W-a-a-a-a-a-y back in the day, I attended a Catholic parochial elementary school. We had seven teachers for eight classes…the choir director came in to teach music…but we had no art teacher…we had no library.

But at that time Milwaukee channel 10, WMVS, (owned and operated by the Milwaukee Vocational School then, now MATC) was an educational channel. And every Wednesday afternoon our teacher would roll a TV set into the classroom and for 15 minutes or 30 minutes, I don’t remember now, we’d watch a nun present an art lesson and then we’d spend the rest of that afternoon doing it.

Now, I realize WMVS and its sister station, WMVT, aren’t in that business anymore…nor would they have the bandwidth needed. But it is far more likely that a household in Milwaukee has a TV and maybe cable than they do a computer and the internet.

So why aren’t we putting pressure on the local cable providers and the local broadcasters to provide resources for MPS to present classes via television?

Yes, I realize this isn’t an easy thing to do. But certainly with some effort and encouragement, local cable can find a clear channel or two to provide educational access. And I would think the local broadcast stations have idle studios and gear when they aren’t doing local news that they could relinquish at certain parts of the day.

There was a time in the infancy of local cable when the cable companies were required to finance and provide public access channels. It’s time to lean on their civic pride and responsibilities to help their local communities now. And the value of public relations for being an involved corporate citizen shouldn’t be overlooked.

Yes, I realize that each school tends to have a bit different curriculum and student population, but in an emergency some how we should be able to find common ground. And I realize that a broadcast doesn’t provide for interactive education or the asking of questions or a teacher catching a puzzled look in the classroom. But that is about how it is with Zoom and other computer platforms too.

Reply communications could be handled via email or text messages or messenger kids. All applications that can be done from cell phones rather than computers.

Yes, I know this is all going to be harder on educators. But trying to teach via computers already is. They are going to be the big losers here no matter what…but I think we have a chance to reach more children more effectively if we can find a means to leverage something that we already have in place.

We’re using books and worksheets and paper where we can’t jump to computers…why aren’t we looking at that mid-range technology of television? It is probably more ubiquitous than computers in most family homes around Milwaukee.

4 Responses to Distance Learning: Why Aren’t We Using Television?

  1. Joan Downs says:

    Maybe because not everyone has cable!

    • Ed Heinzelman says:

      no they don’t. I for instance don’t. but I think more people have cable than computers.

  2. Malachi says:

    I’m not sure if using cable is as cost efficient as using the internet. The schools buy computers for online curriculum already, so having the added expense of cable just seems wasteful. Also the students’smartphones can access the content too. Where I went to school there was a devoted distance learning room with tvs, but they all used internet. Cost is the biggest problem, but did I overlook any aspects?

    • Ed Heinzelman says:

      my intention was to shame the big media companies into providing access and resources. yes, the schools are buying computers (MPS is getting Chromebooks) but they are reporting finding it difficult to find some students and even then they don’t have access to the internet. With the libraries closed (as well as other businesses) there are no hot spots to share.

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