From WILL - News Headlines -

IL Public Broadcasting Stations Launch Free Tool for Teachers

A new website collects thousands of free video and audio clips from public television and radio.

Illinois PBS Learning Media is meant for teachers. But anyone can sign up for an account, including parents who home-school their children. The project is a joint effort by PBS headquarters in Washington and local public broadcasting stations, both TV and radio.

Mark Leonard is president of the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council and general manager at WILL. He said the website will help teachers meet the needs of a generation raised on digital media.

"Kids today have access to everything from video games to online services, and they are conditioned to being able to learn using these kinds of tools," Leonard said. "And yet our classrooms have still relied on chalkboards and on textbooks."

The media can be organized by grade level, from kindergarten through high school. It can also be broken down by subject matter, from math and science to social studies and the arts. Seventy four teachers from more than 40 schools were part of a pilot program that started last fall.

The program is looked upon as a more streamlined way of offering this content, rather than schools doing their own web searches. Sharon Pool is director of student services at Gibson City Melvin Sibley Schools, one of more than 40 districts in a pilot program that started last fall.

"It's always tough for teachers to find good quality materials," she said. "And while they can go to YouTube and some of the other teacher resources, a lot of those aren't ever edited or they're not evaluated. And so by having a source like PBS where they can go directly to those, knowing it's a quality digital library that has been approved, it really is a great benefit."

University of Illinois Assistant Dean of Learning Technologies Evangeline Pianfetti commissioned the pilot study. She said the next steps include following up with those teachers, and finding where the lessons are most effective. Pianfetti said some students are using it to train for the Illinois Standard Achievement Test.

"That's where a lot of the teachers would like to be able to use these tools because of the engagement and how you could look at it," she said. "How the students could at concepts, and use the media to support these concepts. Specifically, there were a lot of science-related and math-related resources that were heavily used."

Pianfetti said there's a wealth of information within this program, but teachers are able to pick and choose at what volume they wish to use it. She said early feedback from teachers should help expand the use of PBS Learning Media's resources.

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