Education through Zener Broadcasting - Part I


Posted on: May 29, 2014 by Mike Smith

In this new miniseries; which I hope will be as popular as TV’s Breaking Bad, I will be exploring the changing nature of broadcasting and its role in education. We start with the term Zener Broadcasting …

What is “Zener Broadcasting”?

Media has informed and consequently educated the population since the 17th century, when the first broadcast mechanisms, in the form of the newspaper, were established. Over the centuries we have seen the medium evolve through various forms of print, radio and television. The first decade of the 21st century was marked by rapid change, market interdependencies, environmental awareness, social cohesion, and the rise of younger generations as key influencers of global change at the political, economic and social levels.

The Internet and technological inventions of this period served as a fuel and catalyst for these events, but also contributed massively to radical changes the fields of research, science, and education. The Internet has provided us with immediate global reach, but also the profound opportunity to transform the one-way broadcast machinery into a two-way interactive experience between the information disseminators and the information consumers.

I call this new bidirectional communication era Zener[1] Broadcasting – and it opens up many new engagement possibilities.

Zener Broadcasting is the fundamental enabler for a richer and more effective education experience; tailoring the learning programme to the needs of the consumer – a feedback loop that delivers the right content at the right pace, and with the right focus to maximise learning outcomes.

Informing and Educating

Informing is the first rung of the education ladder. Being aware of local, national and world events helps bring consensus and common purpose. Over the ages the broadcasters have raised the consciousness of the world’s inhabitants. However education goes much further across the spectrum of social, academic and vocational fields.

Partnerships between broadcasters and educational bodies have already brought engaging content to the masses, supplementing and supporting a wide educational curriculum. I believe that learning can be enhanced further by embracing the concept of Zener broadcasting to make learning more immediate, impactful and effective.

Who needs educating, and how?

The audience needs educating … and that means everyone.

Whether it’s the financial implications of the latest budget, how to bake a cake or sex; there is a “market” for all forms of education, to all people – even if the consumption of educational content is not always recognised by the recipient as learning.

Educational topics cover all age ranges. We have seen great success across the broadcast media with science, nature, general knowledge (in a variety of quiz form factors) over the various age ranges, and with some specific sensitive areas such as drugs, culture and disability. Clearly not all education leads to assessment and qualifications; but all of it has value to individuals and society.

Whatever the content though, two factors are most important in the delivery of educational content:

  1. It has to be engaging and interesting. People need to want to consume it.
  2. It has to be made available to people in the way that they prefer to consume it.

And it is in these two areas where I see the future of broadcasting providing huge benefit to the future of education in society.

But where are we going with education and broadcasting?  Given that cliff-hanger, can you wait until next week’s exciting sequel?  Well, I’m afraid you’ll just have to …

[1] A Zener diode enables current to flow, under prescribed circumstances, in either direction.

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About Mike Smith

Chief Technology Officer, Atos Distinguished Expert and member of the Scientific Community
Mike has been in the IT industry for over 20 years, designing and implementing complex infrastructures that underpin key Government and private sector solutions. Setting Atos technical strategy, researching new technologies and supporting the consulting and architect communities. Previously Mike has held technical and management positions in British Rail, Sema Group and Schlumberger. He has a daughter and a son, both keen on anything but technology. Mike's sporting passion rests with Test Match Special, and is jealous/proud of his son's Ice Hockey skills.

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