What is Broadcast media?

Broadcast Media encompasses communications delivered over mass communication networks. This process of communication can be through radio, television, the internet, as well as many other sources. It can be argued that the first appearance of Broadcast Media in the United States originated with the invention of the radio. Homes across the country were exposed to the programming and messages of the radio, which led to a revolution of the way the public at large could be reached. Another great advancement in broadcast media came during the 1930's, when televisions became for sale commerically. Most recently, the booming popularity of the internet that started in the 1990's has brought broadcast media to where it is today, a mix of mass communications that is distributed through many different sources. For example, many broadcasters offer the same television content online (e.g. hulu.com), while others also compliment this online version with more in-depth coverage that, due to broadcast television time or content limitations, can only be seen in its entirety online (e.g newhour.pbs.org). Furthermore, other major world news broadcasters (e.g. BBC World News, ITN, and Al-Jazeera) now move beyond cable or satellite subscriptions by streaming broadcasts over the internet (e.g. Livestation.com).

Broadcast media can have several applications to educational instruction, some more useful than others. The delivery of certain types of mass media can enhance the understanding of material presented in a classroom, and can give students a real-life context in which to view the things they have learned.

external image gps_satellite_650.jpg

What Learning Theories are Most Applicable to the Use of Broadcast Media?

The Learning Styles theory is fairly applicable to the use of Broadcast Media. This theory states that students learn material best when it is presented in a form that matches their specific learning style. For example, some students are considered "visual learners," which means that they learn best when new material is presented visuals, such as through charts, slideshows, or in terms of broadcast media, television shows.

The use of broadcast media also has certain aspects related to constructivsm. When viewing any type of media in class, the students are engaged in the process of making the material applicable to the real world. By making this real-life connection, one could argue that the student is attempting to build their own knowledge of the subject, which is one of the main concepts of constructivism, students constructing their own understanding of the material.

What are the Benefits of Using Broadcast Media?

The advantage of using Broadcast Media in a classroom is that teachers are able to present material in a way that matches with the learning styles of many students. Auditory and visual learners could benefit from such instruction, as they are being shown images and they are hearing information during instruction, depending on the type of media. Also, the vast amount of information available through broadcast media can be extremely beneficial, simply because teachers have so access to so much material that they could incorporate into their lesson plans.

Broadcast media can also offer quality educational content by trusted news organizations, as well as present content that would otherwise be inaccessible due to geographic location. A good oneline example that satisfies both is Livestation.com, where people can view live, streaming broadcasts from newsoutlets from around the world. This can be incorporated into a current events lesson where students must observe different global perspectives on a particular news event.

What are the Challenges of Using Broadcast Media?

One of the main challenges of using Broadcast Media is finding quality educational material. For parents, finding apporpriate and informative television programs for their children to watch can sometimes be difficult. Teachers can have similar difficulties as well. There is no denying that there is an incredible amount of information that can be accessed through broadcast media, however, finding quality material that fits the needs of a lesson plan can be difficult.

Another challenge to using broadcast media is finding access to the types of technologies needed to use it. For example, it may be difficult for a teacher to locate a television for her classroom to allow the students to watch a specific program. Today, however, almost every type of broadcast media can be accessed through the internet, which makes using the material much easier. Many television shows, radio programs, and even some movies are readily accessible on the internet, often times for no charge.

When viewing television or any other form of broadcast media, you often are not only viewing the material being presented. For example, during any given television show, viewers are also exposed to the advertising of the financial supporters of the show. There are some groups that believe that these advertisements, especially those targeted at children, are having serious negative effects on the people who view them. Furthermore, others believe that the actual programs themselves are exposing children to violent images and sexual references. A report by the Parents Television Councilentitled Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, A Content Analysis of Children's Television, showed the frequency of innapropriate material presented during various children's shows on different network. In the end, those who decide to use television for recreational or education purposes for children, whether teachers or parents, need to be aware of the fact that the children are not only being exposed to the content of the program, and that even the program itself can have material that may not be appropriate.

Yet another challenge, or rather negative aspect, about the use of Broadcast Media can be the exposure to certain sterotypes. For example, the Media Awareness Network claims that the media helps perpetrate many sterotypes through programming. They believe that the potrayal of gender roles, minorities, gays and lesbians, handicapped persons, etc. is quite often presented in a sterotypical fashion. These sterotypes can prove to be very damaging, especially when be forced upon younger children. However, this challenge also carries with it the ability for a learning lesson. If in fact these sterotypes are being portrayed through the media, a teacher may be able to present a lesson showing the sterotypes to their students, and identifying how and why these people are portrayed in this manner, which can be a very positive lesson that can lead the students to be able to recognize and also dismiss these stereotypical ideas.

There are also important technical challenges that internet broadcast media must deal with. For example, during the 2009 U.S. Presidential Inauguration, the New York Times reported that "[t]he overwhelming [online video] demand meant that some Web sites and data networks had trouble keeping up," resulting in inaccessible viewing or choppy streaming quality (1). Indeed, "CNN said it provided more than 21.3 million video streams over a nine-hour span up to midafternoon," according to the Times article.

Watching big events like the Inauguration online would be an ideal educational opportunity, considering online content can be more dynamic than regular television broadcasts (i.e. multiple streaming camera angles). But bandwidth is not the only important issue. Connection speed in the classroom also presents a problem. In the future, as now, online content will utilize more bandwidth to take full advantage of new technological capabilities. In turn, schools will need high-speed connections (T1, T3, or greater) to keep up with increasing bandwidth demands. This could be a limiting problem for underfunded schools and classrooms.

What Special Guidance Might Help Users of Broadcast Media?

The most important guidance that might help users of broadcast media, in terms of education, should come from the educators. If a teacher chooses to incorporate a form of mass media into a lesson plan, then they should be able to explicity state to their students what they are about to listen to/watch, and how the media directly relates to what they are working on in class. If a teacher has doubts about the usefullness of the media or even about it's specific content, they should choose not to incorporate it into the lesson.

What is the Current State of the Research on Broadcast Media?

A great deal of the research today on Broadcast Media seems to focus on the harm created by it, rather than on the positives aspects. Recently, it has become popular to investigate the alleged negative effects that are caused by television, for example how viewing so much violence can harm children, and also to investigate the possible link between viewing television and childhood obesity. Educators and parents alike need to be aware of both sides of these research articles, and they need to to be cautious of falsely presented statistics and data. The groups involved with some of the issues regarding broadcast media are very passionate about their causes, and as such, their information can take on a biased feeling at times. In general, the public should be aware of the effects of using broadcast media, both inside and outside of the classroom.

What Lesson Ideas Might Instructors Consider in Using Broadcast Media?

There are an enormous number of possible lesson ideas that a teacher could develop using broadcast media. Some examples associated with some of the most popular types of broadcast media:

Webcast/Radio: In a foreign language class, a teacher might be able to develope a lesson around listening to a specific program. They could have their students listen for specific information, such as the artist who sings this week's number one song, or the weather report for a specific city, etc. The activity would certainly help the students enhance their listening skills, and would also give them access to the authentic use of the language by native speakers, if they're teacher is not a native speaker.

Television: In a music class, a teacher may create a lesson plan around watching a live orchestra performance. The students would be able to observe professionals use the same instruments they were using in class, and they would also be able to listen and identify different sounds produced by the instruments.

What Resources Might Instructors Consult When Using Broadcast Media?

Educators should be aware of the research pertaining to Broadcast Media before using it in their classroom. They should be familiar with the specific material being shown, such as having previously viewed it, or else they should be aware of typcial characteristics of the program and the advertisments if they are showing a live broadcast. Current research on broadcast media can be found in many journal, and Google Scholar provides users with a search engine to search for such articles. In addition to consulting the current reasearch, the following are also useful resources for teachers to consult.

Some broadcasters, such as The News Hour on PBS, offer online classroom-oriented resources for instructors. The website provides lesson plans for teachers and educational, interactive content for students from grades 7-12.

Hulu.com, a website that has a vast amount of free television shows reading for viewing. This website can provide instructors with the television media that they want to incorporate into their class.

Broadcast-live.com also can be very useful for instructors, it provides links to various forms of media from all over the world.


(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/21/world/americas/21iht-21video.19548255.html