Larry Berger

Larry Berger

Pittsburgh, United States

In 1975 at age 13, I began working at a year-old community radio station in Pittsburgh. My hope was to tinker with technology and help this scrappy station succeed as it broadcast an incredible array of programs, including multilingual public affairs programs, voices of Islam, a show devoted to incarcerated listeners, and world music. I served as the operating engineer for many of those programs and discovered a passion for using my skills to help other people share their ideas. In 1978, I began hosting a radio show that allowed me to do just that -- and continue to serve as its host today. Incredible mentors helped me become a well-rounded, informed and civically engaged person during my teen years. Our mission at SLB is to provide similar support to today's teens.

Larry Berger is Founder and Executive Director of SLB Radio Productions (SLB), an organization nationally known for its use of audio and related tools to amplify voices of youth and other often-marginalized individuals. From a small nonprofit founded in 2000, SLB has grown to a full-time staff of nine professionals with two state-of-the art studios co-located in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and an array of field equipment to work with students and adults in schools and community centers. In addition to managing day-to-day operations of SLB, he hosts The Saturday Light Brigade, an award-winning public radio program heard on twelve radio stations. Larry has been involved in public broadcasting since 1975 and holds degrees in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University and has 20 years of experience as a project engineer and manager for local industry. He currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees at Manchester Academic Charter School, on the Board of Directors of Pittsburgh Musical Theater, and on the Advisory Board at Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater.

Why do you want to be a part of the HundrED Community?

SLB has always been "technology heavy" for a radio station. We created our first website in 1992 and began experimenting with audio streaming in 1995, years before these technologies were commonplace. We hope that hundrED will help us keep in touch with emerging technology trends, especially on a world level.

Despite our geeky nature, we also focus on how to create environments where youth can create media that authentically represents their thoughts and ideas. We've developed many curricula and processed for doing this, often in collaboration with teachers. More often than not, a teacher has an idea (or needs an idea) to help improve learning in a specific area and -- working together -- we can develop a way to apply our programs to support learning objectives, increase engagement, and deepen student focus. We hope we'll make some new friends here and discover new ways to collaborate.

How can education support students to flourish?

A few ideas:

  • Create a safe and trusted environment where students know that they are respected and valued. 

  • Consider the prerequisites required to achieve potential. An excellent road map to spur your thinking is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

    Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

  • Consider the student as a whole person, not just the person you see for a few hours each day. Understand the challenges, home life, positives and negatives he or she may be facing.

  • Don't underestimate the intelligence, innate creativity, and beauty of youth. While some amount of structure is important, it's essential to give students a chance to think about the issues before them.

  • Stay calm and relaxed, even during times of struggle. Today's students are already struggling with more drama (and trauma) than we can even imagine, and guidance from adults can be calm while still being deliberate.

What role does innovation play in education change?

Innovation matters because (1) we can almost always improve on existing practices by considering minor -- or major -- tweaks and (2) new methods can bring huge results by addressing different learning paces, styles and needs.

Three HundrED innovations you love. (and Why?)

I'll be reviewing them and updating this section.

Three innovations you would love for HundrED to know about. (and Why?)

Our Youth Express program (as submitted for the Pittsburgh Spotlight)

Our emerging platform for remixing oral histories by having students listen to, edit, and combine interview transcripts to yield a blended script and audio.

Restorative Justice programs in which student infractions are adjudicated by peers.