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Where tech meets education: At TRETC, Pittsburgh focused on the future of their overlap

From awards to keynote speakers to workshops, the 2022 conference kicked off a year of tech applications in education.

Superintendent panel discussion at TRETC. (Photo via Twitter)

What edtech solutions will prepare students for Pittsburgh’s growing tech workforce?

It’s a discussion relevant to cities across the US, but having it in Pittsburgh is especially important, given that one of the world’s largest edtech companies, Duolingo, has headquarters here. Beyond the unicorn — which had a successful IPO last year — the city is also home to startups and established companies in the industry alike, with BirdBrain Technologies and Carnegie Learning. It’s also an area where local training organizations like the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute shine.

Pushing for integration of that work into the education system here not only ensures continued innovation, but that Pittsburgh will have a labor force that can fulfill the roles of the tech industry here.

The Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC) took place last weekend as a hybrid in-person and online event from the Pittsburgh Technology Council, its nonprofit division Fortyx80 and the Readiness Institute of Pennsylvania State University. The annual conference focuses on the use and innovation of technology for both K-12 and higher ed institutions.

2022’s event had a theme of making connections, centering on the collaborations that technology can enable for not only students and teachers, but the administrators, families and communities that support them. This year’s in-person events took place at Astrobotic’s headquarters on the North Shore and at the Energy Innovation Center downtown, while virtual streams were provided through the platform Sched.

The conference came at a time when schools across the country continue to navigate hybrid operations in the midst of the pandemic. But more than focusing on continued adaptations to remote learning in general, the conference featured workshops, networking and keynote speakers centered on finding future workforce solutions.

One workshop, for instance, detailed how to incorporate hands-on robotics lessons while learning from home, while another emphasized the importance of connecting students to both professionals in tech and upperclassmen with similar interests to help them better see technical career pathways.

With a mix of edtech founders, teachers, local school administrators and education experts like keynote speaker Dewayne McClary and groups like Girls of Steel Robotics, TRETC offered a new look at how recent changes to education are becoming more permanent with the persistence of the pandemic.

The conference also recognized people actively doing that work in Pittsburgh through the presentation of three awards. See below for the full list of nominees and winners of each award, all of whom are people to look out for in Pittsburgh’s growing edtech sector. Winners for each award are italicized.

Norton Gusky Friend of Education

  • Jason Brown, director of Carnegie Science Center
  • Terrie Suica-Reed, president and CEO of PHASE 4 Learning Center

A nominator of Suica-Reed wrote this about the leader’s work:

“Through programming at PHASE 4 Learning Center and partnerships have allowed students to have access to state-of-the art technology that helps level the playing field by creating TEQuity for teens who otherwise might have restricted, limited or sometimes nonexistent access to technology that others have readily available.”

Innovative Educator of the Year

  • Matthew Strine, STEM teacher at Monesson City School District
  • Alison Francis, early childhood educator and asynchronous teacher at Fox Chapel Area School District
  • Deborah Domingues-Murphy, teacher of business, technology and information literacy at City Charter High School

“Her most amazing artwork is the beautiful and strong learning fabric she weaves together from kindness, love, skill, and technology in her high school classroom,” someone wrote for the event in nominating Domingues-Murphy. “Mrs. D’s students enter an accessible, meaningful, safe, and success-filled world at City Charter High School.”

Innovative Leader of the Year

  • Chuck Herring, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at South Fayette Township School District
  • Angela Mike, executive director of career and technology education at Pittsburgh Public Schools

“Angela is steadfast in delivering the message that CTE is for all students and in creating a ‘new CTE vision’ within the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the surrounding communities,” one of Mike’s nominators wrote. “Under Angela’s leadership, outstanding increases in job exploration opportunities for students has occurred, in addition to increased community partnerships and the opening of new CTE programs and electives courses throughout many of PPS’s middle and high schools.”

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Pittsburgh Technology Council

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