Anyone who grew up watching programs like “Sesame Street” knows public television and education go hand in hand. That relationship has evolved with technology, crossing over from on-air to online. As “America’s largest classroom,” PBS provides a wealth of digital content and services that help teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade bring their classroom lessons to life. To more efficiently deliver these resources to teachers and students, NJTV, New Jersey’s public television network, recently launched VITAL New Jersey, a free, media-on-demand service available to educators nationwide on the PBS LearningMedia platform. VITAL (short for video in teaching and learning) brings together the best of public media and delivers research-based, classroom-ready, rich media experiences that engage students and enhance teaching and learning.
Over 15,000 New Jersey teachers have registered access to VITAL, and about 1,000 new teachers sign up for the service each month. Drawing from critically acclaimed PBS programs such as “NOVA,” “Nature,” “Frontline,” “American Experience,” and PBS KIDS programs like “Sid The Science Kid,” “Cyberchase” and “Wild Kratts,” the free service offers teachers access to more than 36,000 videos, interactives, images, and articles to enrich classroom instruction. VITAL’s content library aligns with state standards and the Common Core and covers a wide range of subject areas including science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM), as well as English language arts, social studies, and the arts. Resources within the library are contextualized to support lesson planning, spawn curiosity, and stimulate classroom discussion.
Middle and high school teachers will appreciate “PBS NewsHour’s” Daily News Story, which takes the best of the program and pairs it with discussion questions, lesson plans and stories developed specifically for students. VITAL also features a Global Learning and Diplomacy collection, a virtual one-stop shop for media resources, primary source documents, lesson plans, and virtual events that help bring these topics to life in your classrooms. For K-5 classrooms, VITAL offers curated collections of videos, interactives, and lesson plans on standard curriculum topics including structures, animals, and plants – and much more.
Additionally, VITAL has a growing collection of professional development resources that include short, targeted videos that capture effective classroom practices as well as self-paced interactive modules that offer more breadth and depth than a video alone. There are also videos designed to support experienced and aspiring school leaders. Thanks to a grant from NJEA, VITAL’s professional development offerings include videos from NJTV’s local series “Classroom Close-up, NJ,” highlighting the innovative projects taking place in New Jersey public schools for over one million educators nationwide who have access to the service through PBS LearningMedia.
The service is also highly responsive to the needs of both teachers and students in this age of digital learning. VITAL’s Digital Tools collection provides how-to video tutorials on free online tools like Prezi, Mixbit, Timetoast, and Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. Throughout the year, NJTV and PBS offer specialized initiatives that target teachers’ interests and professional development needs through live webinars, guest speakers, online screenings, how-to guides, and thematic newsletters. Each week, the homepage spotlights timely resources relating to key curriculum themes and notable events like National Engineers Week, Earth Day and Black History Month. Every day, the “PBS NewsHour’s” Daily News Story brings current events resources straight to your classroom.
For teachers throughout the Garden State, VITAL has become a go-to destination for access to thousands of videos, photos and lesson plans. Using VITAL’s search and folder archive functions, teachers are able to share the resources they discover with colleagues in their schools and districts. Many teachers also find VITAL effective in implementing flipped classroom lessons. Teachers report that their students are able to make connections through the use of digital media that no textbook, worksheet or static picture could ever create. Educational technology is helping them bring lessons to life to provide a deeper learning experience for students.
Susana Fernandez-Poyatos, a Spanish teacher at Livingston High School, has used VITAL with her beginning Spanish students. She says that videos in VITAL’s ¡Arte y Más! collection are “a great way to learn simple instructions in a second language.” Fernandez-Poyatos is one of the 100 educators selected for the 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators program. This year-long professional development program rewards tech-savvy K-12 educators from across the country who are serving as leaders in education technology and incorporating digital media in their classrooms to promote student engagement and achievement.
NJTV is proud to recognize Fernandez-Poyatos for her dedication to truly changing the way students learn through technology and digital media. We are honored to provide educators with one-of-a-kind resources, tools and trainings that will further enhance their skills and enable them to share these skills with other educators in New Jersey. The 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators will receive + professional development opportunities that include virtual trainings, access to premium and exclusive resources, and invitations to special events.
More information about VITAL New Jersey is available at vitalnj.pbslearningmedia.org or by following PBS LearningMedia on Twitter and Facebook.
VITAL Director Sandy Goldberg oversees all production, professional development, and outreach for VITAL and helps to create a vision for the service’s future growth and development.