Monday, October 02, 2006

PBS Wants Our Advice

I’m going to have the opportunity next week, along with four other teachers from my school, to meet with some folks from PBS to give them some advice about how better to serve education. One of our teachers serves on the district’s Educational Technology Advisory Committee along with a community member who just happens to be a general manager at PBS. He has been so impressed with what Anne Smith has said about what we are doing at AHS that he would like to meet with some of us to see how we think PBS can better meet our needs. Here’s what he wants to know:
It was not long ago that PBS had a clear lead on competitors with regard to the use of video in the classroom. That lead has, to a great extent, evaporated . . . we have yielded the lead to Discovery/unitedstreaming.

There is new leadership at PBS that has placed a priority on regaining our position in educational services but the question is being asked as to what that looks like . . . When I found out that Anne had experience with Discovery/unitedstreaming, I also found that she had some fantastic ideas about what is lacking in that service and what is needed in the future. With all of my involvement at PBS, I had not heard any of this at the system level.
Here are the questions he’d like us to address:
  • What are the shortcomings of Discovery/unitedstreaming and what can public television provide?

  • Educational media is much more than just streaming video. What else needs to be provided and how?

  • What are the shortcomings of what PBS offers at the moment?
Now, the five of us certainly have our own ideas, but it seemed a shame to me to limit this conversation to just our ideas. So I’m asking my staff for their input, as well as the extended readership of this blog outside of my building. If you have thoughts about this – particularly if you have used unitedstreaming or something similar for a while (we just started this fall) – please take the time to comment before next Tuesday afternoon. (Even if you haven’t used unitedstreaming or it’s after next Tuesday, comment anyway – I’ll pass the information along.) PBS seems to genuinely want to provide better service to education and – gasp – has decided to ask teachers what they think. This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along all that often and I think we need to take advantage of this to tell them what we want and need.


  1. unitedstreaming has an incredible variety of material that may be used in pre-K to college classrooms. In addition to videos, they offer well-written lesson plans, assessments, and activities that correlate. I particularly like the option of being able to choose a short clip or two instead of an entire video. The real power of unitedstreaming, however, is the ability of teachers to create an entire on-line unit, incorporating video clips, activities, and assessments, that students can access from home or school. This feature allows students to collaborate with other students, both withing their classrooms or on the other side of the world.

  2. I agree with Mrs. Catton about the power of using short clips to enhance existing presentations. In addition, as a science teacher, I think united streaming has a ton of material to offer covering a multitude of topics. I know that teachers of other subject matters don't feel the same. The only other thing I can think of in terms of improvement would be grade level categories. I teach high school, but typically use clips categorized into grades 6-8. The high school ones tend to be fairly long and very detailed. Maybe PBS could get some input from teachers of all grade levels in terms of how best to categorize their materials.

  3. Cara S brings up some great points. Perhaps one of the values of unitedstreaming is that it can be used very effectively to differentiate instruction to a diverse class. I'm thinking about learning centers that may be assigned clips, at different levels of complexity, on the same topic. Or using the Spanish language options. Or using the CCaption videos to reinforce the narration for students who struggle with auditory processing. So, I’d like to see PBS approach key topics from a variety of angles.


  4. Okay I had to think about this for a while..We have used united streaming for a while and it is great as far as it goes.
    Some suggestions for PBS- They have rich sources of material...
    It would be great to have a organized quality library of still pictures and video clips which could be mixed and matched into a customized multimedia presentation.
    Maybe also a chance to post those so others could use them too. How about some kind of access to the experts who produce the videos or pictures to dialouge with students.
    Just some dreams

  5. I think that there needs to be a better defined search. I find a hard time looking for math lessons on a particular subject. It seems that I have to put in a general subject and then filter through all the clips on my own. Could there be a summary of the clip that describes the details of the lesson? I also think there should be some better examples and not just clips of people teaching the subject. I do not need a video of a teacher teaching.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Although unitedstreaming can stand on its own, with its multitude of resources including videos, clips, still images, articles, audio files and animations, it also has incorporated some dynamic "builders." Assignment Builder, Quiz Builder and Writing Prompt Builder are almost like one-stop shopping for teachers to create engaging and interactive lessons. Has anyone see the Discovery Educator Network? Discovery generously supports the "Teachers Helping Teachers" concept through blogs, webinars, face-to-face trainings, and more. I can't say enough about how great unitedstreaming has become. Watching TV according to someone else's schedule is "so yesterday!"