Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC)
has always been about the best ways to teach kids using the latest tech innovations. But this year organizers are aiming to get even more kids and more people outside the teaching profession involved.
Students from Winchester Thurston School and the South Fayette School District will lead pre-conference workshops on app development and the computer language Scratch, while pre-conference keynoter Brian Waniewski, from the Institute of Play in New York City, will talk about its model for learning.
According to TRETC organizer Justin Driscoll of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, last year the conference attracted representatives of 100 school districts, while this year the event hopes to add more attendees from nonprofits and higher education institutions.
"TRETC showcases the best of the region and pulls in national presenters as well," says Norton Gusky, another TRETC organizers, allowing participants to see "what are some of the great things that are happening in our region -- the innovations that at the same time reflect national and global trends." The 2012 conference is set for Nov. 13-14 at The Regional Learning Alliance in Marshall Township.
Collaborations with other local groups will bring to TRETC such new features as the Spark Creativity Zone, highlighting some of the local projects at the intersection of the arts and technology supported by The Sprout Fund's Spark program. Other TRETC collaborative partners include the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Senator John Heinz History Center and Carnegie Science Center.
The keynote address by internationally renowned educator Gary Stager, says Gusky, "will force people to think about what it means to integrate technology into education. We need to think about what doesn't work. We need to challenge ourselves, and Gary does that."
Colorado teacher Aaron Sams, who is now living in Pittsburgh, will present his work creating Flipping the Classroom, a movement to have students do homework as part of classroom instruction and save the traditional class activities, such as listening to lectures, for their homework.
TRETC's Digital Playground will include a specially designed MAKEshop from the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. "It will let people play with new technologies," says Gusky, "so people can see this whole world of building, making and tinkering and see what this has to do with learning: How do you engage learners and give them the tools … to make something new?"
He adds that, without existing efforts in Pittsburgh to combine arts, teaching and technology, TRETC would not be possible.
"Part of why this is happening is because of what the Kids + Creativity movement started," Gusky concludes. "Without the Kids + Creativity movement, we wouldn't see the kinds of collaborations we're seeing today."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Norton Gusky and Justin Driscoll, TRETC