Greater Allegheny launches signature Digital Fluency Project

Students, Faculty, and Staff demonstrating how they are utilizing iPads in their curriculum.

Students, faculty and staff at Penn State Greater Allegheny demonstrate how they are utilizing iPads in their curriculum. 

Credit: Penn State

MCKEESPORT, Pa. — Penn State Greater Allegheny hosted an event on Tuesday, Sept. 11, to announce the start of its newest initiative, the Digital Fluency Project.

A series of exhibits lined the Student Community Center showcasing the various ways the campus is utilizing the Apple iPad and Logitech Crayon. Faculty, staff and students demonstrated digital projects that included storytelling in American history courses, writing and producing news, conducting scientific research, improving landscaping, and offering interactive tutoring sessions.

“Making these powerful digital tools and resources available will provide students with a strong foundation they can leverage for optimal learning," said Michael Kubit, vice president for Information Technology and CIO at Penn State. "We believe this is an investment in the lives of our students and will help to differentiate them when they enter the workforce."

Penn State Greater Allegheny students are adopting innovative ways to use their iPads within their day-to-day activities. One Greater Allegheny student, Katie Shields, spoke about how she implements digital note-taking using the iPad and Crayon. 

The Logitech Crayon utilizes wireless technology to sync to the iPad. Shields noted that the crayon can be used to create digital art, take notes, and convert notes to text. Shields also uses the iPad to help with her honors research and continue her education outside of the classroom by using different apps available through Penn State and the App Store.

“I use an app called Swift Playgrounds that teaches you about coding,” Shields told the audience. “I do not have reliable transportation, so I am using Zoom [video conferencing application] in order to still have discussions and meetings, but this way I do not have to find a way to leave the campus. There are many resources you can use that Penn State puts in your hands, and this one has made it easier for me in my academic research.” 

Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses, attended the launch event at Greater Allegheny to speak about how Penn State campuses are sites for innovation.

“Our campuses reflect regional distinctions, and it makes sense that digital fluency would be a signature of the Greater Allegheny campus given the reputation the Pittsburgh region has for its innovations and advances in technology,” Hanes said.

Over the past decade, major technology companies, such as Google, Facebook, Uber and Apple, have added locations in the Pittsburgh region. E-commerce giant Amazon also added Pittsburgh to its list of cities that may become the home of its second headquarters.

With these new opportunities available, “students will be prepared in new and different ways to enter the workforce and civic life with skills that will enable them to solve problems and lead change,” said Hanes.

The Digital Fluency Project lowers costs associated with other educational expenses. Students can access e-books through a variety of sources and may be able to forgo buying a personal laptop or desktop. Lowering student out-of-pocket costs aligns with the University’s commitment to access and affordability.

Penn State Greater Allegheny inspires students to be greater by offering transformative educational experiences. The Digital Fluency Project, as Kubit noted, “prepares [Penn State Greater Allegheny] students, no matter their major, to be digitally fluent — which is a core competency of 21st century learning.”

“It’s our responsibility in higher education to prepare students for this future, so they can not only be problem-solvers but also help to create problems that need to be solved,” said Kubit.

Tony Gomez, admissions counselor and co-adviser to the Lion Ambassadors at the Greater Allegheny campus, noted, “I witnessed such enthusiasm during the student exhibition. Some of the topics blew my mind in terms of the innovation and collaboration our students and our faculty are undertaking. It’s moments like these that make our campus moto “BeGreater” come to life for all to see.”