Home learning tips from WITF

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New home learning tips are now available for families struggling with school district’s virtual classrooms. WITF announced today free instructional resources that are available this school year as part of their Learning at Home initiative.

WITF is the PBS and NPR member station for Central Pennsylvania. It is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) to provide programming and activities aligned to state educational standards.

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Teachers and students can look forward to:

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  • Weekday broadcast television programming for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students
  • Weekly coordinated extension activities and lesson plans
  • Professional development webinars for teachers
  • A new pilot program called datacasting

“Teachers and families are wrestling with uncertain schedules, remote learning and potential school building closures this year,” said Debbie Riek, WITF director of education. “WITF television was founded by educators to bring instructional programming into homes and classrooms. We are proud to continue their legacy by connecting students to new opportunities for lifelong learning.”

home learning tips
Elinor Wonders Why, Season 1, Episode 1, as seen on WITF

Partnering with schools

This past spring, WITF partnered with seven local school districts to create curriculum connection schedules that align to state standards. They have expanded their broadcast television programming every weekday to include more opportunities for students in all grade levels. WITF TV will broadcast educational programming for pre-K through elementary school students from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.; for middle school students from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.; and for high school students from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Programming will range from the new PBS KIDS program “Elinor Wonders Why” for young science enthusiasts to “The Story of China” for high school social studies learners.

WITF encourages caregivers to “co-view” with young learners; meaning they watch the same program and talk about it to help their child understand the educational concepts. Weekly extension activities are available on their website in English and Spanish. The guide offers caregivers a conversation or project to try with their child after watching selected episodes.

But resources are not just for caregivers at home, but for educators to incorporate as well.

“As teachers seek more engaging online materials to connect with their curriculum, WITF is here with thousands of videos and activities ready for their lesson plans,” Riek said. “With PAIU, we’ve created a series of recorded webinars to share best practices on how to integrate PBS resources into the classroom and remote learning experience.”

What exactly is datacasting?

Broadcasting sends programming “over-the-air” across a geographic region that can be picked up by an antenna and played on a television. Datacasting uses those same signals to transmit data to be used on a computer.

WITF coordinates with educators to create data “instructional units” that are transmitted over television air waves. They are received by a student’s home computer, without the need to connect to the internet. By supplying an inexpensive receiver, families will be able to download lesson plans, videos, slideshows, worksheets, webpages and more. These instructional materials would then be available on demand for the student; on the learning schedule that is right for them.

“We are all in this together. WITF is committed to helping create equitable learning environments for those students who cannot go to a school building. WITF is thrilled to partner with our fellow Pennsylvania PBS stations, Governor Tom Wolf and PDE to bridge the digital divide for students learning at home,” said Ron Hetrick, WITF president and CEO. “We look forward to becoming an integral part of anywhere, anytime learning for more students learning remotely this year.”

To find more information about WITF’s Learning at Home project, visit https://www.witf.org/families-and-children/learning-at-home/

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