Baldwin-Whitehall hosts Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference
Behind every rescue Sheriff Woody makes in the “Toy Story” series to Merida’s bright red hair in “Brave,” there’s a team at Pixar Animation Studios using math, science and technology to bring each character to life.
Using technology, there’s a way for teachers to harness student’s excitement about their favorite films to teach them important skills in the classroom, with programs like Pixar in a Box.
Nearly 600 educators gathered at Baldwin High School on Oct. 14 for Pittsburgh Technology Council’s annual Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference.
This year’s theme, “Technology and the Future of Learning” ensured that “new and innovative practices” from over the last year were made accessible to teachers, who can then apply the tools in their classroom, said Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.
“I hope that they’re sparked,” said Norton Gusky, educational technology broker, who has been working to put on the conference over the last 25 years.
Tony DeRose, a former longtime senior scientist at Pixar who now works as an educational consultant, was the keynote for the event. He shared tools teachers can use in the classroom to inspire and develop problem solvers. That includes Disney’s Imagineering in a Box, that helps students learn skills needed for careers as imagination engineers at its theme parks.
“What we’re trying to do is provide examples for authentic connections between what kids are learning and careers that are out in the world,” DeRose said. “Hopefully more and more instruction can start leveraging the interests and passions of students.”
This is the second straight year Baldwin-Whitehall has hosted the conference. As a host, the conference is open to all district staff, kindergarten through 12th grade.
“It’s an opportunity to provide professional development to all of our teachers,” said Janeen Peretin, director of information and instructional technology. “When given the opportunity to apply to host the conference, there was really no decision, because there are just so many positive outcomes that ultimately impact our students and the teaching practices in all of our buildings.”
Serving as the host “reinforces the work that we’ve done as a staff in the name of technology and in the name of learning,” Superintendent Randal Lutz said.
The day included sessions where educators could learn from one another and experts in the field about everything from security to creating a diverse future workforce to learning to code to elevating student voice, Peretin said.
A showcase featured students from across the region presenting how they use technology in their schools. Some worked side-by-side with startups from colleges and universities in the area.
Students from North Catholic High School brought a robot from FIRST Robotics to showcase.
“Everything nowadays is based on technology. If you don’t have technology in schools, how are we going to learn about the future?” said North Catholic senior Ashton Polak, 17.
This year’s conference is a follow-up to last year’s theme: “The Future of Work.”
“We realized we needed to actually take a step back and think about what do we need to do within our schools, our after school programs, so that we have a learning environment, we have content, we have the tools necessary to prepare our future leaders,” Gusky said.
Peretin said she hopes educators will take what they learned back to the classroom and think differently about their own teaching practices and help them find ways to connect students with experts beyond the four walls of the school.
“The world is truly their classroom and it’s our responsibility to give the students as many opportunities as we can to connect with people that aren’t in our backyard,” she said.