Tech Tools & Helpful Hacks

10 Hacks For Making the Most Out of PBS LearningMedia

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Pandemic-era teaching has forever changed what teaching looks like for many educators, including using digital PreK-12 media resources much more than ever before. With the sudden move to distance learning, educators have received more ed-tech training than pre-pandemic. However, with the ever-evolving digital landscape, staying up to date can take so much time! So we asked a few of our expert PBS LearningMedia users — teachers and PBS LearningMedia team members — to share their go-to, timesaving, and value-add hacks. Check out what they had to say and be sure to bookmark for future reference!

Ten Timesaving Hacks from Educators

1. Start with a Quick Tour

Lacey Fredette, a K-8 educator in Arizona who is passionate about creating and sharing resources, content and ideas with fellow educators, began using PBS LearningMedia during the 2020-2021 school year at the suggestion of a fellow teacher. Lacey turned to her growing TikTok account where she shares quick, engaging snippets on the basics of PBS LearningMedia including searching, browsing and filtering, integrating content with Google Classroom, and tech tools for creating and assigning lessons, to name a few. Check out her @teachingwithhappyfeet TikTok here.

For a more detailed but still quick overview, check out educator and former PBS Digital Innovator, Kevin Cornell’s three-minute tutorial, “Transforming digital lessons with On-Demand Resources.”

2. There’s No Place Like Home

Jason Lineberger, Digital Learning Coordinator for Cleveland County Schools and 2020 PBS Digital Innovator All Star, shared a few of the quick tip videos he created for fellow teachers in his district.

When browsing PBS LearningMedia, he starts with the featured lessons and resources curated by subject area positioned at the top of the webpage because he says that’s where he often finds something interesting to start building a lesson. 

Check out his PBS LearningMedia Home Page Quick Tip video here. The Home page is also where you can find the latest news and upcoming event information, highlighted blog posts as well as the most popular and award-winning series and collections.

3. And The Award Goes to: Search, Browse, and Filter

The most used, most helpful and most often mentioned features are search, browse and filter. Experimenting with these tools will take a user a long way, says team member Paula Hill, who created this three-minute “How to Search, Browse, and Filter Content” overview.

4. The Filters! The Filters!
Searching and browsing will get you into the right neighborhood, but to land the exact coordinates to meet your specific needs, our experts shouted, “The Filters! The Filters!” Exploring the filtering options and trying different combinations is a good way to begin, and here are some of our experts’ favorite filtering tricks.

  • Collections: Jason shared a second quick tip video about his favorite 
    approach to filtering. From the filtering menu after adding a keyword in the search box, he immediately scrolls to filter by “Resource Type: Collection” because this is the spot where he can usually find what he needs for immediate lesson-building, as well as additional content to build out a series of lessons.
  • Languages and Video Length: Let’s say you only have three minutes or 10 minutes for your video. Team member Rose likes that you can dig deeper and filter by the length of video that will work best for your needs. Another popular filter option is language. Team member Alicia points out that not only can you select a language as a filtering option, but resources offered in other languages have an easy “toggle” button to allow the user to switch back and forth between languages. Watch this quick tutorial to learn how to find alternative language content on PBS LearningMedia.
  • Media Gallery and Making the Most of Resources: Clemencia Acevedo, special education teacher at Don Pedro Albizu Campos (PSMS161) in West Harlem, New York and 2020 PBS Digital Innovator All-Star, shares her insider tips that also revolve around filtering.

    “PBS Learning Media is full of rich and engaging resources available in all grade levels and subjects. My favorite part of the platform is that you can use the Filter by feature to narrow your search by grade level, subject, resource type and language. My favorite go-to move is selecting the Media Gallery option where I can browse short film clips that address the content for specific units of study. The video clips are visually stunning with beautiful music, intelligent dialogue, and narration. They are accompanied with useful Support Materials for Teachers that include questions relevant to the video, suggested teaching activities and the best part, handouts teachers can assign to their students. Teachers can directly use the handouts or modify them according to their student population.
    My students are always captivated and impressed by the content and beauty displayed in the video clips.”

    Watch Clemencia navigate her go-to Media Gallery move. 

5. Secret Engagement Solution: Interactives

When asked what she could not live without on PBS LearningMedia, Clemencia was quick to talk about the Interactive Resources. Here’s what she shared.

“Besides the Media Gallery resources, I could not live without the Interactive resources. They are thoughtfully designed and are accompanied with the perfect music to keep students engaged. Love the interactive maps that show territorial, population, political, migration and religious changes over time.

Teachers and students can click on dates for maps to reflect change and evolution for that period of time. Students enjoy learning with interactive resources because it sparks their curiosity and feel as if they are playing a game.”

Watch Clemencia demonstrates her favorite interactive.

6. “Focus View”: A Distraction-Free Viewing Experience

Team member, Dominique, wanted teachers to know about the new “Focus View” feature which provides a completely distraction-free viewing experience for students viewing the student-facing PBS LearningMedia site.

Teachers can choose the "Share link with students" button to the left of the resource viewer and select “Copy Link” for the Focus View option and give that URL to their students who will only see that shared resource.

On a related note, Dominique added that logged-in users have a handy Teacher View | Student View toggle that lets them see what their students will see when they share links. 

7. The MacGyver of PBS LearningMedia: The Lesson Builder Tool

Team member and tutorial guide, Paula Hill, encourages fellow teachers to explore all that the Lesson Builder tool can do! In addition to the basics – adding context and tasks to any media shared with students – she loves that teachers can use it to differentiate instruction and create lessons for small groups and independent learning. Learn more about this tool and watch The Lesson Builder Tutorial here

8. No Need to Leave Your Google Classroom

With so many districts and teachers using Google Classroom, team member Dominique points to the “pretty slick” way the lesson-building tool integrates with Google Classroom. She wants teachers to know that they can view their students’  lesson builder and interactive lesson assignments results in their Google Classroom’s Google Drive. To integrate this ‘all-in-one’ digital experience, see the step-by-step instructions to use Google Classroom with PBS LearningMedia.

9. We All Need A Little Support (Materials)

Teacher Clemencia Acevedo wanted to be sure all teachers were aware of the support materials that accompany the resources within PBS LearningMedia. These complementary resources help save time and make lesson planning easier. 

“Teachers can get literally anything from LM. Teachers can build a whole lesson or unit plan by incorporating all resources available because there are so many options teachers can select from. My biggest advice is for teachers to use the Support Materials for Teachers and Support Materials for Use with Students. They are put together by teachers with long years of teaching experience!”

10. A Free All-Access Pass Separates the Amateurs from the Pros

To make full use of all features including browsing by state standards, “favorite” resources, building lessons, sharing content to Google Classroom, and more, a PBS LearningMedia account is required. PBS LearningMedia is always free and sign up is as easy and quick as providing an email address. Once you have a user profile and check a few boxes about your teaching interests and focus, you will receive news and information updates that are customized to your specific teaching needs.

Help is Here! Our experts all pointed to the growing library of tutorials, as well as the step-by-step guidance that’s available for all of the most frequently asked about topics. Just click on “Help” in the footer section of the website to open our support HQ. Also, regular virtual professional learning events are highlighted on the home page, on PBS Teachers social media platforms, and within the free PBS LearningMedia newsletter.

Final tip? Bookmark this post for easy reference, and consider sharing it with a fellow teacher who might find it as helpful as Lacey Fredette did back when she was pivoting into pandemic-era teaching.

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