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N.E.A. and Learning Channel To Debut Show for Teachers

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The National Education Association and cable television's Learning Channel are scheduled next week to inaugurate a collaborative effort to produce programming geared to classroom teachers.

"Teacher TV'' premieres at 6 P.M. (E.D.T.) on Sunday, April 19, on the Learning Channel, which is available in some 16 million U.S. households with cable television.

The show is also being promoted on Learning Channel's much larger sister network, the Discovery Channel, which is available in 56 million cable homes, as well as by posters distributed to schools by the N.E.A.

Sponsors describe the program as filling a longstanding need. "There really aren't any programs for and about teachers,'' said Keith B. Geiger, the president of the teachers' union, at a press briefing last week.

Backers also say "Teacher TV'' represents an innovative attempt to reach educators at home with a commercially sponsored show that has the sophisticated feel of a news-magazine program on a major network.

Most attempts at professional-development television in recent years have used the teleconference or videotape format to reach educators in their schools or in workshops.

Although the television industry has for years encouraged teachers to show programs to students in the classroom, the N.E.A.-Learning Channel effort is part of a new wave of programming geared toward the professional concerns of educators.

In addition, the Mind Extension University, another cable network, recently introduced an educational-technology telecourse for educators that leads to a master's degree. (See related story, this page.)

Whittle Communications in 1990 launched the Educators' Channel, using its Channel One equipment in high schools to deliver programming for teachers. That effort appears to have stalled, however. Whittle officials last week said that the Educators' Channel is in "redevelopment,'' with the hope of new programming by this fall.

Few 'Talking Heads'

"Teacher TV,'' which first appeared as a one-hour pilot last fall, features slick graphics and a fast pace, with roughly three magazine-style segments per half-hour program.

The segments focus on visits to successful classroom programs that revolve around one theme per show. There are no studio interviews and a minimum of "talking heads,'' producers say.

"Teachers made it clear to us they want to hear from other teachers, not just the 'experts,' '' said Nancy Stover, the vice president of educational television for the Bethesda, Md.-based Discovery Networks, parent of the Learning Channel.

The April 19 show focuses on technology in the classroom. Other topics to be addressed in the 12 other episodes this spring include parental involvement, peer coaching, interdisciplinary teaching, time management, alternative assessment, and the economics of education. The Learning Channel hopes to produce new episodes this fall.

Mr. Geiger emphasized that "Teacher TV'' would not serve simply as a vehicle for advancing the N.E.A.'s perspective on education issues.

"We will not shy away from controversial topics, but we will not be focusing on negative topics,'' he said.

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