Another dot in the blogosphere?

Questions for schooling from TV

Posted on: October 17, 2014

The evolution of television viewing habits and the entertainment industry’s reaction to this are giving teachers and the schooling industry a lesson on change.

When TV broadcasting schedules did not fit the lifestyles of viewers, they started recording them for viewing later. Now we see the rise of on-demand streaming and torrenting of TV shows.

Consider this RW interview of Gillian Jacobs (star of the critically-acclaimed Community) and her answer to the last question in particular.

RW: Some people thought you were here for Yahoo, because the next season of Community will now be streamed online, after being on NBC for years. Do you think it’s weird to have your show streamed online?

GJ: It makes complete sense to me. That’s how most of our audience was watching the show anyway. I don’t sit down at my TV at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, and I don’t know too many people who watch TV live like that anymore. For me, it seems like a natural fit.

Even before we were on Yahoo, we were a show that had one foot in the online world, and one foot in network TV. We were an uncomfortable fit for network TV almost.

I’m doing a show for Netflix after Community as well. I definitely see that’s where so much exciting programming and so many of the TV shows I’m loving right now are streamed, in that format.

I remember during the first season of Community, I went to a coffee shop and someone said, “Oh I love your show!” I told them there was a new episode that night, and she said “I don’t even know what night it’s on.”

We live and die on network TV by scheduling, what night you’re put on, what hour you’re put on, Nielsen ratings, all these things. It’s so irrelevant to most viewers these days. It’s kind of a relief to be on Yahoo and untethered from that.

I step back into the 20th century when I visit my parents on weekends. That is the only time I watch broadcast TV: ‘live’ news reporting the “olds”, imported programmes that are a season behind, or reruns of movies I can memorize dialogues to.

In my own home, things are different. During dinner I project online videos to a TV screen via a Chromecast. We watch and discuss video from playlists I create earlier from YouTube and Vimeo. I use a VPN service to watch BBC programmes using iPlayer or binge watch a series on Netflix.

I am not alone in doing this.

Google critically and you will find data and studies on the TV viewing habits of teenagers and university students. They are decidedly mobile and streaming-oriented.

I know of university IT groups that have tried throttling streaming video because they blame students on campus and residence halls for taking up too much bandwidth.

Like many schools today, these IT groups are trying to find an old solution to a new problem. The fact that it is viewed as a problem instead of an opportunity is a problem! The opportunities are changes in perception, mindset, policy, and practice.

For example, take how TV is increasingly interactive. ‘Live’ broadcasts often have #hashtags where viewers can share their thoughts with the broadcaster and other viewers. The broadcaster, actors, directors, or producers can also interact directly with their viewers and fans. In edu-speak, we might call this active backchannelling.

Most classrooms are stuck in 20th century TV land. Broadcasting is like one place, one pace, and didactic delivery. Broadcasters and teachers think what they deliver is valuable. Only they decide what, when, and how their audiences get.

How valuable is that now when the information and experiences can be found elsewhere? How current is the information? How connected are teachers to their viewers/students?

Broadcasters remain broadcasters, but they innovate because of the bottom dollar. Teachers can reinvent themselves, but many do not because of the bubble of inertia and exam-based assessment.

What is it going to take to burst that bubble?

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