This week we were treated to a great presentation on how AV technology has evolved in education, and how educators are using it in today's classroom. We also ended the night with a short lecture by Alec, who showed us a short clip from Sesame Street and left us with the following quote to ponder:
"We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” - Neil Postman
If kids are used to this high production value entertainment for learning, anything else would seem boring and not very exciting - and I totally get that. Trying to replicate this level of entertainment in the classroom would be next to impossible due to budget and time constraints and also incredibly draining on the teacher. As Lisa expertly explained in her blog, this type of teaching would essentially be "6 hours every day of that high energy entertainment, it would be exhausting and tiresome, for both the student and the parent". So, if you thought teacher burnout rates were bad now...imagine if this was the expectation for all of us! In this regard, I definitely see where Postman was coming from, however, I do believe we need to explore his quote a little further as it was written in 1985, which was quite a long time ago.
When Postman mentioned that Sesame Street would undermine the "traditional idea of schooling", my first thought was "Okay, fair enough, but what is traditional teaching?". If we were to look at a "traditional classroom" for 1985, I would imagine this took the shape of lecture-based lesson delivery, blackboard, pencil/paper type of learning environment. As educators now, how many of us would be okay with this type of schooling? I'm going out on a limb here and guessing the number would be quite low. So my question would be, was it really so bad to "undermine" the traditional model, if (looking back) this model needed to be updated anyway? When we look at the types of learning that are happening in shows like Sesame Street, they may have been ahead of the game with some of the ways they were delivering education. I also wonder if it's possible that educational TV shows like Sesame Street, Magic School Bus or even Bill Nye had a positive ripple effect on shaping education today? We know that education does not look very similar to what it did 30, 40 or 50 years ago and while the advancement of technology and our understanding of education have certainly improved, I still wonder if some of the engagement strategies we use within the classroom, could have been inspired (at least in part) by educational entertainment?
While I went off on a little bit of a tangent there, I'll try to regroup and get back on topic! When exploring AV technology within classrooms today, I firmly believe that they have led to a higher quality of education due to the capabilities of each, and the enhancement of learning that wasn't possible before. When exploring some of the most common forms of AV we have in our classrooms such as data projectors and computers - they have allowed educators to significantly enhance their lessons to not only engage their students but also deliver higher quality education. As I thought about this, it reminded me of a colleague, who just last week used her projector and computer to skype with a Marine Biologist. Her students were able to learn first hand what a Marine Biologist does, and also ask questions about her job. This was something that was not possible without the technology and an experience that students may only have received in the past if they watched an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy (ripple affect anyone?).
However, like any tool in education, if we're not using the technology properly it's not going to be effective for our students. While educational technology is certainly very popular right now (as it should be), we need to be careful with how this technology is being utilized in a classroom. The emphasis should not be to make sure educators are using technology in a classroom, but rather ensuring its use enhances student learning. As Lisa also said in her blog," Like any sort of AV, it was a tool to help with instruction, not to take the place of instruction". This is a powerful quote as it really hits the point across that technology is a tool that educators can use to enhance their teaching practices - but should not be the basis of education. A poorly planned lesson is not magically fixed through the addition of technology, but an already great lesson can sometimes be enhanced with the addition of technology.
To conclude, as Shelby mentioned in her post, the SAMR model is such an important tool that educators can use to assess their level of technology integration in their teaching. Not every lesson needs to be at the Modification or Redefinition level, but simply using technology as a substitution for every lesson isn't effective teaching either as it may not be enhancing anything. As educators, we need to be cognizant of how and why we are using technology within our classrooms. We also need to remember that not every lesson or activity needs to include technology - and actually may be better off without it.