Being someone who did not grow up watching much “Sesame Street”, I admit that I had to do some digging around to try to understand why someone would state that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of school represents”. From what I could remember, this television program focused on preparing children for preschool. They learned simple and important things like letters and numbers, but they were also exposed to valuable life lessons, like how to be kind. So, what exactly does Postman mean in this statement? As educators, shouldn’t we embrace learning, regardless of how it is acquired? Did Postman intentionally use the word “undermines”, which has a negative connotation, to make it sound as though education was negatively impacted and threatened by the arrival of educational programming on television?
So, what did Postman have against “Sesame Street”?
Since the airing of the first ever “Sesame Street” episode, the program has been geared towards young children, and preparing them for school. The goal was to “create a children television show that would master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them.” (cited in Michael Davis` book Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street.) The program’s mission statement is “helping children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder,” which I think is great, especially because it aligns with our goals as educators. “Sesame Street” was successful in reaching their targeted audience because of the use of multimodality.
Multimodality is about how various modes, such as visual, aural, gestural, spatial, and linguistic modes, are used and/or combined in order to convey and make meaning.
It’s no wonder that kids were enthralled with the show. The use of music and games, along with great visual effects succeeded in gaining and maintaining children’s attention.
It goes without saying that “Sesame Street” and subsequent children’s educational programming influenced how educators understood education. Brooke mentions in her blog post that the traditional educational system was “rooted in behaviorist learning theory in which the teacher transmits the knowledge to the student”.
Postman’s comment suggests that with the arrival of educational programming at that time, there needed to be a shift from a behaviorist approach to one that was more constructiviste. He understood what seems obvious to me now: children learn best when they are interested in the lesson.
So, what does that mean for the future of education? How will the roles of the teacher and students change?
This week’s student-led presentation focused on audio-visual technologies. Some of the readings brought forth some of the advantages of AV technologies; and there are plenty! Learning does not need to happen in a classroom anymore. Students from different parts of the world can connect and learn together. Lessons are made more interesting by the use of visual aids. And nowadays, it is so easy to incorporate technology in our classrooms. Gone are the days where a student poses a question to which the teacher replies “That is a great question. I will try to find the answer and let you know tomorrow.” It takes seconds to find answers online! In my precalculus and calculus classes, students can use a graphing app to verify their answers, and they all have the app on their cellphones. The new apps that are available for students are definitely a step up from the old graphing calculators my math teacher tries to make us use!
The benefits of technology are numerous, as much for the students as for the teachers. We can’t deny that technology will be here to stay. The important thing for us to do as educators is to maximize its uses in the classroom.