An Interview with Rob Lippincott: PBS News and Views

Feb 24, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) What is your exact title, and what would you say you do at PBS?

As PBS Senior Vice President of Education, my job is to oversee the development and implementation of all public media educational services for PBS. I also work with our local PBS stations that help put our educational services into the hands of students, teachers and parents across the country. Educational technology is continually evolving and we are always trying to find ways to leverage new technologies to improve learning outcomes. PBS LearningMedia is an example of PBS’ latest national educational project.

2) What is this “Learning Registry” that I hear so much about, and why haven’t I heard more about it in the past?

The Learning Registry is an initiative led by the U.S. Department of Education. It includes the backing of the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation’s National STEM Video Library initiative. The project was announced in 2010. It is designed to bring vast numbers of digital educational resources into the reach of teachers for use in the classroom. The content is made available through the Learning Registry and it will be accessible for free through PBS LearningMedia. Resources, including photos, video, and audio files from federal organizations like NASA and the National Archives, will now be easier to find, assess and integrate into educational environments.

This is the first time teachers, learners and researchers will have open access to photos, video, and audio files from such a wide variety of federal organizations. PBS LearningMedia will be drawing on this database to present high-value learning resources. And PBS LearningMedia is not just pushing multimedia content to educators – we’re tracking and sharing ratings, comments, downloads, and standards alignment, so we can identify and analyze the most effective educational content to fit their unique needs.

We will also be contributing this information – technically known as “paradata” back into the Learning Registry, contributing to the aggregate value of the content it houses.

3) Is all this information aligned with the Core or Common Standards?

Well, certainly. PBS LearningMedia has aligned tens of thousands of digital assets, including lesson plans to Common Core State Standards and delivers these resources with background essays, and discussion questions to PreK-12 educators and home-schoolers.

4) Now, I understand that you recently surveyed teachers nationwide on technology and education. Could you provide your TOP findings?

PBS LearningMedia surveyed 500 Pre-K to Grade 12 teachers in December of 2011. Here are some of our most interesting findings:

  • We found that 91 percent of teachers reported having access to computers in their classrooms, but only one-in-five (22 percent) said they have the right level of technology.
  • The survey revealed that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of teachers cited budget as the biggest barrier to accessing tech in the classroom.
  • Not surprisingly, in low-income communities, this is an even greater challenge, as 70 percent of teachers reported lack of funds as the greatest obstacle.
  • Teachers in affluent communities also have greater parental and school board support for tech in the classroom compared to those teaching in low-income communities. Thirty-eight percent vs. 14 percent cited high levels of parental support and 38 percent vs. 21 percent for school board support.
  • Nonetheless, teachers’ opinion about the ability of tech to enhance learning is universal despite grade level, the income levels of the student population and the types of communities where they teach; 93 percent believe that interactive whiteboards enrich classroom education and 81percent feel the same way about tablets.
  • According to the survey, technology resources used most often in the classroom include:
    • Websites (56%)
    • Online images (44%)
    • Online games or activities (43%)
    • Online video content (33%)


  • The primary reason for teachers using technology resources are:
    • Increasing student motivation (77%)
    • Reinforcing and expanding on content being taught (76%)
    • Responding to a variety of learning styles (76%)
    • Demonstrate something you can’t show any other way (54%)

5) Most teachers I talk to, indicate a lack of time to learn the ever increasing amount of technology and the new innovations. How can your PBS LearningMedia portal help?

PBS LearningMedia gives teachers access to an extensive curated collection of high-quality, purpose-built digital teaching assets by logging into just one website. Teachers can create custom “class pages” and lesson plans that are easily saved and shared. The program also incorporates student account management tools and administrative features such as analytics, online professional development, staff training, and a curriculum gap analyzer too.

6) How could I personally log on and get a handle on how to navigate around the system?

Try it! Just log on to, sign up and you all of this content will be at your fingertips. Any educator or parent can sign up. PBS LearningMedia is not just for teachers in public or private schools, it’s also a great tool for homeschool educators.

7) Did you share the survey results with Arne Duncan, or people at the state level or Federal level?

The PBS LearningMedia Ed Tech Survey results were publicly announced at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) three weeks ago in Orlando. We have drawn on the statistics and the findings in several reports and communications with the US Department of Education and many State Education Agencies.

8) Is there anything else you would like to add?

PBS LearningMedia has been localized by 102 PBS member stations to date. And the member stations in 10 states have collaborated to create a single state-wide offering, working closely with State Education Agencies and beginning a fuller integration of the content and features into state systems.

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