- What: Kids+Creativity Network Rally
- When: Monday, April 7th from 4-6pm
- Where: IBEW Circuit Center Ballroom
5 Hot Metal Street, Pittsburgh PA 15203
- Why: To introduce the K+C Network and its programs,
projects and opportunities to the public
In 2007, over coffee at Pamela’s Diner in Pittsburgh, Gregg Behr and Jessica Trybus shared their growing sense of just how different today’s kids are.
Behr was the executive director of the Grable Foundation, which gives to youth-oriented organizations in the Pittsburgh area, and Trybus was an adjunct professor at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and CEO of Etcetera Edutainment.
“That first conversation sparked a realization not only that kids are different today, but that we need to work together differently to facilitate their learning,” Behr said.
That first breakfast was followed by another one, and then another and another. Within a year, Behr found he had a loose network of about 200 people. Participants included roboticists, museum designers, gamers, technologists, teachers and artists. It was all the people, Behr said, who were interested in the work of figuring out this “new way of learning.”
Assemble is a community space for kids to experiment with art and technology. Photo/ Assemble.
Today, these people are the Pittsburgh Kids + Creativity Network, an interdisciplinary network of people collaborating and innovating to create learning products and experiences around the nexus of technology, art and media.
“We realized that a networked model in a connected learning community was really the way to go to foster change,” said Cathy Lewis Long, co-founder of the Spark project, which was created with a $900,000 grant from the Grable Foundation to support the Kids + Creativity Network.
Spark was managed by the Sprout Fund, a small-scale grant making organization focusing on civic engagement, digital media, public art and learning, co-founded by Cathy Lewis Long and Matthew Hannigan.
From 2008 to 2011, Spark awarded grants and supported events coming out of the network around digital learning for 2- to 8-year-olds. It sent weekly updates and hosted the occasional meeting. Then, this past spring, Spark re-launched the network for pre-K to 12th grade, with a more focused strategy and more definite structure in place.
“It had become apparent, there was really a ‘there’ there,” Behr said.
Today the Kids + Creativity Network has a five-prong organizational structure that allows it to function as a network: First, there’s the network of connections between formal and informal learning environments; then innovation, research and development; then learned research and scholarship; and then commercial and entrepreneurial support. The last prong is the “strategic stewardship” provided by Long and Hannigan through Spark.
“We realized that a more intentional strategy and structure associated with these informal collaborations could yield greater benefits,” Long said. “Our role has evolved into a more formal role of steward of the network.”
To poke around the Spark website is to meet hundreds of people from all areas of the digital media and learning, education, and maker worlds. A random perusal will introduce you to Jeff Baron, director of student engagement for the Consortium of Public Education; Mitra Fatollahpour, an education technology designer and researcher who’s currently working with Human Computer Interaction Institute researchers at Carnegie Mellon; Kevin Crowley, director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments; and Sabrina Haskell, who creates robots “with personality.”
Mister Rogers was just a total geek who wanted to use the technology of his day to engage kids with learning. … All these people in the network are modern-day Freds.
– Gregg Behr, the Grable Foundation
Network members can find each other’s contact information, see what projects they’ve been involved with, and learn about each other’s affiliations.
The focus on collaboration and bringing people from different backgrounds together has been there since the beginning. Behr still remembers how struck he was by finding himself in early meetings with school superintendents, librarians, videogame designers, science teachers, museum curators, university department heads and members of the maker community. In other words, the network was and is made up of all the different kinds of people who have a stake in figuring out how 21st-century kids learn and what they need to know.
Behr said the interdisciplinary nature of the network led to intense collaboration, not competition.
“When you have a group of people who represent interdisciplinary fields with complementary skill sets, they’re not competitive,” Behr said. For example, a first-grade teacher and a game designer may both be interested in numeracy. “They’re going to say to each other, ‘Let’s build the toy kids can use in your classroom and then take home to learn even more about numbers!’”
For an example of the kind of success the network has been having in a formal learning environment, take the case of the Elizabeth Forward School District in the old industrial section of Pittsburgh. About a year and a half ago, the Elizabeth Forward District superintendent of schools, Bart Rocco, was in a meeting with other superintendents, a representative from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and Don Marinelli, former director of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon. Rocco was so excited by what he heard, he went and met again with Marinelli.
The Makeshop at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Photo/ Ben Filio.
This was followed with a research trip to places like Quest to Learn in New York City and the YOUmedia digital space at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago. The Elizabeth Forward District ended up with two grants, one for transforming an old industrial-model classroom into a YOUmedia-styled space and another for converting the library to resemble the YOUmedia room in Chicago.
“The Elizabeth Forward School District is a very unlikely place for the future to be taking hold,” Behr said. “And yet look what’s happening there.”
As for informal learning environments, there’s theMakeshop at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. That grew out of a retreat when the museum’s executive director, Jane Werner, met Carnegie Mellon’s Jesse Schell, who also runs Schell Games. Taking advantage of other nodes in the network— the Technology Center and Research Unit at the University of Pittsburgh, to be specific—the museum designed Makeshop in an attempt to unite digital media and learning and do-it-yourself (DIY) cultures. It’s one of the network’s biggest success stories. Kids can pop in and use recycled materials to build a cityscape, or learn how to DJ with Hip Hop On L.O.C.K., an arts education and mentoring program, the brainchild of another network member, Emmai Alaquiva.
Reefbot. Photo/ Joey Kennedy.
Or take Reefbot, a yellow swimming robot that can be dropped into fish tanks at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PBG Aquarium. The robot, as well as the software and the controls, were a collaboration between Scott Morland at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon and Ashley Kidd from the museum and aquarium.
Or there’s Assemble, a community space for kids and youth to learn about art and technology in a hands-on, inquiry-based way. It was founded by network member Nina Marie Barbuto—who is also involved in Click! Spy School, a Girls, Math & Science Partnership project spearheaded by multimedia artist Heather Mallak that helps teenage girls explore careers in science, math, engineering and technology. The girls complete experiments and interact with mentors at local companies and universities.
So while the network remains a network of connections and ideas, projects like Assemble or the Makeshop give kids a physical space to learn and create. And the connections between the people in the network seem nearly endless.
Behr said the work from the network isn’t that different than what came from Fred Rogers, host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” who was a former Pittsburgh resident himself. In fact, the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent’s College is also involved with the network, driving the early childhood research.
“In the 1950s,” Behr said, “Mister Rogers was just a total geek who wanted to use the technology of his day to engage kids with learning. The newfangled technology then was television, and he co-opted it and made it interesting for kids. All these people in the network are modern-day Freds.”
GLASS Lab will develop video game-based tools to validate students’
learning of core skills identified by states for college and career
A new video game design lab will research and develop compelling video games that engage students in innovative ways and validate student learning of the core skills deemed critical by states for college and the 21st century workplace.
Announced at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Games, Learning and Assessment
Lab (GLASS Lab) is developed with support from the John D. and Catherine T.
MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Electronic Arts (EA) and
the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). GLASS Lab will be based at EA’s global
headquarters in Redwood City, CA and is a project of Institute of Play, a non-profit
design studio that works at the intersection of games and learning.
GLASS Lab is uniquely positioned to integrate state-led content standards and measure
student learning by modifying popular video game titles and creating original video
games. Once products are complete, they will be made available to middle and high
school students, school districts and families at little or no cost.
“Video games can revolutionize American education and students’ testing and learning,”
said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, the trade association
representing the U.S. video game industry. “We can harness students’ passion and
energy for video games and utilize that to reach and educate a 21stcentury workforce
with skills critical for college and career readiness.”
The Lab is supported by $10.3 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
“We are very enthusiastic about the GLASS Lab project,” said Robert Torres, Senior
Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We need projects that will
work with students and speak to them in their native language – digital media. Through
game-based learning, students will be challenged, and teachers and parents can get
real-time feedback on student progress.”
GLASS Lab reflects a major shift in the way students learn and acquire knowledge.
Students today are expected to learn new skills, such as creative problem solving,
collaboration and systems thinking, and master new technologies. GLASS Lab will
address these new challenges by exploring how video games can be effective
environments for learning.
“Learning is changing and so must educational institutions in order to engage kids and
ensure they are taught the participatory and creative skills that are needed to succeed in
the 21st century,” said Connie Yowell, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation, which leads a $100-million digital media and learning initiative that aims to
determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize,
and participate in civic life. “MacArthur is excited about the potential for GLASS Lab to
create and apply new video games and innovation to learning.”
GLASS Lab is based on the understanding that video games and simulations can
validate student learning and provide feedback for teachers and parents on students’
progress toward established learning goals. Unlike traditional measurement tools, video
games are by nature designed to measure progress since learning is happening, and is
captured, in the gaming experience itself.
“The video game industry has experienced a transformative change over the past
decade with the advent of new mobile, social and online platforms that have opened up
opportunities for gaming in a number of sectors, including education,” said Jeff Brown,
Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, EA. “We are excited to be a founding partner of
GLASS Lab and not only house the organization at our headquarters but lend our worldclass IP and talent to the project.”
Commenting on the potential of video games to provide evidence of learning, Katie
Salen, Executive Director of Institute of Play said: “Video games are data rich
environments designed to provide ongoing feedback to players; tapping into this
richness has the potential to radically alter the way we approach both teaching and
Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA) is a global leader in digital interactive entertainment. The
Company delivers games, content and online services for Internet-connected consoles,
personal computers, mobile phones, tablets and social networks. EA has more than 220
million registered players and operates in 75 countries.
In fiscal 2012, EA posted GAAP net revenue of $4.1 billion. Headquartered in Redwood
City, California, EA is recognized for a portfolio of critically acclaimed, high-quality
blockbuster brands such as The Sims™, Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer, Need for Speed™,
Battlefield™ and Mass Effect™. More information about EA is available at
Entertainment Software Association
ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers including conducting business and consumer research, providing legal and policy analysis and advocacy on First Amendment, intellectual property and technology/e-commerce issues, managing a global anti-piracy program, owning and operating E3, and representing video game industry interests in federal and state government relations. For more information, please visit www.theESA.com.
Institute of Play
The Institute of Play is a not-for-profit design studio that pioneers new models of learning
and engagement. At the core of the experiences Institute of Play creates are games,
play and the principles that underlie them. Using these principles, the Institute has
created successful institutions, games, programs, events, digital platforms and products.
For more information, please visit www.instituteofplay.org.
SCE is a social investment organization that
connects talent and innovation with market
forces to drive social change.
With this Challenge, SCE’s Digital
Learning Program seeks to fund
and partner with individuals and
organizations working to increase access
to the most engaging, educationally
effective digital learning media, particularly
for underserved populations. We intend
to deploy several million dollars to a
portfolio of high-potential grantees during
this multi-year initiative.
We invite interested organizations to
submit a detailed letter of inquiry in
response to the prompts below. The
deadline for submission is July 2, 2012.
For full details, click here:
Over 30 Pittsburghers are participating in the Digital Media and Learning Conference this week in San Francisco. This is an annual event supported by the MacArthur Foundation and organized by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine. The conference is an inclusive, international and annual gathering of scholars and practitioners in the field, focused on fostering interdisciplinary and participatory dialog and linking theory, empirical study, policy, and practice. The third annual conference – DML2012 – is organized around the theme “Beyond Educational Technology: Learning Innovations in a Connected World.”
Pictured above are Pittsburgh DML attendees and collaborators, including: Jane Werner, Childrens Museum; Drew Davidson, The Entertainment Technology Center; Lisa Brahms, The University of Pittsburgh; Derek Lomas, Playpower; Jacob Klein, Motion Math; Chris Klug, The Entertainment Technology Center, Nikki Navta, Zulama; Jason Simmons, Zulama; Nina Barbuto, Assemble; Heather Mallak, DYHM Creative…finally, Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE magazine.
Pittsburgh’s Kids & Creativity Group, supported by the Sprout Fund and the Grable Foundation, assembled a group of Pittsburghers, including the Pittsburgh Technology Council, to benchmark national innovation surrounding education, and to share the amazing work that is happening right now in Pittsburgh. For more details on this ground-breaking event, and the Pittsburghers who attended, check out the Spring Issue of TEQ magazine.