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FYI Corner: Educational Tools Keep Going Digital

By Jen Carter, Station Products & Innovation

I was recently babysitting for a friend. Right before his parents left for the evening, his mother handed me an iPad and showed me where I could find his approved folder of programs. At first I was a little confused, and I felt a little sad for the kid - I remember growing up with coloring books and a very large home computer. But after looking more at the iPad, I was amazed at just how many applications, programs and tools there are available for this little guy to use. I even found myself playing with it for a while, once he showed me how to use it.

Education has always been a core value of public media, so the integration of digital technology into educational tools is a very important trend for our industry. We are even seeing some of the more successful educational tools that have come out being snapped up by larger companies.

HTC, a big name in mobile technology, recently acquired Inquisitive Minds whose major product is Zoodles, a free kid-friendly web surfing tool for desktop, tablet and smartphone browsers. One key element to Zoodles’ success is the easy to use parental controls. Top features that parents can decide on include blocking games based on certain elements of the program, ad blocking of personally questionable content, and promotion of educational subjects. This acquisition is one in a growing list of deals that lends more credence and validity to these types of educational tools.

At the #localpbs level, multi-platform educational initiatives are also popping up. WPBT2 in Miami recently released the KidVision VPK app in the hopes of expanding their audience base. In this case VPK stands for "voluntary pre-kindergarten". So the app allows teachers to log on into the program and learn Florida’s pre-kindergarten requirements and standards. The virtual field trip feature is one that can be utilized by educators, children and parents. And it’s free! Look for more about this initiative on our blog later this week.

Vegas PBS runs the Virtual Online Education site, which serves high school students, educators, business and industry professionals, and the community at large with online courses. The goal of the online database is to provide a resource on everything from Pre-K–12th grade education standards to licenses and certification reviews to GED and high school tracked courses. Vegas PBS’ Virtual Online Education includes PBS TeacherLine (www.pbs.org/teacherline).

One of the most popular new education initiatives released this year is called PBS LearningMedia. It provides educators with free access to thousands of classroom-ready, digital learning resources, including videos, interactives, audio, photos, and even in-depth lesson plans and professional development. It offers schools, districts, and states a cost-effective solution for seamless media integration and customization, including state standards alignment, user management and a CMS. “PBS LearningMedia is a powerful addition to the core services that PBS stations provide to their communities. So far, 94 PBS members, representing 231 stations, are offering PBS LearningMedia to educators in their community, giving the national service a local connection, which is at the heart of the public media experience,” says Rachel Morrison, Station Relations, PBS Education.

With recent trends like major acquisitions of kids’ products by large technology companies and local efforts around mobile educational tools, digital education is a growing area that stations of all sizes and geographic regions can experiment in. With this ever-expanding field, what are other programs are stations developing in the hopes of educating the masses? Since education is a life long process, how can pub media continue to increase or enhance educational impact through digital resources/tools?

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