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New from PBS Learning Media

PBS recently announced that its PBS LearningMedia, the media-on-demand service for PreK-12 educators, now offers more than 30,000 free, carefully cataloged, standards-aligned, digital resources.

Honored with two 2013 SIIA CODiE Awards in the Education Technology category, these resources were specifically designed to address national curricular gaps for high-quality digital media.  The new content features interactive games, images, videos, and instruction from such PBS and PBS KIDS programs.

The new content includes

CONSTITUTION USA: Videos, lesson plans, interactives and images from the PBS program. The new content allows students to explore the meaning and relevance of the U.S. Constitution for all Americans.

DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD: Videos showcasing the hit PBS KIDS preschool series’ social-emotional curriculum to help early learners build the social skills necessary for school and life.

MAKERS: Women Who Make America: A collection of videos from the critically acclaimed program with lesson plans that explore the pioneering contributions of women.

SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED: Video segments, informational texts, discussion questions and suggestions for extension activities to enhance students’ reading, viewing and appreciation of Shakespeare’s works. This content is deigned for students in grades 8 -12.

Middle School Math and Literacy Collections: New interactive math and literacy collections targeting subjects not widely covered in the digital space.

  • Online lessons for blended learning: The Walmart Middle School Literacy Initiative produced by WGBH offers blended, cross-curricular lessons that enhance the literacy skills of struggling readers and writers in grades 5-8.
  • Digital learning objects: Created in partnership with the Gates Foundation, these objects explore complex math topics such as understanding integers, making math fun and relatable.

I spoke with Tami Mount, Senior Director of Digital Product Strategy and Content.

Tami shared,

We’re excited about the Codie Awards. It’s a tribute to the PBS team and the teachers across the country who helped build the content. We add 200 to 500 new resources each month, from on-air content, as well as locally produced material.

PBS is  completely aware of the need to understand and develop new content models.

As more schools adopt digital curricula, there will be less focus on texts. We know that kids are sitting on the floor in groups with iPads on their laps. We need a trusted source–a destination to find media to use and share.


Tami also shared that school librarians are particularly interested. 

She met with her daughter’s school librarian last week,

and it was an easy sell. Our resources are completely connected to curriculum.  I’ve been with PBS for the past three or four years, and never once has a teacher said, “I don’t have time for these materials.We frequently hear, “Oh my gosh, you have that?”  Our creators are such beautiful storytellers and our purpose is to take this rich media, catalog it, and create context.

I pressed Tami to choose one favorite of the tens of thousands of LearningMedia resources. 

After quite a struggle, she chose a video segment from Between the Lions.

An Egg is Quiet, is the beautiful, vocabulary- and content-rich video production of Dianna Aston (author) and Sylvia Long’s (illustrator) nonfiction picture book.

The story that shows places where eggs sit, different colors of eggs, and different shapes of eggs. The story then explains that eggs bear a little creature inside, with tiny holes in its shell for air. The story shows the baby chick’s progress from resting in the egg to hatching. Key vocabulary includes: egg, quiet, colorful, shapely, round, oval, pointy, tubular, clever, camouflage, textured, hard, soft, gooey, smooth, rough, shell, yolk, albumen, and noisy. This video segment provides a resource for Text Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Language and Vocabulary Development.

Tami asked me to imagine it projected for a primary classroom and pointed to the value of resources like this to the primary grade teacher for whom science may not be a specialty.

Teachers are deeply involved in developing resources.

According to Tami:

We ask teachers what they have and what they don’t.  With both Shakespeare and The Constitution, we worked with educators to raise funding to create content specific to the classroom and to leverage the great work of program and integrate it in a meaningful way.

The entire PBS system has embraced LearningMedia. Tami shared

The programming budget includes funding for the classroom use of clips.  We work to clear rights for classroom use. We re-edit and contextualize stories, to make new complete digital stories. 

And we are very proud of the metadata that makes this work discoverable.

LearningMedia was founded on the importance of local connections. Tami shared that 65 to 67 % of content is created by stations. Your sign-in is routed to your local station, so they can work directly with teachers in the community.

One example of a local station working directly with teachers is Central Pennsylvania station WPSU’s Blue Ribbon Readers program that addresses the needs of low achievers. The interactivities developed by one station to improve word recognition and reading comprehension are now used nationwide.

I asked Tami about usage rights:

Our resource pages list permitted use–whether users may stream download, share or modified.  Permitted use is based on the individual rights for a particular piece of media. For instance, Shakespeare is currently stream only.  Our biggest barrier is clearing rights, but we are working hard on that.  We can really see the value in students downloading, re-narrating and re-sharing media.  That’s where you can see learning happening.

In an effort to continually enhance and improve, PBS studies how resources are used by teachers.

The alignment of resources to the Common Core has made it easier for us the look at math in particular. It is simple for me to take that clip on integers, do an impact study, see where content is bubbling and what teachers are drawn to. 

We are constantly listening and looking at data. 

See also PBS Free Resources to Fuel Summer Learning



Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


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