The Regional Educational Television Network is an independent not-for-profit community organization which provides educational television programming services on behalf of colleges, public and catholic schools in the Lake Champlain region of Vermont. All RETN programs are selected or produced by Champlain Valley residents.
An Educational Channel for All
Channel 16 seeking community involvement
Two years ago, thousands of Vermonters gathered together to create a new model for education. In “Vermont’s Common Core of Learning,” they envisioned a time when children would “learn for real and for a lifetime” by thoroughly integrating their classrooms with the neighborhoods around them. In this way, the whole community would be involved in the process of learning.
The first goal of this renewed collaboration would be improved communication skills, for “learning to communicate connects people to each other as it opens to young people the chance to understand their world, express themselves, achieve their goals and influence the future.” To support that goal, the Regional Educational Television Network (RETN) is currently exploring ways to become a primary resource in this new learning environment.
RETN came into existence as a result of Vermont Public Service Board Rule 8, which states that educational access channels are “designated for use by schools and not-for-profit educational institutions chartered or licensed by the Vermont Department of Education.” The Board also holds access channels up to high standards of financial accountability, viewer service, and community training.
As a result of Rule 8, RETN was formed as an independent administrative entity to be guided by our public schools, but also to address the interests of college, adult, and private education. Today, with funding provided by Adelphia and Small Cites cable subscribers, RETN’s goal is to develop a community learning channel of educational programs selected and produced by Champlain Valley residents.
In the next few months, RETN will seek community input while developing a new schedule of original productions and programs acquired from a variety of sources. Dozens of program suggestions have already been made in the areas of instructional TV; Champlain Valley history and heritage; public policy; and media literacy. Here are a few of them.
Distance learning. RETN has a mission to produce and acquire distance learning programs for use in schools and at home, including credit courses for teachers, business professionals, and lifelong learners. Recent suggestions have included language classes in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian; locally-produced programs for teachers on educational technology in Vermont; and a high school certificate series offered through local schools and colleges.
Champlain Valley history and heritage. RETN community volunteers will have an opportunity to introduce us to our most interesting neighbors and teachers by creating original productions such as oral history interviews; public lectures; in-school performances by touring artists; studio visits with local crafts people; historic neighborhood walking tours; video field trips with state naturalists; and lake history and research programs.
RETN can also gather existing programs from local broadcasters and independent film makers who have covered the region for decades and whose archived programs deserve additional exposure as learning resources.
Public policy. RETN can enhance commentary about local education issues by covering public forums and producing local follow-up segments to nationally broadcast programs on education policy. We can learn what’s important to students themselves when we videotape preschool children during story hour; watch a morning in the life of an elementary classroom; attend high school sports and performance events; or see a college documentary about education in Vermont.
Media literacy. In recent years, television has been blamed for many of the startling changes occurring in contemporary society. Television, however, does not possess an inherently negative influence on our lives any more than do the writing pen or the printing press. TV is simply another powerful, yet less understood, window into the light, as well as dark, aspects of our society. Rather than receive its powerful messages passively, we can learn how to create and view television in a way that enhances our understanding of life, rather than diminishes it.
We can master the powerful language of media in several ways. Through studies in media literacy we can learn how print and electronic media influence us and reflect our culture. Through community video production we can understand the powerful effects of image composition and editing techniques on our own storytelling.
For those who do not have access to school video equipment, RETN can develop a community educational television center. In this training and resource facility, students, parents, teachers, interns, and community volunteers can come together with local media professionals to learn educational video production techniques and discuss the effects of the media.
Finally, although the programming and production possibilities are infinite, RETN’s resources are not. That is why, during the next few months, RETN will hold meetings with community members — students, teachers, legislators, school boards, everyone who has an interest in the channel — to help determine which projects deserve further attention. Following this community assessment, RETN will launch a new schedule with a variety of programs for many types of learners.
Community educational television has the power to connect us with our neighbors and expand our vision of the world around us. We can communicate our love of learning by taking full advantage of television’s ability to enhance our lives in school, at work, and at home. To that end, transforming RETN’s vision into reality is worth our time and teamwork.