Teachers need a place to learn through playing and exploring, just like their students -- and a place to exchange ideas outside their classrooms and even their districts.
That's the theory behind a new space dubbed "transformED" at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit
's central office in Homestead. The AIU provides specialized education services to 42 districts and their 119,300 students, and its transformED is a new spot where "teachers will have the opportunity to come and play and utilize whatever form of technology will help them take ideas back to the classroom," says Jennifer Beagan, senior program director for teaching and learning.
TransformED, opening Feb. 6, is part of the AIU's Center for Creativity, which was designed "to create a go-to place for teachers, where they can really come and learn how you integrate creativity across disciplines," says Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director for teaching and learning.
For this kind of professional development, says Javorsky, "teachers wanted a physical space different from our traditional spaces in school. And they wanted some professional support that was really more hands-on discovery education" of the variety that works so well for their students. "We believe there is no space like this dedicated to teachers in the country" -- and certainly there is none like it in the region, she adds.
Inside its bright red walls, transformED is set up to allow multiple activities at the same time. Explains Javorsky: "The space is designed for interaction and for people to feel comfortable. It has a coffee-shop feel."
The opening coincides with national Digital Learning Day, and will offer demonstrations representing workshops and other sessions that teachers can enjoy at transformED. Educators will be able to gain experience with a 3D printer and the interactive-video software Scratch. Hummingbird Robots will help teachers assist their students in robot design and provide technical skills applicable to teaching multiple classroom subjects. A Gigapan camera, which takes 3,000 photos and stitches them together for panoramic views, will aid both science and art teachers.
Some of transformED's features will also be decidedly low tech, such as an area dedicated to design thinking -- a kind of strategic planning method that helps with idea generation.
Javorsky says the AIU has been concerned that, with the emphasis on test preparation in schools, "'drill and kill' is really taking the motivation out of learning." She hopes the new "TransformED is an opportunity for teachers to learn from each other."
TransformED was funded by a $218,000 grant from the Grable Foundation.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Jennifer Beagan, Rosanne Javorsky, Sarah McCluan, Allegheny Intermediate Unit