Virtual Professional Learning

American Portrait: Who Are We?

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PBS American Portrait is a national story-telling project that invites people across the country to use photos, videos and words to tell their own stories and illustrate who we are as a people. In this four part virtual professional learning series, teachers will be invited to think about how they might use the American Portrait in their classrooms and encourage their students to think more concretely about who we are as individuals, and who we are as a people.

From literature, to the engineering process, to media instruction and the arts, the series hopes to engage a variety of educators, teaching a variety of disciplines. Not only will educators be introduced to subject matter experts, storytellers and artists, they’ll be provided with detailed lesson ideas to engage their students around American Portrait’s specific question prompts, and encouraged to help their students contribute to the project’s wide tapestry of stories and personal narrative in hopes of answering the quintessential question: who are we? PBS will provide a certificate of attendance for each one hour virtual professional learning event.


We Are Helpers

April 7 @ 7pm ET

This episode operates under the assumption that media can be used for good, and that our students are incredible problem solvers. We’ll share the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework as well as the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Goals, and will demonstrate how these concepts can inspire students to use engineering and human centered design to offer authentic, impactful, helpful solutions.

The episode, hosted by PBS Digital Innovator All-Stars Bobbi Starling, Laura Bradley, Mike Lang and Glenda Lozada, uses the PBS American Portrait question prompt, “My greatest challenge is…'' to help educators consider how they might use existing stories on American Portrait to encourage their students to not only use media as a mode of communication, but to take their problem solving and student advocacy to a whole new level. Whether advocating for tolerance, kindness, acceptance, or inclusion, students can make an impact when they combine scientific inquiry, engineering design, empathy research and media to empower others to overcome the greatest of challenges.


We Are Listeners 

April 14 @ 7pm ET

PBS American Portrait asks people to be vulnerable--to share their stories and, sometimes,  their deepest truths. In this virtual professional learning episode, we’ll use the PBS American Portrait question prompt, “You don’t know what it’s like…” to explore the power of personal narrative and its connection to literature. Specifically we’ll consider how growing our students’  listening and empathy skills can help them be more critical, engaged, joyful readers. 

The episode, hosted by PBS Digital Innovator All-Stars Laura Bradley, Mike Lang, Glenda Lozada and Bobbi Starling features award-winning filmmaker Lynn Novick, and Ford Foundation program associate, Jule Hall, who was in Novick’s latest documentary, “College Behind Bars.” Novick’s perspective as a filmmaker will help us understand how to empathetically hear and represent complex stories; while Hall will share his experiences with telling his own personal stories for a very public audience. Together, they will share how listening to the stories of others can help students empathize, and strengthen their ability to identify and appreciate the impact of literary elements, such as a character’s motivation and development, and a book’s conflicts and themes. 

By the end of the episode, teachers will leave with American Portrait lesson ideas to teach literary elements and analysis, while also helping to understand and build empathy. 


We Are Creators 

April 21 @ 7pm ET

The American experience is unique for everyone. As we explore the idea of “who we are” through PBS’ American Portrait, the third episode of our virtual professional learning experience will focus on using art and poetry to tell our stories and illustrate what it means to “be American.”  We’ll use the American Portrait question prompt, “My American story started when…” to help educators connect more deeply with their students, and their students’ individual experiences. In particular we’ll explore how art and poetry can be used to express the joy of “belonging”, and/or the pain of “rejection.”

The episode, hosted by PBS Digital Innovator All-Stars Mike Lang, Glenda Lozada, Bobbi Starling and Laura Bradley, will focus specifically on the art of indigenous peoples, and will discuss tools and strategies educators can use right away to help the young artists in their classrooms express their own feelings and ideas about what it means to “be American.”



We Are Witnesses 

April 28 @ 7pm ET

In the last episode of our four-part virtual professional learning series exploring the American Portrait, and ‘who we are’, we’ll consider how educators can leverage technology to bear witness to events around the world and in their local communities.  Using the PBS American Portrait question prompt, “When I step outside the door…” participants will be asked to think about the evolution of technology, and how new technologies enhance and enable storytelling and communication at the local, national and global level. 

The episode, hosted by PBS Digital Innovator All-Stars Glenda Lozada, Bobbi Starling, Laura Bradley and Mike Lang, will focus on equity: how do we use technology to spotlight inclusive narratives and discuss gender equality, equity in education and diversity. This conversation will be led, in Spanish, by Glenda Lozada, our PBS All-Star from Puerto Rico. Glenda will share how educators can use PBS’ American Portrait to help students use digital narratives to share their own experiences. Having recently experienced the devastating earthquakes and hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Glenda and her students will offer us an inside look at the aftermath. Through their eyes, we will witness their entire journey, from the initial impact to the process of recovery.

PBS Digital Innovator All-Stars Educators

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