Carrie Busey teacher chosen for PBS program

Carrie Busey teacher chosen for PBS program

SAVOY — In Elizabeth Slifer's fourth-grade classroom at Carrie Busey Elementary, students spent time this week learning about space — by watching videos from NASA.

Using a service called PBS LearningMedia, along with netbooks and an interactive blackboard, Slifer's students learned about spectrometers, the Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project, which maps light reflected off the moon's surface, and how an astronaut recreated one of Galileo's experiments on the moon.

The latter was a 47-second clip featuring Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott. After Scott explained the experiment, in which he dropped a hammer and feather at the same time, Slifer paused the video and polled students on which they thought would hit the moon's surface first.

The class was split, but they watched as Scott dropped the objects and they hit at the same time.

Slifer showed the students the NASA video clips through PBS LearningMedia, "a digital library that includes more than 30,000 resources that are free for teachers to use," full of content primarily from public media, said Molly Delaney, the educational outreach director at Illinois Public Media.

Slifer started using it in the fall of 2011, when she joined a pilot program through Illinois Public Media and other Illinois public stations.

Since then, she's used it at least weekly and was recently chosen for the PBS LearningMedia TeacherCore program. She recently traveled to Washington to meet with other teachers who use it, as well as work with those who are new to the service.

It includes content from PBS' shows for kids, but also shows like "Nova," "History Detectives" and "American Experience." It also contains audio files from "PBS NewsHour" and National Public Radio.

"It brings together the best of public media educational content," Delaney said, as well as outside resources like the National Archives and NASA.

PBS LearningMedia also has interactive games and lesson plans to accompany video and audio clips, and all content broken down into 5-minute clips or less, so teachers can easily access the specific information they need.

Teachers can search by grade level and subject, or by math or language arts lessons that are aligned with the new Common Core state standards. They can also mark specific pieces as favorites for easy reference, download materials in case they don't have Internet access during class and share pieces of content from the site.

Slifer said she searches for materials for fourth-graders, but also for higher grades, too.

"I like to challenge my kids," she said.

Delaney said she's heard from teachers that they appreciate having a resource full of trusted material, and that using PBS LearningMedia is "less time-consuming than trying to find trusted resources from untrusted sites."

Slifer said she goes through all the content from PBS she plans to use in class before actually presenting it, just to make sure everything is appropriate. But she's never encountered a situation like a time she visited a museum's website and inappropriate advertising popped up along with it.

Slifer doesn't just use PBS LearningMedia to teach science. She plans to show students videos of poets reading their work when they study poetry soon, and she hopes that will help them connect the poems to the people who wrote them.

The materials on the site often come with background essays, discussion questions and tips for teachers.

Slifer has also used the service's interactive games to give students some physical activity when they're in her room for indoor recess. They like to use a game called Mixie's Boogie Buffet, in which students take turns using the interactive blackboard to choose from a variety of dance moves to create their own routines.

Slifer said she likes using technology, both as a teacher and a user, and finds it allows her to be more creative. It also appeals to students in a different way than a more traditional classroom.

"It appeals to different senses," she said, and especially helps students who need visual examples to learn.

Carrie Busey fourth-grader Cadence Bashore said she likes it when Slifer uses PBS LearningMedia in class.

She said her class has learned about space, spacecraft and the International Space Station with the help of PBS LearningMedia.

"Since it's PBS, it's class-friendly," Bashore said. "Everyone can use it."

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