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PBS LearningMedia: 14,000 Pieces of (Great) Digital Content

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A LearningMedia video about energy use.

Teachers and parents now have a huge multimedia resource to help educate kids about a wide range of subjects. It's called PBS LearningMedia, and it's a treasure trove of high-quality content from public broadcasting stations from around the country.

The new resource, a merger between Teachers Domain and the PBS Digital Learning Library, holds more than 14,000 "digital learning objects" -- videos, curricula, images, audio, and interactive sites -- collected in one spot from public media, as well as publicly funded agencies, the National Archives, Library of Congress, NASA, and Nova, among others. The site was launched at the International Society of Technology in Education conference (ISTE) in Philadelphia.

“All of these are purpose-built short pieces of video that have been produced or adapted for use in the classroom. These are not simply segments of television,” said Rob Lippincott, senior vice president of education for PBS in an article in e-School News.

The new site was created to fill in the gaps in content, said Howard Lurie, associate director of editorial products at WGBH, which spearheaded Teachers Domain and the new PBS LearningMedia.

Teachers and parents can look up subjects by topic, grade level, media type, or language. All videos are captioned. Each piece of content includes background essays written by teachers and scholars to give teachers more fuel for conversation, discussion questions, a study guide, as well as links to other relevant videos and content. And eventually, all of these will be aligned with the Common Core standards.


Educators also have access to a range of professional development with a variety of instructional videos from subjects like co-teaching to assessing prior knowledge to innovative ways of teaching algebra.

The main site is free for educators to use, but LearningMedia will also offer another tier that's more customized for paid users.

"We've refined the site based on what we learned over the past years with Teachers Domain," Lurie said. "We always ask questions from teachers and advisers: 'What’s hard to teach about thermodynamics, about the 14th amendment, about balancing equations? What do you struggle with?' And we created this as a supplemental source."

Educators can use the site in class when embarking on a new lesson, as a prompt for a specific activity or framing a lesson with additional information. It can be used for remedial work, homework, in small groups, in middle schools or high schools. It can be used in class or at the computer lab.

"We’ve done the research and seen that it’s worked," Lurie said. "It's not just a matter of turning on the video, going to the back to back of classroom and watching it. It deepens the content knowledge for teachers, and gives them the ability to use the media they’ve learned and turn around and teach it to their kids. And that enables a greater degree of sophistication of pedagogy."

Teachers Domain, which is a repository of 3,800 pieces of content, will be "sunseted" Lurie said through the fall, and PBS will launch a "drumbeat campaign" to let educators know that everything they've saved on Teachers Domain can still be used and accessed through Learning Media.

So far, 38 PBS stations have signed on to provide free, co-branded service, including KQED in San Francisco, which is -- full disclosure -- my home base.

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