WVIA to Bring More Free Educational Resources to Students Without the Internet

Members News

WVIA, one of the seven PBS member stations in Pennsylvania, announced today its free resources that are available this school year as part of the Learning at Home initiative. 

Teachers and students this school year can look forward to:

  • A new pilot program called datacasting
  • Broadcast television programming aligned with state standards for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students
  • Coordinated extension activities and lesson plans for each program in the Learning at Home lineup
  • Trauma Informed Care and Social Emotional Learning Grab and Go bags for our region’s school districts to aid in helping children and families cope with stress and trauma
  • Nightly Storytime with WVIA literacy program
  • Raspberry Pi Distribution for our region’s “unplugged” student population

Earlier today, the Wolf Administration announced that through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds, it is awarding $8 million in federal funding to Pennsylvania PBS to establish a statewide datacasting initiative. WVIA, the member PBS station for Northeast and Central Pennsylvania, will be receiving part of this funding to embark on the new project.

What exactly is datacasting? While broadcasting refers to sending programming “over-the-air” across a geographic region that can be picked up by an antenna and played on a television, datacasting refers to using those same signals to transmit data to be used on a computer. 

WVIA will coordinate with educators to create data “instructional units” that are transmitted over television air waves and 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.  

Safety and security are of utmost importance for the datacasting endeavor. The content will be protected in three ways. First, unlike a television broadcast that any TV can pick up, only students with the supplied receivers will be able to access the data instructional units. Second, the content will be encrypted and sent over a secured signal, ensuring that no one else can alter the information downloaded by a student. Lastly, children can only access the content that is sent through the datacast, meaning they won’t be able to stumble across inappropriate content like one might with an internet connection.

“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 the Internet, which presents serious problems in education during the pandemic. WVIA has partnered with PDE to provide 175 Raspberry Pi units to our region’s schools in order to provide an online experience for the children and families which will aid in their virtual education. 

Nightly Storytime 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 7:00pm. 

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.”

To find more information about Learning at Home with WVIA, visit: https://www.wvia.org/education/learn-at-home/