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Ill. Public Broadcasting Stations Launch Service for Educators

Gibson City first graders classify mammals in a PBS LearningMedia activity.

Gibson City first graders classify mammals in a PBS LearningMedia activity.

Public television and public radio stations in Illinois have entered into an unprecedented partnership to create and launch Illinois PBS LearningMedia, a free, on-demand media resource designed to help PreK-12 educators integrate technology to teach core subjects in the classroom.

“We are excited to help introduce 21st century tools to classrooms statewide,” said Mark Leonard, president of the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council (IPBC) and general manager of Illinois Public Media-WILL in Urbana. “In conjunction with PBS LearningMedia, teachers around the state can now access the rich libraries of public television and radio content, and integrate these resources into their lesson plans at no cost to the local schools. Our school-aged children deserve access to the most trustworthy, engaging, educational resources available, which is at the heart of what public broadcasters do.”

Illinois PBS LearningMedia allows educators in Illinois access to 22,000 local and national, classroom-ready digital resources from PBS and other public media stations. Resources are aligned with state and national Common Core education standards. These resources include videos, interactive images, audio files, mobile apps, and lesson plans, which teachers can access and sort by grade level and topic to build their own personal libraries.

“Public media has been delivering educational content for years, so it's a natural fit to create this resource benefiting both teachers and students,” said Greg Petrowich, chair of IPBC's Education Committee and executive director of WSIU Public Broadcasting in Carbondale. “Giving teachers direct access to the highest quality content public broadcasting has to offer is certain to spark even greater innovation in our education system.”

Last fall, Illinois public media stations commissioned a pilot study of the service with 74 teachers representing 43 public and private schools across the state. The study, created by Dr. Evangeline S. Pianfetti of the University of Illinois College of Education and other researchers, confirmed that digital resources help local teachers strengthen connections with students. Results of the pilot study are available online.

“We are very pleased to hear teachers finding the value that PBS LearningMedia is providing Illinois students and educators, and talking about it!” said Rob Lippincott, PBS Senior Vice President, PBS Education. “As America's largest classroom, PBS, in partnership with all Illinois member stations, is committed to offering innovative digital tools and resources for every teacher in Illinois and in classrooms nationwide.”

According to the pilot study, participating teachers unanimously recommend Illinois PBS LearningMedia for its ease of use, variety and diversity of resources, high-quality content, connection to curriculum, ability to engage students, and free access.

“It's awesome to have thousands of video clips at my fingertips at any given time,” said Michael Carton, who teaches first and second grade at the Center for Math and Science in Rock Island.

Marybeth McCormick, a second grade teacher at Sparta Primary Center in Sparta, Ill., agrees. “I enjoy being able to find many resources in one place, especially resources that are educationally based,” she said.

Heather Beck, a vocal music instructor at Our Lady of Grace Academy in East Moline, found the service easy to use and well-organized. “I was able to navigate (the site) easily and locate all the resources I wanted to use with minimal difficulty.”

KiLee Lidwell-McFerren, who teaches high school art at Gibson City High School in Gibson City, appreciates the variety of resources available to educators. “I liked that the new assets were added as the weeks went by. Knowing that there might be new ones added made me look more frequently, and I will continue to use it to look for new supports/ideas.”

New content continues to be added to the online service, which includes resources from PBS, public media stations around the state and country, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, National Geographic, NASA, the National Science Foundation, NPR, and the U.S. Department of Education.