AIU Center for Creativity aims to inspire, energize teachers

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 3:57 a.m.

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Center for Creativity marked the grand opening of its transformED digital playground for educators on Wednesday.

Representatives from various Allegheny County school districts, educational organizations and technology companies demonstrated activities using GigaPan, Hummingbird robots, Scratch, a 3D printer, a green screen, Design Thinking, robotic poetry and New Worlds/Virtual at the AIU headquarters in the Homestead section of the Waterfront.

“This idea started with a conversation,” said Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of teaching and learning at the AIU. “It was framed in the bigger picture of the Center for Creativity. Part of that conversation was a concern that schools were becoming places of test prep and we were not engaging students as well as we could.”

She said another driving force is that while children and teens are comfortable with technology, some teachers may not be.

“We had a series of four design sessions facilitated by Maya Design for teachers and principals,” Javorsky said.

She said, during the meetings that took place approximately a year ago, the educators requested a space to visit and learn about the newest technology.

The AIU invited various school districts, organizations and companies to demonstrate at the grant opening a form of technology they use.

“It's an opportunity for one school district to learn from another school district and to apply those innovative technologies in their own districts,” AIU director Shauna D'Alessandro said. “It's an opportunity also for teachers to learn from students.”

South Fayette School District seventh-grader Priya Mavani and teacher Stephanie Romero were demonstrating GigaPan, which enables users to create high-resolution panoramic images. Romero sponsors the afterschool United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Club, of which Priya is a member.

“I've been to all of the meetings,” Priya said. “I don't want to miss any of them.”

“We're presenting how we use GigaPan in the school,” Romero said. “We have a cultural exchange with a school in Rio de Janeiro.”

She said the students use GigaPan to post pictures of where they live or something related to their culture and then the other school comments and asks questions about the images.

“You can find any event or location and bring it into the classroom,” Romero said. “I can tell students, ‘There's a lot of traffic in Mexico City.' If I can find a shot of that, it's a more powerful teaching tool.”

Allegheny Valley School District eighth-graders Chloe Guy and Kevin Kondrit showed poetry coming to life through technology. They used a BirdBrain Technologies Hummingbird microcontroller to create a robotic theater to “The Sun has Long Been Set” by poet William Wordsworth.

“We record a poem in our voices and we have the robot perform,” Chloe said.

She said the idea for the advanced language arts students was conceived by gifted support teacher Sue Mellon.

TransformED is funded through a $218,000 Grable Foundation grant.

Javorsky said the technology education program will continue with a schedule of formal professional development opportunities in addition to informal “play dates” and open times.

Educators who are employed by any of the AIU's member school districts are invited to transformED. For more information, visit the Center for Creativity page on the AIU website,

Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or

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