NCDPI , UNC-TV roll out 50 hours of weekly TV programming for remote learning

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- With all due respect to Big Bird, this target audience might not have tuned into PBS for many years.

"Our superpower is that early learning content," Joy Potts, UNC-TV Director Children's Media and Education Services, told ABC11. "We're going to do a deep dive into our own inventory and original content."

The deep dive is part of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's literal inside-the-box approach to improve remote-learning and shrink the opportunity gap between families with and without access to broadband internet.

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While the national average is 15 percent of households without access to high-speed internet, data from NCDPI showing a higher percentage, about 20 percent, without it. That translates to roughly 216,162 kindergarten-12th-grade households and 306,437 public students in North Carolina -- a ratio of about 1 in 5 public school students.

Angie Mullinnex, NCDPI's Director of Innovation and Strategy, said the challenges of remote learning go beyond those families without broadband access.

"If I think of a family of five, a mom and maybe dad sitting at home on a computer, you also have three school-age children also logging on and expected to use platforms," Mullinnex explained to ABC11. "You start to really stress out that bandwidth."

Airing on Channel 4.4 over the air and Channel 1276 on Spectrum, the special UNC-TV/NCDPI At-Home Learning programming features up to 50 hours of content - 10 hours per day every weekday. From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., shows such as NOVA and History Detectives specifically appeal to fourth- to eighth-grade students; the schedule from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. is geared for high school students.

To complement the shows, NCDPI is encouraging teachers to develop worksheets and other assignments based on the shows and deliver them either by email or having the school print them out and sent home, or even handed to students when they receive their free or reduced lunch.

Though much of the programming right now is being cultivated from other PBS stations, including in California, Mullinnex and Potts are planning to engage former North Carolina Teachers of the Year to produce video-podcast-like messages and lessons.

"When you watch a show, I think any of us when we see someone we know on TV, we feel a connection," Mullinnex said. "Teachers of the Year represent all of the different regions across the state. Beyond the academics, that's the most important thing is that our kids are socially and emotionally connected and feel someone loves them and cares about them."
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