Learning From Home: An Austin PBS Resource Guide

Wednesday, April 1st 2020

Schools across the state have turned to virtual learning in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, and it’s giving new meaning to the term home room. With parents looking for resources to keep their kids engaged and learning, we decided to turn to our own Ben Kramer, vice president of education services at Austin PBS, for some ideas.

Judy Maggio: So I wanted to check in with you and talk about the resources that Austin PBS is providing. First of all, we always have great programming on TV, for families, right?

Ben Kramer: Correct. Correct. Most kids these days are accessing us online, or through mobile devices. We have compiled a growing list of educational resources, safe, proven resources, at austinpbs.org/resources and we also have that list in Spanish, at austinpbs.org/recursos. So that's where we're trying to compile stuff that's coming in from around the country, that we think will be useful for adults at home with kids, for teachers trying to look for safe and helpful resources to send home to kids. Lots and lots of different items there for folks to browse and select what works best for their configuration.

The thing that I do want to emphasize as more people are working from home is that bandwidth has become a precious commodity, and so many folks are turning back to television to have a safe place for their kids to go, and that's where our PBS kids content and even our PBS general audience content can come in really handy. For older kids, watching a cooking show is probably a pretty wonderful thing to do. Or watching Bob Ross, and mellowing out with Bob Ross, and perhaps picking up a paint brush of their own. You know, this content can work for all ages.

JM: You've been an educator for a long time, you've been a school principal, you've been in the classroom. What are some things that you can tell parents right now as they're kind of struggling with getting their kids on schedule, and on target, and making sure they're still learning.

BK: It's tough. It's tough. We're in this weird in-between state right now, where school systems are asking themselves how do we deliver instruction to home? And so there are all kinds of experiments going on with teachers reaching out to kids, and in the midst of that, we are trying to keep up our own working lives, and our home lives, at the same time.

I'm normally the chief guru of the messaging about smart screen time, ensuring a healthy balance of screen use in their lives, and other kinds of activities. I have backed off of that for the time being. If parents have to work, and if they have to be on their own devices, or if they've had to leave the house but they've got someone else watching their kids, screen use is okay, as long as it's safe.

The other thing that I would say is that, as I watch my own kids, social media and gaming are two ways that they can stay in contact with their peers, and that's really important. I mean, most of my kids are keenly feeling this loss of human contact in their lives. And so as long as the conversations remain tame, as long as they appear to be happy connections with others, again, that's something I'm backing off of. I realize how important it is.

JM: One final question for you, Ben. There are a lot of parents hunkered down at home. Any advice for keeping your cool and staying calm, and staying steady?

BK: Yes. I need to follow my own advice, which is, there will be times when everyone in the house just needs to go to their separate corners, and try to get some space when you are feeling a little pent up. I would also say that you have this unique opportunity to give and receive hugs all day long. So, if there is a moment where you recovered, and you're feeling in a good place again, go back and give your kid a squeeze, and let him or her know everything is going to be okay.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.text in italic

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