March 20, 2020

Literacy in a Time of Rapid Change: Strategies & Resources for Virtual Learning

Join literacy experts, authors, and experienced virtual educators, Dr. Troy Hicks and Shaelynn Farnsworth, for the webinar, “Literacy in a Time of Rapid Change: Strategies and Resources for Virtual Learning,” as they discuss resources and strategies to best support remote teaching and learning.


In this webinar, presenters will explore ways to virtually teach and engage students in literacy learning by sharing curricular content, edtech tools, resources, communities, and tips to get participants thinking critically and creatively in this time of crisis. As educators are working to meet the needs of all students virtually, it is important to also be mindful of issues related to equity, accessibility, and student populations with special needs.

This webinar will be of interest to kindergarten through higher education teachers, librarians, school and district leaders, curriculum and instruction, TOSAs and coaches, assistant superintendents, and tech directors. There will be time to have your questions answered at the end of the presentation.


To register and learn more, visit the event webpage.


December 6, 2019

$20M in PAsmart Grants Available to Advance STEM and CS Education

On November 25, 2019, Governor Tom Wolf announced that “up to $20 million in PAsmart grants are available to prepare students for the fast-growing fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and computer science (CS).”


Governor Tom Wolf has secured $40 million dollars to reinforce his PAsmart initiative, an increase of $10 million from 2018 investments. With this, “the Department of Education will award $20 million for STEM and computer science education through PAsmart Targeted pre-k–12 grants and Advancing grants. The Department of Labor and Industry will soon announce applications for $10 million for apprenticeships and industry partnerships. Funding for career and technical education also increased by $10 million.”

Discussing this initiative, Governor Wolf said that “PAsmart is strategically investing in science and technology education so students get the skills they need for emerging jobs in high demand. The grants encourage businesses and schools to develop partnerships that focus education on the knowledge students will need to succeed in growing industries. Through PAsmart, we are developing the most prepared and talented workforce in the country, which will help students excel, grow the middle class, and strengthen the economy for everyone.”

Grant Details

PAsmart Targeted Pre-k–12 Grants

The initiative will be issuing PAsmart Targeted pre-k–12 grants of up to $35,000 each with the intention to “meet the needs of local education agencies and their schools that have limited to no computer science offerings and did not receive targeted grants in 2018-19.” By receiving these grants, schools have the opportunity to “introduce and expand computer science programming and to provide educators from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 with training and professional development to teach CS.” With this, the grants will provide “greater opportunities for students of color, low-income students, and girls to learn critical skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce.”

PAsmart Advancing Grants

A larger PAsmart Advancing grant of up to $500,000 each will also be available, with the intention to “support cross-sector partnerships that provide quality STEM and CS experiences to learners of all ages – early childhood, pre-k–12, post-secondary, and adult learners – as part of high-level strategic approaches to workforce readiness.”

Application Deadlines

    • PAsmart Targeted Pre-k–12 Grant: Friday, December 20, 2019
    • PAsmart Advancing Grant: Friday, January 10, 2020

Grant applications and additional information can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) website.

More Information

For more information, read the full press release.

*Information provided by the Office of Governor Tom Wolf


September 26, 2019

How to Balance Children’s Digital Media Consumption

In their 2017 “Common Sense Census” report, Common Sense Media found that “children age eight and under spend an average of about two-and-a-quarter hours a day with screen media.” While digital media can be fun and informative, caregivers must be intentional in regulating their own and their child’s media consumption.

The Common Sense Census

To better understand the types of technology available to young children and how children utilize those technologies, Common Sense Media surveyed a representative sample of over 1,400 parents from regions across the United States. The survey included low- and high-income families, parents who received varying levels of education, and families from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Through the survey, Common Sense Media found that 98 percent of children age eight and younger have access to some type of mobile device in their home, with 98 percent having access to a television, 95 percent having access to a smartphone, and 78 percent having access to a tablet. In fact, 42 percent of the families surveyed reported that their child now has their own tablet device, a drastic increase from the reported seven percent four years ago.

Through these developments, children now spend more time consuming digital media per day than they do reading or being read to, with the survey average daily reading time reported as 30 minutes. Read the full report.

Risks of Excess Exposure

All media types, from movies and television shows to social platforms and gaming apps, expose consumers of all ages to a variety of content and messaging. While digital devices can be fun and incorporated as learning tools, they also pose threats to the early experiences of young children by:

    • increasing the likelihood that a child accidentally views violent or inappropriate content,
    • reducing the daily total time spent outside and being active,
    • and limiting children’s early opportunities to develop relationships and social, emotional, and communication skills.

With these risks, parents and caregivers must be intentional in monitoring the media content their children consume and the daily total time spent inside on digital devices. However, families must go one step further. Caregivers must also model healthy media balance behaviors themselves, integrating the same practices into their daily lives that they’re teaching their children. It’s critical that families establish a healthy balance between their offline and online activities.

Resources and Tools

To increase awareness and provide strategies on tackling this issue, Common Sense Media launched a series of resources for families and professionals, including:

*By texting the word KIDS to 21555, families can receive weekly text message tips on how to practice healthy media habits with their family and young children. Tips provided through this service are suitable for caregivers of children ages three to eight years old. Texts are available in English and Spanish. Standard messaging rates apply.

Learn More

To learn more about digital balance, visit the Common Sense Media website.


March 19, 2019

Tech Tuesday: MaKey MaKey

Use the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh‘s MaKey MaKey invention kit to compute with your body! Discover different conductive materials, design a controller and build sensors. What will you invent?

This program is designed for our youngest learners (0-5) but is suitable for all ages. The event is drop-in, so guests may come and go as they please!  For more information, visit the event page!