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The Golden Age of Television

Donald G. Perrin

Since World War II, television has made its debut in education on broadcast channels, airborne television (MPATI), closed circuit television, Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), cable television, satellite on C and Ku bands, Interactive Video via telephone lines and later using Internet Protocol (IP), and most recently on a host of handheld devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and cell phones. Analog radio and analog television are being replaced by digital radio and digital television from satellite and terrestrial sources.

All telecommunications are going digital.

We have seen the rise of special programming for preschool, K-12, higher education, and home consumption. We have seen educational programming of exceptional quality from the Public Broadcasting System and the Adult Learning Services. These programs that once upon  time were supplied as expensive 16mm films are now available at low cost on videocassette and DVD.

We have seen new technologies replace old, and production companies come and go. The success of new technologies such as cable television, World Wide Web, and Digital Video Disk have adversely affected the market for commercial television and television networks. The Public Broadcasting Service and Adult Learning Service (ALS) are increasingly dependent on Foundations, sponsors and fund raising. It is projected that ALS will close in September 2005.

As distance learning in colleges, universities, and school systems went online, funding for educational television production diminished. With cuts in federal and state funding, the future of educational television is uncertain at best. And the move to make television fully digital hastens the demise of existing television production and broadcast equipment.

The internet has been widely adopted for distance learning. It can be accessed anywhere, anytime, by almost anybody. It is highly interactive, ubiquitous and inexpensive. The inventory of educational resources is enormous and many resources come free of charge. Does the internet replace television? Not exactly. But it does so much more…

Is it possible that we are coming into the golden age of the Internet? Or is it already in decline as an agent of learning?

The possibilities are enormous, but so are the threats. Commercialization, spam, and spyware occupy an increasing percentage of bandwidth. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and privatization of knowledge are propelling valuable free resources into “for sale” products and services. Government regulation and taxes loom like a dark cloud on the horizon. It would be easy to conclude that the Internet also has seen its Golden Age.

 But wait!

Innovation and creativity - a powerful force for growth and change – are flourishing. Educators have adopted the Internet as important to facilitate learning at a level unprecedented for earlier technologies. Distance learning on the web is exploding as a world wide force for education and training. It is serving the underserved and provides access to education where it was previously inaccessible – in hospitals, prisons, home schools, and geographically remote areas. The Internet crosses local, state, geographic, international and cultural boundaries to form new kinds of learning communities; It supports mobile learners and flexible schedules. It supports many learning styles, languages, and levels of education and training.

The Internet is still at the beginning of its golden age. The best is yet to come!

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