Like many people with kids, PBS was one of their first trusted teachers. Sesame Street was fun for them, plus filled with lessons about numbers, letters, sounds, empathy and other emotions. As a parent, PBS is a safe place where I know that other than the “brought to you by” credits at the start, the program won’t be commercial and will have well thought out story lines. What I didn’t know was how much proactive work is done at PBS Kids.
PBS Kids aims to be accessible to as many people as possible, according to Silvia Lovato, PBS Kids Senior Director Products, including the PBS KIDS online and mobile video player. Part of this means meeting kids where they are – on mobile devices, through videos, or TV – but it’s also about accommodating different learning styles and disabilities. As part of this, she shared a slide that showed a results of a broad examination of PBS Kids offerings on math framework and what educational or social skill was addressed in their programming, allowing them to see any gaps. One result is that they knew they wanted to add a program that used a math framework for preschoolers, and the result is the awesome Peg + Cat (more tomorrow), launching Oct. 7.
A deeper look at PBS Kids’ education content requires a look at the Ready to Learn program in partnership with the U.S. Dept. of Education, and how “all RTL content is guided by a math skill framework and a literacy skill framework based on the state’s Common Core standards and developed and created by the nation’s most trusted educational advisors.”
Much of their effort isn’t about television, but in pioneering the digital education field, including games, smartboards, and mobile devices. Games can allow the content to become more challenging, making games tougher as the player progresses, or in classrooms, teachers can control the difficulty, fine tuning the experience to the needs to those particular students.
It comes as no surprise that PBS Kids puts a great deal of consideration into the educational message of its programming, but what surprised me was the lower-than-I-expected controls over their creative content. Don’t misunderstand, PBS Kids ensure that their standards are met, but that they only fund about 25% of a programming, which means PBS doesn’t own the particular programs. They assist with the show making or game production, but they aren’t the producers. Those people are the ones generally listed with a show or game, such as WGBH Boston, or the Fred Rogers Company.
PBS Kids has come a long way from the Sesame Street/Electric Company combo from my childhood, but the mission remains the same.
Silvia Lovato spoke last week at the Digital Kids Summit in San Francisco.