Back to School with Election, Web Tools

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Cable in the Classroom isn't blowing out birthday candles this fall as it did last year in honor of its 10th anniversary.

But at age 11, CIC still plans a full back-to-school season.

To help kick off the return to the classroom, CIC recently sent affiliates a new public-service announcement hosted by dancer and actor Gregory Hines-the latest in a line of celebrity endorsements of cable's educational initiatives.

CIC managing director Megan Hookey expects teachers to respond positively to cable's outreach efforts this year, given the high interest in both the presidential election and the new tools the Internet provides.

"The landscape has changed dramatically," Hookey said. "As recently as four years ago, the Internet was largely unknown to most teachers" and largely unused as a teaching aid.

In the Chicago area, AT & T Broadband has worked throughout the summer to install high-speed Internet access in school libraries before the new term starts. The operator notifies local schools as soon as cable-modem service is available in their areas, said AT & T Broadband Chicago region manager of education Debra Marton.

While many schools already have some form of Internet access, she said, teachers can use the high-speed service to quickly download online curriculum resources from CIC's network partners, such as Cable News Network or A & E Network.

Marton said AT & T Broadband is promoting C-SPAN's "Campaign 2000," as well as other CIC programming this fall, by hosting as many teacher workshops as it can. Earlier this month, it participated in the "Chicago Tribune Teachers Resource Fair."

Next month, the operator will rebroadcast the 1960 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon on a local-origination channel. A sister Web site, www.att.com/learningnetwork, is co-sponsored by The History Channel and the Museum of Broadcast Communications. The site will offer video clips from presidential debates over the past 40 years.

In Charlotte, N.C., Time Warner Cable recently participated in a local initiative called "Kids Voting," sponsored by newspaper The Charlotte Observer. More than 140 participating schools have dedicated teachers responsible for teaching students from kindergarten through 12th grade how to participate in government elections.

At the recent Kids Voting workshop, Time Warner Cable of Charlotte education-services coordinator Roberta Farman hosted about 150 educators in sessions designed to help teach critical viewing and media literacy. Handouts included CIC information such as Web addresses of cable networks with election coverage, including MTV: Music Television and Nickelodeon.

"For some of the teachers, Cable in the Classroom was brand new to them," Farman said. "They had no idea" these resources were available.

Two high-school teachers at the workshop, for example, told Farman they would have never thought to use MTV in their classrooms. But once they saw the Web site, they decided to do so.

The Internet offers teachers a great opportunity to find content that complements the video programming parents and teachers have been taping from select cable networks for years.

"It's not an either-or situation," Hookey said. "Teachers like to blend their tools." She noted that the Internet lends itself to teaching among smaller groups, while video is most effective for large classrooms.

CIC has already begun to look at issues surrounding the use of video-on-demand in the classroom, such as programmers' rights to VOD distribution and online archiving.

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