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This Month’s Learning Innovation: Message From Me

“Children today, we call them digital natives. They’re born to be able to pick up the iPad because it’s just part of their world,” according to Sue Polojac, the director of programming for PAEYC, the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.

Even the youngest children can easily master an iPad or simple digital device. But how can that help them educationally and in learning to be better communicators?

“About five years ago, one of our funders challenged us to come up with something for young children,” says Emily Hamner, senior research associate of the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. If anyone could create something to meld education and technology, it’s the CREATE Lab, a place where researchers, engineers, designers, psychologists, educators and artists work together to develop socially meaningful innovation and technologies.

“Most technology is aimed at older children,” Emily continues. And, she explains, at that time the CREATE Lab wasn’t even sure if young children should be gaining access to technology. CREATE director Illa Nourbakhsh wasn’t convinced until a personal incident changed his mind.

“Illa’s mother-in-law works with an early childhood community. She told him that the connection between what happens at school and at home isn’t really consistent.” Imagine asking your three-year-old to relate what happened at their Early Childhood Center that day… So CREATE decided to figure out a way for children to communicate with their parents.

Emily led the team that developed “Message from Me.” These are simple kiosks at childcare centers that enable young children to record their daily experiences by using cameras and iPads to take pictures, microphones to record a message and email to send them to their parents. This allows young children to practice their communication skills and build their self-confidence by talking about their day.

It was tested out at the Children’s School of CMU. Then PAEYC stepped in. They wanted to partner with the CREATE Lab to get these kiosks in centers throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. With funding from PNC and their Grow Up Great program and the Grable Foundation, PAEYC began placing the kiosks throughout Allegheny and Westmoreland County. Over 2000 youngsters are participating, in family childcare centers, Pittsburgh Public Schools, AIU3 Head Start programs, nearly 100 classrooms and centers serving low to moderate income children, ages three to five.

“It’s changing communication between the home and school,” says Sue.

Message From Me - CMU CREATE Lab
Message From Me

Other Resources:
Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children

Maker Corps allows artist to share passion for making

By Seth Gamson, Assemble Intern

Fabienne Hudson was one year out of CMU’s School of Art when she joined Maker Corps. With a background in photography, painting, and printmaking, she had the qualifications and passion of a maker. As she looked for a path as an artist she came across Maker Corps, and her involvement would soon become her avenue “to express my love for creating with others, while simultaneously learning from others as well.”

Fabienne has had trouble reconciling that her art can seem like a “self serving or lonely process” with her desire to participate and truly give to something greater than herself. Luckily for Fabienne, she was able to find a way to put into practice her trade and her desire to give back.

Through Maker Corps, Fabienne has been working at Assemble, the community space for Art and Technology in Garfield. She is a core member, running summer camp programs for ages 6 to 13. With Assemble, she has also worked at various events, promoting Assemble’s STEAM learning principles and working with children to give them creations of their own from innovative media. She has found her work to be “rewarding and enlightening” as she has taught and learned from young makers.


Having fun making things out of found objects -- like this sunflower -- is a young student at Assemble, the Maker space in Garfield.

At the opening of “The Wonder of Learning, the Hundred Languages of Children,” the Reggio Emilia, Italy exhibit on display now at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center through November 15, are Steering Committee Members Allison Stevens, intern, left, and Cindy Popovich, University of Pittsburgh faculty member.

Environmental Charter School encourages talented “thinkers” in the school’s innovative Thinking Lab. Leading the way are educators Rose Papa, left, and Stephanie DeLuca.

Makers from all over the region attended a recent Maker Ed Meet Up session organized by the Sprout Fund at CMU’s Hunt Library.

Saturday Light Brigade encourages even the youngest children to explore their creative sides by recording audio cards. (Photo courtesy Saturday Light Brigade.)

Assemble’s recent Rainbow Party was a big success.

WQED Cameraman “extraordinaire” Paul Ruggieri hard at work at a recent shoot for WQED’s Remake Learning segments.

Learning about color, light and especially rainbows were these Makers at the recent assemble Rainbow Party.

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