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The New Digital Pathways Conference

Students from Genesee Valley Central School District present on their STEAM class at the NYSCATE Conference.

For more than a decade the Western New York Regional Information Center (WNYRIC) has played host to the New York State Association for Computers and Technology in Education (NYSCATE) Digital Wave Conference. After all those years, this year was a year of firsts.

While still held at Erie 1 BOCES’ Education Campus, the conference was renamed Digital Pathways to reflect a more accurate approach to technology in the classroom.

“We changed the name from Digital Wave to Digital Pathways to reflect the different paths students and teachers take in their learning journey,” Michelle Okal-Frink, director of WNYRIC business continuity, research and innovation, an organizer of the conference and vice president of NYSCATE said.

Also new this year was an emphasis on student presenters. The day started out with an inspiring keynote from Rose Scordo, a 12-year- old robotics enthusiast from Archbishop Walsh Academy.

“Making has showed me how to help people, how to inspire people, how to change the future,” Rose said of her lightbulb moment while addressing the educators.

Rose was not the only student at the conference on March 4. Teachers from four school districts brought their pupils with them to give another perspective on their sessions.

Rose Scordo answers questions at her Rosie's Robots booth. She was also the keynote speaker at the NYSCATE conference Whether it was Genesee Valley students’ testimonials about their unique STEAM class, Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda students’ digital art displays, Depew students’ demonstration of the effect of sound on a non-Newtonian cornstarch mixture or Lewiston-Porter students’ hands-on robotics instruction, the lessons made an impact on those attending.

“We had a great lineup of sessions with very original ideas. Many of our session leaders were teachers who may be new to technology and it was their first time presenting to their peers about their journey, what they’ve found along the way and come to accomplish through trial and error, failure and success,” Okal-Frink added. “In addition, this was an opportunity for more than a dozen students to flip the script, be the teachers for a day and to show the educators in the room a different perspective on the concepts being presented.”

The theme was a science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) playground and featured a room dedicated to interactive displays of the latest technology for classroom learning. Educators were wowed by the new technology that emphasized robotics, coding and virtual reality.

“It was a great year and we look forward to hosting this event year after year. In addition to being a great forum to take in new ideas, it is also a wonderful opportunity for local educators to be presenters,” Okal-Frink said.

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