Broadly Speaking


This month we speak to Sue Breckinridge, the Vice President of Public Affairs for the Time Warner Cable Charlotte Division. She's been in the industry since 1991. The Charlotte Division of TWC has won 5 national industry awards and 3 state awards for education projects.

T.H.E.: How can cable programming be thoroughly integrated into existing curricula?

Breckenridge: Our commitment includes workshops to help teachers understand how to use this commercial-free educational programming creatively in their classrooms. The programmers (like CNN, Discovery, The History Channel and A&E) provide more than 540 hours of commercial-free, copyright-free educational programming every month. In addition, many of the programmers provide free lesson plans, developed with the assistance of teachers to ensure their applicability to current curricula. Cable operators and programmers work with state and national curricula development organizations, as well as local staff development offices to ensure these lesson plans meet state and local guidelines and objectives. The key for teachers is to work with their local cable operator. We try to make integration of our programming into their classrooms as easy and creative as possible.

T.H.E.: What educational advantage is gained by using cable programming in the classroom?

Breckenridge: The student of the 90's grew up with television. They understand and relate to this method of communication, so using educational cable programming in classrooms is like "speaking their language." If the applicable program is aired during the evening hours, this kind of "viewing homework assignment" is fairly easy to implement. Cable reaches more than 60% of the population so hances are the students will have access to these programs at home. This also creates an excellent opportunity for parental involvement in their child's learning process.

T.H.E.: D'es it enhance traditional methods of instruction or herald a new approach?

Breckenridge: I think a combination of both. Some teachers utilize cable programming in traditional ways by using cable programming as an adjunctive tool to their lesson plans while concentrating on the traditional message. Others that want a "new approach" might integrate a program directly into their classroom discussions, stopping the tape whenever they wish to generate discussion of an interesting or controversial point. We are constantly surprised at the creative uses teachers can make of cable programming. Some teachers use several different programs (from various cable networks) on one tape to generate provocative discussions. We know teachers who use all the news networks' (i.e., CNN, Fox News, CNBC, MSNBC, Headline News, etc.) various takes on one news story to teach students media literacy right along with their current events lessons.

T.H.E.: What kind of commitment do you see from major cable companies toward education? How do you see that changing in the future?

Breckenridge: Commitment to education is probably the single-most resource-dedicated community project for all the major cable providers across the country. Each local cable provider is a separate entity, but in our Charlotte division alone, our 1998 commitment to education was worth more than $800,000. That included capital expenditures to install cable drops to all our schools, free cable service, dedicated education employees, classroom materials, cash donations (including scholarships), and special events.

That total amount of commitment d'es not include the educational access channels we provide free of charge to many of our communities. Those channels are often worth more than $1,000,000 each on an annual basis, and offer school systems the opportunity to increase their outreach in local communities. We provide fiber connections to outside resources (distance learning) for schools and teachers, giving students international access to information and people. Time Warner Cable also committed to provision one free cable modem to one computer for each school wherever we provide our high-speed online service called Road Runner. As technology changes at ever increasing speeds, I see the cable industry's education commitment moving right along with it. Cable operators will work with teachers to discover ever more creative uses of our programming and technology in the classroom and at home.


This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.