Personal perspective from a veteran educator working behind the scenes at PBS.
GUEST COLUMN | by Alicia Levi
When I began my career, the classroom looked very different than it does today. In fact, it looked completely different; textbooks were the focus of learning and multimedia resources were rare and extremely expensive. Today’s digital classroom would have looked like a science fiction fantasy, or something from the Jetsons, to my young teacher eyes.
In my current role leading the team behind PBS LearningMedia, PBS’ media-on-demand service for educators, I speak with teachers from every grade level, across the entire U.S. The overarching sentiment from these educators is that media and technology have transformed their classrooms and inspired their students in ways they never thought possible. Digital media sparks students’ curiosity and they are excited to learn from videos, games and self-paced lessons. With new digital tools, students are no longer merely consumers of content but have become savvy creators.
More than two-thirds (68%) of teachers expressed a desire for more classroom technology. This number is even greater in low-income schools (75%).
With new and exciting ways to engage students and personalize learning, its no wonder teachers are using technology more than ever before. PBS LearningMedia recently surveyed educators from across the country, and three-quarters linked educational technology to a growing list of benefits. They said technology enables them to reinforce and expand on content (74%), to motivate students to learn (74%), and to respond to a variety of learning styles (73%). Seven in 10 teachers (69%) surveyed said educational technology allows them to “do much more than ever before” for their students.
In that same survey, more than two-thirds (68%) of teachers expressed a desire for more classroom technology. This number is even greater in low-income schools (75%).
It’s not just today’s teachers that need digital tools for the classroom. The next generation of teachers will have even greater demands for technology – and they will have more ways to access that technology than ever before. If classrooms look different today than they looked 20 years ago, they’ll be unrecognizable 20 years from now. The teachers of tomorrow are receiving their degrees and undergoing training as we speak. As the classroom continues to evolve, these teachers will be expected to use new technologies and prepare students for careers that don’t currently exist.
That’s why PBS LearningMedia has joined with WGVU Public Media, a member station in Grand Rapids, MI, to partner with Grand Valley State University College of Education for an innovative new education initiative. This is the first time a PBS member station has partnered in this way with a university to provide digital tools from PBS to the next generation of teachers.
Now all professors and students attending Grand Valley State University College of Education will have access to the PBS LearningMedia Custom Service, which is designed to further support technology and digital resource integration into the classroom. Teachers, students and parents across the country access the PBS LearningMedia Basic service, but schools and districts using the Custom layer can do even more with digital content. PBS LearningMedia Custom enriches the free service by including tools that allow administrators to manage the service and gather analytics about how the service is used in their schools. In addition, Custom users can access thousands of valuable resources not available through the free service and schools can manage and add content that meets the needs of local classroom instruction.
The College of Education will utilize the Custom Service to train future teachers on how to successfully incorporate digital media and fuel deeper discussions and understanding of curriculum topics using videos, interactives, self-paced lessons and other digital resources. Students at the College of Education will have access to thousands of valuable resources for research and support. With access to the Custom Service, these teachers will also have the opportunity to personalize their experience and add their own unique content.
We’re thrilled to be working with WGVU and Grand Valley State University. PBS member stations are on the ground every day in their local communities, and the WGVU team knows firsthand what today’s – as well as tomorrow’s – teachers in Grand Rapids need and want. Their longstanding relationship with Grand Valley State University made them a model station to launch this innovative new education partnership.
As Paula Kerger, the president and CEO of PBS, said when she announced the new initiative, “WGVU is leading the way for public media.” WGVU, together with Grand Valley State University, have taken a big step for future educators, and I’m honored that PBS LearningMedia is here with them to help create tomorrow’s classrooms. It will be here before we know it.
Alicia Levi is Vice President of PBS Learning Media where she oversees PBS’ efforts in developing digital education services for PBS, local public television stations, students, and teachers. She is responsible for PBS’ strategic partnerships, digital media production, professional development, and other emerging products and services that support the PreK-16 education market. Follow @PBSLrnMedia