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Tyler Samstag

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Reimagining traditional models of professional development, offering educators opportunities to collaborate, create, and innovate!


Pittsburgh, United States
transformED is the cornerstone of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Center for Creativity, which strives to support educators across the region in integrating innovative teaching and learning practices.

What is transformED?

Tyler Samstag, Director of Instructional Innovation
“transformED is far more than a physical space. It's a community of thoughtful practitioners striving everyday to hone their craft and create engaging opportunities for their students to learn and grow.”

Tyler Samstag, Director of Instructional Innovation

transformED is an education innovation hub and serves as the cornerstone of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Center for Creativity, which strives to support educators across the region in integrating innovative teaching and learning practices.

transformED combines a dynamic physical space with access to emerging technologies to stimulate new thinking around educational technology with targeted, specific events and workshops that empower educators to move forward in integrating technology in a strategic and equitable manner. In this  safe and supportive environment, teachers can explore, take risks, and discover alongside other educators. Popular sessions include virtual reality in education, human-centered design workshops, and supporting computational thinking in early elementary. 

transformED hosts more than 100 free sessions per year, which are open to all educators, including formal K-12 teachers and administrators, out-of-school time providers, librarians, etc.

Testing and Piloting Emerging Technologies:

As technology evolves rapidly, so do educators' desire to leverage it to enhance  classroom instruction. transformED creates opportunities for educators to experiment with such technologies alongside industry and higher education partners to strategize around instructional integration while discussing candidly current limitations and obstacles.

In 2016-2017, for instance, a  series of workshops brought together visionary educators with partners that included Schell Games, Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center, and IRL Labs to experiment with newly released immersive virtual and augmented reality hardware.

One such workshop convened educators at Pittsburgh's historic Allegheny Cemetery to leverage augmented reality software to design and construct AR historical cemetery tours. By days end, participants could point their phones at a headstone, revealing an assortment of supplemental biographical text, pictures, and videos. Teachers subsequently utilized newly acquired skills to support students in creating their own AR tours in their communities.

National Partnerships:

  • School Retool: School Retool, created by Stanford's d.school and IDEO,  is a professional development fellowship that helps school leaders redesign school culture using small, scrappy experiments called “hacks.” Hacks may start small, but they're built on research-based practices that lead to Deeper Learning. transformED is proud to have hosted 3 cohorts of School Retool, supporting principals, curriculum directors, special education directors and superintendents from Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia in rethinking school culture..

  • Code.org: Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. Their vision is that every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science, just like biology, chemistry or algebra. In 2018-2019, 65 secondary teachers from across Western Pennsylvania participated in the Professional Learning Program at transformED, offering new computer science opportunities in their districts.

Regional Partnerships:

transformED works closely with many regional organizations to reimagine professional development. Partners we are proud to work with include: Artist Image Resources, BirdBrain Technologies, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, CMU Entertainment Technology Center, CMU School of Computer Science, Common Sense Education, CSTA Pittsburgh, EVERFI, Ioby, Montour School District, Remake Learning, Saturday Light Brigade, and Schell Games.


In the last 2.5 school years, transformED has hosted nearly 250 workshops attended by over 2,400 educators from 139 public and charter school districts, representing 28 Pennsylvania counties and 3 states. Between 2016-2019, over a third of participants attending transformED programming, on average, worked in a high-poverty school district, as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics (75.1%+ students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch).

transformED advocates for the equitable diffusion of learning innovation, which is made possible through the generous support of The Grable Foundation, The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, and The Hillman Foundation.

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Tyler Samstag

See this innovation in action

School district destination: Deeper learning | District Administration
School Retool in Western Pennsylvania
Kidsburgh: Virtual Reality In The Classroom
Virtual Reality Could Bring History To Life In The Classroom
Allegheny PA Teachers Train to Use VR to Open World to Classrooms -- THE Journal
What’s it take to retool your school?
Teachers Open World to Classrooms With Virtual Reality


Achievements & Awards


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Identify and Repurpose a Designated Space
Identify a designated space to act as a hub for educators to meet. It might be an unused classroom or backroom at a community center.
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Engage Stakeholders
Partnerships are an essential to the vibrancy of transformED. Connect with regional stakeholders invested in educational opportunities and learning innovations to discover shared goals and interests.
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Acquire Technology and Supplies
Technology lies at the heart of transformED workshops, be that computers, 3D printers, or simply hand tools. Think creatively about technology, as it might be high-tech or low-tech and can costs as little as a few bucks.
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Design Programming and Advertise to Educators
Design diverse programming that will appeal to beginners as well as innovators. Create a calendar that is easy to navigate and share widely with educators. As many teachers need at least one month for approval to attend external professional development, make sure you advertise well in advance.
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Create Shared Norms
Shared norms help create an environment that is safe and supportive for risk-taking.
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Support Reflection on Technology Integration
Encourage participants to step outside of their comfort zones, but ground exploration in research on pedagogy and technology integration.
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