Television isn't a new technology and has lost some of its excitement with the evolution of computers, but it still has much to offer education.
Utah classrooms have about 12 hours of instructional programming available to them every school day on KULC Channel 9 and KUED Channel 7, said Stephen Hess, director of media services for the educational channels, which are associated with the University of Utah.About two dozen programs are offered free each day to Utah schools. Topics include arts, languages, economics, history, the sciences and health.
While the current emphasis seems to be on acquiring computers for schools, more could be done to take advantage of the televised programs. One deterrent is the lack of television sets in classrooms.
Some districts are, however, considering television when they make their plans to spend their share of a $15 million appropriation by the 1990 Utah Legislature. The money is expected to be the first of a four-year state commitment to enhance technology in the state's schools, said Dave Walton, chairman of the Utah Network for Instructional Television.
While most districts are concentrating on computers, "several are mixing their purchases of the two technologies," Walton said.
Hess is concerned with the move toward commercialized television offerings such as the Channel One newscast being sold to schools by Whittle Communications. A number of Utah districts have chosen to subscribe to the programs so they can obtain the free equipment offered by Whittle as an incentive. Each 12-minute newscast includes two minutes of advertising.
Walton said that officials of Utah Network for Instructional Television recommended some time ago to the State Board of Education that they take a position on the issue, but that has not occurred.
Schools "have to promise to deliver a group of kids to advertisers to get the equipment," Hess said. "That doesn't seem ethical, especially when there are so many good things (instructional programs) available on TV."
There is a trade-off, however, Walton noted. The equipment obtained through a school's participation in the Channel One program enhances its ability to make use of the available Channel 9 and Channel 7 programs, Walton noted.
Since 1978, when the Utah Educational Telecommunications Master Planning Task Force was created, the state has been working toward a statewide system. Since then, a two-way interactive microwave system capable of audio, video and data transmission has been partially completed. Channel 9 was another project of the effort and planning is underway to continue toward the objective of a comprehensive statewide system.
The State Educational Telecommunications Operations Center continues to seek adequate funding for its present programs and for the technologies of the future, Hess said. A foundation is in place for a system that will increase its benefit to all Utah schools, especially those in rural areas.
Given adequate support from both public and private sources, quality high-tech educational programs could be available for every classroom - without ads.