The power and ubiquity of the Internet is revolutionizing the way we work, learn, shop, communicate, entertain, and educate. In turn, this has created a new opportunity for cable operators and programmers to build stronger and more effective bridges to students, teachers and administrators and a need to more broadly promote all that cable brings to the classroom experience.
The challenge for the cable industry and Cable in the Classroom is to leverage our Internet resources to complement our video offerings and build upon the initiative's unprecedented $2 million per week commitment-including 540 hours of free educational programming available to 81,000 wired schools. Our industry's highly successful initial call to action must be the first phase in our ongoing commitment to education.
Talk to any teenager who has researched his or her homework with any of the content-packed Web sites produced by The History Channel, Nickelodeon, Discovery Channel or numerous other cable programmers. You'll quickly recognize the far-reaching potential of these educational tools that also reinforce the overall quality and value of cable service.
Or consider the recent Quality Education Data Inc. (QED) study titled "Internet Usage in Public Schools 2000." Key findings show 95 percent of public schools are equipped with computers connected to the Internet. In schools that have Internet connections, or expect to be connected within a year, 86 percent of educators said that they use the Internet as a teaching resource. Teachers report using the Internet to evaluate curriculum materials for an average of 2.1 hours per week.
The educational gold rush to the Internet is obviously well underway. And now is the time to reinforce cable's position through increased marketing and publicity at national and local levels. No doubt those Web sites that are properly positioned and promoted can be prime destinations for educators, students and parents.
Following their members' lead, Cable in the Classroom is stepping up to this challenge.
To expand awareness of the extensive online resources available to students, parents and educators-and to more broadly promote all that cable brings to the classroom experience-Cable in the Classroom is undertaking several activities.
First, from Feb. 5 to Feb. 10, 2001, Cable in the Classroom will embark on a major weeklong promotion called "Take Your Parents to Cyber-School." The campaign, in partnership with local cable systems and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, will encourage parents and children to sit down together and take a highly interactive, virtual tour of cable's online educational sites.
We want to make parents and others aware that cable is providing top quality online, educational tools for children. In coming weeks, you will hear more about this inaugural event which will include new business and media partnerships, substantial promotional support, and attractive incentive awards.
Second, as we announced several weeks ago, the National Cable Television Association's programs such as webTeacher and the High Speed Education Connection, will be transferred to Cable in the Classroom on Jan. 1, 2001. At the same time, the NCTA will begin providing Cable in the Classroom with administrative support.
Third, Cable in the Classroom's redesigned umbrella Web site (
) will provide more content and more links to other cable sites than ever before. Teachers can easily locate Cable in the Classroom member network program listings, details about connecting cable programming to standards and identifying curriculum ties.
Families can also visit the "family zone" section for ideas on how to best use member companies' resources.
Cable in the Classroom
magazine-a staple for many teachers, school librarians and media directors-will continue to highlight cable's educational impact in the classroom and regularly report about cable programming and Internet content available to enrich classroom curricula from kindergarten through high school.
For example, Time Warner Cable of Northeast Ohio, which provides high-speed Road Runner online service free of charge to the Portage Path School of Technology, has created an environment rich in content and technology for Portage Path's young students. This inner-city school's "C5" project, "Children Connecting Computers, Community and Curriculum," has dramatically improved access to technology and information for the entire student body.
Fifth, Cable in the Classroom will continue informing thousands of teachers about cable's online resources through the organization's Professional Development Institute. Since 1998, more than 50,000 educators have attended workshops hosted by local cable systems and Cable in the Classroom trainers to learn how to use cable's resources.
Specifically, attendees learn first-hand how their ongoing curriculum can be significantly enhanced by blending cable's video programming with online resources.
It was 11 short years ago when Amos Hostetter, the first chairman and one of my predecessors at Cable in the
Classroom, began lobbying operators and programmers to provide free cable connections and copyright-cleared video programming to schools.
Fast-forward to the current age of convergence of cable TV and computer technology, and it is clear that Amos' highly successful call to action was just the first phase of an evolving public-service effort. Cable in the Classroom members have come a long way-near-complete distribution, a wealth of valuable Internet content, a united voice for the industry-but we are only at the beginning of the tremendous educational benefits cable can provide.
We must remain nimble enough to take full advantage of new technologies and innovation to secure cable's place as a "must-have" resource for all classrooms in the Information Age. That means expanding our horizons to include the opportunities of the Internet.
Judith McHale is president and COO of Discovery
Communications Inc. and chairman of Cable in the Classroom.