WCTE Making a Difference with Early Learning

March 2015

Three recent independent studies on the effectiveness of educational television and digital media content developed as part of the Ready To Learn initiative found the programming and online games developed by PBS KIDS improved preschool-aged children’s mathematical knowledge, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.

Ready To Learn is administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement to help children ages 2-8, especially those from low-income families, build critical school readiness skills. As a Ready To Learn grant recipient, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS work with producers, local public media stations, and other partners to develop and distribute early math and literacy learning opportunities for use anytime, anywhere.

In middle Tennessee, WCTE public television has served as an education partner in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland region for more than 30 years. The region consists of 14 rural and isolated counties with above average poverty rates. More than 58 percent of Putnam County students are economically disadvantaged, and 40 percent of incoming kindergarten students perform below the skill level needed for kindergarten readiness. Aware of the need for improved early education in the community, WCTE applied for and received a Ready To Learn grant.

With Ready To Learn funding, WCTE purchased five iPads for its Ready To Learn Mobile Lab, as well as five iPad minis for the Putnam County Library’s (PCL) Ready To Learn Mobile Lab, which is housed in the Children’s Library and is free to library patrons.

“Learning can take place anytime and anywhere,” said Cindy Putman, Ready To Learn Project Manager at WCTE. “WCTE chose to donate these devices to the Putnam County Library because the library is a free resource for all area children and families, many of whom do not have access to mobile devices.”

Children at Putnam County Library’s Ready To Learn Mobile Lab play with iPad minis donated by WCTE
Children at Putnam County Library’s Ready To Learn Mobile Lab play with iPad minis donated by WCTE

The iPads are loaded with fun, educational PBS Kids games and apps developed through Ready To Learn resources. Any adult with a library card in good standing can reserve an iPad for a child to use in the library. The library will also use the iPads during Read! Play! Grow!, a literacy-minded program for children, ages 0-3 years old. Ready To Learn’s resources have allowed the library to add other special programming to its calendar such as having children and parents explore new PBS Kids apps together and learn how to download them to their own mobile devices. Librarians and educational volunteers will be available to families at the library to provide tips to parent on how to extend learning activities at home.

“I am very excited that the PCL Children's Department has received these iPads through WCTE’s Ready to Learn grant. This is a great step in helping our young patrons, especially those who may not have access to current technology in their home,” said Sarah Crawford Tucker, PCL Children’s Library Assistant.

WCTE public television also provided routers and network adapters for 21local Head Start centers to provide classroom internet access to existing computers. More than 1,300 children will benefit from the partnerships, while their teachers will now be able to gain access to trusted resources that promote and expand learning.

WCTE donates five iPad minis to the Putnam County Library’s Ready To Learn Mobile Lab
WCTE donates five iPad minis to the Putnam County Library’s Ready To Learn Mobile Lab

“The Ready To Learn initiative is focused on learning across multiple platforms, including mobile devices, but there is a wealth of educational content available online on pbskids.org. When WCTE realized Head Start students in our region did not have internet access in their classrooms, we knew our Ready To Learn grant would give us a perfect opportunity to make this technology available to them,” said Allison Fox, Grant Administrator at WCTE.

WCTE’s Ready To Learn staff is also providing professional development for educators and family engagement for parents. The station is also active at community events geared toward low-income or at-risk children and families.

WCTE produces Ready To Learn “Hey Parents” interstitials to encourage parents to participate in their children’s education, by wctevideo

“The teachers who use Ready To Learn content in their after-school program have been pleased with the teacher-friendly way it is developed and with the data-tracking and research provided on the PBS Kids Lab,” said Putman. “During RTL professional development sessions, teachers are often amazed at all the rich content that PBS offers, from PBS Learning Media to PBS Parents and of course, the Ready To Learn-funded PBS Kids Lab. These teachers are always excited to share about the success of using these materials in their classrooms.”

Since July 2014, over 4,000 children and families have participated in WCTE Ready To Learn activities. In the same period 745 educators have received Ready To Learn professional development.

In 2015, WCTE public television plans to increase their engagement with early learners. The station is implementing Ready To Learn content at the Spring Break Lottery for Education Afterschool Program (LEAPs) camp for more than 100 at-risk students, presenting a Ready To learn program during the Putnam County Library’s 2015 Summer Reading Program, and in with the Millard Oakley STEM Center, hosting a National Summer Learning Day event.

To learn more about WCTE’s Ready To Learn program, visit http://www.wcte.org/rtl/.