Brazil Trains Teachers Via Satellite but TV Teaching for Kids Needs Commercial Quality

Article excerpt

In the studios of TVEducativa in Rio de Janeiro, technicians bustle around, making last-minute equipment adjustments.

On tap tonight is a live, hour-long program for teachers across Brazil on using technology in the classroom. Called "Jump to the Future," the program expresses the country's determination to use technology to overcome its daunting geography and backwardness and hit the 21st century running.

The broadcast is part of a 40-program series developed by teachers for teachers. Teacher groups are assembled around the country to view and participate in the show. A moderator and two specialists mix discussion of the topic with answers to questions that come in by fax or on a toll-free phone line. "How can I use computers and other technology in teaching reading and writing?" asks a caller from the town of Espiritu Santo. "How can a teacher be expected to use and teach new technologies when he doesn't have any training in it himself?" queries another, from Rio de Janeiro. "We found that the qualifications and education level of teachers around Brazil is very different, so that determined the kind of programming we could develop and how technology could be used," says Maria Ester Faller, a programming specialist with TVE. "In Rio, the norm {for teachers} is now a university education, but in the northeast many teachers don't even have a complete elementary education themselves," she says. "We hope to shift {programming} to a classroom focus at some point, but we realized it would be foolish before preparing teachers." Educational broadcasters at TVE say they have learned another lesson: Televisions in the schools don't teach anything on their own - educational programs have to be just as interesting as commercial TV. "The content has had to evolve to keep up with technological advances - and viewer sophistication," Ms. Faller says. "You have to have good, hands-on materials, and other kinds of support." Another program that airs on TVE, "TV School," reaches nearly 80 percent of the country's 42,000 public schools. It's one of the long-distance education programs President Clinton heard about when he visited Brazil last year. …