Sunday, February 4, 2001

Building a Better Media Repository

Since 1994 when the PeachStar Satellite Network first began airing instructional video resources, we have made every effort to identify the best educational programming available and to purchase that programming for use by Georgia schools. In the early years, we sought out programming that already had a national reputation and was being used successfully in other states. We also purchased programming recommended at First View, an annual conference where public television station professionals previewed and evaluated new instructional videos. We soon had established an impressive media repository that included such favorites as GALAXY Classroom, Reading Rainbow and Integrated Science.

In an effort to directly involve the educational professionals who use PeachStar programing in the programming selection process, we instituted PeachStar Program Screening in 1997. During Screening, Georgia school administrators, teachers and media specialists could view excerpts from the programming rated highest at First View and vote for their favorites. Blockfeeds of these programs via the satellite network enabled all schools to participate; however participation was voluntary. The results, then, did not provide a statistically valid measure of the preferences of the Georgia learning community. Because we asked simply for viewers to indicate programs they "liked", results also did not indicate the actual value of the program for instructional purposes. Finally, educators were asked to evaluate programs simply from segments of an entire program or series, requiring a leap of faith that the quality of the entire program matched that of the excerpt.

Now PeachStar is raising its program selection procedures to a higher level. We will not conduct PeachStar Program Screening this year; rather, we are developing a new Program Evaluation Instrument to ensure all PeachStar video resources effectively address clearly identified instructional needs of Georgia classrooms. Details of the new process will be announced soon; however, the basic elements of the Program Evaluation Instrument already have been determined:

1. We will identify focus groups comprising educators who represent each grade level and academic subject area. The groups will reflect our state's diversity in terms of wealth, geography and ethnicity.
2. Strict, clear criteria will be established to guide focus groups in their evaluations of programming. Criteria will include:
* Does the programming address the objectives of Georgia's Quality Core Curriculum (QCC)?
* Does the programming address other curricular standards recognized by professional educators?
* Based on the actual experience of the educator who is doing the evaluation, does the programming address real-world classroom needs?
* Is the content of the programming presented effectively?
3. Evaluators will assess not only video programming but also all print and web resources associated with that programming.
4. Members of the focus groups will receive thorough training in the selection procedures before they begin to evaluate programming.
5. Evaluations will be made of the entire series, rather than of excerpts.
6. Once programming has been evaluated and selected for inclusion in PeachStar's repository, the results of the evaluations will be published in the PeachStar Program Guide and on our web site. That will help educators determine which PeachStar resources best meet specific classroom needs.

The success of this new process will depend not only upon the design of the instrument but also upon the commitment and hard work of the focus group members. We soon will begin enlisting the assistance of dedicated professionals who wish to take part in this process. Your participation will ensure that every title in PeachStar's media repository meets the highest standards of experienced Georgia educators.