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WHRO - More Than Just Broadcast

What comes to mind when you think about WHRO?  Public television?  PBS?  Public radio?  NPR?  Classical music?  I’ll bet that Education wasn’t at the top of your list. Not surprisingly, most people recognize WHRO through our radio and television programming, but you might be surprised to know that our Education services are as big, or even bigger in some ways, than our broadcast enterprises.  In fact, each comprise about a third of our activities.  What might be even more surprising is that all of our television and radio operations are actually owned by public school divisions.  Formed in 1961 as Home Room One (hence WHRO) by the Chairs of the Norfolk and Hampton public school boards to explore the use of broadcast television for K-12 educational purposes, today WHRO remains at the leading edge of digital education and is now owned by 19 public school divisions.  You might say that Education is in our DNA.

To make sure that we’re providing the right services, each year we convene 20 or 30 meetings with educators at all levels from our 19 owner schools, including quarterly meetings with the Superintendents, School Board Representatives, Chief Technology Officers, Instructional Technology Integration Specialists, and eLearning Administrators, among others.  The schools provide the guidance and we provide the products and services.  Together, we’re a very powerful team.  Our current offerings fall into one of four areas, or “pillars” as we like to call them: Early Learning, Teacher Training, Digital Content Production, and Digital Content Distribution.

Educational content production has always been a core component of WHRO.  Back in the 1960’s we created and aired instructional television programs.  At that time, if you tuned into channel 15 during the day, you were likely to get a healthy dose of Algebra or English.  While we still create enormous amounts of educational content, today the delivery mechanisms are VERY different.  Almost everything is delivered on-demand via the Internet and schools prefer it that way.  Today’s productions range from simple “learning objects” that teach specific content such as the Algebraic equation all the way to textbook independent, teacher led, online courses.  Our 19 owner members use these on a regular basis to provide literally thousands of students with courses they might not otherwise have been able to take due to scheduling conflicts or cost.

eMediaVA is our digital content distribution system that features the best purpose-built, Virginia SOL-aligned content from the most trusted local, regional and national sources including Colonial Williamsburg, the Science Museum of Virginia, the Valentine Richmond History Center, NASA, ODU, the Smithsonian Museums, the National Archives, Virginia's public media stations, the Norfolk Public Library, NPR, PBS, and others.  Thanks to a contract with the Virginia Department of Education and a local philanthropist, over 148,000 public, private and home school educators have free access to nearly 115,000 learning objects with thousands more on the way in the coming months.

Our Early Learning initiatives include parent and childcare provider training; weekly Raising Readers Van visits and hands-on digital experiences at locations across the region, including military bases; summer math and reading camps; WHRO Kids 15.3, our 24 hour per day television service featuring the best high-quality children’s programming available; an annual Writer’s Contest; the distribution of thousands of free First Books; and Reading Buddies programs that pair older students with younger students at our Super Reader Schools.

In terms of Teacher Training, we offer over 100 multi-week, online courses covering all grade levels and subjects.  Titles include: Digital Lesson Planning for Differing Learning Styles, Math in Everyday Life for Grades K-5, Teaching with WebQuests for Grades K-12, and everything in-between.  All of the courses help teachers keep their licenses up-to-date and can be taken for graduate credit through James Madison University.  In a typical year, about 1,000 teachers take a course through WHRO.

If that’s not enough, we also coordinate group purchases, conduct Special Topic Forums on current educational technology trends, organize two Great Computer Challenges, annually produce The Virginian-Pilot Spelling Bee Live on WHRO and the WHRO Young Storytellers Awards Show, and are a main sponsor of the Virginia Children's Festival.

If you’d like to learn more about all of our services please visit http://education.whro.org/regional-services.  And we hope the next time you think of WHRO, you think of Education.