Working together, the Remake Learning Network has squarely established a solid foundation for learning innovation in the greater Pittsburgh region. As a collaborative and connected network, our potential to provide all children and youth with remarkable learning experiences is greater than ever.
We’ve grown the network from a handful of people to more than 200 member organizations and more than 3,000 people who follow our work. But perhaps more important than the steady growth of the network has been its effect on the way network members connect across sectors. According to our most recent survey of network members, 86% reported forming new and productive collaborative partnerships as a direct result of their participation in the network.
The success of our network has helped put Pittsburgh on the map as a community known for learning innovation, attracting visitors from around the world. School district leaders from Huntsville, Alabama, took what they learned from the Elizabeth Forward School District back home to bring their schools into the digital age. Business leaders from Denver, Colorado, visited Pittsburgh and learned how the network has built effective partnerships between educators, cultural institutions, and research universities. Representatives from 13 regions toured Remake Learning Network sites throughout Pittsburgh to get a first-hand look at an education innovation cluster in action.
We have opened doors for Pittsburgh to engage national and international partners like Common Sense Media, PBS Learning, and the global Hive Learning Networks. From these partners, we import new knowledge, tools, and resources for learning and export our most successful innovations far beyond our borders.
In 2014, Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to be awarded a Disruptive Innovation Award at the Tribeca Innovation Festival in New York City. The award recognized the leadership of the Remake Learning Network in fostering more creative and innovative learning opportunities for youth in the region.
As Connie Yowell, Director of Education at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, told Education Week: “Pittsburgh is absolutely a leader when it comes to building a learning ecosystem for the 21st century.”
Still, our work is far from over. Important questions and complex challenges remain as we work to coordinate the efforts of the many actors in the education space, embed the values of creativity and equity in every program, engage students in hands-on learning both in and out of school settings, and empower grassroots stakeholders to participate in setting the agenda for change.
In addition to making constant refinements to the structure and operations of the network, we’re focusing on several key priorities in the months and years ahead.
Innovative Professional Development: Some of the most important work for the network going forward will be the continued investment in our human capital — providing educators with the innovative instructional support they need. School districts and educator support agencies are taking innovative teaching practices to scale by creating new professional development opportunities that harness the best of the network and provide teachers with hands-on opportunities to adapt and remix new approaches to suit their classrooms.
Family Awareness & Engagement: We’re also focusing more than ever on engaging directly with parents and families so that we can ensure the incredible innovations emerging in Pittsburgh remain relevant to the needs and concerns of the caring adults in children’s lives, while also expanding the conversation about what it means to learn today. The ultimate goal goes beyond raising awareness — if innovative learning is to go to scale and become the norm for all children, parents need to be empowered to demand that learning be remade.
Badging & Credentialing Learning: Alternative credentials remain especially important for recognizing learning in out-of-school time, where many young people find the most rewarding and empowering learning experiences. We’re building on the deep work that Remake Learning Network members have already begun in developing shared learning competencies and issuing thousands of digital badges. Developing a workable ecosystem of micro-credentials that is valued by learners and helps them showcase their accomplishments to teachers, college admissions, or potential employers remains a critical priority in Pittsburgh.
Ensuring equitable access: Increasing access and participation among youth and educators in neighborhoods in need — especially communities of color and English-language learners — is an ongoing challenge for the entire field, not just in Pittsburgh. Building on models like The Children’s Museum’s Mobile MAKESHOP, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Labs on Location, and The Sprout Fund’s Digital Corps, more of our network’s most effective learning innovations are being “mobilized” so that they can be adapted and deployed in high-demand communities. Similarly, efforts to overcome transportation barriers and convert public recreation centers into venues for digital learning and technological access are underway.
Evaluating Network Impact: While we have established mechanisms to gauge the impact of the Remake Learning Network on the members themselves, measuring and understanding how the network has affected outcomes for the young people we seek to serve has been more elusive. To that end, a small local research cohort has begun work to analyze the landscape of network research and establish common metrics for evaluating innovative learning programs and a shared strategy for gathering data about the impact on learners. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but, through the strength of the network, we’re moving closer to our long-term goal of providing all children and youth with the best available opportunities to learn and be creative.
Looking forward to the years ahead, we’re excited for new opportunities to build on this momentum — opportunities that arise directly from the strength and maturity of our network.
With maker learning taking hold in our region’s schools, museums, and communities, Pittsburgh has developed into one of the most active maker ecosystems in the country. Responding to a call-to-action from the Obama Administration, the Remake Learning Network continues to engage its members and national leaders in a discussion on ways Pittsburgh can build on this strength to become one of America’s leading Maker Cities. And, in 2016, the Week of ReMaking Learning will be an all-hands-on-deck effort to garner commitments from school districts, nonprofit organizations, elected officials, and corporate partners proclaiming the priority of innovative maker learning in Pittsburgh.
As one of the vanguard “Cities of Learning” in 2014 and 2015, Pittsburgh is now poised to join Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and many others with LRNG, a collective shift in our approach to learning. LRNG is a bold new endeavor to close the opportunity gap by transforming how young people access and experience learning, and the paths they can take to success. LRNG will help Pittsburgh build a seamless network of local and online learning opportunities that are open and inviting to all youth — and connected to real-world opportunity through the use of digital badges.
In support of Pittsburgh’s ed-tech start-up community, Remake Learning nonprofit partners are now providing user testing, curriculum design, and teacher training support services to enhance the applicability and usability of new products in a variety of learning environments. Through this coordinated approach, Pittsburgh is growing an education innovation cluster with enterprises that achieve important learning outcomes for children and deliver economic impact in the community.
As we make strides in the Pittsburgh region, we’re also seeking more opportunities to partner with other cities that recognize the value of network-based learning innovation. Sharing our story through this Playbook is the first step. Now we’re hoping to hear from you.
How will you remake learning in your community?
About the Remake Learning Playbook
We’re eager for your feedback! We’ve released the Playbook on Medium so readers can share feedback and help inform the field. Please add comments, notes, suggestions, and questions throughout these chapters to help us make the Playbook as useful as possible.
Top photo: Mobile MAKESHOP at the Millvale Community Library / Ben Filio for The Sprout Fund