New digital technology offers great opportunities for learning and teaching. Unfortunately, it also has contributed to the “digital divide” because of the lack of access to and use of computers for all children. But it’s not just about access. In her book, The Power of Pow! Wham! Children, Digital Media and Our Nation’s Future: Three Challenges for the Coming Decade, Rima Shore points to a new digital divide that has more to do with the role of parents and teachers in supporting basic technology literacy and using new literacy tools. According to Shore, research indicates that in the absence of proper adult scaffolding, digital media may actually widen the achievement gap.

That’s where NJN Public Television comes into play. NJN is committed to working with parents and educators and using its diverse media resources--available on air, online, and on the ground--to ensure that all New Jersey school children have the best educational opportunities.

The following NJN programs and services for preK through grade 12 students, teachers, and parents reflect this commitment to provide access to quality content and professional development that support the use of new digital media in instruction and classroom practice.

School readiness: prekindergarten through grade three

Ready To Lead In Literacy: workshops, books, television programs and online resources--Children who enter kindergarten with insufficient vocabulary and the lack of other learning concepts have difficulty succeeding from the outset. As their children’s first teachers, parents can play a critical role in providing their children with basic skills. But many may not know how to help their children get ready to learn.

Through public and private grants, NJN offers theme-based workshops for parents and caregivers to help improve school readiness through a Literacy 360 approach. This approach, adopted by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) for their “Raising Readers” project, acknowledges that children’s literacy is strengthened when children are surrounded by an abundance of opportunities to practice and reinforce specific skills.

NJN’s “Ready to Lead in Literacy” workshops include: Choosing Quality Children’s Literature; Math for the Young Child and the Primary Grade Child; Talk, Read, Write; Healthy Habits; and Media Literacy.

Parents, children and teachers can tune in to NJN each weekday for broadcasts of nine hours of PBS Kids Raising Readers programming. Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, CPB and PBS have produced and distributed new children’s programming and curricula targeted for low-income children, ages two to eight and their families, and uses scientifically-based reading research to inform reading instruction techniques and age appropriate content. Go to http://www.njn.net/ for the programming schedule.

NJN’s educational website, www.njn.net/education, also takes you to NJN Kids and PBS Kids Island, a new literacy website for preschoolers. According to Rob Lippincott, senior vice president of education at PBS, PBS Kids Island is built on a literacy framework that is scaffolded to preschool reading curriculum. The site tracks a child’s progress and helps parents, caregivers, and teachers identify areas where the child may need additional support.

SUPER WHY! Summer Reading Camp--To help better prepare young children for school, NJN conducts SUPER WHY! summer reading camps that are based on the PBS television preschool reading and literacy series broadcast on NJN. According to 2009 research studies, the television series and summer reading program have proven to be highly effective in helping children read, particularly those children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The interactive storybook camps stimulate literacy/reading readiness for four- to six- year-old children through educational, fun events and activities. In the one-week program, the “camp” builds on children’s enthusiasm for SUPER WHY! to help them discover the power of reading, and to motivate them to want to read and play with letters, sounds, and words. The weeklong camp program can be held at daycare centers, school enrichment programs, and summer camps, and is conducted by certified early childhood educators.

Classroom resources for kindergarten through grade 12

NJN’s Digital Classroom: Streaming in the Classroom that Works!--With students using iPhones and other hand-held devices to access media anywhere, anytime, more and more teachers are turning to video for their classroom lesson plans. But limited bandwidth and Internet access rules often derail these best-laid plans.

NJN offers a local hosting solution for school districts across the state that provides efficient video streaming to the classroom through NJN’s Digital Classroom service. Since all the educational media content is within a local firewall, there is no strain on a school’s Internet connection. NJN maintains the server remotely and provides training and a maintenance service. This fee-based service offers a cost-effective way to provide an entire school district with secure, high quality, trusted educational content.

NJN’s Digital Classroom includes the following video libraries:

  • Discovery Education Streaming--NJN works in partnership with Discovery Education to offer special rates for licenses to Discovery Education Streaming that features 5,000 full-length videos segmented into 41,000 content-specific clips tied directly to state and national core curriculum standards. The leading video-on-demand service for schools, Discovery offers over 100 educational publishers including Scholastic and BBC and covers all content disciplines.

Educators returning to their classrooms for the 2009-10 school year will be greeted with enhanced digital services. Among them is a new search results page that enables teachers to find appropriate content faster, saving precious instructional time. Also, students using their own unique logins can access digital classwork as assigned by their teacher, as well as search through thousands of multimedia resources for their own projects anywhere, at anytime.

NJN also now offers Discovery Education streaming Plus, Discovery Education Science and Discovery Education Health. For more information, go to www.discoveryeducation.com/products/.

  • NJN Video libraries include original productions, including award-winning documentaries with a special emphasis on New Jersey topics in history and science and technology.
  • Annenberg Media offers more than 1,000 hours of high quality K-12 professional development content created by award-winning producers dedicated to advancing excellent teaching in American classrooms.
  • Workforce Development content is geared to young adults and adult learners and includes national programs like Workplace Essential Skills and GED Connection, and NJN-produced content like JOBCAST.
  • Free Videos from HotChalk - NJN was selected by HotChalk for a three-year initiative to provide free online resources to teachers and students in New Jersey. HotChalk is a learning environment for K-12 teachers, students and parents that includes a free Learning Management System, a rich library of teacher-contributed lesson plans, and premium digital content including over 300 titles from A&E/History Channel; 1,500 simulations from Mathmatica; Interactive Language Arts/Math from Dositey Corp.; over 150 assets from WGBH-Boston in math and science; over 3,000 teacher-created lesson plans; over 6,000 indexed URL results from Annenberg and BBC, and NJN Science & Technology Video modules. Log on to www.njn.net/education/teachers to register for this free service.

Quality professional development

NJN Teacher Training Institutes--Thanks to generous funding from Bank of America, NJN has offered several free, high quality professional development training programs for teachers that focused on the use of media to support teaching and learning. The training sessions have addressed the use of video in the classroom and at home; the use of digital media to create animation; and most recently, digital stories and documentaries as a means to bring the art of storytelling into the classroom as a learning tool.

This year, NJN plans to launch new training institutes that help teachers and students learn how to use documentary production to be more civically involved and to tell the story of the community, whether it be collecting the stories of World War II veterans, researching local histories, or conducting investigative reports of issues of local interest or concern. All training is aligned to the N.J. Core Curriculum Content Standards and employs 21st-century skills and tools. See njn.net/education/teachers for samples of past work.

PBS TeacherLine--NJN is proud to partner with PBS TeacherLine to provide premier online courses for preK-12 teachers pursuing professional development. PBS TeacherLine's world-class, standards-based graduate-level courses offer teachers the professional development opportunities they need in an accessible online format that makes learning fun, flexible, and collaborative.Trained, certified facilitators lead more than 145 courses spanning the entire curriculum.

Educators can earn graduate credit or PDHs while gaining strategies and resources to bring directly to their classrooms, and through TeacherLine's unique model, educators can receive professional development customized to meet New Jersey state and local standards. And thanks to a grant to PBS from the U.S. Department of Education, educators get a reduced cost on every PBS TeacherLine course.

Fall courses start Oct. 28 and are now open for enrollment. Visit www.njn.net/education/teachers/teacherline to learn more, or find us on Facebook (PBS Teacherline New Jersey).

PBS Teachers--PBS Teachers is an online preK-12 education resource that offers classroom materials around TV programs and web content; webinars; discussion groups; Teachers News; activity packs; and connections to professional development and PBS TeacherLine Peer Connection. PBS Teachers has been named a Landmark Website for Teaching and Learning by the American Association of School Librarians. To sign up for a free membership, log on to http://www.pbsteachers.org/.

Extended learning opportunities: after school

Digital Storytelling--NJN offers Digital Storytelling workshops for students in afterschool and 21st Century Community Learning Center Programs for a fee. These workshops are designed to bridge the learning in the classroom, afters chool and at home. Students are taught the elements of creating digital storytelling. Over eight, 90-minute sessions, students work to create a digital story around an historical or civic theme. Students can research and create a story about an historical hero or historical landmarks in their community, such as a war monument or a state or national park. Stories are presented to a panel of local judges and can be exhibited on the NJN website.

To see some of these stories, log on to www.njn.net/education/teachers/digitalstorytelling.

NJN--a digital resource

In recent years, the digital revolution has transformed teaching and learning in the classroom. However new technologies and capabilities have also brought with them new challenges for districts to keep ahead of these dramatic changes and how to finance them.

With education at the very heart of its public service mission, NJN is eager to help New Jersey educators meet those challenges and provide technology, digital educational resources, and training for teachers, parents, and students that can ensure educators have access to and know how to use new digital media.

Contact NJN’s Director of Education Initiatives Ellen Mushinski at emushin@njn.org or at 609-777-5101 to learn how NJN can support your work in the classroom and at home.

Ellen Mushinski is a former New Jersey teacher, member of NJDOE staff, and legislative aide. She holds a B..S ED and a M.Ed. in Educational Media.