By David Rauf
School districts across the country are getting help from public broadcast stations to deliver remote e-learning activities during the wave of school shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus.
The still-expanding initiative with public media amounts to a shot of much-needed learning resources as many schools are facing the unprecedented situation of having to develop and implement long-term online lesson plans on the spot, while facing a shortage of available devices and WiFi accessibility for many students.
Local PBS affiliates in seven states so far have partnered with school districts, according to America’s Public Television Stations, a trade group representing non-commercial broadcasters. That includes California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Virginia. More partnerships are in the works.
All of the local PBS affiliates in California have pledged to support remote learning efforts, says APTS. The program launched Monday in some districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest with about 700,000 students. LAUSD started offering educational programs and resources on two local PBS affiliates and on a smaller PBS station the district already operates.
The San Diego Unified School District also went live with what has been dubbed the “At Home Learning” program Monday. Superintendent Cindy Marten said the district worked with PBS to design lessons that meet state educational standards and would be broadcast for 12 hours a day.
Lesson plans for kindergarten to 3rd grade will air from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Pacific Time, while programming for grades 4-8 will air from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and high school students would have their own targeted educational materials on television from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“We did this because we know not everyone has access to devices,” Marten told a local television station this week.
One of the PBS lessons, Marten said, involves looking at news coverage of the coronavirus, and “how do you distill accurate information.” PBS also adapted some of its shows for the initiative, including “Nova” for middle schoolers and Ken Burn’s “The Civil War” for high school students.
While the program was up and running by Monday in some states, others were still finalizing details. PBS affiliates in Massachusetts were working with state education officials as of earlier this week to develop the curriculum and scheduling details, Jon Abbott, president and chief executive officer of WGBH in Boston wrote in a blog post earlier this week.
“Our aim is to reach as many students and caregivers as possible to support learning outside of a physical classroom at this time,” he wrote.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.