturing jobs usually don’t make it into the mainstream STEM discussion, but they should. The jobs are often rewarding, well paid, and don’t require a decade to secure.

The manufacturing jobs we’re talking about aren’t the Model-T assembly-line factories of yesteryear. Crain’s Chicago Business recently profiled a small manufacturing company that makes everything from spiral staircases to dining room tables. Before anyone touches the metal, however, architectural detailers use 3D scanners and computer-aided design (CAD) software to create projects digitally. Only approximately 30 percent of the firm’s time is spent fabricating products—the rest is spent designing and tweaking computers. The firm is located in Chicago, which recently picked up a $70 million dollar federal grant plus another $250 million in state and private money to build a digital manufacturing institute. The federal funding is through the Obama Administration’s push to bring manufacturing back to US shores.

In the coming years, employers in manufacturing and elsewhere will be searching for workers who have various CAD and computer skills. According to employment forecasts in a Georgetown University report, employers in 2020 will seek “cognitive skills such as communication and analytics from job applicants rather than physical skills traditionally associated with manufacturing.”

STEM careers that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, such as many manufacturing jobs, can pay well, too. A Brookings report aptly titled “The Hidden STEM Economy” found that a whopping one-half of all STEM jobs don’t require a four-year college degree. These jobs pay an average of $53,000 per year—10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements.

Despite these revealing numbers, the stigma surrounding associate degrees or certificates is still hard to shake. Another Georgetown report found the United States hasn’t increased its sub-baccalaureate attainment since the Baby Boom era. Furthermore, we underinvest in the whole system. The Brookings report also says only one-fifth of the $4.3 billion spent annually by the federal government on STEM education and training supports sub-bachelor’s level training.

Some groups, however, are forging a path for youth.

Although they might not think of it this way, involving more kids in the maker movement is one way to introduce them to the idea of manufacturing. In fact, tinkering might be the first chance for kids to discover if making stuff even appeals to them.

Pittsburgh is leading the way, with all sorts of maker activities kids can explore while developing the critical thinking skills they need. For example, at Assemble—in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood, a largely low-income neighborhood on the city’s East End—kids and tweens are inventing pencils that squeak (much to teachers’ dismay, one can imagine) when circuits connect with skin. They’re inventing a robot that changes color when it becomes too hot or too cold. They’re also learning to code and make apps through the Digital Corps. The programs are so popular that older siblings use the excuse of “babysitting” their young siblings so they, too, can attend.

Resurging apprenticeship programs might be another way of encouraging kids to consider manufacturing careers. The Obama Administration recently allocated $100 million dollars to apprenticeship grants, some of which will go toward advanced manufacturing. Making the announcement at training-rich Community College of Allegheny County, Obama said that 87 percent of apprentices pin down a job after program completion, with an average starting salary of more than $50,000.

Entrepreneurship is another way to build the manufacturing ecosystem. Places such as Pittsburgh are tapping the wealth of local manufacturing talent to foster new startups and, in turn, provide future jobs. The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board in the city is teaming up with Carnegie Mellon, TechShop, and a number of other organizations to train and reconnect people with manufacturing skills to manufacturing start-ups. The partnership aims to help link together entrepreneurs, engineers, unions, and manufacturers to capture Pennsylvania’s talent and to prevent manufacturing companies from heading overseas.

Back in Chicago, the Austin Polytechnical Academy is a unique partnership between a public school and more than 60 manufacturers. Now in its seventh year, the high school program trains teens and connects them with solid-paying jobs with the partnering manufacturers. The teens, most of whom are low-income African American youth, leave high school with a recognized certificate, a résumé that includes internships and on-the-job experience, college-prep coursework, and the soft skills employers like to see. The employers agree to help pay for their continuing education.

As 2012 grad Jeralmiah Harmon said recently on Vocalo’s Barbershop Show, “I graduated on a Saturday and I started working that Monday.”

Of course, not all 18-year-olds will want to kick off a manufacturing job, or any career, that quickly. That’s up to them. But giving them the chance to explore what manufacturing means in the 21st century can only sharpen how well they’re prepared for the demands of any job in the future.

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Why Makerspaces Give Kids Space to Fail, and Why That’s a Good Thing http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/09/why-makerspaces-give-kids-space-to-fail-and-why-thats-a-good-thing/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16465 Mon, 09 Jun 2014 20:22:07 +0000

Why Makerspaces Give Kids Space to Fail, and Why That’s a Good Thing

How do we teach our kids to persevere in the face of failure?

Makeshop at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh / photo: Vaughn Wallace
My second-grader cries when he needs help with his math homework. He’s good at math. And with ease, he has been able to handle most of the homework that’s come home under the new Common Core math curriculum. But when the answers don’t come easily, he gets upset and doesn’t want to try. The idea that you have to get things wrong a few times, sometimes many times, in order to get to the right answer is not a lesson he’s yet learned.

He’s only eight, but as a parent, I hope he’ll have more opportunities to get the answer wrong, and to have to find his own way, as he grows older.

Experts like Angela Duckworth, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies the importance of “grit,” says these are experiences my son will need in order to develop the kind of higher-order thinking skills necessary in our rapidly changing world. Duckworth defines “grit” as the “tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.”

Duckworth says she’s seen lots of very smart kids who don’t know how to fail. “They don’t know how to struggle, and they don’t have a lot of practice with it,” she said.

Tom Hoerr, an administrator at the New City School in St. Louis, recently told NPR his goal is to make sure “that no matter how talented [students are], they hit the wall, so they can learn to pick themselves up, hit the wall again and pick themselves up again, and ultimately persevere and succeed.”

Teaching our kids to work hard and to stick with something even when they keep hitting that wall is no easy task, as a parent or as an educator. It’s tough to watch and to resist the urge to make things easier for them.

It’s not making mistakes, but how kids react to the “wall” that matters.

Makerspaces, popping up in schools, libraries, and museums, may be one cool place to teach kids this perseverance. With the unstructured time and materials they offer for kids to work on their own projects, solve problems together, and try things out over and over again, makerspaces can be an exciting laboratory.

The tinkering that’s going on in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s MAKESHOP, for example, allows kids (and adults) to experiment with wood, circuitry, a needle and thread, or old technology that they can take apart and  

put back together. Kids get ideas, but things usually don’t go right the first time.

This trial and error (emphasis on the error) is another extension of exploration and experimentation. Kids try things, without the pressure of a grade or a big red mark on their paper. Instead, in this environment, where everyone is working and failing, they’re freer to say, “Oh this didn’t work out, how can I make it work?” It’s not making mistakes, but how kids react to the “wall” that matters. It’s all about turning that initial ding in one’s confidence into a chance to learn. That’s ultimately empowering and it’s special.

Kylie Peppler is an assistant professor of learning sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington, and the head of the Make to Learn Initiative. She’s studying makerspaces, including the one at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, to see what they have to teach us about learning.

“The act of construction externalizes what kids know,” she said in an interview last year, “and allows them to reflect on the designing and action. The externalizing of your ideas is really productive for learning and connecting with other people.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services recently announced a new partnership with the children’s museum to help build the capacity of other libraries and museums around the country to develop these spaces. Under the new grant, the children’s museum will be working with the North Carolina State University Libraries, Exploratorium, Chicago Public Library, and Maker Education Initiative to provide museum and library professionals with tools and resources, in addition to professional development.

At the New York Hall of Science, one of at least 10 learning labs across the country that allow teens to experiment with technology in a hands-on way, teens use tools ranging from band saws to 3D printers to create solutions for community problems. Recently they saw a problem in their neighborhood in Queens and designed a solution. It’s a common scene in cities: older women pulling their groceries or packages home in a two-wheeled cart. But in Queens, getting home often means taking the el and lugging that cart up to the platform, one step at a time. The teens thought they could design a better cart.

They set to work designing a better wheel—one that pivots for easier ascent. With the guidance of mentors, the teens created a prototype with dowels and tape and cardboard and a wheel of an existing cart, learning valuable skills about trial and error, critical thinking, and collaboration along the way. And who knows—maybe a patent in the future.

Are these types of spaces the key to get kids thinking for themselves? Facing another night of tears and math homework, I sure hope so.

 

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for June 6th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/06/06/16419/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=16419 Fri, 06 Jun 2014 13:30:00 +0000

This Summer, Cities are Encouraging Kids to Do, Make, and Explore

The idyllic days of summer—whiling away the time in front of the Xbox, heading to the local pool, starting a lemonade stand. Those were the days. Today,…

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

The idyllic days of summer—whiling away the time in front of the Xbox, heading to the local pool, starting a lemonade stand. Those were the days. Today, summer is an extension of the school year for many—another opportunity to get a step ahead, expand horizons, pick up a new skill. Pity the kid who forgets that.

For kids from wealthier families, summer might mean a trip to Europe with their families, or volunteering in a rain forest in Costa Rica, or heading to summer camp. But for lower-income kids, many of these opportunities are out of reach. Studies have shown that high-income families spend nearly $7 in education enrichment for every $1 spent by low-income families. And that difference has tripled in the past 40 years. The largest spending differences were for activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camps.

The result is a growing gap when the school year starts up again.

To close that gap, cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, are turning to their homegrown resources to create a “campus” out of their city where kids can do, make, and discover. With their rich arts, science, history resources, parks, and beaches, cities are a wealth of potential—if kids can just tap into it.

This summer, cities are connecting those opportunities in new ways for kids through the Cities of Learning initiative.

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This Summer, Cities Are Encouraging Kids to Do, Make, and Explore http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/05/this-summer-cities-are-encouraging-kids-to-do-make-and-explore/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16417 Thu, 05 Jun 2014 17:10:57 +0000

This Summer, Cities Are Encouraging Kids to Do, Make, and Explore

Wealthy parents spend seven times more on enrichment activities for their kids than lower-income parents do, and several cities are working to close that gap.

Pittsburgh’s 2013 MiniMaker Faire. / photo: Ben Filio
The idyllic days of summer—whiling away the time in front of the Xbox, heading to the local pool, starting a lemonade stand. Those were the days. Today, summer is an extension of the school year for many—another opportunity to get a step ahead, expand horizons, pick up a new skill. Pity the kid who forgets that.

For kids from wealthier families, summer might mean a trip to Europe with their families, or volunteering in a rain forest in Costa Rica, or heading to summer camp. But for lower-income kids, many of these opportunities are out of reach. Studies have shown that high-income families spend nearly $7 in education enrichment for every $1 spent by low-income families. And that difference has tripled in the past 40 years. The largest spending differences were for activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camps.

The result is a growing gap when the school year starts up again.

Low-income kids “are 6,000 hours behind rich kids in what they’ve gotten to do in their lives,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “We’ve got to catch that up.”

To close that gap, cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, are turning to their homegrown resources to create a “campus” out of their city where kids can do, make, and discover. With their rich arts, science, history resources, parks, and beaches, cities are a wealth of potential—if kids can just tap into it.

This summer, cities are connecting those opportunities in new ways for kids through the Cities of Learning initiative. In Los Angeles, that might mean kids joining in at libraries and the Getty Center to hone their art and computer coding skills. In Chicago, it might mean doing some urban camping and stargazing. In Dallas, it might mean exploring community action with digital storytelling. In Pittsburgh, kids might join the growing Maker Movement or pick up some engineering skills while making robots.

“By connecting our students with creative, interactive, and interest-driven learning opportunities,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in the press release kicking off the City of Learning, “we will help our city’s youth learn new skills and prepare to enter the workforce.” JPMorgan and the California Endowment have contributed more than $700,000 to LA’s City of Learning effort.

Dallas hopes to enroll more than 10,000 students in its summer programs. It is teaming with Big Thought, a nonprofit group that focuses on building partnerships to improve public education through creative learning. The programs are designed to bridge the learning gap that widens in the summer via creative learning and meaningful activities.

Although these summer programming opportunities have always been available, Cities of Learning makes them more visible—and more connected. A website allows kids to explore their interests and find activities and programs. It is also where kids can display what they’ve learned and showcase those skills for teachers, employers, and anyone else.

Cities will also be issuing digital badges to participating youth. Designed by the Mozilla Foundation, badges are a new form of credentialing for the digital age. Participating organizations design the badges, outlining the skills kids will learn and the pathways they’ll take to acquire those skills. Once earned, kids can display their badges online for teachers, employers, and others to see. With a click, anyone can learn about the skills needed to earn a badge, which skills the youth has earned, and much more.

Organizations from the US Department of Education, NASA, and the Veteran’s Affairs office are all using badges.

The “City of Learning” movement got started in Chicago in 2013 when more than 200,000 kids took part in activities across the city. The teens earned hundreds of digital badges, and more than 100 organizations took part. The program’s success was the kick start to the national campaign.

Let’s face it: Summers don’t have to be about more books, more reading, more math. But they also don’t have to be idle. Kids can explore their interests, or discover new interests, while having fun. With the help of Cities of Learning, kids can turn their own backyard into a summer of discovery. And who knows, maybe even be the start of a future career.

Pittsburgh teens will have the chance to join in the movement. On June 10, at 6:00 pm, the Sprout Fund will convene national leaders in badging to launch a citywide effort to codesign a badge ecosystem for Pittsburgh. Join the launch—sign up here.

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Making Connections Between Creativity and Digital Literacy http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/06/04/digital-corps-learner/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=16348 Wed, 04 Jun 2014 14:57:26 +0000

Making Connections Between Creativity and Digital Literacy

Ten-year-old fashion designer Amya has found real-world applications for her digital literacy skills, using computers to help in her design work at Maker's Place in Homewood.

Amya at work in the Maker’s Place / photo: Katy Rank Lev

“I’m going to need to find a lot of cheetah-print fabric for the sleeves,” says 10 year old Amya, as she reviews her sketch of an outfit she’s designing. She points out how she’s reusing old jeans to make the bodice and combining dark and light materials for the pants.

Every Friday after school, Amya attends the Maker’s Place, learning skills to produce items she could sell, even as a young student. The group has begun work producing a fashion show using reclaimed denim. The students will complete everything from clothing design to model choreography. As the session begins, instructor Jomari Peterson reminds the students that they’re learning to “take control of your own destiny and change the world.”

This week, Amya isn’t thinking about the world. She’s thinking simultaneously about ripping seams from a pair of wide-leg pants and how she can use Hummingbird to direct the models who will wear her designs in the Blues-themed fashion show.

The Maker’s Place is also a site for the Remake Learning Digital Corps, so the tweens and teens learn digital literacy skills ranging from coding to robotics. The previous week students learned about Hummingbird, a basic robotics program. Amya says, “I was using my mouse to move these bars on the screen, change the colors, and it was controlling lights. I thought right away about how we could use this in the show.”

Making at the Homewood Maker's PlaceAmya seems fascinated by the connections she sees between her new digital literacy skills and physical products she’s producing in the Maker’s Place. After learning HTML and working with Thimble, she was able to customize her online portfolio of work, changing up colors and adding background music to her website.

While she prefers to sketch her designs by hand, she’s been able to upload them to her portfolio for easy access. “Plus, it’s easier to use the computer to adjust sizing and modify patterns,” she says.

Each week, the Homewood-based students begin their out-of-school learning with an “Info-make” session—basically a boardroom discussion where each student briefs the group on what he or she has been doing and reviews material learned the previous week. The Digital Corps emphasizes collaborative learning, problem solving, and “learning-by-doing,” so the lessons pair beautifully with the projects these students produce in the Maker’s Place. When people seem reluctant to speak up, Jomari reminds them, “This is not a lecture hall. If we don’t talk, we can’t move forward.”

While the students eat pizza and bananas, they start to address concerns about their work. One asks, “how can we move forward if we don’t even have a date for the fashion show?” Others are clearly anxious to dive in to the bags of material scattered around the space, and a handful of new students are learning to navigate Pinterest for design inspiration.

Amya sits quietly to the side. The youngest student in this out of school learning site, she formed a bond with an older teen, Micah. The two have worked together through the coursework, reminding each other to “close the sandwich” when coding in HTML.

Even though Amya doesn’t currently see a future for herself in the field of computer science, she is reaping the benefits of her newfound literacy in the digital landscape. Finding the links between Digital Corps lessons and other hobbies helps her expand her creativity in both realms.

As her scissors move through the denim fabric, it’s hard to say where her mind might turn next.

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