Children's Educational Television in Britain - Msc. Media and Communications Thesis 1998, London School of Economics

In today’s increasingly information driven post-industrial world, education is one of the key elements on which a society’s future rests. The ability to create well-educated citizens who have the necessary information management skills is now a priority for every culture - and what we are seeing today is a veritable explosion in the tools and methods which can be used to educate this new generation of citizens. From the simple blackboard, chalk, paper and pen we have now moved on to the Internet, CD-Rom’s, Near-Video-On-Demand and a host of other media that can be used to teach in the classroom . Educational television is chronologically poised somewhere between these two traditions of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media . It has it’s roots in the post-war era when teaching students by computer seemed like science fiction. But due to the increasing power of the visual medium as a meta-language for the post-modern world, television also seems to have a future filled with potential. TV has the ability to meld and synchronise harmoniously with new media techniques and thus reincarnate itself in a multitude of formats and mediums. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the current state of educational television and how it is best used in the classroom - and then to extrapolate these findings into an analysis of how educational television may and should evolve into the future. Some parameters should be drawn at this point. The geographical area for discussion will be limited to the United Kingdom . The discussion will also be limited to educational television aimed at children under the age of 18 , with the emphasis on primary and secondary school children and will therefore not cover distance education programming aimed at Open University pupils or any other form of vocational or ‘lifelong learning’ programmes . The discussion will mainly focus on the schools television programmes of the BBC and Channel 4, but there will also deal with the impact of commercial broadcasters and producers like The Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon and the Children’s Television Workshop, makers of ‘Sesame Street’. A.W.Bates, writing in ‘Broadcasting in Education’ states that there are 3 broad political objectives of educational broadcasting. First is that of ‘enrichment’ or ‘reinforcement’ - that is as an aid to improving the quality of the existing educational provision. Second is that of ‘democratization’ , to equalise and spread more widely educational opportunities, bringing education to people beyond the formal school or college systems. Third is ‘revolutionary’, bringing about radical changes in social structure and mobilising the under-privileged. The focus of this thesis will be on British educational broadcasting that attempts to achieve the first objective - that is, as a valuable and powerful complement to the existing educational system - and I will attempt to analyze ways in which this objective can be better realised.

Methodology When designing the research for this project, a substantial amount of qualitative and quantitative research was planned. This included a questionnaire aimed at teachers in schools across Britain, to provide a broad geographical spread. One questionnaire was planned for primary school teachers and another for secondary school teachers, so as to evaluate the benefits of educational television for both younger and older children. The questionnaires were to be sent to a broad range of schools as well , Namely 2 private schools , 2 comprehensive schools, 2 public schools, and 2 grammar schools. In addition, I planned to conduct a focus group with students from the Monkseaton High School, in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, to further probe their reactions to the use of television in the classroom. (See Project Plan February 1998 for more details). However in March 1998, the Independent Television Commission published ‘The Future of Schools Television’, a detailed and comprehensive report that addressed the very same aspects of research I had intended to cover. In the face of this in-depth report, I decided that my field-based research was largely unnecessary and concentrated instead on more academic and bibliographical research. However, some exploratory field-based research was done during March and April 1998. This included attending the National Education Conference at the NEC in Birmingham where I was able to meet representatives of the Cable Communications Association , the Discovery Channel , Channel 4 Schools and BBC Learning Zone. I attended the BBC Showcase Conference in Brighton, and assessed the schools television schedule for 98/99; I also attended the four day conference on Children’s Television at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in London, gaining many insights through meetings with producers and writers involved in educational broadcasting. Subsequently, I also conducted an email interview with Paul Kelly, author of the ITC Report ‘The Future of Schools Television’ to cover some areas not addressed in his report. (See Appendix One). Additional research was also carried out online . (See Appendix Four). Video (See Appendix Two) I also felt that it was necessary to provide another dimension (other than print) to give a better understanding of television’s teaching potential. So as part of my initial qualitative research, I contacted around 75 educational channels and broadcasters around the world, most of whom were kind enough to send me catalogues and demo tapes of their work. I edited and compiled a twenty minute video that showcased the best and most imaginative programming , so as to demonstrate educational television at it’s best. Clips include : The Children’s Television Workshop’s ‘Sesame Street’ South African Broadcasting Corporations ‘Investigate the Living World’ PBS Televisions ‘The Eddie Files’ Dorling Kindersley’s ‘The Amazing Human Body’ and ‘How Things Work’ BBC Learning Zone’s ‘Brazil 2000’ S4C’s ‘The Animated Shakespeare’ Channel 4’s French language teaching programme ‘Top’ NBC’s ‘Newton’s Apple’

Can Television Teach ? Television does not seem to suffer the same bad press as it used to. In a chapter entitled ‘The medium of Television and the School Curriculum’, Gordon L. Berry quotes Lloyd Morriset on the many roles of television: ‘Television is everywhere in our lives, widening our world and shaping our outlook. Television is (a) home entertainer and instant informer, a living room salesman, a babysitter , time waster, and mass marketer of our culture.’ To this , one might add more contemporary concerns such as television’s dissemination of violent cultures, the increased Americanisation of the airwaves, and the breakdown of so-called ‘family values’ because of television’s all-pervading influence. But today, concerns over television’s negative influence seem to have given way to a new optimism about the potential of the medium. Morriset continues: Familiar as we are with television, we consistently overlook one of the functions it performs relentlessly , day in and day out: education. Television is (a) neglected teacher.’ This might seem a truer statement to make of America than of Britain, where educational television has never been wholly overlooked, and indeed has had access to significant funding from the government. However , a more fundamental question which has to be asked before we proceed any further is whether television can teach at all ? Cynics may argue that teachers only use TV in the classroom as a novelty; as a distraction to calm bored kids ; as a rare diversion from the rigour and grind of day to day teaching ; as a relief from their overcrowded teaching schedules - keeping the kids quiet by plonking them down in front of a telly - the so-called ‘soft option’. Neil Postman is one of the harshest critics of television’s influence on the world at large and the chapter entitled ‘Teaching as an Amusing Activity’ in his seminal work ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ presents some scathing criticisms of televisions so-called ‘educational potential’. He posits a fundamental shift in the paradigm of education as we know it:'We face the rapid dissolution of the assumptions of an education organised around the slow-moving printed word, and the equally rapid emergence of a new education based on the speed-of-light electronic image’. What Postman fears is that television ultimately subsumes everything that it communicates - news,politics, religion, education – into a greater discourse of entertainment, thus robbing it of it’s potency. Education communicated via television thus becomes just another genre to be absorbed passively. Postman gives the example of the popular Children’s Television Workshop programme ‘Sesame Street’ as a case in point. He suggests that Sesame Street taught via a series of commercials - bite sized chunks of information that teach one idea or concept at a time, utilising mnemonic devices, music, poetry or chants. ‘It’s use of cute puppets, celebrities, catchy tunes and rapid fire editing was certain to give pleasure to the children.’ The formula was certainly successful, being replicated in different languages in hundreds of countries around the world. But while Postman acknowledges that ‘Sesame Street’ did fulfill it’s remit of teaching children to read and count, he also feels that there were deeper implications. ‘Seseame Street encourages children to love school (and learning) only if school is like Sesame Street.’ But in reality the differences between the learning in school and learning from TV are many. School encourages social interaction and the asking of questions, it is a legal requirement and is centred around the development of language skills; there are no penalties for inattention or indecorous behaviour. Watching ‘Sesame Street’ on the other hand is a private act , an act of choice and is not compulsory; the child is unable to interact or ask questions , there are no penalties for misbehaviour and therefore no development of social skills. But the most damning indictment that Postman musters is that while in school, fun is a means to a greater end, with ‘Sesame Street’ fun is an end to itself, and therefore gives an unrealistic spin to the hard reality of education needed to aid a human being’s progression through life. The fundamental flaw in Postman’s argument is that he is not comparing like with like. ‘Sesame Street’ was never intended to replace school – it merely served as a complement to an existing educational system. But since normal broadcast television cannot command the same undivided attention that television watched in the classroom can, it has to use all possible weapons from commercial television’s arsenal to combat the many distractions offered outside the classroom and focus a child’s attention on the subject matter at hand. In doing so, if it reverses traditional perceptions of what education is supposed to be all about, then it leads to the more fundamental question - do contemporary models of education need to be changing to take into account the influence of new technologies ? Douglas Rushikoff , in his book ‘Children of Chaos’ presents an intriguing observation about the way that the children of today learn from images: ‘ The child of the remote control may indeed have a shorter attention span as defined by behavioural psychologists........but the same child also has a much broader attention range.’ Educators of the future will have to cope with this and other changing realities if they are to effectively create new models of teaching in a digital future.

Postman is also worried about television’s detrimental effect on the world of print and he predicts that the two cannot work together in harmony. ‘Television does not extend or amplify literate culture. It attacks it.’ One opposing view to Postman’s fear that too much reliance on visuals will lead to a deterioration in the use of print comes from Colin McCabe (former head of the British Film Institute ) . In an article entitled ‘End of the Word ?’ says ‘ At every stage of film-making, the written word is central to the production process’ . The fact that they are inextricably linked means that ‘media studies without literature is a contradiction in terms. McCabe reiterates the importance of print in a screen-based world by stating: ‘One can visualise a future society split into those who are literate and can therefore produce more sophisticated audio-visual forms and those who are not and simply consume them. ‘ He cites a King’s College London School of Education project, done in conjunction with the BFI, which attempted to test the hypothesis that audio-visual media could be used to improve print literacy. One ‘control’ class studied the print version of ‘Oliver Twist’ ; another was taught the novel in conjunction with David Lean’s film and Lionel Bart’s musical. After taking a comprehension test which focused on a part of the novel not in either of the film versions, the children in the multi-media class had improved their reading by almost two years versus the children in the control - in only just seven weeks. While admitting that the results were unreliable and needed further checking, McCabe makes his point clearly and simply: ‘If we are to teach our children properly , then we will have to learn to teach traditional literacy alongside the ability to shoot and edit the moving image. Anderson and Ploghoft in a chapter entitled ‘Children and Media in Media Education’ also cite J.F. Long’s 1989 study ‘Critial Viewing and Decision Strategies’, which showed that children in a media education class had more complex decision making processes and used more varied information sources than those who weren’t in a similiar class. Supporting evidence comes from Kelley and Gunter’s 1996 article ‘Helping Viewers Learn from Television: a new approach to increasing the impact of the medium’ , which states ‘ there appeared strong evidence that viewing comprehension was very highly correlated with reading comprehension. Indeed, there may be overlap between the sets of skills involved.’ Further support comes from comes from the 1997 ITC Survey and a figure cited later on in this discussion, namely: ‘74% of teachers of reading...felt that their use of television or video did support teaching and learning in (that) subject area’ In this light, Postman’s fears remain somewhat unfeasible. Print and television do not necessarily have to be at loggerheads with each other ; used imaginatively they can utilise each other’s strengths to create a synergistic learning experience better than any single method. And to reverse the argument, television does not necessarily have to compete with the so-called ‘new media’ either - but this is an issue that will be covered in more detail in the chapter entitled ‘Possibilities for the future’.

Background Schools television has been broadcasting in the United Kingdom since 1957. Since then it has gained the reputation of being one of the best in the world in terms of quality, diversity and output. ITC figures for 1997/1998 shows a total of 1632 programmes broadcast , of which 425 were newly made productions. This in turn breaks down to 856 for primary schools (247 new) and 776 for secondary schools (178 new) . The subject matter covers runs the gamut from Mathematics, Science and Geography to History, Arts, Languages, Religious and Personal Education. However despite these major achievements there is a definite decline in overall usage that bears closely scrutiny. The Independent Television Commission has been one of the most careful monitors of the usage of schools television. In the Nineties it has commissioned three surveys on the subject - in 1990, 1993 and the most recent in 1997, carried out by Paul Winstone Research. Drawn from a statistically robust and representative sample of 576 teachers from across the UK, the 1996 survey presented some valuable information on the changing role of schools television , tracking it’s development in this decade. It showed an overall decline in ‘usage once or twice a week or more frequently’, from 58% in 1990 to 50% in 1996. This assumption is also backed by the results of a 1997 survey carried out by the ITC , which looked at the attitudes of a thousand students in the North Tyneside Local Education Authority. Taking a more qualitative approach than the 1996 survey, it attempted to build on the results of the preceding years quantitative work and go further in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the medium, as well as collect some predictions for the future It showed that the decline in ‘usage once or twice a week or more frequently’ dropped even more from 50% in 1996 to just 42% in 1997. The results of the 1996 and 1997 surveys were published in an ITC Report entitled ‘The Future of Schools Television’. The next chapter looks at some of the main problems in detail and highlights some possible solutions.

Frequency 1990 1993 1996 1997 Every Day 2% 3% 1% 1% 3-4 times weekly 14% 10% 10% 7% 1-2 times weekly 42% 39% 39% 34% Fortnightly 12% 14% 13% 13% Monthly 11% 17% 18% 15% Less often/Not at all 19% 18% 18% 30%

Overall decline in usage of TV in the classroom. 1997 Study: The Future of Schools Television.

Links Between Educators and Broadcasters Firstly is the fact that there are two different national providers of educational programming - BBC and Channel 4 . Both of them have a public service remit to provide educational television – but curiously neither of them have any formal links with any official British educational body, regional or national. Broadly speaking, education in Britain can be divided into three levels; National organisations like the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), which is in charge of the National Curriculum and other wide ranging policies; Regional organisations like the Local Education Authorities , where the focus is on supporting individual schools and implementing quality control procedures; and finally the schools themselves who have the ultimate responsibility of actually implementing the policies and teaching the Curriculum. The schools are also the ones responsible for buying all educational resources like school books or videocassettes, which they do from private sector manufacturers. However, while the government bodies or the individual schools make no contribution whatsoever towards the cost of the programming, neither do these three levels have any formal influence on the commissioning, development or production of schools programming by BBC or Channel 4 , bar nominal advisory and consultative status . As A.W. Bates puts it: ‘Too often partnerships, where they have existed, have been unequal ones , with broadcasters setting the agenda and timing and the other agencies scrabbling in their wake.’ The disadvantages of this approach are many. Educational television is a genre which has very specific constraints - for instance as to where and how it is to be viewed. It is meant to be seen in the classroom environment - viewing in an audience situation, as in the classroom, is quite different to viewing at home, when the average attention span is much less and distracted viewing is more the norm. When children watch in a group however, the presence of others allows them to focus more on the programme, since they are in a ‘viewing’ frame of mind. There are no distractions like phones, pets, magazines or food that are present in the domestic viewing environment. The programme will perhaps be stopped by the teacher and even rewound so that a certain section will be understood again. Because of these many changes in the viewing environment, programme makers have to realise that the rules of normal broadcast television do not apply. A.W. Bates reiterates this point: ‘Deliberately making educational programmes as a learning resource requires greater attention to be paid to questions of utilisation, teacher training, linking of programmes to text books and production styles that encourage programmes to be stopped while activities are carried out’ This belief is backed up by information from the 1996 ITC survey which discovered that 78% of all teachers agreed with the statement: ‘I think schools programme-makers should consult with teachers more, when considering what programmes to make and their style and approach.’ If these usage limitations are not carefully dealt with, the result is a waste of resources and time - both by the broadcaster and by the class watching the programme. Formal feedback mechanisms need to be created so that broadcasters have constant information and reaction coming in from their core audiences – the teachers and the students.

Links Between Broadcasters Secondly, the situation is also complicated by the fact that neither of the two broadcasters charged by Parliament to fulfill the educational remit have to have any formal co-ordination with each other in areas like scheduling, commissioning, and strategy. "There are completely separate advisory committees, separate programme planning processes, separate information services for schools and separate groups of education officers" In the context of the 20 million pound a year cost of schools TV, these represent areas which have the potential for serious cost savings and better co-ordination can only provide a better overall resource for teachers and students. While the two channels do not act as if they are in direct competition with each other for audience ratings in the educational genre (as they do in other programming genres like news, sports and sitcoms) they do compete in terms of quality, which can only make for better programming. However, if there was closer co-operation between the BBC and Channel 4 in the area of schools programming, it would help to "target resources more effectively, improve access and make integration with other learning materials more likely." One problem that illustrates the disadvantages caused by no co-ordination was the lack of awareness amongst teachers of what material was available for usage. At the moment, teachers receive information via the Channel 4 Television for Schools and BBC Annual Programme Catalogue booklets - however these are only rarely cross-referenced and more often than not designed competitively. More information is gained by the national press (for instance, the Times Educational Supplement has a weekly guide to educational programming) and word of mouth, than by anything produced by the broadcasters themselves. While the growth in the volume of educational resources is generally welcomed, teachers need more help in accessing the right programmes for their classes and specialty areas. And it is the broadcasters themselves who are in the best place to provide this support. The benefits of a less competitive approach can be clearly seen in "Connect-Ed"a monthly magazine distributed by the Cable Communications Agency (a conglomerate of private sector educational broadcaster and distributors) to teachers with the aim of keeping them up to date with all the latest developments in cable, information technology and communications and their consequent applications in education (See Appendix 3 for attached sample) . It features a clear daily guide to what educational programmes are being broadcast over all commercial channels like Discovery, History Channel and National Geographic - including what relevant National Curriculum subject the programme can be used for and for what age group. This gives the teacher a valuable and easy-to-use guide that saves time and energy . Paul Kelly agrees and states that ‘the barriers to accessing are the ability to search schedules by age and content and assess quality and curriculum fit’ . Channel 4 and BBC would definitely benefit from some sort of joint cataloguing of their programmes allowing teachers to find the programme that they want faster and with less confusion.

Teacher Training The teacher’s role is crucial in the effective usage of television. As veteran broadcaster Edward R. Murrow states: ‘This instrument can teach; it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to these ends, otherwise it is merely lights and wires in a box’ . Yet a third barrier to increased usage that the 1997 ITC survey highlights is the lack of teacher training in the usage of television as a teaching medium. ‘Only one in ten teachers had had any training at all in the use of television programmes for school work and 70% of that small group had received only two hours or less in their career’. With the introduction of television , the teacher’s role may have changed but it is still as important as ever, providing the fulcrum around which the learning experience revolves. No longer the primary fount of knowledge, the teacher is now more of a team leader, helping his charges to realise their own strengths and develop their own methods of learning.. One of the key findings of the 1997 North Tyneside LEA survey mentioned previously, was that ‘the teacher addressing the whole group was less effective from the students point of view, than group work or learning from friends’ . This more consultative approach is also recommended by Douglas Rushikoff in his book ‘Children of Chaos’, which looks at changing models of the way teachers teach, in the face of challenges from new technologies that threaten to usurp their roles as the classroom’s chief information provider: ‘Like movie theater owners reckoning with the advent of videocassettes, teachers must discover what they can offer that (technology) cannot.......a human teacher can be a partner in learning and dedicate himself to giving his pupils the necessary criteria to judge their data’s integrity, make connections between different facts and formulate opinions and arguments of their own. The best teachers will instill in their pupils the confidence and enthusiasm to express themselves as widely and articulately as possible’. The best teaching is interactive in nature - the students asking questions and actively participating in discussions, bringing their own knowledge and experience to the classroom. Television can be a great stimulus for that interactivity, using a familiar medium to incite discussion and comment. At it’s best , TV can present a hyper-reality, illustrating situations and processes with film, graphics, sound effects all designed to heighten the attention paid to it and present the viewer with a vivid image . It can recreate the past glories of Rome or Carthage , it can bring students close to a volcano or a Great White Shark; it can take you inside the human body or into the outer reaches of space. However , what it cannot do is pay any attention to the student and adjust it’s behaviour according to it’s particular needs - unlike a teacher. Teachers initial training needs to focus more on maximising the potential of television in a classroom environment by learning how to seamlessly integrate it with the National Curriculum; developing a better understanding of how the medium works and what it’s strengths and weaknesses are; developing the technical skills needed to operate and maintain televisions and video recorders in good working order, as well as dealing with any technical problems; developing better cataloguing skills so that taped programmes can be accessed more easily from a centralised school library; and various presentational strategies and techniques that can be utilised with children to prepare them for viewing and extracting fruitful participation in post-viewing discussions. In the longer term, it will also help them to better articulate to programme makers what their specific concerns and needs , which would be invaluable in the development of better models of educational television programmes. One support may be in teacher training programmes that are broadcast during the same schools television slots , advising on how to make the most of using television in the classroom.

Media Education for Children

A fourth and related area for improvement is that of education about television for the students themselves. To clarify , Anderson and Ploghoft make a distinction between ‘teaching with media’ and ‘teaching about media’. The latter area they divide into three more subcategories - teaching about modes of production, the nature and character of media industries and critical analysis of media texts. Whereas the first two are more likely to be seen in a university level curriculum, it is this third subcategory that is most useful for secondary school curricula. Anderson and Ploghoft also claim that it is the one with the most potential to achieve two key objectives of media education ; namely, to thoroughly engage the ‘meanings and intents of mediated content’ and ‘to go beyond surface meanings and to permit analysis of discourse’. This would entail understanding the ‘grammar’ of narrative elements such as plot lines, characters and their motives and themes like redemption, conflict and resolution as well as ‘stylistic’ elements like editing, camera angles, special effects and the use of music. Achieving these objectives would mean that children would be able to understand the ideological architecture that underlies the surface visuals - uncovering themes and moral values, as well as being able to judge their relative claims based on the evidence provided. This would equip children with the tools to evaluate facts versus opinions, logic versus emotion, and also to get a better understanding of the inherent bias of all media images - in other words, the fact that there is no such thing as a purely objective media message. This would also entail understanding and recognizing what the unique constraints and limitations inherent in different media that influence the messages they carry. It is then that they will be able to assign worth to content - and also learn to test it against other sources without accepting it at face value. A child has to be taught metaphor, simile, irony, the difference between fiction and non-fiction (amongst other characteristics ) if he or she is to fully understand the world of print. It is therefore logical that when using television as a learning medium , children also need to have a sufficient amount of time devoted to teaching them how to ‘read television’. Editing is the grammar and syntax ; cinematography is it’s style; music is its subtextual tone. For instance, sound effects, loud music, and peculiar or non human voices can be just as important as visuals in attracting children’s attention. These are known as ‘perceptually salient’ features - those aspects which draw people’s attention because of their unusual nature - whether it occurs in the form of sudden movement, special effects or fast editing. As children get older they learn to associate such perceptually salient features with the content that is occuring on screen. For instance, loud , dramatic music signals excitement, as does fast inter-cutting between subjects engaged in a dialogue. Teaching children about these cues would be equipping them with visual fluency - the ability to be articulately decode moving images. On another level, it may even involve teaching kids about aural fluency - how to really listen to sounds and music, decoding them and understanding how they can be used to evoke different emotions and feelings. Whatever the outcome, these are valuable skills to have in today’s media saturated world.The entire process behind the careful construction of the ‘reality’ they see on television should be exposed so that they may more accurately discern the subtle shadings of the message that are created by the distorting effects of the medium . And by transforming them into critical readers of television, teachers can empower them and perhaps even inspire them to go out and learn from television in their own time. After all, it is also necessary to realise that while everything that is taught as part of the National Curriculum is available in the medium of a television programme, it might be prudent to examine whether everything that a child actually needs to learn is available in the National Curriculum. By equipping them with a wide range of critical media skills we empower children to become masters of their own learnings. To teach children to only learn from purpose built educational television would be like teaching them to only learn from reading textbooks. And teachers are increasingly using TV material not specifically with an educational intent to add more colour and diversity to their teaching. For instance, a departmental study of an unnamed secondary school in the ‘Future of Schools Television’ report , revealed that the Business Studies department was using ‘Horizon’ programmes and ‘John Harvey Jones: Trouble Shooter’ . However, it was the History and English departments that seemed to use material from the widest possible range of sources - from mainstream Hollywood movies like ‘Dances with Wolves’, ‘The Untouchables’ and ‘Platoon’ to the BBC’s ‘Blackadder’ series. The Screen Education company has also been set up to provide learning resources that can be used to support Hollywood films - they recently had great success with the Steve Spielberg slavery epic ‘Amistad’ with their free support material on the topic of slavery being requested by hundreds of schools . Dr. Maire Messenger Davies lists the case of the drama ‘Brookside’ which had a spin-off series called ‘South’ about unemployed youth, that allowed teachers to harness the popularity of mass entertainment and turn it towards educational uses. Good media education would enable them to be discerning channel surfers, learning from the plethora of channels around them in the digital age. It would stimulate intelligent television viewing that allows them to learn from TV just as previous generations have learnt on their own by actively reading a wide range of print media . The culmination of the in-school media education process would be the creation of programmes by the students themselves. Just as much as equipping them with pens and paper allows them to express their own ideas in words, arming them with video cameras may allow them to express themselves in images - a medium which they hitherto had restricted access to. Applied to television, this would mean equipping schools not only with their own TV and video player but also with their own affordable video cameras and basic editing equipment. With the introduction of PC software packages like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, a computer (albeit a reasonably powerful one) can be turned into a fully functional editing suite without needing individual components like playback machines, sound dubbing tables, effects machines or the other paraphernalia associated with the creation of television. News in particular stands out as a good genre with which to teach the process of television , as it covers the broad spectrum of human society from politics and economics to art and culture. The process of it’s construction is also readily more transparent to students - from the reporter on the street gathering information to the newscaster in the studio presenting it, news is a format that is relatively homogenous and well known. Just as television should be used as a teaching tool, so too must television be taught as a topic. If students are taught the basics of grammar and syntax before they graduate to reading, then too should they be taught the language of television that is behind it’s creation. The ability to decode and understand the meta-language of media is now an invaluable skill in the Information Society. Those who learn the science of deconstruction are in a better position to be the information skilled workers of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, while all the research seems to indicate the importance of media studies, it has been removed by the DfEE from the English National Curriculum (even though it has been retained in the Scottish National Curriculum). Previously, as David French and Michael Richards state in their chapter ‘Theory, practice and market forces in Britain’ from ‘Media Education Across Europe’: ‘...communication studies developed as an A Level subject variously called ‘Communication Studies’ or ‘Media Studies’ and this in turn developed into what were GCE and CSE courses for 15 and 16 year old pupils.’ Alongside it’s removal from the National Curriculum, it was also removed from the remit of the National Council of Educational Technology. However, there was simultaneously a renewed emphasis on Information Technology, which perhaps sent out the wrong message to schools and teachers; that learning to use IT is more important than learning to understand the media. It also indicates that television is not an officially sanctioned and encouraged medium to use in schools , discouraging further use in the classroom even more. In fact, the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) and the DfEE have both indicated in numerous reports that the use of broadcasts in class produced better than average lessons; Broadcasts provided a stimulus which most teachers used effectively to support and enrich the curriculum This mistaken assumption that television is not an officially supported medium of instruction needs to be corrected by the reinstatement of Media Studies to the National Curriculum. At the end of the day, this will make children more discerning readers and consumers of media in general. But while these broad skills are useful in everyday life the fact remains that what counts in today’s world is the ability to obtain formal qualifications. This is why it is important to have a national curriculum that actively advocates the use of television as a teaching medium, and also uses it’s unique strengths to enhance the quality of the teaching experience.

Educating Parents As a sidebar to educating teachers and children about television, it should be pointed out that it is also important to educate parents about the benefits of watching television critically and with a view to learning as opposed to being entertained. Just as other subjects have homework, watching television at home is another opportunity for the child to learn, if the parent wishes to encourage it. The problem arises when adult’s own dismissive attitude towards television means that they do not think of it as a viable medium of education. So why then do adults routinely protest when they think children are watching too much television ? Admittedly this tendency is decreasing as a new generation of parents arrive who themselves have been weaned and nannied by TV. But there does seem to be an idealised view of childhood as a time when excessive television viewing is to be discouraged. Perhaps it is because understanding television does not require any special skill, unlike print for instance, when the ability to read provides a natural barrier . Because of this, adult messages are more easily decoded by children since they are more easily accessible via the television set. This leads to the ‘loss of innocence’ worry , when parents feel that their children are growing up too fast. Success lies in identifying opportunities to use television as a bridge to intelligent discussion and positive learning experiences in an informal setting. A parent could watch what their children watch, taking an active interest in the programme and then using it as a starting point to initiate a discussion about something that is more relevant to their curricular studies. In the process, it is likely that adults end up learning from television as much as their children do. Umberto Eco sums this up : "Television is the school book of modern adults as much as it is the only authoritative schoolbook for our children."

Other Barriers to Use There were also some other barriers to greater use noted in the ITC Report. 23% said that ‘no suitable programme worth watching in my subject or topic area’. This presents us with one caveat to all the optimism about television in the classroom - it is better at some subjects than others. According to the survey, TV was most useful in ‘presenting different cultures/religions’, ‘natural history/natural world/distant places’, and ‘widening general knowledge’. In addition, secondary school teachers also stated that TV was good for ‘presenting social issues/problems’ and ‘current affairs’. The 1997 ITC survey indicated that TV is less useful for certain subjects like music and art which rely on a more interactive and less expository approach , necessitating close attention to individual pupil requirements. Surprisingly though, 74% of teachers of Reading and 66% of Maths teachers felt that TV supported their subjects well - unusual considering the fact that both are subjects which critics have felt are not constructively taught via television.Another group of barriers to use can be clustered under the heading of ‘internal issues’ . These include: ‘physical site problems, equipment problems, off-air recording problems, loss of technician time, time pressure and the demands imposed by the National Curriculum’ To elaborate on ‘equipment problems’ , while many homes in Britain have two TV sets, some schools have far, far fewer. One teacher interviewed as part of the 1997 ITC survey commented: ‘What every classroom needs is a fitted television and video recorder. There is a television and video in my 12 year old daughters bedroom, but only three television and video players in my school which serves nearly four hundred pupils’ If British education is to keep up with the demands of the digital future then it is going to have to severely rethink the ratios and priorities it imposes on the provision of audio-visual equipment to schools. With reference to the problem of ‘time pressure and the demands imposed by the National Curriculum’, since TV is not properly integrated into the National Curriculum, there is a tendency to treat it as an non-essential extra. Unless clear and authoritative support is given to the usage of television, from national bodies like OFSTED and the DfEE all the way to the headmasters of the individual schools, teachers in the classrooms across Britain have no incentive or pressure to incorporate more television into their teaching. And finally there is the problem of storing and accessing the taped programmes by other teachers at other times – perhaps months or years after it was originally recorded. The signs are encouraging – the 1997 Winston Survey showed that between 1990-1995 ‘use of a central store for the taped programmes’ rose from 28% to 45% overall . One potential solution lies in the conversion of all school libraries into properly equipped media centres , providing a storehouse for all media related resources – from newspapers, magazines and books to videotapes, computer software and multi-media CD-Roms.

Commercial broadcasters

When it comes to educational programming other than Channel 4 or the BBC, British school children have the choice of the National Geographic Channel, Knowledge TV, and of course the most successful of them all, The Discovery Channel and it’s affiliate channels (The Learning Channel, the History Channel) . But programming of most of these channels consists of documentaries for adult viewers which, while interesting, are only tangentially educational for the average primary or secondary school pupil. However , because of cost restraints associated with the purchase of equipment like satellite dishes, decoders etc, relatively few schools have taken up these channels – so the majority of their impact has been on residential customers who buy them for their children. But the commercial broadcasters are fighting to gain a foothold in the potentially lucrative schools market. They are doing so under the aegis of The Cable Communication Association, an organisation composed of the major cable operators like Telewest and Cable and Wireless which is dedicated to promoting the idea of ‘Cable in the Curriculum’. It provides special price deals to schools , giving them the chance of unlimited access to the Internet via an ISDN connection or 64 KBPS link, as well as the opportunity to receive all the major cable channels mentioned above at reduced rates. It has met with limited success amongst schools which are already strapped for cash, but it does provide some interesting contrasts to the way that the BBC and Channel 4 operate their educational programming. But aside from the problems of competing with a free to air schools service, there are also some inherent constraints on educational broadcasters. Dale Kunkel identifies two main problems. These he calls the Law of Large Numbers and the Law of the Right People. The former expresses one of the basic tenets of any commercial broadcaster - that the material broadcast should attract the largest possible viewing audience. The latter represents the idea that such programming should also try and attract viewers with the maximum potential buying power so that advertisers will want to market their products through that channel. In both cases, educational children’s television does not represent a large or lucrative enough market for major advertisers. For instance, in order to be effective any educational programming should target a relatively narrow age range in order to most ably focus on that age groups unique learning requirements. This must inevitably lead to the decimation of the audience. Also outside school, children want to be entertained not ‘educated’ – and they do not have the purchasing power to make them seem attractive to major advertisers. Good educational programming also costs as much as any entertainment programming if it is to have the quality production values needed to compete in today’s crowded television audience. Therefore it is clear that the tendency of commercial broadcasters to try to find the biggest possible audience with programming that costs the least possible amount of money (eg. Game shows, talk shows etc) does not theoretically hold with what is required for good educational programming. In today’s ratings driven world, educational programmes are seen as having an economically unviable production costs in relation to the low market shares that they gain. Even public service broadcasters like the BBC have this problem – while they do not have the onus of pleasing advertisers, in the era of John Birt and a distinctly more commercial approach, it feels that it has to maintain respectable audience viewing figures so that it can keep justifying it’s license fee . Educational broadcasters have developed a variety of strategies with which to both fulfill their educational remit as well as attracting larger audiences. They might chose to increase the promotional and marketing activities of the educational programmes, making a bigger effort to raise awareness through the use of trailers, advertising supplements, targeted mailouts (to teachers for instance) and intensive cross-promotion during so-called ‘entertainment hours’. They might also chose to research and experiment with innovative formats that may attract mass audiences. After all, if entertainment programming can use formats as diverse as sitcoms, chatshows, gameshows and popular drama, there is no reason why these tried and tested formulas cannot also be adapted to the cause of education – as long as the core values of the education content are not diminished by triviality. Paul Kelly agrees that this is sometimes a necessary evil: ‘The relationship between technical effects and learning/recall tends to suggest that it is negative in effects draw attention to the programme, but not the content. However, if you don’t want to watch in the first place, you don’t learn.’ This approach might range from lowering the educational content of the programme or even hiding the ‘education’ aspect behind entertainment features. This last approach has lead to the creation of the ‘edutainment’ or ‘ infotainment’ genres - where educational programming might be mixed with light entertainment like music or fashion. Producers might attempt to change the presentation style from being didactic and factual to youthful and playful so as not to lose audiences. These are all strategies that have been first adopted by commercial broadcasters with varying degrees of success. But what learnings can schools TV take from the commercial experience ? One mentioned before was the use of direct marketing techniques in publicising programmes to teachers. But a more holistic suggestion comes from a chapter in ‘Children and Television’, where Geraldine Laybourne from children’s channel Nickelodeon provides an interesting insight into creating a channel for young people. Nickelodeon took some steps that educational broadcasters in Britain might learn from if they are to create successful programmes. Nickelodeon realised that the true experts on children’s television programmes weren’t child psychologists, parents, teachers, advertisers or legislators - it was the kids themselves. So it treated the kids like experts, asking them about everything from commercials and advertising to programming genres and scheduling times. Nickelodeon conducts over 150 research study focus groups a year and no programme or promotion goes on the air until it gets the kids go-ahead. In contrast to this open and consultative approach, the attitude of British schools programmers seems much more didactic. There are only teachers and educators on the Channel 4 and BBC advisory committees – but no children whatsoever.

Nickelodeon realised that what was missing was a place where ‘kids could be kids’ - which makes sure that kids get what they want, not what adults think they want. Laybourne sums it up by saying : " Either you think kids should be quiet and behave, or you believe kids should stand up for themselves and be free to play around, explore and be who they really are. We were on the kids side and we wanted them to know it ." While this approach may seem too radical, there is a core learning that can be adapted to the schools TV situation in the UK. Namely , that much more research needs to be undertaken into how kids actually learn ; from the structured discipline of the classroom to the chaotic new media multiverse of learning opportunity – models are evolving and changing and TV needs to constantly reassess it’s methods and research it’s audiences if it is to keep up. In ‘Can Television Teach’ , Umberto Eco points out that TV companies place too much emphasis on quantitative measures (ie. Ratings) rather then on qualitative research (ie. Finding out why people liked a particular programme and not just how many watched it on a particular date) This imbalance in research priorities may suggests why educational programming is given such a low priority on many broadcasters agendas. But the advent of ‘Teletubbies’, one of the most heavily researched children’s educational programmes ever to take the air , may mean that the emphasis on getting to know the likes, dislikes and needs of the child audience via qualitative research might be becoming more widespread amongst British programmers.

Predictions for the future

One school of thought is that in the era of multi-media and the Internet, television is too unwieldy and rigid a medium in which to provide specialized instruction for vocational education and training and that the new media provide a better and more flexible alternative. But this does not mean the end of educational television’s usefulness. On the contrary, as Karen Brown , Controller of Factual Programming for Channel 4 puts it: ‘To survive educational broadcasters must make the best use of the unique qualities of television rather than trying to compete with other media which may be more appropriate for certain educational purposes.’ She then goes on to list these special qualities that TV posseses: ‘ is up to the minute and can keep people informed; it offers a window on the is a brilliant source of inspiration, not so good at instruction. Detailed information is better served up through another supporting medium. Television can also reach out to all sections of society - it has the potential to be inclusive.’ The last is one of the most powerful advantages that schools TV possesses over IT - is that it is freely available to all sections of the school audience, with only a minimum investment in technology needed. There is need to buy expensive computers that need to be upgraded every six months, no need to buy supporting technology like modems, printers, videocards and other accessories. All that is needed is a TV and video, items which together cost less than two hundred pounds. At present with all interest focused on the possibilities of multi-media and computers, television is threatened with taking a back seat. However, just as it seems possible that television can work harmoniously with print , it can also complement and be complemented by multimedia and IT. Those working in either business (TV or new media) know that there is a strong core connection between the two media, with many opportunities for positive reinforcement. One indication of how well the two can work together comes from the Times Educational Supplement National Resources Prize for the best schools CD ROM. When the prize was established in 1996, only one of the two prizes was won - and it went to Channel 4 Schools for it’s multimedia package ‘The Music Programme’ - inspired by the TV series of the same name. The same content was used in two different ways , drawing on the strengths of each individual medium and creating a synergy that could only benefit the end user - the schoolchildren themselves. Convergence i s happening in every other aspect of the media - why not educational broadcasting and it’s associated technologies?

At the moment, the Internet seems like the medium which offers the most potential for offering support materials for teachers - something which the BBC and Channel 4 have not been slow to exploit. But online resources can be used for many more activities than simply providing a static ‘destination site’ which dryly lists programme schedules and links to other websites. Support can range from emailing programme schedules to teachers/ students , alerting them to special programmes in their area of learning that concerns them at the time - taking a more proactive approach to the resources that are available. It can perhaps even email teachers with the support materials the producers of the programme themselves used, providing valuable primary source materials in advance of the programme so as to better structure the lesson - resources like worksheets, follow-up activities and printable handouts for homework. However, further research would need to be undertaken as to what percentage of teachers had access to their own email accounts before the feasibility of this approach can be proved. But the Net is just the tip of the technology iceberg. For instance with the launch of digital television in the UK , new horizons have opened up. The implications of a multi-channel digital universe are numerous for educational television. One is a basic expansion in choice brought about by the increased availability of bandwidth. The possibility of two-way communication is another, including near video on demand (NVOD) techniques that allow teachers and students to request programmes at the click of a button, without having to rely on the schedules of the public service broadcasters. NVOD would also allow the ability to filter or select viewers from central switching without having to blanket broadcast the same programme to every school. The Monkseaton High School in Newcastle-upon-Tyne provides a great illustration of television and information technology working together to achieve maximum synergy. The school is structured to make the best use of learning with superhighways, and at it’s core is a LAN (Local Area Network) that allows every student and teacher to access video on demand, surf the net, access a variety of channels from satellite and microwave links and even communicate with other schools in the area. Applying media education to it’s fullest potential they even have the potential to let children the opportunity to start their own cable channel, broadcasting the programmes they have made to schools across the world.


In summary, I would like to re-state the conclusions and recommendations that have been analyzed and presented in this thesis. Schools television is a valuable resource and the development of new technologies for it’s distribution and use mean that it is likely to experience a growth in usage, reversing the current decline. Teachers and students both agree that it is a medium that befits further development, better utilising it’s strengths and used in association with other technologies that will help to downplay it’s weaknesses. But teachers and students alike need further training in how to maximise the potential of educational television, if it is to be raised it to the same level of usefulness as print resources in the classroom. This would entail reinstating media studies to the National Curriculum and also in all teacher training. The National Curriculum should also be examined to find ways to better integrate television’s unique abilities into the way subjects could be taught. Other barriers to usage like problems of access to equipment and shortage of time allocated to using TV need to be handled on a case-by-case internal basis - but a clear indication from OFSTED and other educational bodies on the importance of schools television could go a long way towards correcting any mistaken assumptions that TV is less valuable as a teaching medium than IT and other new media resources. On a more macro level, educational television also requires greater co-ordination between the two major providers in areas like scheduling, pre-publicity and cataloguing of resources for improved access. A more communicative relationship is also needed between broadcasters and educational bodies like OFSTED, the DfEE and the Local Educational Authorities - but most importantly with the schools themselves who are the key stakeholders in the medium and could impart valuable feedback and constructive criticism that would help to create better programmes. Commercial broadcasters present some interesting alternative TV resources that can be utilised by schools but cost is a major barrier to usage. However the two providers of educational television in the UK could learn some important lessons from commercial broadcasters like Nickelodeon and the Discovery Channel in areas like research techniques and how to better publicise their programming to teachers. Educational television is in a prime position to benefit from the impact of new technologies like CD-ROM’s and the Internet . These benefits range from opening up new avenues to deliver programme publicity and supporting resources to creating joint projects like interactive CD-Roms. New distribution options like Near-Video-On-Demand and high-bandwidth networks offer improved access in the future - however, financial constraints mean that these are not high priorities at the moment. Still, every decision made about educational television and other technologies should be assessed in the context of the move towards a convergent digital universe. This digital universe will further blur the line between formal and non-formal education – but the consequences of that shift are too far in the future to predict with any great accuracy. As to the bigger question of how effective television is as an educational medium, the essential conflict is defined in the ideas of Postman and Eco. Postman believes that television is an all-corrupting influence, conspiring to rob education and other societal discourses of their potency and uniqueness, subsuming them all into the genre of entertainment. Postman feels that shows like ‘Sesame Street’ undermined traditional conceptions of what the classroom was and caused traditional teaching to be shown in a bad light. Perhaps it did manage to do that. But perhaps it gave us an idea of what education really ought to be like - a joy, a pleasure, the satiation of a thirst for knowledge. The children of today get the vast majority of their information and exposure to the outside world via television; why should the classroom be an exception , using only print and static pictures. The problem lies in bringing the sophistication of educational television up to that of print - while the former has had thousands of years to evolve , television has only had fifty or so.

In contrast to Postman, Eco believes that our current perception of education is too limiting and that it is only by exposing our children to the wider possibilities offered by television and other new media can we allow true progress to take place. Eco proposes taking a look at the bigger picture of what education actually means: "Education, real education doesn’t mean teaching people to trust school. On the contrary, it consists of training young people to criticize school books and write their own school books" He exhorts us : ‘Don’t switch off your television, switch on your critical freedom’. This is the key learning that I find running right through all the research I have done on the usefulness of television as an educational medium: how it forces us to reassess and re-appraise the traditional models and systems of education in the light of new cultural paradigms and new technological developments. It has some inherent flaws and problems at the moment. But used to it’s fullest potential, educational television in the UK – and indeed everywhere else in the world could be a great liberating force, educating our children in new and exciting ways that we have yet to discover.


Books 1) Television is Good for Your Kids - MM Davies, Hilary Shipment LTD, 1989 2) The Screen Education Reader, Ed. Manuel Alvarado, Edward Buscombe, and Richard Collins.MacMillan, 1993. 3) Educational Television: What do People Want?, Ed. Manfred Mayer, University of Luton Press, 1997 4) Broadcasting in Education: an Evaluation, AW Bates, Constable and Company, London 1984 5) Organizing Educational Broadcasting, David Hawkridge and John Robinson, The Unesco Press, 1982 6) Educational Television and Radio in Britain, Papers Prepared for a National Conference, organised jointly by the BBC and the University of Sussex. Billing and Sons Ltd. 1966 7) Children and Television - Gordon L. Berry and Joy Keiko Asamen, 1993, Sage Publications. 8) Amusing Ourselves to Death - Neil Postman , Heinemann, London 1986 9) Teaching the Media, Len Masteran, 1985, Comedia Publishing Group 10) Approaches to Media, Ed. Oliver Boyd-Barrett and Chris Newbold, Arnold 1995 11) Children of Chaos, Douglas Rushikoff, Harper Collins 1997 12) Teaching and Television, Ed. Guthrie Moir, Pergammon Press 1967 13) The impact of Educational Television Ed. Wilbur Schramm, University of Illinois Press, Urbana 1960 14) Media Education Across Europe, Ed. David French and Michael Richards, Routledge, London 1994 15) Watching Channel One: The convergence of students, technology and private business, edited by Ann De Vaney, State University of New York Press, 1994 16) Educational Television, George N. Gordon, The Centre for Applied Research in Education, Inc New York 1965

Articles and Journals

Connect-ED , Produced on behalf of the Cable Communications Association, January 1998 Connect-ED, produced on behalf of the Cable Communications Association, May 1998 "End of the Word?" Colin McCabe , The Guardian July 10th 1998


1) BBC Education - 2) Channel 4 Schools - 3) Discovery Channel - 4) The Children’s Television Workshop 5) Centre for Educational Priorities -

6) TEC Educational Development Site -

7) PBS Online -

8) The History Channel -

Acknowledgments and Thanks to:

· Dr. Richard Collins. · Steve Bennett for helping to edit the video. · Vanessa Cragoe, Sarah Van Hest and Suzie Atherton at the Social Psychology Department for their support and patience. · Lucky Dissanayake of CCTV Research where the idea of a global educational channel lives on. · Paul Kelly of the Monkseaton High School, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne for his time and experience. · Mindy Cosby of the Cable Communications Association. · Susan Tate at Channel 4 Schools. · Jane Windrush at BBC Learning Zone. · Dominic Myers at the Discovery Channel · All the broadcasters and producers of educational programmes like BBC, Channel 4, S4C Wales, SABC, Dorling Kindersley and the Children’s Television Workshop for providing me with resource material and valuable footage. · All the educators , teachers,parents and students who helped shape this thesis in unseen ways.

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