Sesame Street was my Teacher

“Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

Does it, though? Did it ever?

My memories of Sesame street are much as Daniel describes in his blog earlier today:

I do remember watching Sesame Street as a young child, I find it difficult to evaluate the impact it had 

Like Daniel, I certainly have memories watching Sesame Street. Memories sitting and watching with my siblings, even memories of specific moments and episodes. The key word that keeps coming up is watch.

Teacher is in Charge

While Sesame Street can be viewed as trying to move the traditional locale of formal education from the classroom into our own homes, that would be about as far as I can go in seeing it as a challenge to the traditional classroom. Yes, Sesame Street certainly looked different than my classroom. It was in my living room, and my teacher was a humanoid bird in a box!

Sesame Street continued to reinforce an understanding that “non-book media can teach.” Sesame Street capitalized on what McDonald called “The motivational properties of audiovisual…

Sesame Street  was, as Melanie points out in her blog:

…successful in reaching their targeted audience because of the use of multimodality.

Chanting, music, captivating images we all tools that were proficiently deployed by Sesame Street to hook young learners.

But really, how different was it?

In the end, kids (like me) spent hours mesmerized by the characters and stories of Sesame Street were learning in much the same way as our ancestors did. Sesame Street programming relied on a very traditional behaviourist view of learners as being passive recipients of knowledge transmitted from an engaging cast of teachers.

Students in charge?

When I consider where audiovisual technology has gone, both  generally and in an educational context, I see it as branching off in an entirely different direction. A direction that reflects a more current understanding of how we learn. An exponentially expending base of educational applications shift towards interactions, where students play an active (dominating?) role in building their own learning.

Applications like Storybird (a community where students can write, publish, and enjoy stories) and Flipgrid (learning communities revolving around sharing through videos) capitalize on interaction. There is certainly a discernible teacher, but their role as a sun around which the students of a classroom revolve is changed. Bring Your own Device policies, while introducing implications of their own, continue to capitalize on the constructivist  idea that students are drivers of their own learning. Tools like Google Read&Write further empower students to drive their own learning by freeing them from the constraints and limitations of not being able to fluently read and write text.

Sesame Street: same old, same old

At best, in its heyday, Sesame Street presented youth with a different teacher. A more engaging teacher? Oh yes. A teacher specifically designed to stimulate and captivate the interest of its target audience. And did it ever captivate its audience.

But unlike the explosion of audiovisual innovation we are witnessing today, it relied on the same assumptions of human learning that dominated schools of the past.

Thanks for reading!





One comment to “Sesame Street was my Teacher”
One comment to “Sesame Street was my Teacher”
  1. Your comment “Yes, Sesame Street certainly looked different than my classroom. It was in my living room, and my teacher was a humanoid bird in a box!” made me laugh out loud! I agree that it was very successful because of the motivational properties of audiovisual. This really was the beginning of moving away from ‘books’ as learning into the use of audiovisual! The bird in a box! So great haha! Good post!

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