Audio-Visual Technology: Changing How We Think About School

“…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:

Thanks Dean!

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:

  1. Inductive Method – start with basic elements and gradually proceed to more complex forms;
  2. Production Method – opposite of inductive method as it starts from the general picture and proceeds to the partial picture;
  3. Interpretive Method – combines inductive and productive methods to cultivate understanding and mobilize cognitive forces of human nature;
  4. 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,






5 thoughts on “Audio-Visual Technology: Changing How We Think About School

  1. Catherine,

    Great post! I received much of the same feedback from parents as well regarding online learning– one platform! Keeping it simple is key. I am using SeeSaw in my classroom as well. Kids and parents love it! At the beginning of the year, I have the students write autobiographies and read them aloud on SeeSaw once they are complete to share with their families. That is always a big hit because they turn out pretty cute and parents get a kick out of the part where they talk about their earliest and favourite memories! On SeeSaw students can also comment on each other’s work. However, I want to discuss commenting and digital citizenship more with my students before opening that feature up. How are you posting and sharing assignments on SeeSaw? Do you send out PDF files or do you create your own on SeeSaw? I wanted to experiment with that during online learning last year, but I just stuck to Google Classroom because my brain was already exploding!

    I love that you discuss the resiliency of kids! Even adjusting to the new environment at school this year has been major, but I found the kids have completely taken it in stride. They have been great about wearing their masks and washing their hands.

    Thanks for sharing such a well-written post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment and sharing how you are using Seesaw in your classroom! I am finding the Seesaw community (through groups on Facebook, the Pioneer/Ambassador training and Twitter) SO useful for getting new ideas about how to use the app with students. I love your idea of using commenting as an opportunity to focus on digital citizenship. This is a tool they will use for the rest of their lives with social media.

      I have been experimenting with uploading PDFs and sharing on Seesaw (a lot of families like to print the work at home), but I have switched over to using the drawing tool to assign activities. This way I can upload a template I have already created (it could be a template I created in Slides, saved as an image) or a PDF. For example, with journal entries, we are using the drawing tool. Students can type their entry with a text box or take a picture of a handwritten journal entry. THEN I can go back in and edit the post after they submit by adding comments or underlining misspelled words, etc. It makes it very “real” and easy to give feedback and most importantly, keeps things organized for my Type-A brain! I also use existing templates from the community library that I might modify to work for my class. I highly recommend checking out the Seesaw Teachers Facebook groups for more ideas. I also just completed the Seesaw Pioneer training (a precursor to the Ambassador program). It was very quick (less than an hour) and gave me some great ideas!


  2. I really enjoyed reading your post Catherine. These edutainment shows such as Sesame Street ease the minds of parents that their children and learning while watching. As a parent (when my daughters were young) I was happy if a show kept their attention for 30 minutes (it didn’t matter to me if it was educational). It gave me a much-needed break! But I also weaved in time for crafts and storytime so I felt there was some balance 😉 I was much like you that I had to learn new technologies with the emergency remote teaching in the spring. I like your words of advice when teaching online…keep it simple. When we returned to the classroom this year, I made sure to use some of the technologies I learned in the spring (google classroom) with my students so that if we need to go back online-they are ready. Thanks for your thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment! I like that you are building on the skills you learned in the spring. Hopefully if we do have to switch to remote learning it will be less distributive to the teaching and learning process.

      Liked by 1 person

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