Hang ups

4th October 1996 at 01:00
If you missed last Wednesday's broadcast of the first programme in a new series of NCET-TV: Teaching and Learning with IT, don't worry. It will be repeated next Wednesday. And the Wednesday after. And the one after that.

And the next one. You might have already read about this eccentric scheduling in the other article that appears on this page - and, if you're like me, you probably couldn't quite believe what you were reading. But it's true. Instead of starting at Episode One, and working their way sensibly through - one at a time - until Episode 10, The National Council for Educational Technology (NCET), which produced the series, is repeating each programme four or five times before moving on to the next.

I think it is an excellent idea. If you've got good material, it deserves more than one airing. Indeed, when I earned my daily crust as a teacher, I often repeated the same lesson, with the identical, amusing ad-libs, many, many times - often to the same class.

The brighter pupils could answer questions before I'd asked them, or take over the teaching on those all too frequent occasions when I had to leave the room to answer a call of nature or to ask Nurse for some more of my nice medication.

Before you make a note in your diary to watch the series, I should point out that although the NCET states that the programmes are being broadcast at four o'clock on a Wednesday, it's not the real four o'clock - the tea-time, evenings-are-drawing-in, four o'clock. What the NCET really means is amazingly late on a Tuesday night - long after the pubs have shut, and when even the most conscientious teacher has ticked her last exercise book. This is the dreaded Four AM when all decent folk are abed and the rest of us, nestle our cocoa or nurse hung-over heads as we wallow in a self-pity peculiar to that time in the morning.

Be honest: if you have to get up at that ungodly hour, do you really want to be watching television? Watching a programme on IT in education? One that you have already seen once, twice, three times before? Obviously, the NCET assumes that teachers are going to set their video recorders so that they can watch the series at a more sensible hour. They are, of course, labouring under a serious misapprehension.

It's true that people do make a point of recording worthy programmes - but how many of these people ever get round to watching them? And, in the unlikely event that they try, would what was recorded on the tape bear any relation to what had been written on the label?

There is a further problem. In order to record broadcasts that are made late at night, it is necessary to set the timer on the VCR. But does any reader know of any person - living or dead - who has ever discovered how the timer works? If you miss the series, or accidentally record the old movie on ITV, you should, nonetheless, try to get hold of the fact sheets that accompany it, which are available on the NCET's World Wide Web site. They really are worth studying as they contain useful book lists, tips and summaries of some of the research that has been done into the educational benefits of using IT.

If you are convinced that the Internet is as ineffably mysterious as the video timer, persuade a techie to download and print off the 50 or so pages for you. Even the busiest teacher should make time to read them. If you have been too busy to read the whole of this Hang ups, don't despair. I am going to follow the excellent precedent set by the NCET, and run a repeat of it in next Friday's TES - and, if it proves a success, in every other until further notice.


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