Sesame Street – Week 5

Sesame Street – Week 5

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.”

To begin with, I tried to remember a time when I was young and could actually recall watching Sesame Street…. I could not.  So I had to enlist the help of my parents and low and behold I was a frequent Sesame Street watcher.  Being a 1988 baby, I was able to watch “the Street”, as Tad Suiter references in his article After 50 years on TV, has Sesame Street been gentrified? (thanks to Matt F. for sharing the article).  I found myself feeling lucky that I got to experience (even though I don’t remember) the Street before the gentrification happened.

Suiter goes on to confirm that “the Street” has indeed been gentrified.  He outlines that the show seems to have responded to economic pressures in similar ways many cities have.  He outlines that they tried to ‘clean up’ the neighbourhood, forcing out minority communities and thereby raising the metaphorical real estate values.  I feel that this comparison draws on the BYOD push – it does not take into account many of the stakeholders who may be getting “pushed” or “forced” out of being in the running to operate within this policy based on the fact they cannot afford a device, something that is pretty critical in the BYOD world!

Further into his article, Suiter outlines that the show was not just merely learning the alphabet, counting 1 to 20, and lessons in sharing, but a larger goal was at play with the show promoting inclusion and representation.  With this in mind, the show was created with a backdrop that was realistic to those who watched it, making it seem like their own neighbourhood was one way of promoting learning as inclusive.  As the show progressed through the seasons, the introduction of new characters was happening fast; these characters were diverse and represented a vast array of races which was another aspect that promoted inclusion and representation.  Thinking about this deeper, most education systems say they are all about inclusion and representation, but this seems to be more lip service than action.  

It is these stakeholders in the “real life” education system that are not feeling included or represented in our classrooms and have significantly less opportunities than their caucasian counterparts. These diverse populations are the ones who end up on the ‘lost list’ as students who the division has on their books, but their butts are not in a classroom.  I have personal experience with this, working with a program that tried to re-engage these ‘lost’ students, and when we were able to get them back into our classrooms, I always wanted to know what caused their absence and almost all said they did not feel included or valued in the school system.  But according to Sesame Street, this should not be the case!

Thinking about the grander implications of this idea of the “real” vs “the Street’s” take on education only gets more complicated with the addition to smartphones and BYOD policies.  As educators, we all strive to construct a classroom that is based on respect, inclusion and fairness, but the matter of fact is that it is difficult.  There will always be some who do not feel this way.  With that said, we do not have control of who is placed into our classrooms and not to mention each student’s story is completely different, but we try our best to make sure every student feels included, respected and welcomed. 

We may see very affluent students and not so affluent students and some students who fall into the middle.  We also do not know who has access to a smartphone or device in the home, never mind being able to bring it (if it’s the only one in the household) to school to use for their education.  This makes an already tricky situation even harder to navigate with the push on BYOD and the use of smartphones and apps in the classroom for a couple of reasons.  Some families may not feel comfortable sending an expensive device to school that could possibly get lost or stolen. 

Other families may only have 1 device for their household and cannot have it at school all day.  Large schools may have a poor computer to student ratio and depend on BYOD to establish a 1:1 ratio for students.  Some students may misuse these devices and have them taken away, eliminating the opportunity to use them for educational purposes.  All of these situations can lead to a feeling of exclusion or again, not the picture that “the Street” paints school to be.

What are the grander implications of the current array of AV technologies, such as apps and interactive educational shows, when we think about the format of schooling?

I really connected with Scott Widman’s Ted Talk.  On any given day I feel that education is both the best and the worst thing for education! Scott outlines that technology is both incredibly useful but it also can be incredibly dangerous if not used properly.  He does a great job outlining the grander implications of the technology boom in the sense that it is not a fad and is not going to be going anywhere and that most students will have a device in their pocket that is both infinitely beneficial and dangerous at the same time.  With this in mind, we as educators have the responsibility to be great role models and do what is right for our students, showing them how to be a responsible digital citizen and how to properly use and engage with technology.  

In ECI 830 last spring, there was a group debate that brought up the argument of who is responsible to teach our young people how to use technology? This group outlined that when we were all little, most of us learned how to swim and we were taught primarily through structured swimming lessons.  Our parents just didn’t take us to the pool or lake and toss us  in, hollering, “SINK OR SWIM, KID!” and walk away.  The terrifying part of this argument was that this was/is the primary way young people are taught to navigate the digital world, they are tossed a device by someone with the sink or swim mentality.  With this in mind and some previous negative experiences with students and technology, I have a designated block of time in my schedule this year for “Digital/Media Literacies”, where we as a class are going to examine how to properly behave in our digital spaces, handling poor behaviour, and being a critical consumer of media!  

With technology not slowing down, it is going to be even more crucial that our young people get the guidance and lessons on how to navigate our digital world and for some this may only come at school. As outlined in the article The Effectiveness of Audio-Visual Aids in Teaching Learning Process , where Prem Sunder outlines that the use of AV technologies are the most effective and easy way to make the teaching and learning process results oriented it becomes more apparent that the digital/tech boom will continue to gain steam.  One larger implication that I think will affect the format of schooling, is the need to more concentrated efforts on digital etiquette, literacies and critical consumption of media; not only in a 1 hour block every 5 days, but actually installing it into our curriculums that are required to be taught ensuring that students are at least getting some exposure to proper behaviour and consumption in our digital world (which happens to be one of Sunders recommendations to curriculum planners)!

How do personalized devices and tools like YouTube (Khan Academy, Crash Course, etc). change the way we might think about school?

With the addition of personalized devices and various tools that these devices are able access for free such as Khan Academny, Crash Course, Crasch Course Kids, YouTube, etc. into our classrooms and the hands of our students only enhances the educaiton/learning processes.  I have used these tools as supplementation, reinforcement, and enrichment activities in my classroom.  Students are able to use these topics from the comforts of their own home when completing homework, studying for assessments or doing research.  I find these tools especially helpful for my practice when I am not confident in the teaching I have done or if I am required to learn more about a specific topic to provide effective and accurate instruction to my students.




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