Because so many cable companies are also in the high-speed–Internet business, it’s not surprising to find a system devoting its public-interest resources to a project that appears online.
Cablevision’s Power To Learn Web site developed out of the intersection of the company’s public-affairs emphasis on education and its business emphasis on new technology. “We had always supported education on a local level, school by school and community by community,” says Trent Anderson, VP of education for the system operator.
In the beginning, that meant simply helping make sure schools were wired—first for cable, then for online access. Then, in the late 1990s, Anderson says, Cable­vision realized that “many schools didn’t know how to integrate all the technology into a learning experience. So we made finding ways to use technology to enhance the learning experience the central point in our focus on community outreach.”
The Power To Learn Web site was launched in 1998, but, over time, Anderson says, it has been adapted as the company has learned what works best. “The projects on the Web site will make sense only if they come from Cablevision’s experts and resources or our programmers,” he says. Cablevision’s ultimate goal is to teach kids to use technology as a learning tool.
The site is continually being expanded and updated. For instance, the New York Knicks’ Reading Lounge section constantly changes to keep up with the dizzying array of personnel moves the NBA team has been making. (The Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers are, like Cablevision, controlled by the Dolan family.)
But many of the additions are of greater substance: This spring, timed for Earth Day on April 22, the Web site teamed with the Weather Channel to introduce “Watershed Worries: Protecting the Quality of Our Water,” which was especially pertinent for a company whose constituents are largely based on Long Island Sound. (On New York’s Long Island, Anderson says, students encounter watershed issues in their fifth- or sixth-grade curriculum.) The online component features video clips and corresponding educational information and also provides puzzles that students can use to learn the subject.
“We reach out to schools and try to get them to use one part of the Power To Learn Web site during the school year,” Anderson says. “It’s not helpful to overwhelm them. We are judicious in the ways we reach out.”