THE ROLE OF TELEVISION IN EDUCATION – My wife and I did something almost six years ago that we have never regretted. We cut cable television and decided to not have any local or other access to television shows. I went into withdrawal the first few months, getting a little nervous or perturbed in the evening when I was ready to “turn off”, relax and wondered what was going to happen on that evening’s reality show. As time went on, it became less important and I became more grateful for the things that had replaced “the tube.” We interacted more with our kids and each other. Our life changed much for the better. That started me thinking about the role of television in education and how it should be most effectively used.
Michael Medved, nationally syndicated host of the fifth most popular radio show in America said in his book Hollywood vs. America that there is little or no educational research that suggests kids watching TV is remotely beneficial to their development or education. Sorry Sesame Street, Electric Company and, yes I’ll show my age, Mr. Rogers. In fact, research clearly indicates otherwise. Kids who watch TV from an age as early as two years have a far greater chance of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) . Juvenile diabetes and other diseases caused by obesity are also higher among kids who watch a lot of television. Keep in mind, the average American teenager spends four hours a day (1/6th of their life) watching TV and an additional two hours on the computer and video games. Source: http://tinyurl.com/72x7gwz OK, we all know the effect of TV on kids, but how about adults, does it affect us? According to the research, yes, it does. Some studies have shown television viewing is tied to aggression in adults. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/2g5od9) Obesity and health issues also closely correlate with those that watch a lot of television.
Essentially, from what I gather, there is very little about television that excites me regarding education. However, is there a place for it? I like to think so but the purpose of television is like salt, just a little will go a long way, and salt is never meant to be a dish by itself. Learning can be enhanced by using short visual clips of animations, or clips from dramas. As a rule of thumb, I use clips or videos in length of about ten minutes or less. If it is over ten minutes, I will usually think twice before using it. When I was teaching a class on Jewish history I played a 10 minute clip from the movie “Fiddler on the Roof.” The brief ten minute video clip on “tradition” was an excellent resource and was full of imagery, culture, and historical perspective none like I could provide through any other media. I then referenced that clip many times in future classes….”remember the clip from Fiddler on the Roof”, I would ask as I tried to relate new information to things students had already learned.
I’m assuming that most of this is common sense to experienced educators. However, I know from personal experience, some educators, often new ones, lean on the television a little more than they should. Perhaps another one of our tasks as educators is to stimulate our student’s desires for things beyond the tube. Maybe we educators, along with their parents, can inspire them to engage in our world in meaningful, productive and satisfying ways that will enhance their future. I know it seems like swimming upstream to have that perspective these days, but when as anything worth doing in quality education been easy?