The end of the year is always a reflection point. And so it is with the Remake Learning Network. We recently surveyed network members to get a bead on how the network is doing to advance innovative ideas and models in education.
The results from the 103 who completed the survey reveal a growing and highly connected network of educators and others creating new opportunities for youth.
Here’s what we learned.
- We’re face-to-face: Nearly 50 percent of respondents attend network events more than once per quarter. The opportunities to make connections and learn from peers are among the most appreciated facets of the Remake Learning Network.
- We feel invested: Nearly 50 percent identified as being active or deeply involved in the network.
- We are turning connections into collaboration: Three out of four respondents reported forming specific partnerships through their participation.
- We are largely educators: More than half of respondents are teachers or informal educators.
- We are focused widely: Approximately two-thirds work in digital or tech-enhanced learning, 60 percent are makers, 60 percent focus on STEAM learning, 45 percent on STEM, and 44 percent on early education. Equal parts (about 30 percent each) focus on robotics, game-based learning, and youth voice.
The respondents gave the network high marks. Nearly 80 percent give the network a grade of B or better. About two-thirds agreed the network is generally headed in the right direction.
At the same time, members worry that the “only individuals who seem to be involved are those with access and opportunity,” and that while “we are seeing amazing innovations at school districts in the region, in general these are taking place in affluent communities.”
As a result, the most pressing concern is doubling down on equity and access, or risk exacerbating the education gap instead of closing it.
“Pittsburgh remains incredibly inequitable for access,” wrote one respondent. “If we do not actively work against this, we are increasing the divide.”
Sprout Fund Executive Director Cathy Lewis Long said equity and access must become guiding network principles. “That means supporting more mobile programs to bring innovative learning experiences to communities in need or enhancing transportation options for youth, or ensuring that programs are free, open, and visible to all families,” she said. “Each of us needs to take concrete steps to meet this challenge head-on.”
While calling on the network to strive for broader equity, members described how the existing programs have had a positive impact on young people in their communities.
“In the summer, 14 teens participated in two weeks of mini-apprenticeships, gaining life skills and job training skills in the areas of woodworking and metalworking,” one respondent wrote.
Another was grateful for the chance to send students to a drop-in robotics course at the public library’s digital learning program, the Labs@CLP. Another respondent praised the Digital Corps, a group of digital learning experts deployed to youth organizations throughout Allegheny County.
“Our kids loved building robots with Digital Corps. This sparked something that we would like to build on in the future if we are able to acquire more robotics supplies,” wrote one respondent.
The network has also raised awareness of emerging trends in learning innovation. Nine in ten said the network has “greatly” or “somewhat” improved their awareness, and 88 percent said the network has greatly or somewhat improved the exchange of ideas or successful strategies.
But there is a hunger for more resources and tools, and more how-to’s in the classroom. Network members also prioritized professional development and learning pathways. For educators, it means deeper and more engaging instruction. For students, it means step-by-step learning and development to meet their personal interests and give them job-ready skills.
Those priorities and suggestions help shape the network’s programs moving forward. Just as Remake Learning has evolved from its informal and experimental stage to a more structured and strategic approach, so too have the needs and challenges faced by network members working hard to sustain our momentum and spread the impact of innovative teaching and learning to more students. Equity and access will be at the forefront of efforts to remake learning in 2016 and beyond.