Strange as it may seem now – the most high-tech and brave-new-world innovation taking place in the American classroom was the introduction of Television as a teaching tool. TV, just a little under 10 years old (as a mass-produced consumer item) was being explored for all the possibilities its invention had initially promised; to educate, to inform and to explore. If you’re of a certain age, and you remember the cumbersome TV being wheeled in and the antenna being adjusted, you’ll remember that some of those educational TV shows were torture. However, if you’re also of a certain age and you remember TV in the classroom, you will also remember witnessing, as it was happening, the events right after the assassination of JFK or the breathless reports as Friendship 7 blasted into space, or the first footsteps on the moon. Aside from the dry-as-dust presentations were also the nail-biting moments that became synonymous with our lives.
So Television in the classroom was a mixed blessing, but its promise was endless, and those involved in its development for that purpose were wildly optimistic. At the time TV, as well as radio, had a certain commitment to the American people. The initial reason these instruments of mass communications were developed, so we were told, was to bring the outside world to the classroom – to make education an exciting and enriching thing.
In 1957, as the movement was well underway for TV classroom teaching, many educators chimed in on the possibilities and the benefits – nobody talked about the side-effects. And no one could possibly know about the technical innovations that less than 10 years later we’d take for granted. In 1957 there were vague experiments at Satellite transmission – Sputnik was only launched a few months later and that brought about, not only the stepped-up space race, it also made watching a Television program half a world a way, as it was happening, a real possibility.
So this panel, assembled for the NBC Radio series New World , was a group of educators discussing how this new innovation was going to change education and the classroom forever.
Here is that episode of New World, as it was first broadcast on June 2, 1957.