2021 Spring

Spring collage
Photos by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Due to the COVID-19 situation most of my projects are on hold. Below are some of the projects that are keeping me engaged and challenged during this spring period.

I’m working with the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) Emerging Technologies committee to publish the Edtech Next report that will look at low cost, high tech ways to address digital equity. I shared the highlights for the report at the PDE Data Summit. One of the projects highlighted in the report addresses community-wide wireless networks. The focus on connectivity and digital equity included an interview with Kris Hupp from the Cornell School District. Kris attacked the problem of Digital Equity by partnering with the SEEN initiative from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The SEEN Initiative attempts to build out a durable infrastructure to provide for equitable learning using CMU resources and collaborating with other organizations. One of the community partners is the KINBER network, the Pennsylvania state-wide fiber network that links all of the state universities The project also included collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh to provide a beacon of connectivity atop Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning.

Another project in the report was the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s OnRamp. The OnRamp project addresses the need for virtual learning and teaching during this period of remote learning. The AIU worked with neighboring IUs, universities, out-of-school providers, and local non-profits to provide a series of workshops developed and taught by a combination of regional educators and IU staff members. The workshops were offered for both educators and parents to address six key components identified by the AIU and North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute for Innovation: Communication and Connection with Families and Students; Student Engagement in Learning Opportunities; Flexibility and Choice for Diverse Needs; Feedback on Student Work; Collaboration Among Students; and Social and Emotional Learning.

Tom Lauwers, the founder and CEO of Birdbrain Technologies, developed Remote Robotics for both the Finch Robot and Hummingbird Robotics Kit. Tom was another key resource for the CoSN report looking at how Remote Robotics provides a low-cost solution for physical computing using the Internet of Things (IoT). The Remote Robotics project includes two Pittsburgh area middle school examples – Erin Whitaker’s Robot Dance Party with students at Sewickley Academy and Eric Fogle working with over 600 Tech Ed students from Seneca Valley.

For my first foray back to in-person meetings, I headed to the new Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) in the Waterfront complex in Pittsburgh. CCA provides virtual learning opportunities for 18,000 students around the state of Pennsylvania. They have three major campuses – Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. At each major campus there will be a hands-on learning environment. The Pittsburgh campus features TechWorks.

Since most of my consulting work has been on hold, I’ve spent more time on some of my volunteer projects. Over the past year I’ve been reviewing films for Film Pittsburgh. This year’s JFILM Festival took place from April 22- May 2. I’ve also explored new avenues with the Neighborhood Learning Alliance (NLA) for after-school programs. NLA has developed a health careers pathway with local healthcare institutions that includes college-level courses that high school students take at Carlow University and the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). NLA is discussing a new educational pathway with Chatham University starting this fall. There are also discussions underway to examine a potential partnership with the Readiness Institute at Penn State University.

This spring I’ll continue to explore with my camera my neighborhood and the Pittsburgh region. I hope I might even venture beyond the Pittsburgh region for some needed exploratory time.