“…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 (1985)
When considering the above quote, I think it is useful to compare “Sesame Street” to any educational program offered on cable television or through streaming websites like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video or YouTube. The idea behind these programs is that they will be so engaging and incorporate different learning skills, therefore children will be excited and retain the information. It also plays into the idea of parent guilt around screen time, thinking that if a child is going to watch television, it should at least be an educational show. This makes sense, as audio-visual technology “creates a stimulating and interactive environment which is more conducive to learning” . But what happens when classrooms cannot replicate the atmosphere created by a Sesame Street episode?
Audio-visual technology and education
This week during our EC&I 833 class, our presenters: Lisa, Tammy, Tarina and Caleigh shared an excellent timeline and history of audio-visual technologies and the integration and impact in education. Our classmate, Dean, created a graphic to highlight some key points from the presentation:
I found the connections to learning theories particularly useful, as it reinforced the topics covered in the first few weeks of this course. As the digital age has evolved over the last few decades, the links to learning theories have shifted from behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and eventually connectivism. Nicaloou, Matsiola and Kalliris (2019, p.8) explored the traditional teaching methods that use audio-visual technologies to enhance learning as follows:
- Inductive Method – start with basic elements and gradually proceed to more complex forms;
- Production Method – opposite of inductive method as it starts from the general picture and proceeds to the partial picture;
- Interpretive Method – combines inductive and productive methods to cultivate understanding and mobilize cognitive forces of human nature;
- Constructivist Method – based on knowledge as a result of past experience, personal sustainability, creation and social, cultural and linguistic context.
Furthermore, “The societies of the 21st century are highly exposed to visual stimuli on a daily basis, and many activities are performed through visual procedures. Therefore, there is an augmented necessity for education to keep pace with society and maintain a positive outlook to every emerging innovation.” Nicaloou, Matsiola and Kalliris (2019, p.8)
With this context we can look at the implications of the wide variety of audiovisual technologies that are currently available and how it affects the format of traditional schooling.
“Traditional” Schooling in 2020
A year ago, many classrooms incorporated the basic audiovisual tools that were discussed in the presentation. This included items like a whiteboard, projector, document camera, speakers, computers, iPads and some apps like YouTube. Fast-forward to Spring 2020, and schooling shifted to a remote learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to an almost immediate adoption of some of the 4th generation tools like video conferencing (Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams), screen capture recorders, video editing software and digital portfolios like Seesaw.
Many teachers experienced first-hand the challenges from not exposing their students to different forms of technology when they were forced to move teaching and learning online. My classmate Shelby explained how we need to move away from the substitution and augmentation side of the SAMR model and push ourselves to modifying and redefining our learning environments. Fortunately (but also unfortunately because of the immediate nature), teachers were forced to adapt their practices to change the way they delivered curriculum using audiovisual technology in an effective and meaningful way.
Changing how we think about school
My personal experience has shifted as I recently took on a new role as an online teacher with Regina Public Schools eSchool. The biggest lesson I took away from the Spring 2020 remote emergency learning period was that we need to keep. it. simple. The common concerns from families were always that there were too many logins, passwords and platforms to remember. For me, this led to the adoption of one “new” platform and the use of apps that the students had already used in the classroom before the pandemic hit. Now in the my current online teacher role, we are aware of the same concerns of keeping the delivery straightforward but also engaging. For my grade 3 students, I have found great success with the use of Seesaw as not only a communication tool, but as a way to deliver lessons and offer continual feedback. As many Seesaw users know, the possibilities are endless with recording options, uploading videos, adding photos, editing work and more. My previous use of Seesaw was strictly as a communication tool and I am so excited about the possibilities to create an engaging learning environment. The best part is that students are often showing me new tricks they learned using the app, which demonstrates the idea that “interacting with AV technology on a daily basis also makes [students] proficient in using technology”. (The importance of audio visual technology in education)
Bringing it back
At the beginning of the post, I presented a quote from Neil Postman that highlighted the issue with shows like “Sesame Street” and their impact on traditional schooling. He believed that children would get used to the exciting and engaging dynamics of television and then expect the same at school. But I don’t think we are giving children the credit they deserve. Although Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” was written in 1985, it assumes that children are not able to adapt to different teaching and learning environments. I think our remote learning period of 2020 demonstrated the resilience of students and their ability to learn curriculum in many different formats. I’m not saying it was or is perfect, but I think how teachers integrate audio-visual tools is constantly changing which is reflective of the rate that technology changes.
Unfortunately these frequent changes sometimes mean students are left behind with the growing digital divide, as Amanda Brace discusses in a blog post earlier this year. As much as I want to keep moving forward using the latest audio-visual technologies with my students, I am very aware of my privilege of having access to these tools. I am even more aware that the access students have at school can be very different than what is available at home, which is a major consideration when planning learning for an online environment.
The future of audio-visual technologies
As we look towards the future, it is highly likely that online learning in a K-12 environment will continue to be offered in many places around the world, including Saskatchewan. When deciding what tools to use with students, we should consider how the use will enhance the learning environment, but more importantly build a sense of community. “Online teaching required specialized knowledge, an understanding of the strategies that would allow teachers to adapt technology to suit their pedagogical needs—not the other way around.” (Edutopia) One of the biggest needs is developing relationships with students so we can create meaningful learning experiences.
What are some ways you are using audio-visual technology to create a sense of community in your classroom?
Until next time,