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Station Spotlight: WPBT2 Offers Multi-Platform Teaching and Learning with KidVision VPK

By Kelsey Savage, PBS Interactive

KidVision VPK iOS App
In this week's FYI Corner, we looked at some ways interactive media is impacting the education field for students, parents and educators. One example of how technology is being used by stations to both engage and educate comes from WPBT2. Their KidVision VPK initiative uses online “virtual field trips,” sample lesson plans, and a mobile app to help early educators get their students ready to make the leap into kindergarten.

We recently spoke with Jack Kelly, WPBT2’s Vice President for Production and KidVision VPK mobile app creator, to hear a little bit about the station's work and its educational impact in Florida.

What is KidVision VPK and what prompted you to create this site? Who is the target audience and how do you promote this service to them?
KidVision VPK serves the early childhood workforce by providing FREE, ongoing professional development that teachers can use to earn required annual in-service hours, continuing education units (CEU), and receive curriculum support. In the classroom, teachers use the KidVision VPK virtual field trip to stimulate student learning and keep track of student standards achievement with provided assessment grids. Take Home Pages give teachers a friendly way to get parents involved in their child’s education. Additionally, KidVision VPK is a useful resource for parents to teach education standards to four year-old children in order to prepare them for kindergarten.

We developed the site in response to a pressing community need. Florida voters approved the Florida Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Act in 2006. The community need was that there was a lack of training for pre-K teachers. We decided to develop a professional development site that could give teachers standards-based learning tools. We then partnered with a local university to provide a structured program whereby teachers could earn Continuing Education Credits. Our primary target audience is early childhood educators. We promote the service through partnerships with Early Learning Coalitions, country children services, and targeted mailing to VPK centers. We now have more than 14,000 users from every county in Florida.

Why did you decide to create a mobile app? How does the content on the newly launched mobile application differ from the online content?
We decided to create the app as a way to give parents and kids a convenient way to watch, play and learn. Besides watching the virtual field trips, kids and their parents can play fun quizzes, and parents can extend the learning environment by reading activity plans designed for each video.

The mobile app offers a variety of lessons in different formats. What were the challenges in creating this interactive application and how did you overcome them?
Jeremy Nicholson, one of our videographers, and I talked about the need to develop a mobile app. Our challenge was that neither of us are programmers. We researched the cost of having a third party develop the app but found that to be too expensive.

Then one day, Jeremy discovered Buzztouch (www.buzztouch.com). This is a free online service that makes it possible for non-programmers to develop apps. Through Buzztouch you can create either an iOS or Android app. Because I was using my Macbook, I went for the iOS app and downloaded Apple’s Xcode. So one afternoon I began to explore the Buzztouch interface and found it extremely easy to navigate. Within a week or so, I had the KidVision VPK app laid out. We then worked with our graphics department to create all of the visual elements. Overall it took about two months of work to build and internally test the app.

Our next challenge was submitting the app to Apple. That turned out to be an even bigger challenge. But whenever we ran into a problem, Jeremy googled the error message and found the answer to the problem. The first time we submitted the app it was rejected. After figuring out why, we resubmitted and met with success. The app was officially launched in August 2011.

As the designer of the application, what kind of technical knowledge is needed to create a mobile application?
With Buzztouch, you don’t need to be a programmer. All you need is a desire to make an app and the persistence to follow it through to the end.

What kind of results have you seen from the mobile app in support of the larger KidVision VPK initiative?
Since launching the app in August, we have had over 1,000 downloads. We received a couple of very favorable comments. For us the app is a way to extend the KidVision initiative.

What benefits do you see an initiative like KidVision VPK having for interactive learning? What kind of goals are you hoping to achieve in the future through interactive media and learning?
KidVision VPK received two interactive awards: a CPB My Source Innovation Award, and a PBS Interactive Education Award. Both helped to encourage us to keep innovating. After our success with this app, we are now working on additional apps for our science series, Changing Seas; our lifestyle series, Check, Please! South Florida; and our community video platform, uVu.


The Station Spotlight series looks at #localpbs stations and the projects they are working on to highlight the innovative landscape of public media. If you would like to share your station's latest digital efforts, please contact pbsi_stationservices@pbs.org.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and content-rich article! Thank you for posting it, I have been eager to read this interview for some time.

    ReplyDelete