The “On Demand” Classroom: My Plea to TV Operators

iTunes, Hulu, and YouTube are wonderful, mainstream resources where teachers can post videos for students to watch at home. Several colleges are using video services to help students review lectures or, in some cases, eliminate lectures all together. The idea behind moving lectures to the “web” is to create a flipped classroom. A flipped classroom allows for students to review introductory information at their own pace through different multimedia resources. This frees up essential instructional time for teachers and allows students to participate in collaboration sessions online and in the classroom.

The idea sounds great, right?

What about the families who are unable to afford internet access?

Yes, students can go to the library or a home where internet is available (not a bad idea). Communities could provide free internet access to students in need (also a good idea). Both ideas are great, but why not offer another option for students to access videos at home?

What if school districts connected with local TV operators (Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, DirectTV, etc.) to allow students access to class videos through their television?

The move to digital signals requires homes to have some kind of set-top box attached to a television. Even over-the-air feeds require a digital transmitter now. Television is a staple in most American homes, yet schools have no visible presence to influence on our screens. Yes, licensing and costs may prevent this from becoming a viable option, but I see on-demand lectures as an extension of public access (although students may actually watch the on-demand programming).

How could this work?

The beginning stages of production would be similar to using a district’s copying service (if you have one). Videos would need to be submitted in advance. IT would then upload the videos to major networks. Once organized students could then turn on their TV, go to the on-demand section, and access class lectures. Over-the-air service would need to allow on-demand functionality, but the technology is here to make this happen.

Why On-Demand?

  • DVR functions changes the way students acquire basic information. Teacher moving too fast? Hit the pause or slow down button. Miss something that you want to review? Rewind. Need to step away? Hit stop and pick up where you left off later.
  • 24/7 Access Students have responsibilities after-school. Work and/or extra-curricular activities already influence schedules. Students need flexibility when studying off-campus. In addition, snow days would no longer derail learning.
  • Coverage Most homes have at least one television in the home. The cost of a small tv and digital converter box would not carry the same financial burden of a laptop with internet access.

A Compromise During Transition

All students should have access to the internet. The power to connect and collaborate at home would allow for a major new wave of learning in our schools. Unfortunately, the internet coverage in homes is still in a transitional phase. For now, a short-term solution would be to partner with local cable providers to provide access to essential classroom video lectures and presentations. Is it more work? Yes, but all students should have access to information at home and I’m sure the History Channel won’t mind the competition.

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