The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on systemic inequities and tested the resilience of schools and communities across the country. But these unprecedented circumstances have also shown the power of local education networks to respond with new ideas, partnerships, and resources.
In this first of a two-part series, we highlight the efforts of the Remake Learning Network and its partners in Pittsburgh.
For more than 10 years, Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning Network has been building an ecosystem of partnerships and initiatives to advance the future of learning for youth across Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They’ve particularly focused on those at the margins: learners in poverty; learners of color; learners in rural areas; girls involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math); and learners with exceptionalities. That network, counting more than 500 schools and organizations, has proved critical in addressing the current crisis. As Ani Martinez, field director for Remake Learning, observed, “The past few months have illustrated all too sharply the importance of the ‘network effect’ and the much-needed ‘switchboard operator’ role in helping to facilitate various and often disconnected relief efforts.”
As schools closed and educators struggled to identify and navigate resources for online teaching and learning, Remake leveraged its network to compile a list of resources specifically designed to connect regional educators, parents, and caregivers to resources for K-12 learning during the time of COVID-19. They also created a virtual agent powered by IBM Watson to help users navigate the overwhelming volume and provide a “fast, practical way to tap into that knowledge and curb the firehose of information being released.”
Remake also doubled down on its catalytic funding initiative, 2020 Ignite Grants, to support educators in innovating, collaborating, and solving complex problems. Across the network, professional learning communities are refocusing their work to meet the current crisis, while others like pop-up professional learning networks and the We’re in this Together series are forming anew. Events, opportunities, and virtual meet-ups are all tracked on Remake’s calendar and COVID-19 response pages.
Capturing and sharing the learnings and resources that emerge from this time is critical. As Martinez noted, “We’ve been working to double-down on the power of our network to coordinate, communicate, and amplify helpful and supportive information.” In addition to the resource pages and meetups, Remake is documenting stories on its blog, looking specifically at topics such as education in the time of COVID-19 and equity in STEAM and creative learning. The Remake Learning Days Across America initiative has also launched a #LearningLessons social campaign to capture the discoveries of students and families navigating new challenges and opportunities for learning.
For Remake and its partners, the crisis of today presents opportunities to build a better tomorrow. In his recent announcement of their Tomorrow campaign, Remake Learning Council Co-Chair Gregg Behr shared, “[A]s others have pointed out, normal never worked all that well for far too many people. In Pittsburgh, normal meant unconscionable and even deadly disparities in health, wealth, academics, and more.” He added, “[I]f yesterday’s order of things can change so dramatically, then it’s well within our power as people and as a community to decide what tomorrow should look like.”
As Martinez put it in a recent conversation, “Over the years, we have learned some valuable lessons. COVID-19 has reminded us that Remake Learning is well-positioned to build on strengths. Meaning, our region, that story of a rustbelt rebirth… is about living in a place of transformation. … Now that we are in darker times, how do we use this crisis as an inflection point?”
We are committed to amplifying the learnings and resources from education communities like Remake Learning, and hope you’ll share your stories with us. Join our partners at Remake Learning in tagging your reflections, resources, and examples worth sharing with #LearningLessons, or post your hopes for today’s young people using the hashtag #RemakeTomorrow and tagging @RemakeLearning and @DigitalPromise.
Learn more about local learning ecosystems like Remake Learning at our Education Innovation Clusters page. And stay tuned for upcoming stories from Rhode Island, Kansas City, Tucson, and others.