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The Elements of Teleducation
May 1956 Radio-Electronics Article

May 1956 Radio-Electronics

May 1956 Radio-Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Electronics, published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

As with most things technical, Hugo Gernsback, editor of Radio-Electronics magazine, was ahead of the curve when he wrote of remote classrooms (Teleducation, as Gernsback dubbed it) in this 1956 article. He was a big proponent of the Stratovision and MPATI systems which employed an airborne broadcast platform for providing instruction to classrooms across hundreds of miles. That was in the era predating satellites (Stratovision) and the point where satellites could be used for other than specifically designed purposes (MPATI). By 1956, though, transcontinental cable and microwave relay systems had been built that did facilitate widespread broadcasting. Many regions were still bypassed, but all major cities where universities and larger technical schools were located had the capability of one-way and two-way hookups to a teaching node.

The Elements of Teleducation

By Hugo Gernsback

The threat to our future can be met ...

The economy of the United States now rests squarely upon technical progress. For decades our know-how was second to none in all technical endeavors. We are no longer in this fortunate position. Indeed, we are now running in second place, having already surrendered our rank to the Soviet Union. In the graduation of technicians and engineers, particularly in electronics, we are threatened with a further decisive setback. Not only is our economy thus threatened seriously, but our defense and our very existence are challenged.

Unfortunately we cannot now quickly reverse this disastrous trend by supplying the nation with nonexistent and competent teachers, the supply of which is constantly shrinking. Only one other means is left open to us to ameliorate the condition - technical education via television - teleducation. The present teacher shortage need not be an insurmountable obstacle. We have sufficient good teachers to reverse the downward trend in a few short years.

The writer has spoken of this situation often and feels it necessary, due to the present emergency, to bring it up once more. Here is the plan briefly outlined:

1. Russia has now definitely overtaken the United States in teaching and graduating of future technicians. They turn out far more vital technicians than we do.

2. We have a disastrously low supply of technically competent teachers, who, due to inadequate pay, constantly defect to higher salaried industrial or other positions.

3. The number of technical students has declined constantly and will continue to until our shortsighted teaching methods are reversed.

4. Paradoxically, we have more good teachers than we actually need if we only will use their talents intelligently to fit present-day technical growth. Why use an outstanding teacher to teach 100 students in a single institution if the same teacher can instruct 500,000 or more simultaneously?

5. We have the technical facilities today to achieve this via closed-circuit television.

6. In short, without going into details, this is the way the proposed system, outlined by the writer in 1945, works: From a central point or points the best technical and science teachers in the land instruct via large wall projection color television all the classes in the land. If the instructor of the moment is at Yale, the rest of the country is connected to that point. The next lecture may come from MIT in Massachusetts, from Caltech in California or from any other point because all institutions of learning are tied in to the national teleducation, closed-circuit hookup. Such lectures will not be merely talk. The teacher - be he a physics, chemical, electrical or electronics professor - will instruct directly from the laboratory all important experiments and make clear any technical point by actual physical demonstration.

7. Technicians and engineers, however, are not created overnight. We must implant the seed of scientific adventure into the very young mind - before age 10. Country-wide teleducation must start in grade schools and be followed up with more intensity in high school.

8. During the present educational emergency, only the Federal Government has the means to finance a National Teleducation Network. The Government would build the network just as it has built roads in the past, the cost to be prorated to the states over a span of years. The Government would not be in the teaching business, however, and would have no voice in any educational program. To guard against abuse, the teleducational closed-circuit network could be supervised through a special commission or similar agency.

9. Teleducation via the national closed-circuit network does not do away with the teacher in the classroom - supervision will still be needed. But why waste an Einstein type of educator on a 50-pupil class when a secondary teacher or qualified supervisor can do the paper work and all other necessary classroom routine?

The writer is fully aware that such a revolutionary teaching system will meet some resistance from orthodox pedagogues as well as the heads of many of our institutions of learning. Communications to us relating to universal country-wide teleducation seem roughly equally divided for and against. We have space for only two here:

"I was very much interested in reading your article 'Tec-Teleducation.' We are at the present time teaching a large class located in three different rooms by television. We have gone one more step by teaching by discussion method. We have a talk-back system so that students remote from the studio can ask questions and enter into discussion. This is at present an experiment and we have selected a course that we feel is most challenging to this type of teaching, Comparative European Government.

"I doubt if our nontechnical people can see as far into the future of this thing as the technical people can. Our educators are usually too complacent once they have made a small gain. They are not inclined to expand the scope of what they have accomplished.

"C. D. Phillips

"Technical Supervisor

"State University of Iowa"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Thank you for sending me a copy of the letter you received recently from Mr. Phillips of the State University of Iowa. Certainly the arrangement he describes is a very interesting one. Such an arrangement is, I fear, a luxury in which only an institution supported by public funds can indulge.

"However, as I indicated to you last week, our plans for the future include the development of a lecture hall designed for the use of television, and we look forward to an opportunity to experiment with this valuable adjunct to established educational methods.

"Harold Torgersen

"Assistant Dean, College of Engineering

"New York University"

10. As the safety of the nation depends more and more on advanced technicians, engineers and scientists, such men should not be drafted for military service, but should be placed only in technical defense work. - H. G.


* Tame, December 1945; Newsweek, December, 1950; Radio-Electronics, September, 1951. Also Tec-Teleducation, Forecast, December, 1954, and Radio-Electronics, February, 1955.

 

 

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