Learning On The Go

The intersection of Fourth Street and Prendergast Avenue provided the backdrop for nearly 2,000 area and regional students to visit a nationally recognized mobile learning lab.

On Friday, C-SPAN’s “mobile demonstration center,” in the form of a coach bus, made the jaunt to Jamestown to coincide with the visit of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

The C-SPAN bus, owned and operated by the nonprofit cable network of the same name, offered students the opportunity to learn about C-SPAN between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. The 45-foot bus serves as an interactive learning center, equipped with touch-screen computers and several TV monitors that demonstrate the multimedia resources C-SPAN provides, and helps students understand how the media can affect political viewpoints.

According to Pete Sugadt, who drove the bus into Jamestown, the bus is utilized for most of the year throughout the nation, and is funded through private cable subscriptions.

“The bus travels about 10 months a year, all over the (continental) 48 states,” he said. “This particular bus is about three years old. C-SPAN itself is financed and sponsored by all the cable and satellite companies, so it’s nonprofit. About 6 to 7 cents of every (cable) subscriber’s monthly bill goes to finance this, so they’re able to be totally nonpartisan.”

For the past two decades, the bus has turned major political events-such as campaign trails and, in this case, Supreme Court Justice visits-into educational opportunities for students. The touch-screen computers onboard demonstrated C-SPAN’s many websites, including the Video Library, C-SPAN Classroom, Congressional Chronicle and Book TV.

Joe Karb, a C-SPAN educational fellow and director of teacher initiatives at the Robert H. Jackson Center, pointed to the Video Library as one of the most functional features of C-SPAN’s online network.

“You can actually go and search by transcript, and you can find video clips of your senator or your congressman speaking. So, talk about a way of holding people accountable,” said Karb. “So, the bus is another way to promote and bring C-SPAN to people, and show them that there’s more to it than the (TV) station. The web resources are incredible.”

Karb said this is the first time that the bus has come to Jamestown.

“That was part of the outreach to the schools,” he said. “Some people asked what we would do with kids if they got here an hour early and were waiting for the Chief Justice. So, this was ideal.”

According to Jennifer Curran, a C-SPAN marketing representative, the bus also gave students a chance to test their knowledge of information with which they were presented onboard.

“Inside the bus, we have four touch-screen kiosks that have trivia quizzes,” said Curran. “You can test your knowledge on the three branches of government, including the judicial branch, which is very appropriate for today. We also have a First Ladies (of the United States) quiz, and then a quiz on C-SPAN in general.”

Curran said that C-SPAN’s archived content consists of almost 200,000 hours of C-SPAN footage, which is copyright free for student use.

“We also have a Congressional Chronicle, which students can browse through,” she said. “You can track members of Congress. You can look up representatives or your senators, see how many times they’ve appeared on C-SPAN, all the bills they’ve voted on and all the bills they’ve introduced themselves.”

She added: “It’s a really great resource for students to understand, from start to finish, how a bill becomes a law.”

After completing its 2012 presidential campaign travels, the C-SPAN bus is now in its 20th year on the road. It is already looking at a new season of tours, in which it will visit numerous cities, schools and universities across the country to promote C-SPAN’s educational and political resources for students, teachers and community members.