The Changing Classroom Role of Instructional Television
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Since its creation more
than 50 years ago, instructional television (ITV) has been viewed by some as a
means of increasing the quality of teaching by replacing the traditional
classroom teacher. Today, the teacher remains very much at the heart of
the modern education system. This article discusses the evolution of
instructional television and how modern technology is bringing about a
refinement of ITV's role, which is not to supplant the teacher but, rather, to enhance the
learning experience that the teacher provides.
After many years of
television came of age in January 1961 when a converted DC-6 airplane beamed
programs to half a million students in 10,000 classes across six states in the mid-western
Organized by MPATI (Midwest Program on
Airborne Television Instruction), this medium was heralded by some as a way to
replace the classroom teacher, at least in specific areas of study (Skolnik &
Over the succeeding decades,
an informal national distribution system for classroom television developed,
involving public broadcasting stations, school-based cable systems, educational
media centers, and hundreds of thousands of teachers. This network includes
nearly 190 licensed PBS stations as well as cable and network TV stations. Most
ITV programming airs in the middle of the night, sometimes featuring a whole series at
a time. As a result, hundreds of millions of students have had access to
instructional television materials.
The rapid advance of
educational technology, the growth of the Internet, and the impending arrival of
digital video transmission have all created new channels for ITV delivery.
While there is no doubt that instructional video resources will continue to be
used to enrich teaching, the route that these resources follow to reach students
may change dramatically.
Over the years several
forms of ITV have developed, each of
which has been helpful in its own right. Before discussing
the most recent developments, it will be worthwhile to review each of the broad
categories of ITV.
This school of ITV is a
direct descendant of the MAPI project. [Is
this a reference to MPATI (Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction)
mentioned in paragraph 2? If not, please provide the words that the acronym MAPI
represents.] Essentially, a teacher is imported via
video or TV in real time to a distant class to conduct "live"
instruction. Apart from ensuring student attendance and discussing content
afterwards, the local classroom teachers are largely uninvolved in the
educational process. Recent developments such as videoconferencing, email, and
chat-room messaging technologies have introduced two-way response, improving the
level of interaction between teacher and student. As a result, some successful
applications of distance learning have evolved for remote locations, specialist
training, and commercial settings. In
the classroom, though, this form of ITV has
limited application. No matter how engaging the content, such programs routinely
fail to hold the interest of the class as a whole (Skolnik &
Thus, most schools use distance learning in moderation, choosing to limit its
use to unique events
or highly specific subject areas.
Classroom Utilization of
The second form of ITV takes
existing programs and brings them into the classroom for teaching purposes. Ken
Burns' "Civil War" and the Nova series are examples of programs produced
originally for home consumption that have been successfully
applied in the classroom. This
kind of programming began to appear during the eighties due to the proliferation
of the VCR. Teachers could exercise some control by choosing when to view
programs, which programs
to watch, or even what segments to showcase. Though this
advance increased the usefulness of ITV, existing programming did not always
translate well to an educational setting.
Like distance learning,
this mode of ITV often fails to hold classroom attention for long periods of time. Further, if teachers decide to utilize smaller portions of video
series, they face the challenge of finding the appropriate segment amongst hours of
content. Consequently, this ITV category has also been of limited value in
Specifically for the Classroom Setting
Since the advent of the VCR,
more and more programs have been produced specifically for a classroom audience.
examples of distance learning attempted to provide a video version of a
traditional classroom lesson, this newer type of material usually has the goal
of supplementing the learning experience. In addition, programs created specifically
classroom use can focus on specific curriculum objectives.
One of the initial drawbacks
of classroom specific programming was a fixation on shows of 30 to 60 minutes in
duration, mimicking the format of consumer television. This mold was finally
broken by groundbreaking series such as "Freestyle," which sought to
expand career awareness, and "Futures with Jaime Escalante," which
featured the master calculus teacher
[from California? Please identify Mr. Escalante
further than you have here, for those who may not be familiar with his story.] and targeting students in
grades seven through twelve. As a result of extensive pre-production research, the 24-part
series was comprised of 15-minute episodes. This shorter format enabled teachers
to use "Futures" to attract student interest at the beginning of a lesson period,
while still allowing time to cover a curriculum topic
a class session.
Filmed and edited to broadcast
standards, "Futures" initiated a redefinition of the pace and visual style of ITV
programming. It rapidly became the most widely utilized instructional
programming ever distributed by PBS. According to a study by Research
Communications Ltd. (1992), students who watched "Futures" had a much
more positive attitude toward learning mathematics
than those who did not view the program. It is this move toward
shorter, more tailored programming that has made it possible to
define more closely the true role of video in the classroom.
The Role of Classroom
TV is an excellent medium
for illustrating applications, describing context, and generating interest. Since
is not a truly interactive medium, though, it cannot be used to pinpoint what a student
fails to understand, nor can it remedy
such misunderstandings. This is a
situation in which the classroom
teacher has proven to be irreplaceable (Skolnik &
An especially effective use
of video is engaging student interest by providing an introduction to a concept
that is subsequently covered in greater detail during class. After such an introduction,
which generally lasts five to fifteen minutes, the teacher has
enough time remaining to teach the class and to work with students individually to
ensure that they comprehend the lesson.
A study of classroom use of
another popular classroom program (Research Communications Ltd., 1997)
[If 1997 is the correct date, then this would be a
separate report from the 1992 report by Research Communications, Ltd. cited
earlier in the article. If it is a different report, it needs to have a separate
reference in the reference list.] found
that, when combined with classroom activities, TV could both alter entrenched
attitudes towards math and improve student performance. The research focused on
the Peabody Award-winning series "The Eddie Files,"
which is produced for elementary students. Each episode stresses a topic from the elementary
curriculum such as fractions, estimation, or statistics. In pre-test interviews,
90% of the students interviewed found math "boring." After viewing several episodes over a
two-month period and completing lessons from the series' teacher guide, 75%
of those students stated that math was not boring.
The number of students who
wanted to follow a career that used math increased by 14% [in
the second poll. [This later poll also
found that] students
better able to define concepts covered in the episodes, more likely to give
correct answers to content-related questions, and better able to list
applications of the curriculum topics which had been addressed.
A study conducted by Chen
and Hodder (1997), focusing primarily on career education programming, helped
underscore the elements of effective classroom television. The authors examined
a ten-year track of formative and summative research conducted by the Foundation
for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE), which
and "The Eddie Files," as
well as other highly-regarded ITV programs (FASE,
concluded that shorter programming possessed higher value and created a
greater impact and that video proved most useful when used to support, rather than
replace, the teacher.
Out of the video boom of the
eighties came another important ITV developmentthe production of teachers'
guides and other printed materials to supplement programming. Some producers have
found that well-produced guidebooks can increase video implementation by a
factor of five to ten. [Do you mean that the guidebooks
have increased the number of teachers who implement video? Please clarify.] These guides, however, presented problems such as
outdated or lost content.
The arrival of the Internet
promised to alleviate some of these concerns. The Web provided publishers with a
convenient repository for updated guidebooks. Teachers could visit these sites,
select the necessary support materials, and use them to supplement the ITV
experience. However, while 99% of
teachers report that they have ready access to the Internet or computers, only 39%
say they actually use these tools frequently to create instructional materials (National
Center for Education Statistics, 2000).
Having an Internet
connection, then, is not enough. As many teachers discover when they
go online to
seek assistance with lesson
plans, the user is typically bombarded by thousands of
"hits" on any given subject. Clearly, a way must be found to make the
wealth of data more accessible to teachers so that it becomes easier to use.
The Internet and ITV
Whatever current practices
may be, there is no doubt that teachers' use of the Internet to find and
create lesson materials will increase dramatically in
the future. It is through
this medium, the Internet, that video offers its
greatest promise yet for educators.
In an effort to capitalize
on the excitement that the use of video can create, while conserving classroom minutes, many
teachers are in the habit of showing two- or three-minute segments from longer
programs. Responding to this practice, and the demand for teachers to address
specific national standards and state guidelines, ITV is creating a new two to
four-minute "micro-documentary" format.
Shorter clips can heighten
video's usefulness by precisely underscoring a curriculum point. However, no
foolproof formula exists for bridging the gulf between what producers could
possibly shoot and what any individual teacher might need on a given day. As a
result, the most workable
[practicable?] solution is to make a wide range of materials
available in an easily navigable catalog that
allows individual teachers to choose what
One organization that is
working to provide teachers with accessible online micro-content is The Futures
Recognizing that a vast archive would be necessary to meet the needs of
teachers, the Channel began by acquiring exclusive rights to more than 1,000
hours of award-winning footage shot by FASE Productions. This base is being
expanded through partnership agreements with Adventure Pictures (for
environmental and geographic sciences), the Mount Wilson Institute, and other
companies and institutes.
Working from this raw
material, The Futures Channel has already produced several hundred short clips
that highlight real-world applications of educational concepts. These clips form
the core of a database that allows teachers to quickly search for resources—video,
lesson resources, and activities for students—that will
help them effectively
present specific concepts in math, science, technology, and the arts.
strain on the
availability of downloadable video content, however, is bandwidththe amount
of data that can be transmitted over a given communication channel in a given
unit of time. In the 1998-99 school year, 90.4 percent of schools had Internet
access in at least one location in their building, and 63 percent of public
schools reported that all of their classrooms possessed Internet access (Software and
Information Industry Association, 2000). Most schools, though, do not have
broadband access. The limitations imposed by modem-type connections mean that
large audio and video files are difficult to download. Apart from the time
involved, quality suffers badly.
Within a few years, however,
broadband access will become nearly universal. According to a Cahners In-Stat Group
study (1999), 45 million homes will be using broadband by 2002. Within
to six years, most schools will have Internet connections that permit online
downloading of video content. In the interim, alternative methods of
distribution will have to be employed. Teachers can view clips online in a
low bandwidth format such as RealPlayer that works adequately on a 56k modem,
decide what they want, and either upload the material via CD ROM or access it
over a school
or district network. Soon, though, most will be able to access higher
quality clips in Quicktime and other video formats and download desired material
The Near Future
In the near future, then,
teachers will have access to vast libraries of educational video and support
materials. These will be indexed in such a way that the teacher can rapidly
discover relevant clips, view excerpts, and find links to related
activities. In addition, this material will be catalogued according to grade level,
subject, and the various local, state, and national standards that exist. It
will also come in short clips that teachers can use to engage the attention of the
class or to provide a visually appealing example of a principle.
After all these years,
instructional television is finally finding its true classroom niche. While
teachers will continue to play the most pivotal role in the educational process, ITV
will play a supporting role, catching the interest of the student body, focusing
their attention on a specific subject, and placing emphasis on key points. In
view of this fact, the further evolution of ITV must be guided by the necessity
to harness new resources in the manner that best assists classroom teachers in
the performance of their duties.
[Please arrange the references in
alphabetical order by either the first author's last name or the first word of
an institutional or corporate title. Also, please place the April 2000 report by the Software and
Information Industry Association before the August 2000 report by the SIIA.]
Cahners In-Stat Group (1999, December). Cable Modem Market: Moving to the
[Add available pub. information.]
Chen, M., and Hodder, L. (1997).
A research overview of
FASE Productions’ TV series on Science, Mathematics,
& Technology Education.
PUBLISHED WHERE AND WHEN?
[You need to add the publication information here.]
Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education research
report (1997). Classroom Television: A useful resource for
Mathematics and Science Education, Evaluation of The Eddie Files.
[There may be a word missing here between
"Education" and "Evaluation," or the comma may need to be a
colon, as the title doesn't make sense as it currently reads. Please verify the
title.] [Add available publication information (i.e., place of publication and
publisher) if available.]
National Center for Education Statistics (2000, April). Teacher
use of computers
and the Internet in public schools. [Please add available publication
Research Communications Ltd. (1992). The impact of the
FUTURES series on junior high students. Dedham, MA.
Skolnik, R., & Smith, C. (1993, February) Educational Technology:
Redefining the American Classroom. Network News and Views, 12 (3),
Software and Information Industry Association. (2000,
Market Report: K-12. [Please add available publication information.]
[I can find no direct citations in
the article for any of the 3 references below. Are there missing citations
within the article? If not, these three references should be deleted from the
Software and Information Industry Association.
(2000, August) 2000
Report on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools. [Add available pub. information.]
Swedlow, T., American Film Institute-Intel Enhanced
Television Project [Is this the publisher, or are you saying that Swedlow and
the Institute (or the Project) are co-authors? If the Institute is the
publisher, then its information should be moved after the title of the
publication.] (1999, July) Enhanced Television: A historical and critical
perspective. [Add available pub. information.]
Robb, D. (2000, August) Educational TV’s Enhanced
Future. Technos Magazine, 9 (3), [pp-pp?]
I think this article could be published as is.