It was coveted, the time just after lunch but before classes resumed, a sort of pseudo recess that we craved. This was computer time, an odd hybrid between the frivolity of recess and the drudgery of classes. Oh yes, we were learning. There was typing from Roller Skate Typing, history from the Oregon Trail, math from Gold Medal Math. This was the technology in the classroom in the late nineteen nineties and early two thousands; a time that makes many older and younger generations chuckle. For us, however, this was a time for explosive growth of technology use in the classroom.
In the eighties, it was too expensive. Before that, it was non-existent. In my fourth grade classroom where computer time was waited for with baited breath, there were four bulking monitored systems that ran Windows 98. That same class now has access to a flat-screened monitor computer lab that would rival a Best Buy. Is it necessary? I would argue yes. Without this dramatic shift, we would have been utterly left behind; our multi-flat screen computer lab is by no means top of the line. The little Adventist school to which it belongs does what it can to get by.
My point here-that technology is necessary for holistic education- should interest those who understand that children re our greatest investment. Beyond this audience, however, my point should speak to anyone who cares about the issue of the education crisis. Our world is limitless, interconnected on a scale once never conceived. Without access to the Internet, television and other technology harnessed for educational advancement, our children will grow in a stunted environment like a plant lacking sunlight. This connection to the larger world broadens the mind and encourages a sharing of ideas and communication.
In those few, precious minutes of computer time, I had no way of knowing that my tastes in various interests ere being dramatically expanded. While I was struggling to decipher an addition problem in Gold Medal Math, I was unconsciously whetting my appetite to delve further into what the Olympics were all about. While gleefully bringing home food for the wagon train in the Oregon Trail, I was thinking about computer graphics and how to better execute them. What I am saying here is, technology has the potential to expand the interest pallet, interests that can be channeled into academics.
Even though my fourth grade class’s ‘computer time’ was considered more playtime then learning, it was a time that held ast amounts of discovery for me. Through these non-academic pursuits merged with academic concepts, my capacity for interest and retention were increased. As Gerald Graff puts it in his article “Hidden Intellectualism”, “We associate the educated life, the life of the mind, too narrowly and exclusively with subjects and texts that we consider inherently weighty and academic” (297).
He’s implying that intelligence, something gained through a holistic education, cannot be so narrowly defined as something gained though strictly traditional academic means. Technology is the window to the world. Through the Internet, we are as easily connected to Beijing, China as we are to South Bend, IN. Because of this, it is easier for children to find subjects that interest them. The tools offered by the Internet and television, among other media, allow educators to tap into those subjects in new and exciting ways.
Interested in space? Watch “The Universe” on the History Channel in the classroom. If you don’t want to figure out when it airs, just watching it on Netflix; all four seasons are in the Watch Instantly section and can stream through the computer or television. Interested in the voting process? PBS has an entire nteractive curriculum on the voting system on their website, geared toward children. Children need to be encouraged to find what they’re interested in and to delve into it to create their own identities.
Graff implores the reader “But they [students] would be more prone to take on intellectual identities if we encouraged them to do so at first on subjects that interest them rather than ones that interest us” (298). He making a point that if we are able to give students a place to spring from, a subject that truly interests them, that they will be able to take off intellectually if given the right tools. Technology gives a bridge to reach those interesting subjects, and the tools to go deeper into them. Oregon Trail was a very simple game.
Simply programmed, it had few objectives and was completely acceptable for a fourth grader in the nineties to understand. You hunted, you fished, your wagon train contracted cholera, the group made it to Oregon or not; the objectives were clearly laid out. Now, as I struggle to competently complete some brightly colored flashing “learning game” with a four year old whom I tutored over the summer, I can’t help but think that the games were simpler in my day. According to Steven Johnson in his rticle “Watching TV Makes You Smarter”, computer games aren’t alone in this shift from the simple to the complex.
As technology has become increasingly important in everyday life, it has increased in general complexity. As Johnson puts it while raving about the benefits of the show 24 .. the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less” (214). This increase in demand has the ability to aid in a holistic education; the understanding and decoding of complex relationships gives critical thinking skills otherwise difficult to find in the academic realm. New games and game systems such as Leapster and the nteractive series of Muzzy games encourage a much more complex leap in math, reading, and even foreign language education.
Television, in some cases, has the ability to operate like literature, opening the mind to inferences and references that you have to think through to decipher properly. Encourage the watching of documentaries, maybe a qualitative comparison of the works “Super-Size Me” and “Fathead”, documentaries with opposing points on the obesity epidemic. The complexities and nuances of the points and even the main characters themselves has the ability to open up discussions like many previous films ere unable to.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; not only good, cognitive function increasing shows are on television, and even if shows and the Internet are screened for the classroom, they’re still filled with advertisements. In “Thinking Outside the Idiot Box”, Dana Stevens complains that in his glowing praise of more complex television, he completely ignores the sixteen minutes of commercials that make up any one hour program. But though she seems caustic toward this, I argue that even the commercials are growing more intellectual.
The price of a commercial block is much more expensive than it once was, and ecause of that, companies need to get every bang for their buck. Much more is expected of commercials today because of how much is expected of the show; the company is in a losing battle, fighting the urge of every American to merely flip channels as soon as the commercial comes on. In lieu of this fact, companies are required to create flashier, more engaging commercials that can easily be considered far wittier than the straightforward logo flashers of the past.
In addition, Advertisements are no longer confined to that 16-minute commercial block. Television shows themselves have become he advertisements, each second plugging some new product. In her article “Me Against the Media” Naomi Rockler-Gladen discusses using clips from movies such as Father of the Bride in her classroom. Her focus is to teach students about consumerism through the idea that the expensive wedding and all it entails is plugged through the media. She makes a later point about the show Friends and how the end point of the episode she is discussing is that commercial furniture isn’t all that bad.
These added sophistications in commercials have made it so that they are no longer so easy to brush off as they en they were confined to a small block of time. The commercials and their tactics are engaging enough to become their own topic of study in the classroom, the new complexities adding another layer that students can pick apart. The advent of more sophisticated television programming, internet sites, and advertisement through commercials and television shows is increasing cognitive function and creates teaching tools that can be harnessed for a complete educational experience.
Nonetheless, media time, Internet and television watching, was always tempered in my classroom experience. That’s not why you attended school, after all; the media was a classroom tool, ut much more one for entertainment than for real learning. You attended school to read, to write, and to do math and sciences. Today, however, teachers are seeing the benefits and brilliance of one vital thing the Internet has birthed, the age of social networking and blogging. The Internet is encouraging kids to write.
In her article “What’s the Matter With Kids Today? Amy Goldwasser exclaims, “They’re connected, they’re collaborative, they’re used to writing about themselves” (237). She is enthused by this new revelation that the Internet has given students, the idea that writing can be and is a form of self-expression instead f just another thing required in class. The media, especially the Internet, is encouraging kids to be heard. The idea of speaking when you’re sure someone is listening is all the more reason to speak, and now kids all over the world have the lent ear of one another.
Amy Goldwasser seems gleeful when she explains, “. the internet is only a means of communication, and one that has created a generation, perhaps the first, of writers, activists, and storytellers” (237). She is excited about the world the media is opening to our students, and so am I. I’m not naive enough to miss one vital argument; hasn’t the media also had a strong and in distracting kids from school? I answer this argument with a resounding of course.
Like any tool, the media in all its forms must be harnessed and utilized correctly. The cartoon “The I. M. ‘s of Romeo and Juliet” shows, in part, the travesty that the world of technology can create to eloquence and rhetoric. With an unbridled use of technology, the language of children can deteriorate to an alarming level. The media in the classroom must be balanced still with other forms of instruction. Without this balance, students will not know how to apply the things they’re learning from the media use in the classroom.
Using media doesn’t bar students from also reading and contemplating the masterworks; in fact, avenues like Google Books has made finding and reading these volumes easier and more affordable than ever before (many of the classics and all public domain works are free to read as they are put in Google Books format). However, when utilized correctly, the media might be the single most valuable tool introduced to education as a jack-of-all-trades standard. The media, Internet and television, became increasingly more important in my education career. I had no knowledge that as I aged, technology was taking an unprecedented boom.
In my lifetime l’ve seen technology go from nearly non-existent in classrooms when I was a kindergartener to watching a three and four-year-old navigate the Internet for education purposes with ease. The media has the opportunity to open the world to our students, making a generation of amore culturally balanced, interconnected, and expressive society. Using media in the classroom, if utilized properly and in moderation, can aid in cognitive function, writing skills, and instill the sense of a broader world. Then, perhaps someday, our children can introduce us to a wider, deeper world that we could never see.