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Has auntie gone too far?

Broadcasters provide everything from television and radio to CD-Roms and online resources. But is the BBC taking it too far? George Cole reports

hat's the difference between a broadcaster, content publisher and online service provider? The answer these days is, not a lot.

Broadcasters have moved a long way from their traditional role of simply providing radio and television programmes, to offering schools CD-Roms, websites, online services as well as information and communication technology training.

Many people also see digital television services playing a major role in delivering ICT to homes and schools. David Eccles, general manager of Granada Learning, says: "Our plan is to exploit the convergence of television and computers. You have to develop services for both."

Over the past two years, Granada Learning's empire has greatly expanded and includes the educational ICT special needs company Semerc, as well as BlackCat software, Letts and Anglia Multimedia. In addition to the vast number of software titles developed by these companies, Granada Learning offers online resources, LEA intranets packed with multimedia learning materials, video streaming services, ICT consultancy services for local IT centres, and many online interactive activities.

David Eccles says visitors to BETT 2001 should look out for the latest version of its Granada Toolkit package (which includes a word processor, database, spreadsheet and multimedia presentation creator), and Fresco, a "wonderful" paint package from BlackCat.

At the time of writing this, Anglia Multimedia was continuing to operate independently and, at BETT 2001, the company will have its own stand within the Granada Learning area.

Anglia Multimedia has a long record for supporting educational ICT. It also develops and publishes dozens of CD-Rom titles and offers an online subscription service called AngliaCampus, which provides schools with a wealth of copyright-cleared curriculum resources. Anglia Multimedia Professional Development (AMPD) is a certified NOF training provider.

Peter Stibbons, Anglia Multimedia's managing director, says the convergence of broadcasting and computing offers a richer source of learning materials and allows teachers to use a variety of teaching strategies. "You can wtch a television programme with a whole class and then use a computer to do activities. This can motivate and consolidate the group work. You can use the television element and then go to a supporting website, or you can use a CD-Rom."

Stibbons is enthusiastic about the TV-Rom concept developed by Channel 4 Learning, which puts an entire television programme on to a CD-Rom.

The BBC offers a growing number of online resources for education, including: Bitesize, a revision service for GCSE and Scottish Standard grade students; AS Guru, for AS-level students; Revisewise, designed for key stage 2 students; and Dynamo, a primary school service.

The BBC wants to launch a Digital Curriculum (see below), and at BETT 2001 it hopes to demonstrate a prototype service designed to improve literacy and numeracy, piloted in 80 schools.

Channel 4's educational arm, 4 Learning, offers a range of CD-Roms aimed at primary and secondary schools, as well as TV-Roms covering rainforest development and the science of materials.

The majority of Channel 4's secondary educational programmes also have online support in the form of a free service called Net Notes. There is also a premium online service, Net Notes Plus, which costs subscribers pound;25 a year, per subject (English, science, geography and history) and offers additional resources.

Many Channel 4 programmes aimed at primary schools also have support materials on the Internet, such as the Number Crew website. Homework High is a free service, which gives students access to revision materials and expert help. And 4 Learning has produced ICT on TV, a series of television programmes (also available on video) that explore how ICT can be used in the classroom. The programmes can also be used as part of the training course developed by AMPD.


Granada Learning: stand F40

Anglia Multimedia: stand F44

BBC Education: stand F30

Channel 4 Learning: stand D140


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