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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f7707e000090.5 WESA's Life of Learning series focuses on learning and education activities, opportunities and challenges in the Greater Pittsburgh area.This multi-year commitment to providing learning-focused news coverage in southwestern Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Grable Foundation.

Elizabeth Forward Accepted into League of Innovative Schools

Elizabeth Forward may be located in a suburban and rural area, but it might hold the future of teaching and learning through technology.

The school district is the first in Pennsylvania accepted as a member of the League of Innovative Schools.

The district is one of eight new members of the league, which is a coalition of education agencies with the goal of enhancing teaching and learning.

“The key for us and the district, and I think it’s the key for the league, is about improving the lives of children using technology and making them aware that these technologies are part of their life and that we need to make sure that they know how to manage them and get as much as they can out of these devices and things that they’re using in schools,” said Elizabeth Forward Superintendent Bart Rocco.

As a new member, Elizabeth Forward is committed to share information with other members, participate in national and regional forums and partner with research institutions and technology developers.

The district has already partnered with Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, California University of Pennsylvania, Apple and various gaming businesses.

The high school has a gaming academy teaching students game production and the creation of applications. The library was renovated into a media center complete with a sound studio.

Elizabeth Forward is the only public school district in the country to have a Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Lab (SMALLab), in which the students can interact with their lessons using a projection and a tool called a “wand.”

“Kids are engaged in this technology when they go home, this is their world, and we think the school needs to sort of catch up with what devices they’re using at home,” Rocco said. “I know when I was a child, I’d go home and the first thing you do is you watch the TV. Well, today, the first thing kids are doing is they’re using their technologies, they’re using their iPhones, they’re using their computers.”

The district is also providing its students with iPads to take home and use as learning tools this school year.

“What’s going on here, we believe, is setting the trend for a lot of school across the country, even though we’re rural and suburban," Rocco said. "We believe that we’re setting the stakes, a lot of great things can happen in schools across the country."

The league consists of 40 public school districts and education agencies across 24 states.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.
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