The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for innovative solutions to digital and educational inequities in our region. Acknowledging that many students and families lack access to digital technology or free educational resources, particularly in areas of concentrated poverty and rural communities, WTCI EDUCATE was designed to support education equity efforts by amplifying and widely sharing the incredible learning opportunities, experts, and programming in and created by our local community.
Throughout 2020, WTCI worked closely with our local school system, community educators, community service organizations, and artists to design a collaborative learning project to help reach students and families facing the challenges of learning from home. Knowing that a free broadcast could better reach families struggling with access to digital technology, we crafted a plan to broadcast 24/7 standards-aligned learning content that was locally created or curated by national PBS partners to strengthen and enrich Pre-K through 12th-grade learning. In November, WTCI received CARES Act funding to implement the creation of this effort. Beginning in January of 2021, WTCI EDUCATE went live on antenna channel 45.4 and EPB 304 with 24-hour learning content.
WTCI provides educators with an adaptive space – designed by local artist Rondell Crier – to create an individualized experience to connect with their students on air. While WTCI is an education partner, WTCI EDUCATE is not a prescriptive programming model. We fully rely on expert educators, students, and participating community members to inform and craft the lessons for the channel, then we support them in the creation of this learning content. Lessons featured on WTCI EDUCATE are created based on best practice educational resources and pull from curricula and standards-aligned content that educators use in their classrooms. The goal is to provide curriculum reinforcement and enrichment lessons following clear academic benchmarks and models.