As the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber hosted representatives from all public Sandy Springs schools at a Sept. 13 lunch, Teya Ryan, the CEO of Georgia Public Broadcasting, spoke about how GPB has furthered its “educational mission” in the last few years by producing interactive textbooks and games.
“I’m really honored to have so many educators here because what we do is really for you,” Ryan said.
Educators and administrators from local public schools set up booths in the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel where the luncheon was held before the event began.
Jan Paul, the GPB board chairperson, executive director of Leadership Sandy Springs and wife of Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, introduced Ryan at the lunch. Jan Paul has served on GPB’s board of directors for 14 years and served on the search committee that hired Ryan as CEO. In introducing Ryan, Paul said GPB’s education division is what she is “most proud of.”
Tara McGee, the principal of Woodland Elementary, also spoke about her school becoming the 16th elementary school in state to be designated a STEM school with the help of Sandy Springs Education Force, a group that works to improve local public schools.
While most people know GPB provides radio and television across the state, most people are not aware they provide significant educational materials and programming to public schools, Ryan said.
Since becoming CEO in 2009, Ryan has worked with her team at GPB to produce more educational materials, saying airing educational shows is not enough to further GPB’s education mission.
One of those programs included a live stream discussion with biologists at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary on the Georgia coast. More than 45,000 students and teachers viewed the video and submitted over 1,000 questions, Ryan said. The audience included students and teachers from Ridgeview Charter Middle School in Sandy Springs. The live stream was planned to last half an hour, but was extended to an hour and a half due to the amount of questions, Ryan said.
“It was an astonishing experience,” she said.
Its educational efforts are provided through digital media because children have grown up with digital media, understand it and are motivated to use it, Ryan said.
“Our children are digital media natives. They are completely absorbed, good or bad, in their digital world,” Ryan said.
One of the first education projects GPB worked on was the production of the Georgia history books all eighth graders at public schools in the state used. GPB transformed it into an interactive digital book with original videos, which schools in Fulton County use, she said. The hard copy cost schools $100 each, while the digital book is made free to the public through federal funds and grants. When the book is updated, schools only have to download a new version instead of buying new copies, Ryan said.
“The beautiful part of this is it doesn’t take $100 a book to update it,” Ryan said.
GPB is considering producing university books because the cost of textbooks is often a barrier for a students, she said.
The use of the textbook initially stagnated, and Ryan found the release was “one step ahead” of digital media knowledge among teachers.
“We assumed these very busy teachers had time to go and learn how to use digital media. We were wrong in that assumption,” Ryan said.
GPB then hired two educators and sent them across the state and to many metro Atlanta schools to educate teachers on using digital education tools. Since then, the use of the book has more than doubled, Ryan said. They will be visited schools again this year to educate more teachers, she said.
Their educational efforts have grown to make education pages the most-trafficked part of GPB’s website, surpassing TV, she said.
“The education side of what we do is now the highest trafficked part of our website. It used to be TV, so its changed dramatically,” she said.
The education division at GPB has also created 40 “elaborate” interactive lessons, games and virtual “field trips” for free use by schools and the public. For more information visit, gpb.org/education.