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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Innovation Celebrated At Gathering Of Educators

There is something special going on in Pittsburgh, according to Sara Schapiro, director of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools

“We’re excited to showcase the region as a hub of education innovation,” she said.

About 175 national school leaders, education experts and other stakeholders gathered in Pittsburgh this week for Digital Promise’s national meeting to share ideas and best practices for teaching and learning. The gathering wraps up Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh area is home to three of the league’s 73 innovative school districts: Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward and South Fayette, which were each cited for their dynamic teaching and high-tech learning environments. No metro area has more “innovative districts” than Pittsburgh. 

Karen Cator, CEO for the nonpartisan non-profit Digital Promise, said just .05 percent of school districts nationwide are included so “it’s definitely an honor,” but she added that’s when the work begins.

“They need above all to be committed to designing and developing really awesome learning environments for this generation of students.” 

Dedication to digital learning, finding the best uses of technology and working with teachers and other school districts are paramount, she said, but innovation is more than using technology. 

“There are a lot of creative ideas that solve problems, but innovation is something that is scaled up and actually moves forward to solve a big problem,” Cator said.

Elizabeth Forward was selected for the League of Innovative Schools in 2012, South Fayette in 2013 and Avonworth in September 2014.

Cator says the districts have created “inviting environments” to engage students.

“So the students know how the things they are doing, whether it’s learning about computer coding, robotics, communicating effectively with media — whatever it is — they know the things they’re learning in their schools are important for a productive future.”