Spalding Says Channel One Is No. 1 With Students

Commercial Network Comes To School

September 20, 1990|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

The rainbows filtered through stained-glass windows in the hallways at Archbishop Spalding are a reminder of 25 years of Catholic school tradition.

But this year, the school has embraced the newest in classroom technology -- the controversial Channel One educational television network that serves up burger and bubble gum commercials along with feature and news reports.

Those commercials -- which pay for the educational news service -- have been rejected by many school systems nationwide. In Maryland there are two public school systems using the service. In Anne Arundel, Spalding is the only school, public or private, using the service.

Calvert and St. Mary's counties began using the service this year, but school officials in Prince George's County recently rejected it. A spokesman for the state Department of Education said counties decide whether to use Channel One.

In Anne Arundel County, Dennis Younger, executive director of curriculum, said concerns have to be addressed before the program may be used.

"We have looked at the materials," Younger said. "My major concern and what continues to be a problem for us as a school system is that we feel very strongly that before a teacher uses a visual material in the classroom, a teacher should have reviewed it and studied it. Unfortunately, no one has resolved that to our satisfaction so that a classroom teacher knows what is going to be aired."

Despite hesitation in the public school system, officials at Spalding say they are pleased with the service. Whittle Educational Network, the Tennessee-based company that produces Channel One, provided the school with a satellite dish and 24 TV monitors for classroom use.

"I don't see any problem with it since it is geared to the high school," Janet DiStasio, librarian specialist who researched the program for the school.

"It's a partnership. I don't think they want to do anything to upset that. We can pull out, but they would take back the equipment. If we found something objectionable to the philosophy of the school or Catholic church, such as encouraging students to use birth control, we have the option not to use it."

DiStasio reviews the morning newscasts at 7:30 a.m. She said she hasn't rejected any of the tapes.

So far the 12-minute tapes feature topics like the Persian Gulf crisis, Atlanta being chosen as the site for the 1996 Summer Olympics and jazz. The news has been well-received by students, as have the commercials, which include ads about the pitfalls of dropping out of high school (sponsored by Burger King), bubble gum and acne medicine (Clearasil).

News fever has fired up students to venture on their own: "Spalding A.M.," using Channel One monitors, is produced by students and gives school news and public service commercials touting everything from Student Government Association water bottles to recycling.

"I think it's neat," said senior Charlie Muller. "It wakes you up in the morning. The news portion gets everything across with a lot of interesting things about what's going on in Iraq, and they do a lot on teen-agers."

Teachers also have the option of using tapes to supplement classroom discussion on topics ranging from understanding economic ties between Japan and the United States to recent medical advances. The satellite link also allows programming to be sent to specific classrooms.

Channel One, based in Knoxville, Tenn., provides schools with three services, including the 12-minute newscast and videotapes to supplement classroom instruction. Also, programs are available for teachers on teaching strategies, research and trends in education.

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