Wendy Erica Werden, director of marketing and strategic partnership for Arizona Public Media, is coordinating a local training effort for Tucson educators and home-schoolers to use PBS LearningMedia, a new educational platform with a searchable database of videos, lesson plans and other resources. The material, from PBS archives, is organized by topic and grade level. Visit az.pbslearningmedia.org to get started. You can also call Werden at 621-1500, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a personal interest in this project?
Well, both of my parents are retired teachers, and when I told my mom about this project, she was so jealous, telling me, "Oh, my God, there was nothing like that when I was teaching."
How did this project start?
Nationally, it's put together by PBS and WGBH in Boston. That's the nucleus, and then KAET, the Phoenix affiliate, was one of the first stations that helped beta-test and roll out the program. Since we have a very healthy relationship with KAET, we decided to expand our partnership with them.
How Arizona-specific is the project?
The branding of it and the look of it, as far as the website is concerned, is going to be consistent in Washington or Florida (or anywhere), and the main content and search fields are going to be consistent. But what makes it different for Arizona is how we do our outreach and programing. We're reaching out to teachers and home-schoolers—anyone involved in the educational process. We're putting together training. ... Hopefully, (we'll) get many people trained over the summer and ready for the fall.
Why was the Phoenix affiliate chosen?
That station is an asset that has, through grant-funding, a full-time educational-outreach program. Because they have an established educational-outreach program, it made sense. We consider this one of the newest state-of-the-art (PBS) resources for educators to draw on.
How are you reaching teachers?
AZPM and Tucson Values Teachers just participated in Teacher Day. We asked someone from Phoenix to come down to participate, and we used the computer lab at the UA and trained 80 teachers on how to use the system. We plan to be at other teacher fairs. We want them to know that we can come in or bring them in, and help them learn how to use the system. This offer is also for home-schoolers and their parents—anyone who might want to assist students.
What about this requires training?
If you're a teacher and want to create your own class page on the site, we can show teachers how to set up those class pages and add their favorite videos or search topics. Let's say you are a teacher who plans on doing something on volcanoes this year. You can search and find all information in the PBS database on volcanoes and add that to the page. It's helpful to get teachers to set up their own class pages and assign their own video and lesson plans that are affiliated with what they plan to teach.
But if you're a parent, you can use it, too, right?
If you are a parent, and your child has a report due on alligators, you can go in and set up a page. There's a search bar, and on top of the page, it will give you every result on alligators that is in the system.
How is this resource relevant?
I definitely think that PBS is trying to stay current with resources that teachers need to be effective, especially for the computer minds of young people today. ... So teachers have this as a free resource, and it is something new for us to use to reach out to teachers. Over the years, we have had very successful educational-outreach programs that are grant-funded and help with literacy and traditional outreach. This is another program that goes further as a resource for teachers and students.
What are some examples of what you've done locally?
For traditional methods, we've done Ready to Learn, and First Book, which works with underprivileged students, and absolutely, it's been successful based on the feedback we've gotten from teachers who've participated. We've also had great success with Between the Lions. Those programs are set up for a traditional type of classroom. But this new program is like Classroom Assistance 2.0.