An Interview with Rob Lippincott: What is PBS TeacherLine, and how is it helping instruction?

May 17, 2012 by

Michael Shaughnessy –

1) Describe your role at PBS.

As PBS Senior Vice President of Education, my role is to oversee the development and implementation of educational services for PBS.  That includes services such as PBS TeacherLine.  After six years as a teacher, I began my public broadcasting career in the 1980s, at PBS member station WGBH in Boston.

Today, I get to work closely with PBS stations across the country to ensure our educational services reach the broadest possible community of students, teachers and parents.

2) Who funds PBS?  In other words, who pays your salary? (I was just wondering if my tax dollars go to pay your salary, and if you indirectly work for me?)

PBS’ content and services are made possible by a combination of revenue sources.

Actually, only about 15% of PBS’ total revenue comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the organization that distributes the federal appropriation to the public television and public radio system.  The rest comes from:

  • Dues from local stations for content and other services – about 33%
  • Program underwriting – about 33%
  • Ancillary products – about 10%
  • Royalties and other – about 9%

My salary is funded by the dues our member stations pay to PBS.

3) What is this TeacherLine and who developed it?

PBS TeacherLine provides high-quality, affordably priced professional development for graduate credit and recertification through more than 80 online courses that span the entire preK-12 curriculum.

With PBS TeacherLine, teachers can earn continuing education credits, professional development points, and graduate credits. The courses available through PBS TeacherLine have been developed in conjunction with leading education organizations, including the Educational Development Corporation (EDC), the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), Concord Consortium, and International Society for Technology in Education as well as many colleges and universities and federal agencies. The funding for PBS TeacherLine has been principally provide by a series of grants from the US Department of education, under the Ready To Teach program which was active from 2000 to 2010.

4) What is the goal of TeacherLine?

PBS TeacherLine was created to help teachers accelerate their careers, and stay on top of their own professional development in an affordable, effective and easy way.

With the rapid pace of technological change PBS is dedicated to helping teachers with digital learning strategies and tools, such as WebQuest which is available in the new PBS TeacherLine course TECH145.  WebQuest is a new way to structure a lesson plan where most or all the information used in the classroom comes from the web.

PBS TeacherLine offers more than 80 online, facilitated courses in reading/language arts, mathematics, science, technology integration, instructional strategies, instructional technology and STEM.

5) What kind of feedback have you received on TeacherLine?

The research basis and myriad studies conducted throughout the 15 year history of the development and deployment of online course can be accessed at Research conducted for the project has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and the educational media press, collectively building a powerful case for the appeal and the effectiveness of online, mediated teacher professional development.  PBS TeacherLine has been recognized with dozens of industry awards, most recently, PBS TeacherLine was named a finalist in the Distinguished Achievement Awards in the professional development category, that honor the best in a range of product types and resources used by teachers, parents, and students. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in June.

6) Is there a web site where teachers can get more information?

Please visit for more information.

7) In your press release, you mentioned improving “21st century skills.” What do you mean by this and who defines these skills?

21st Century Skills can be loosely defined as a broad portfolio of essentials in learning, innovation, and technology across work and life.  These skills involve incorporating critical thinking, problem solving and communication into the teaching of core academic subjects such as English, reading or language arts, world languages, arts, mathematics, science, and more. Although there are many interpretations of 21st Century Skills, PBS TeacherLine is proud that one our academic partners, Adams State University has accredited a course series as a 21st Century Skills certification.

A recent survey from PBS LearningMedia revealed that 91% percent of teachers surveyed reported having access to computers in their classrooms, but only one-in-five said they have the right level of technology.  For some teachers that have been teaching for a long time, using the internet as part of a daily lesson plan does not come easy.  One of TeacherLine’s new courses TECH335 teaches the methods and tools available for educational Web publishing and how to present content on the Web. This new process is called iGeneration.

8)   Does TeacherLine just cover elementary or middle school or secondary?

PBS TeacherLine is available for every level of preK-12 educator from early childhood, through college readiness.

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

PBS is constantly innovating ways to leverage new technologies to improve learning outcomes.  PBS TeacherLine is a great example of that. Designed and offered well in advance of the current nearly universal availability of online learning support, PBS TeacherLine began as an experiment. It has emerged with a record of instructor retention, demonstrated quality of online instruction, teacher and administrator satisfaction with support received, and favorable learner course grades and re-enrollment rates which have established a successful model for online professional development for educators.

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