What We Can Still Learn From Sesame Street

#ECI833

“…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 I think back to my own schooling experience, I remember moments of engagement, moments of excitement, and moments of disinterest. The years that I remember the most always had to do with the teacher and the type of learning that was taking place. It also had to do with the amount of ownership and participation that I was involved in. The lessons that impacted me were rarely done through traditional schooling methods, like taking notes or reading textbooks. Instead, I was moved by real-world lessons and assignments that gave us the opportunity to look beyond ourselves.

When I think about my own schooling expereince, it brings me to this quote by Neil Postman (1985) when he says “…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.” I grew up craving non-traditional learning experiences, similar to the type of learning that Sesame Street presents. Why is Sesame Street seen as a different learning experience? Well, first of all, they were always ahead of their time… pushing the boundaries so that each child felt seen and heard. They also moved beyond the idea of “traditional schooling” because their content was delivered through a unique approach… through television and AV technology.

AV Technology in Education

AV technology is “electronic media possessing both a sound and a visual component”, such as movies, television, and projectors. It has been around for quite some time, as you can see in the “Then VS Now” infographic. AV technology has especially been utilized in education, which has changed the traditional model of teaching. Ever since AV technology has been incorporated into education, there has been a shift in the way learning has been facilitated. Educational Technology has changed the way “schooling” happens. Tablets, computers, and interactive whiteboards have all played an important role in education over the last decade. However, the traditional ways of schooling are still the norm in many classrooms, but is it the most effective?

The idea of using Educational Technology in teaching, specifically AV technology, reminds me of my experience in a P3 school. I first applied to work in one of these schools because of the open-concept classrooms, the push for collaboration, and the opportunities for 21st-century learning. The interactive projectors, audio tools, and captivating technology had also motivated me to apply. During my experience in this type of learning environment, I pushed myself to use technology in new ways so that my students were further engaged and excited to take ownership of their learning. I wanted to emulate the type of teacher that I remembered and respected in my own schooling journey. However, if I didn’t have that passion or drive to integrate the technology tools in creative and authentic ways in my classroom, then the learning would have fallen flat. As educators, if we don’t lead our learning with purpose or meaning, then the technology is useless. Dean brings up this point in his post when he says, “it’s not about the technology, it is about the learner experience and technology should be a tool not an ends to a means.” 

The lessons that I remember from school growing up impacted me because they were meaningful and were facilitated in authentic ways. Educators need to facilitate learning that is meaningful. It doesn’t always matter what mode we use to get there, but we need to give students the opportunity to think deeper and learn in new ways, just like Sesame Street does.

Moving Forward with Meaning

It is evident that Sesame Street is seen as a different learning experience that “undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents”, but is that a bad thing? It’s not seen as a different way of schooling just because the program is delivered through television. It undermines the traditional way of schooling because it goes beyond the standard subjects of reading and writing. It represents something bigger.

NPR says that “…Sesame Street has proven for 40 years, sometimes a show is more than just a show.” It’s a platform to reach kids in a tangible way. A show that isn’t afraid to bring up controversial topics and big ideas, which isn’t always the case in the classroom.

If you explore the Sesame Street website, they have a list of “Tool Kits” to help kids understand difficult subjects. The show has a “history of explaining the world to children” in hopes of bringing up topics such as divorce, substance abuse, and grief. In their newest season, they are airing an episode called “The Power of We” to discuss racism. They are tackling real-world issues head-on so that families and children can be a part of these conversations together.

Was Postman right in saying that Sesame Street differs from what the traditional idea of schooling represents? Yes. However, I choose to look at that in a positive way. I think we can all learn a thing or two from Sesame Street and move forward with education in a non-traditional way.

-Amanda

3 thoughts on “What We Can Still Learn From Sesame Street

  1. Thanks for a great read Amanda! I agree that we can all learn a thing or two from Sesame Street! When you pointed out that Sesame Street was ahead of its time it made me think of clip I watched on the history of Sesame and found it interesting that when the show first started in the 1960’s, some states like Mississippi wouldn’t air it because of its multicultural cast. It definitely has always helped children understand and appreciate diversity in a way they maybe wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome post! I like your discussion about the P3 schools. I contemplated the move but love my “traditional classroom” – however I am also fortunate to have AV materials in my class (projector, speakers, laptops, etc). Definitely a challenging decision to make the jump or not. Thank you for choosing a stance and sticking with it, my post is fairly wishy-washy in agreement and disagreement with Postman. Dissecting his work is both challenging and fulfilling!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the conclusion that Sesame Street (and potentially other intentional tech) can lead to something BIGGER and better Amanda. Prior to your post, I hadn’t looked at the resources available to parents and teachers on the Sesame Street website. I was impressed with the vast array of resources available for FREE.

    Liked by 1 person

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