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Pittston, Pa. -- WVIA, one of the seven PBS member stations in Pennsylvania, has announced an expansion in free resources for the 2020-2021 school year as part of the Learning at Home Initiative.

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Teachers and students can look forward to:

  • A new pilot program called "datacasting"
  • Broadcast television programming aligned with state standards for pre-K through twelfth grade students
  • Coordinated extension activities and lesson plans for each program
  • Trauma Informed Care Grab and Go Bags to help children and families cope with stress and trauma
  • Social emotional Learning Grab and Go Bags
  • Nightly story time with WVIIA literacy program
  • Raspberry Pi Distribution for the region's "unplugged" students

On September 10, the Wolf Administration announced that $8 million of the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Funds (GEER) will go to PBS to launch a statewide datacasting initiative. WVIA, the PBS station for Northeast and Central Pennsylvania, will receive part of that funding to take on the project within its coverage area.

Broadcasting refers to sending television programming signals "over the air" across a geographic region which can be picked up by an antenna. Datacasting uses a similar principle, but instead uses the signals to transmit data that can be used on a computer.

WVIA will coordinate with educators to create instructional units that are transmitted over television air waves and received by home computers, without the need to connect to the internet. By supplying an inexpensive receiver, families will be able to download lesson plans, videos, slideshows, worksheets, offline webpages, and other materials. The materials, once received, would remain available on-demand for each student and family to be used at any time.

Safety and security are top concerns for the datacasting endeavor. The content will have three layers of protection. Unlike a television signal that any TV can pick up, only students with the supplied receivers will be able to access the instructional units. The content will also be encrypted and sent over a secured signal to ensure that no one can alter the information before it is downloaded. Lastly, children can only access the content that is sent through the datacast - they cannot accidentally stumble upon inappropriate content in the way that those with an internet connection can.

“WVIA is thrilled to partner with our fellow Pennsylvania PBS Stations, Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to bridge the digital divide for students learning at home,” said Carla McCabe, president and CEO at WVIA. “Datacasting curriculum straight to a student’s home computer is an exciting way to use an established technology.”

The Trauma Informed Care and Social Emotional Learning Grab and Go bags are being provided to our region’s school districts to aid children and families cope with stress and different forms of trauma. During this challenging time, the grab and go bags will provide resources, links to professional support organizations, and fun activities to keep children and families engaged, educated, and cared for during the pandemic.

Many students in the 22 county WVIA catchment are without internet or the technology to access internet, which presents serious problems in education during the pandemic. WVIA has partnered with PDE to provide 175 Raspberry Pi units to schools in order to provide an online experience for the children and families which will aid in their virtual education.

Nightly Story Time with WVIA literacy program on WVIA Education’s Facebook page encourages children to read along with the teachers, helpers, and WVIA staff who participate in the program each night at 7 p.m.

WVIA and Pennsylvania PBS first partnered with PDE for the Learning at Home initiative after schools closed in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

“After school closures in the spring, WVIA coordinated with 72 school districts to provide television schedules and extension activities for their students,” said Kirsten Smith, WVIA Grants and Education Officer. “We look forward to becoming an integral part of anywhere, anytime learning for more students who are not able to go to a school building this year.”

More information about the Learning at Home initiative is available here.

This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.