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Valley News Dispatch

Deer Lakes highlights 'special' technology in learning efforts

Emily Balser
| Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, 5:36 p.m.
Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, talks with Deer Lakes High School senior Tyler Osselborn, 18, about robotics on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.
Emily Balser | Tribune-Review
Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, talks with Deer Lakes High School senior Tyler Osselborn, 18, about robotics on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.
Gregg Behr, exective director of the Grable Foundation, visits a class being held in the Deer Lakes Middle School innovation center on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.
Emily Balser | Tribune-Review
Gregg Behr, exective director of the Grable Foundation, visits a class being held in the Deer Lakes Middle School innovation center on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.
Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, talks with Deer Lakes High School students in their robotics and engineering class on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.
Emily Balser | Tribune-Review
Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, talks with Deer Lakes High School students in their robotics and engineering class on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.

The Deer Lakes School District got a chance to showcase some of its technology initiatives Friday when Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, visited the middle and high schools.

Behr first visited the middle school's Innovation Center, a remodeled library space that provides an area for classes to meet as well as a place where students can collaborate and study. It was unveiled earlier this school year.

"This is a great space," Behr said. "You can tell the students love being here."

Eighth-grader Mackenzie Yoder works in the center, checking out books to students and lending Chromebook computers and their accessories.

She said she sees a lot of her peers using the space.

"Now you can come in here and study with your friends and learn about different things," she said. "I think it's kind of cool how we remodeled this because you can go on your laptops, you can really do whatever you want."

In addition to being executive director of the Grable Foundation, one of Pittsburgh's largest philanthropies, Behr also works with Remake Learning, a regional network of organizations working to accelerate engaging, relevant and equitable learning opportunities.

"If we think about kids and their futures, and not us as adults and our futures, kids are walking into futures that are wholly unlike anything we as adults have experienced," Behr said. "And while there are some things that are timeless and classic about childhood, there are also some things that are fundamentally different as kids navigate massive societal technological changes."

After visiting the middle school, Behr headed to the high school to visit the robotics and engineering class.

Students spoke with him about building their robots and showed off their skills during a friendly competition.

Dan Lauletta, Deer Lakes' director of technology, said the district has put a focus on providing every student in sixth through eighth grades with a laptop computer to help foster innovation and learning.

"We want to expand this program districtwide as we move forward in the future," he said.

Behr said he enjoys spending time touring schools. He said it's critical for school districts to equip students with the skills to think creatively, collaborate with each other, deconstruct problems and invent new solutions to those problems.

"There are so many public schools in our region that are at the forefront of learning innovation not only in this region but across this country," he said. "Deer Lakes is doing some really special things, and I wanted to come here and see that."

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or on Twitter @emilybalser.

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