By chance, I stumbled onto the 'Teachers TV' channel on my Freeview box before going to bed this evening. I was aiming to quickly check in on BBC News 24, which is channel 40, but for some reason the set-top box seems to have re-numbered the channels so that Teachers TV is what you get when you press 40.
It was a happy accident though, as I got drawn into the programme that was being shown, in which Professor John Maynard Smith was explaining his 'seven wonders of the world'. It was a really simple type of documentary, most of which just featured him talking to the camera from a chair in his study, with a few cutaways to explanatory footage. He talked about 'the miracle of DNA', where the error rate in the digital copying process is less than one in one thousand million. He explained how albatrosses can fly without flapping their wings and without having to rely on updrafts. He talked about how termite mounds have an air-conditioning system and how the bee orchid has evolved to look like a bee. In short, it was unexpectedly compelling and interesting.
I was left thinking afterwards that perhaps there should be more of this type of television. The type where you just set up a camera and talk to some amazingly clever people, and then edit out the interviewer so you're just left with words of the interviewee. It was also the type of programme that would work amazingly as an audio podcast, so that you could listen to snippets of it during your 'down time' whilst on the train to work.
I did a bit of digging around on the Teachers TV website, trying to find out who was in the other programmes. I was also hoping that I might be able to download the shows, as the channel is part of the BBC's Creative Archive scheme, and apparently has over 700 shows available for download under the license. I managed to find the programme I watched, but sadly it isn't available for download, as it appears to be an old programme made by the BBC.
To try and find out more information, I thought I'd try the BBC's new infax 'experimental prototype', which has made the database of BBC programmes publically available. Lo and behold, I find the series: Seven Wonders of the World. They appear to have been recorded between 1993 and 1997, and other interviewees include Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Stephen Jay Gould and Arthur C. Clarke - all of who have written books that I've (at least partially) read.
As I can't download these programmes, and Teachers TV is only broadcast from midnight til 6am on Freeview, meaning that I'm unlikely to catch another programme, I'll have to rely on my PVR to try and watch the other shows in the series.
The programmes show that academics and scientists can be interesting, if presented in the right way. As someone who works at the Science Museum, which is full of both, this is something for me to think about.
I still don't ever want to be a teacher, though, despite both my parents currently working in schools...