As the Remake Learning Network marks ten years in the Pittsburgh region, it’s critical to reflect on the network’s past and what its future might hold. More than 100 people took this year’s annual Remake Learning Network Survey, which addressed these critical questions. Here are some highlights from their responses.

Major highlights

“Personally it is encouraging to know that I have a great support and resource in Remake Learning and that they are here to help.” – 2016 Remake Learning Network Survey response

More than 60% of the people who took the survey got involved with the Remake Learning Network in the last four years. In other words, though the network has been developing for a decade, the majority of its members have only become active since 2012.

Remake Learning Network members are fundamentally interdisciplinary in the way they think about learning. More than 70% of survey respondents reported that STEAM and integrated approaches are relevant to their work.

In terms of priorities, Respondents wanted the network to focus on innovative professional development for teachers and support programs that boost students’ learning outcomes.

Network members valued the regional focus on sharing Pittsburgh’s story with the world. Several respondents hoped that the Network might continue to do more work to raise awareness and improve programming closer to home, especially in the region’s most underserved areas.

Overall, respondents had positive stories to share about the network’s impact on their work. One respondent noted how productive partnerships have been for their work: “Collaborations and partnerships with Remake Learning Network members can lead to really cool outcomes for youth work with those who know instead of trying to do it all yourself.” Another respondent mentioned how ongoing Remake Learning activities like Meetups “have been great for talking to people and getting new ideas.” The informal conversations that start at meetups have led to grant applications, new programming, and ongoing official partnerships. In general, these conversations have helped people stay current: One person wrote that the Network “helps us keep a finger on the pulse of educational priorities for local schools, funders, and out-of-school learning opportunities.”

Ongoing network-wide initiatives like digital badging have also made a positive impact, especially the Badge-Enabled Playlists and Pathways funding support. One respondent remarked: “We appreciated the nudge to create solid relationships with like-minded partners and develop a plan for hand-offs–something we had been wanting to do for a while.” Using badging has also had a wider impact in the region; another respondent indicated that this alternative form of assessment “helped us think about how we structure ongoing efforts to connect young people to opportunities & explore learning pathways.”

Other respondents highlighted how the network empowers both teachers and students. One respondent described how the network helped an organization “ignite youth voice so that they can take control of their learning.” This organization’s programming transformed a teacher-led afterschool program into a student-led program. Teachers have also made connections in the network to deepen their understanding of innovative educational approaches and improve their practice. Social media is a major component of this work, as Remake Learning Network members constantly share their insights about what they’re reading and their photos from their latest conference or meeting. Teachers across the region are “actively creating professional learning communities” using social media,” one respondent noted. “Just follow Twitter on a Saturday.”

The Way Forward: Improving the Network in the next 10 years

Some respondents indicated that they want the innovative STEM and STEAM programming that’s been implemented to continue to level up in impact. One person wrote, “The application of [STEM and STEAM] skills to improve communities and solve problems using these tools appears to be lacking, and could be a great component for added value to youth and the larger community’s health and growth.” Others mentioned the need for the network’s impact to broaden geographically: Respondents from West Virginia and Fayette County mentioned the need for more programming in their regions or – barring that – more programming that might be attended from afar. Additionally, several respondents called attention to the uneven distribution of Remake Learning Network-related programming within Pittsburgh and Allegheny County: One person remarked, “Many innovative opportunities seem prevalent in well-resourced communities. We need to ensure that all communities have access to these cutting edge resources and opportunities.”

Access & Equity

“A focus on equity is essential for Pittsburgh to be a place for ALL children and ALL communities.” – 2016 Remake Learning Network Survey response

Network members were asked to rank the network’s most important future priorities from a list that included access and equity, creating learning pathways, outreach to parents and caregivers, and impact on local and national policy. More than 43% of survey respondents ranked access and equity as their first choice.

People provided narrative responses to support the priority they choice, and these critical themes of Respondents also called for a continued concentration on programs that improve access and equity.

They remarked on “the pernicious inequality in access to quality resources, mentoring, and life opportunities in Pittsburgh,” and they here is no reason why the zip code a child was born into should be the determining factor in the amount of exposure that child has to outside opportunity. Another respondent echoed these sentiments: “We need to make sure quality in- and out-of-school learning opportunities are available to all learners, not just those lucky enough to be in certain schools or neighborhoods.” Yet another respondent remarked on this need more broadly: “access to high-quality education – both formal and informal – is still very uneven. This needs to be a top priority if we want all children to benefit from the Remake Learning resources.”

 

Next Steps: Continuing the Conversation on Equity and Access

 

“As a network, we’ve made a national name for ourselves by demonstrating the power and potential of innovative teaching and learning practices to improve outcomes for our students. Now it’s time to make those practices available to all of our students, not just the those in communities that can afford innovation.” – 2016 Remake Learning Network Survey response

When the Remake Learning Network began as the Kids and Creativity Network, it famously started through a series of breakfast meetings, where we worked to bring together educators, innovators, roboticists, and makers. As the network enters its next ten years, we want to make sure that we welcome more people than ever around our table. In the new year, the Network will start some conversations that revisit our network’s mission, vision and values. We want to respond to the network’s desire to make equity and access a central priority. We hope you’ll join us for those conversations.

If you’re interested in joining these conversations, please contact Sunanna Chand, Remake Learning Innovation Strategist, at sunanna@nullremakelearning.org.