One challenge in developing the educational component of your project is deciding which media to use to accomplish your goals. Often, any number of media could be used to deliver the same or similar content. So how do you decide what your strategy should be?
Review the goals, objectives, and target audience for your educational outreach effort. Think about what each medium does well and how your audience might use each medium.
Now consider your budget and the technologies available to your target audience. You need to decide what is the best media for reaching your audience and what is the most cost-effective way to have the widest reach. Sometimes these are the same; sometimes they aren't -- that's when you have to make compromises.
For example, using the Web as a print-distribution mechanism does not take advantage of its strengths, yet if you can't afford to print and mail your materials, this may be your only distribution option. Similarly, streaming video on the Web can be a great way to accomplish a broad reach, but many people won't be able to access the streaming or will find their computers too slow. You may want to consider distributing on CD-ROM, DVD, or videocassette as well.
For more information on the different educational outreach formats, see the following Formats areas:
Because technology changes so quickly, any statement declaring the best use of any media would be out of date in months. The key is to learn as much as you can about your target audience. Find out what's really going on, not just what the statistics say. While most schools may be wired, computers may be located in the lab rather than in individual classrooms, and their network speeds may be limited. Many teachers still prefer getting printed materials over downloading guides from the Web, but this may change. And what works for teachers and schools may not work for preschools or libraries. You need to know your market and think critically about why you are choosing one medium over another. Whatever decision you make is fine, as long as you can justify it to yourself -- and to your funders.
ZOOM serves as a useful illustration of a site that has chosen appropriate media for educational outreach. Like many of the projects featured on this outreach site, ZOOM uses the Web, video, print, and face-to-face training to accomplish its central goal of teaching science-related skills and concepts and creating lifelong, positive attitudes toward these subjects. In order to achieve this goal, the following educational outreach efforts were used to support the ZOOM Season 5 theme of engineering:
- An activity guide to help after-school providers, engineers, and other educators run a six-meeting ClubZOOM Engineering program with kids
- Video of the ZOOM cast welcoming young people to ClubZOOM and program segments showing the cast doing the activities featured in the activity guide
- Web site with interactive and offline engineering-related activities and other resources
- Training ZOOM engineers to work with kids at schools and in other community-based settings
- ZOOMlocal/national grants to public television stations to help cover production and other related costs incurred when inserting local content
Because the educational outreach components were so integrated and flexible, they were very complementary. For instance, although created primarily for engineers, the training materials could be easily adapted for other audiences. All educators (formal and informal) were able to use the "Welcome" video for both their own background and with the young people they work with. The Web site provided ongoing resources (in the form of a huge bank of activities) to educators. The ZOOMlocal grants helped public television stations nationwide reach out to and feature young people in their communities. These tightly targeted educational outreach media enabled the project to support teachers, youth-serving groups, and organizations in working with youths.