Sunny Days, Sweeping the Learning Away??

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One of the first things that I thought of and questioned when I heard Neil Postman’s opinion on how Sesame Street has influenced education was “What year did he write this?”.  So, I turned to the great God of Google and started researching this a bit.  Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was published in 1985. The second thing that stood out to me was that Sesame Street “undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents”. In 1985, the “traditional” idea of schooling was very different from what education is today. I’m not sure if I agree with Postman’s opinions. I started kindergarten in 1986, and for the most part my early elementary education would be categorized as being within the “traditional” idea of schooling. We sat in rows of desks and studied reading, writing and arithmetic. We had some aspects of play and music in our day, but for the most part the focus was on reading, writing and arithmetic.

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My mind then started to drift to how much education has changed since I was in elementary school and how to Neil Postman, the changes he saw from his days of elementary school, Sesame Street probably did seem to undermine the traditional idea of schooling. So again, I turned to the Great God of Google and looked into when Postman was born. He was born in 1931 in New York, NY, which means he would have started school in the mid-to-late 1930’s. I’m sure going to school in New York in the 1930’s was drastically different from a one room school house in Saskatchewan, but I think it is safe to say that it would be very different from what it was like in 1985. The quote that kept popping up in my mind is “The only constant in life is change”-Heraclitus. Changes happen so fast in education and there is always going to be someone who feels like the changes are detrimental to education. For example, teachers that do not like/feel comfortable with technology in their classrooms. The infographic that Group 1 shared in their readings really shows how education has adapted to the technological/audiovisual changes.

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It wasn’t that long ago that schools/teachers were pushing back against students having cell phone and other devices in the classroom. Just over 10 years ago, I remember being in many staff meetings where teachers would have heated discussions about this topic. The conversations about students bringing their own devices has changed so much. Most teachers I work with now allow the use of cell phones in class because of there are not enough computers for every student and honestly, it isn’t worth the fight. The saying “If you can’t beat them, join them” keeps popping up in my head every time I think about stopping students from using their phones. I think the biggest problem that teachers face with technology in their classrooms is making sure that it is being used purposefully. I know that I have been guilty of using an app or website just for the sake of “using technology”.

Okay, now I am going to head in a completely different direction, but as I was reading through some of my fellow classmates’ blogs, I was really struck by a Neil Postman quote that Daina started her blog with.  “If a child can read, write, and count, but cannot converse, question and socialize, then he or she is not properly educated”.  Now you may be tired of me talking about my classroom, but for those of you that don’t know, I teach in the Quiet Elementary classroom in Regina. All of my students struggle to converse, question and socialize.  Does this really mean that they are not being properly educated? I have to admit that this is something I have wondered about as well. At times I worry about how my students will do once they leave the program and after they graduate from high school (usually from another program like Quiet Hight). Again, I think that so much has changed in society since Neil Postman wrote his book. Mental health was shoved aside and hidden in the 1980’s. Today, people are more willing to talk about their mental health and it has slowly become recognized as a medical condition. However, I still think that students need to be able to converse, question and socialize; and that these qualities need to be part of our present day education. What do you think? How can teachers teach these qualities to their students?

2 thoughts on “Sunny Days, Sweeping the Learning Away??

  1. Allison, like you I questioned when Neil Postman wrote this blog and did some research. Did you know that he did not have email, voice mail or call waiting, did not own a word processor, and wrote all his books with a pen and a yellow pad. It makes me think that the foundations of some of his arguments are based solely on observations and not interactions and experiences with technology and media. Is observation enough, or is experience essential in making a commentary about the place of technology in our world? There are certainly some things I agree with from Postman – the idea of trade-offs and equity, but I am not sure I can agree with all. Thanks for your post!

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  2. Thanks for your post, Allison. I too agree with you that education and technology are constantly changing and that some will always feel that it is detrimental to learning. Change is hard for some to embrace. I especially found this to be true when we started online learning in the spring. However, I think so many were pleasantly surprised with all of the amazing opportunities available in regards to technology and really seemed to embrace the “new” way of teaching. I also appreciate your comments on whether or not your students are learning to their fullest potential if they struggle to converse, question, and socialize. I think the work you do in your specialized program is amazing and without you and your safe environment, your students may not thrive in any academic area. Our students are so diverse and show their learning in so many different ways these days. Some may not be great on the social skills side, but I am sure they have many other gifts to share that only a program like yours makes possible!

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