I wrote this in 2009. TBH
Entertainment has matured. Education has not. Let me explain…
For the most part, (and I know there is some quibble about times and things) but in the big scheme of things, the days when public education (late 1800s early 1900s) really got started and when the large entertainment media groups really got started (Hollywood, approximately 1910s) came about around the same time, give or take a few decades.
So, both have had roughly the same amount of time to mature and make take their message to the masses. Both have had access to the same work force, the same tools, the same basic knowledge base. So why is it that entertainment media has grown in it’s methods of getting the message to the masses, while education has kept the same methods for the better part of 150 years? As we know, both were products of the industrial revolution. Media designed to entertain the workers, education designed to create the workers. So the two are not really that far removed from each other on the evolutionary tree of content delivery. Both have a message of some sort to get across, both have an audience, both are judged by how well the audience reacts to the message.
So, since both came about at the same time, what has happened?
Hollywood, and the media companies have devised many methodologies for delivering their product. For instance, take a look at any major motion picture release, er, like the new Star Trek movie, slated to be released this summer. When that product comes out, it will have:
1. A movie
2. A soundtrack
3. An email notification system telling you when it is playing near you
4. Text message notification about the “Star Trek” News
5. Screen savers for your computer or cell phone
6. A video game that follows the plot of the movie on multiple platforms (PC, Mac, Wii, X-Box, etc.)
7. There is an online portal with more information about the movie, such as behind the scenes footage, directors blog, posters, information about the stars, etc.
8. There will be shows on TV about the “Making of Star Trek.”
9. There will be books
10. There will be magazine articles.
11. There will be McDonald’s Happy Meals
12. Toys R Us will have a Star Trek Weekend sale
13. Baskin Robbins will have a “Vulcan Ice” flavor of the month.
And it doesn’t end there.
There will be a DVD with even more information about the movie. (No doubt the hilarious out-takes will be included.)There will be the online downloadable version from iTunes that you can play on your iPhone and iTouch. There will be the Blu-Ray and HD version. In other words, you won’t be able to get away from Star Trek fever when it hits in a few months.
There will be giveaways, trips, more coverage on Entertainment Tonight, and E! Online.
I will be able to watch the media on my cell phone, my TV, my iPod, my portable DVD player, hell, even in the back seat of my mini-van if I want to.
In other words, and this is just an example of pretty much how any new movie is sold these days.
The entertainment media has become very adept at presenting the same material in a multitude of ways. Same message, different methods. As many audiences as possible are covered. No one is left out. Multiple formats, same message: “Go see the movie.”
It used to be one simple method: Movie. maybe some posters advertising it, but the movie was the message. Maybe a magazine article. But that was pretty much it.
Media has adapted to the new technology. The more you adapt to the new technology, the better you are at getting your message out.
Now, lets look at education.
How did we present lessons when it all began 150 years ago? Teacher in front of a room, presenting a lesson. Skip ahead 150 years. How do we present a lesson? Teacher in front of a room presenting a lesson. Yes, there are exceptions, just as there are exceptions on how media is delivered. Yes, some educators “get it” but for the most part, the deliver of the message has not changed in over 150 years. Even the facilities are not much different that they were all those years ago. Look at an old picture of a classroom in 1920’s. Look at a picture of a classroom from the 1960’s. Look at a your own kid’s classroom. Four walls. Podium, board in front, rows of chairs, books, pencils, paper. As Bob Seger once said, “You’re still the same.”
One of the reasons that the media has changed, besides money of course, is that the audience has changed. The audience, no matter what the excuse, now expects multi-sensory, multi-platform, multi-media methods of content delivery. On your computer, on your DVD player, on your cable, in your theater, on your iPod. Delivery methods that have not been successful are quickly relegated to the trash heap of technology history. (Beta Max comes to mind, but also Laser Disc players and 8 track tapes are good examples.) The content must meet the demands of the audience in order to become successful. Sadly, I suspect that most educators, forced to use outdated and outmoded delivery methodologies have no clue that the audience they are addressing are more in tune with the Hollywood than with Harcourt. I don’t blame the kids.
Don’t think we are in touch with the audience, consider some findings from the 2006 Net day survey of students 6-12 from across the US:
1. 51 percent of students had a Myspace web page
2. 24 percent have worked on a group projects
3. 35 percent play online games
4. 15 percent share music
5. 25 percent have used the web to get TV shows or movies
6. 22 percent have a blog
7. 16 percent share writing online
8. 13 percent have posted a video online
9. 73 percent of high school students have a cell phone
10. 44 percent of 6-12 grade students connect with more than 20 friends online
(Since that 2006 survey, I suspect the numbers for each of these have increased.)
Education does not drop methodologies as quickly as entertainment does, probably because of the traditional “tight budget” excuse, but also because it is a training issue as well. It is difficult to train people to adapt to a new method of DOING something, as opposed to adapting to a new method of USING something.
Educators are also quick to use the “if it ain’t broke” rule where old ways are fine as long as the results you need are being achieved. All well-and-good I suppose, but I think what we are beginning to see is that the kids are starting to speak their own language and we don’t want to become fluent. Consider a recent article in USA Today that said teens are creating their own digital divide, whether we want them to or not. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average household with teens has 35 electronic “gadgets” in it, as opposed to just four per household in the 1980s.
I once heard a quote about how kids have to “disconnect” when they come to school. At home, they are wired, connected and in touch. In school, we tell them to leave cell phones at home and put them in rooms with little or no technology. There is hope however: A recent experiment in Australia where 8th grade students were all given iPod Touches in order to be able to do research, collaborate, and take quizzes has shown students respond well to being connected all the time. Likewise, 1:1 laptop initiatives, even as close to home as in YISD have shown kids respond positively to constantly technology immersion. You may not, but your kids do.
So media matures, grows, takes the audience along with it for the ride, whereas education is kind of like Jeffty, in Harlan Ellison’s Hugo winning story “Jeffty is Five” where the title character stays forever five years old, both emotionally, and chronologically, while the rest of the world changes around him. When the reality of progress finally confronts Jeffty, he is unable to cope with the situation, and meets a tragic demise. All-in-all, Jeffty could not stay five forever. Neither can the delivery methods we use in education. It is time we begin to mature, just like our fellow travelers in the media have done and continue to do.
It is time we start to grow up.