TV education pioneers plan celebration

August 07, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Nancy Bushey remembers seeing the cameraman fall.

It was in her first few years working with educational television in Washington County Public Schools.

They were filming a lesson when the cameraman fainted. Someone else took over immediately, and the live television was not interrupted.

Bushey is looking for that cameraman and others who worked with Washington County Closed Circuit Television System from 1956 through 2000. Bushey and other organizers have planned a 50th anniversary celebration of educational television in the county's public schools.

Washington County was the first school system in the nation to use television in this way. Students were taught through a live television broadcast. One teacher taught the lesson that was broadcast throughout the county's schools.


Paul Pottenger, who worked as a television director, said educational television was an idea introduced by William M. Brish, a former school superintendent, because the county had a shortage of teachers.

The system allowed one teacher to teach 10th-grade English at every high school in the county.

Bushey said teaching through television also offered other benefits.

"You can retain more what you read, hear and see," she said. "So, you have the ability to learn more than you would."

Television was a relatively new invention and, at the time, using television in the county's schools was an innovative idea, she said.

"Television was such a new teaching tool," said James Eckel, who worked as a graphic artist. "(Brish) was determined that if he could set up TV using top-notch teachers that education could be better and faster."

The television network reached 6,000 students when it went on the air in 1956. By 1963, it reached 20,500 students.

Pottenger said a study in 1963 revealed that students receiving instruction through educational television were consistently ahead of the learning curve.

"It was a successful project," he said.

With the advent of videotape, it was no longer necessary to broadcast live lessons each school year, Bushey said. Lessons were taped and kept on file in school libraries.

Educational television ended in the county in 2000.

Organizers estimate that about 500 people worked with educational television during its 44-year run in Washington County. They have been able to contact about half of those, but are hoping to get in touch with others who might want to participate in the anniversary celebration.

The anniversary celebration will include an audio-visual presentation commemorating the history of instructional television in Washington County.

You're invited

If you were an employee of the Washington County Closed Circuit Television System that produced and broadcast educational television in Washington County Public Schools from 1956 to 2000, you are invited to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The event is Sept. 23.

For details or to make a reservation, call Nancy Bushey at 301-665-1312 or Downs Hewitt at 301-582-2837.

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