In this months Broadly Speaking, we talk with Hall Davidson, the Director of Educational Services at KOCE-TV, PBS in Orange County, California. He serves as executive director of telecommunications of Orange County, a media consortium of school districts, private schools, and home schoolers with more than 200,000 students.
T.H.E.: How can cable and television programming be better integrated into curriculum?
Davidson: There are two factors for effective use of television and cable programming that are critical now, and will become more critical as we move into the new millennium. First, teachers, or their media specialists/librarians, need to establish a system to identify appropriate programming and access it on VCRs. Some schools have mastered this and some simply have not. If you think of the Internet as a model, it is a matter of bookmarking and downloading these powerful full-motion video and sound resources.
Second, in the near future, cable and program providers need to work with teachers to re-purpose their program material in discrete pieces that match the time and attention factors of the classroom, rather than the templates of broadcasting. New formats will also allow students to integrate these fabulous resources more easily into their media and multimedia projects. Media resources should be a major part of technology-rich, project-based learning.
T.H.E.: How do you perceive PBSs role in education in the future?
Davidson: PBS has a way to go in order to return to its position of educational leadership. They were formerly the creators and gatekeepers of a powerful technology. With the passage of time, like many beltway-based institutions, they became stodgy and out of touch. They missed their mission opportunity with the Web. When school boards, parents, and teachers were crying for someone to guide them through the fear-inducing numbers of Web sites, PBS ducked. Rather than become a gatekeeper with a rating system or referral page, PBS became an edifice and created yet another Web site to add to the mix.
With cable systems and non-PBS independent producers creating material very well suited to the needs of education, PBS needs to find a new role. That role can be to lead the battle to re-purpose rich materials originally designed for broadcast television, and to become the forum to help formulate the appropriate pedagogy for the age of media convergence. PBS member stations can be encouraged to use their bandwidth for the delivery of materials that might make no sense in the traditional world of television viewing, but make great sense in the age of downloading materials. Television signals can be much more than the tubes they are watched on, and PBS needs to lead the way. The system for public service that pioneered satellite broadcasting, closed captioning, and much more needs to shake off its old identity and return to the paradigm of public service they once embodied.
This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.