What a lovely emotive question and one that I’ve posed like that to stir the reactionary heart strings. In this case though, I’m not bemoaning the TV as the harbinger of doom, rotting our children’s minds and polluting them with pop culture. Nor am I commenting on the impact of video games, 18 rated DVDs or what can only be called the “Jackass” / “Facejacker” culture.
No, I mean the impact of TV in the guise of CSI, Silent Witness, Spooks and dare I say it Crimestoppers. And I’ve not even mentioned the TV eye/brain sugar diet that is Blast Lab – bless Richard Hammond and his breakthrough into “edutainment”.
“Back in the day”, Science was seen as one of the hardest subjects in school, taken because you had to, and by choice for “O” levels. Mrs Thatcher made is mandatory back in the 1980′s so everyone took it because they had to. But still, Science was seen as something for the clever kids.
Then something mysterious happened and a programme called CSI broke through into the general audience. Our learners saw the role of science and scientists in a different light – and in some small way, science became “cool”. As with all things “cool”, this became a bandwagon that the TV commissioners jumped onto, and soon every channel had an over enthusiastic presenter blowing things up or showing us how we could prove that Neanderthal man lived next door to you. Great stuff and I’m all for it.
But the consequences cast a long shadow over teachers and schools.
We’ve lost the “wow” factor – students can consume far grander and more exciting science in 7 minute chunks by watching CBBC, than they can when sat in an uncomfortable lab, in a group of 30, trying to see what the teacher is going on about — all this after just being chewed out for not bringing a pen to school, whilst trying to ignore 6 friends who are BB messengering them.
Flipping the classroom
All is not lost – teaching will do what it always does and adapt, albeit it at a pace that is often one step behind the learners. Take for example “Flipping the classroom“, where the instructional part of the lesson is taught at home, often by learners watching a video and trying a few examples. When the learners return to class, what takes place can be thought of as traditional homework where the learner practices and consolidates the learning. That frees up the classroom as places to take risks, practise skills and often enjoy the subject once again.
The Khan Academy takes this flipping to the extreme and just offers the instructional element as freely available videos. What you do with them is up to you. (Sure there are flaws with the videos, and just learning in such a didactic manner is replacing the teacher with a video – not a long term wise move) – but, and here’s the biggie for me — learning has definitely been freed from the classroom.
Back to my question – Is TV killing your subject?
No, but the current crop of edutainment is forcing all educators to adapt – and we all know what happens when you don’t adapt fast enough (exactly how long after hungry sailors first ate a Dodo and its eggs did they become extinct).
In the ever connected, always on, “Draw Something” world that we live in, how are you adapting? If your learners can just “Google your WALT”, what value are you adding by making them spend an hour in your presence? Is it about time you flipped your classroom?