By Jim Shimabukuro
NBC will be broadcasting the Rio Olympics in 2016, and a seemingly casual comment from a spokesperson in a recent TV news segment should have sent a shockwave throughout the world. The fact that it hasn’t says a lot about people’s attitude toward technology. They are either resigned to the coming upheaval or doubtful that it will ever happen. More than likely, most simply don’t care. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. The sense is that, either way, they’re powerless.
The comment was in response to criticisms aimed at NBC’s online streaming of live events and archived videos from the current London Olympics. If you’ve made the effort to register through your cable or other service provider and if you’ve then tried to actually log on and view events, then you’re probably part of the mob that’s throwing virtual bricks at NBC. “Poor” doesn’t even come close to describing the ordeal.
To NBC’s credit, the spokesperson made no attempt to defend or gloss over the snafu that takes on massive proportions in the context of the internet. He told it like it is. The planning for the media coverage was conceived two years ago when NBC won the contract to broadcast the Olympics, and in the time frame for change in online technology, two years may as well be two lifetimes, and, needless to say, a lot can and will happen in the interval.
The point is that, two years ago, NBC planners had no way of knowing the extent to which online media would come to dominate communications in general and broadcasting in particular. Television today is where hardcopy newspapers were a few years ago. The sweep is toward digital and online, away from analog and onground.
The lesson from 2012 is clear. For NBC, the emphasis for the 2016 Olympics will be digital and online. Increasingly, people expect and want their video broadcasts over the internet from anywhere at anytime via mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads as well laptops and desktops. What’s the prognosis for technology that’s built around standalone TV sets? We don’t have to look far for clues. Landlines. Phone booths. Film cameras. Dinosaurs.
For educators, the implications are enormous. When the video information we now receive from dedicated TV sets leaves the ground and goes virtual, mobile internet devices will take on a whole new dimension in the lives of students. For example, their visual perception of the world and reality will be continually reconstructed 24-7 in a medium that’s increasingly mobile and interactive. Information and learning resources as well as synchronous and asynchronous personal and group communications will be literally at their fingertips whenever they want it and wherever they are. The outcome is obvious. Students will expect their course work, learning support services, and teachers to be no less accessible — from anywhere at anytime.
Another implication is that educators have to rethink their budgets. Do they continue to pour their limited dollars into constructing and maintaining onground facilities such as buildings, classrooms, and offices? Or do they begin to invest in infrastructures and strategies that maximize the potential for online learning?
NBC has learned. Let’s see if educators can, too.
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