Senior VP of education
Public Broadcasting Service
The focus in our distance-learning programs has long been to help people become better learners. But recently, we've wondered how we can help teachers to become better teachers — especially given the recent push to adopt national standards in areas like mathematics. One priority is to train teachers in technology. Many teachers who have to lead computer courses aren't up to speed themselves. The biggest stumbling block is not in the learning but in how teachers apply their learning when they return to the classroom. Our new Tech*Knowledge program trains teachers in technology through a just-in-time approach: We divide learning into categories — easily accessible, self-paced chunks of learning that fit within a busy teacher's schedule. What's more, teachers can help update modules by drawing on their experiences in the classroom.
Our program also includes an online community of learners and teachers — a safe environment in which they can share advice. People are often reluctant to discuss their learning struggles with bosses or colleagues, and teachers — the ones who are "supposed" to know things — are no different. But now, rather than suffer in silence, they can go online with peers and a facilitator. They can watch videos that show ways to apply new standards. And when they return to their classrooms, they know that they have a support group backing them up when something doesn't work.
Jinny Goldstein (firstname.lastname@example.org), a 20-year veteran of PBS, was formerly president and CEO of the network's Business Channel. In her current position, she oversees such programs as the Adult Learning Service, the nation's largest distributor of college-level telecourses, which launched in 1981. PBS — a private, nonprofit enterprise that is owned and operated by the nation's 348 public television stations — serves nearly 100 million people every week.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.