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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

Media partnership welcomes NEXTpittsburgh

Joining WQED Multimedia, 90.5 WESA and Pittsburgh Magazine in our “Spotlight on Learning Innovation” is NEXTpittsburgh, a new online magazine about the people, projects and ideas taking Pittsburgh to the next level.

“Our goal is to discover what’s next, who’s leading the charge and where we’re all headed,” said Tracy Certo, founder, publisher and editor. NEXTpittsburgh offers feature stories and news about business and technology, city design, arts and culture, and kids and families.

The four media outlets, TV, radio, magazine and online magazine, are working together to focus on Pittsburgh leadership in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times.

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

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

Photos



Assemble provides opportunities for neighborhood children to look, learn, and make in an informal educational environment during monthly Learning Parties.



Cameron Mitchell is eager to ask a question during his interview with Aaron Johnson at McKeesport City Hall, as part of the Crossing Fences program. Photograph SLB Radio Productions, Inc.



GEMS, an afterschool program that provides workshops for girls in grades 6-8 coordinated through the Carnegie Science Center, recently brought the students to see how the brain works. They visited the UPMC Brain Mapping Center.



At Highlands High School, the students in Vicki Uhrinek’s Physics class created a hovercraft that floated around the commons area.



Schell Games, a local gaming company that produces educational materials and innovative experiences, recently collaborated on a program with assemble in Garfield.



The Ellis Geek Squad – a team of Upper School students with a mission to give tech advice and do other “innovative things,” serve as mentors to students – and teachers.



The Highlands High School Bots IQ team assemble the final parts of their robot to prepare for a recent competition.



Students in the Mars Area Middle School 8th grade created a monument similar to Mt. Rushmore for the opening of the new Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture featuring famous African American figures.



Children recording in SLB's studios in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Photos courtesy SLB Radio Productions, Inc.



These kids create Mother's Day Audio Cards in SLB's studios. Photo courtesy SLB Radio.

Spread The News

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

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