Don’t Count Out Instructional Television, Governors Urged

By William Snider — November 06, 2019 3 min read


Instructional television, in combination with new technologies such as video-cassette recorders, will continue to play an important part in the classrooms of the future and should not be overlooked by planners and policymakers, witnesses told a national task force here last week.

About 18.5 million students regularly use instructional-television programming for an average of 20 minutes per day, Douglas Bodwell, director of education for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, told the National Governors’ Association’s task force on educational technology.

The task force was holding its third and final hearing. Along with the six other N.G.A. education task forces, it will present its findings and recommendations at the N.G.A.'s annual meeting in Hilton Head, S.C., in August.

Much of the testimony here concerned the need to enhance education by coordinating the uses of a variety of technologies, rather than concentrating primarily on microcomputers.

Renewed Interest

The advent of relatively low-cost video-cassette recorders, which surveys show are now used in over 75 percent of school buildings, has sparked a renewed interest in instructional television, according to witnesses.

“In the past, teachers who wanted to use instructional television had to revise their schedules to accommodate when the broadcast occurred, but now with tapes, they can use it when they need it,” said Edwin G. Cohen, executive director of the Agency for Instructional Television.

The amount of instructional programming available is also increasing, Gov. Gerald L. Baliles of Virginia and representatives of other governors on the task force were told.

Twenty-one series of educational programs have been developed by A.I.T. with funding and guidance from states and Canadian provinces, according to Mr. Cohen.

And the Children’s Television Workshop, producers of “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company,” is completing an as-yet untitled series on mathematics that Keith W. Mielke, vice president for research, described as “a parody of the entire television genre of game shows, situation comedies, and crime shows.”

In Kentucky, where 85 percent of public-school students use instructional television, a recent survey found that 99 percent of teachers felt the programming meets curriculum needs to “some or a great extent,” according to Sandra H. Welch, deputy executive director of Kentucky Educational Television.

But it is the marriage of instructional television with other advanced technologies that holds the greatest promise for the future of education, several witnesses said.

A few states are considering the use of satellite and microwave networks that would allow students in remote areas to participate in courses taught in classrooms that double as television studios.

In concert with a computer, video-disc players have the capacity to provide a tremendous amount of aural and visual information almost instantaneously, and they are becoming widely used in military and industrial training, according to experts.

Market Is Barrier

The major barrier to the educational use of these technologies, witnesses said, is an educational market so widely fragmented that businesses are reluctant to develop and market products geared to schools’ specific needs.

There are some 15,000 school districts across the country, said George Hall, executive director of the Interactive Video Consortium, “and for all practical purposes, an educational-technology marketer has had to approach each one separately.”

What is needed, he said, is “a way of getting schools to aggregate their investments. Even a middling success in the educational market has usually depended on a massive volume of sales of the product in some other consumer market at the same time.”

The role of state governments, he and other witnesses said, should be to provide a mechanism by which the needs of local school districts can be assessed, and their resources pooled, to provide a unified market with the clout to influence high-technology businesses.

A version of this article appeared in the April 16, 1986 edition of Education Week


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