Growing up in the 80s, I had a slew of my favourite TV shows.
And of course, my perennial favourite — Sesame Street.
I remember watching it on a big, bulky television set in my lola’s living room. I fell in love with the characters — Big Bird, Cookie Monster, The Count, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, and, of course, how can I forget, Ernie and Bert. (On a side note, I’d always preferred Bert over Ernie. He was the responsible one, the voice of reason, the more level-headed of the duo who had a rational explanation to something and whose ears had probably had fallen off once or twice because of Ernie’s yakking and chinwagging.)
I also remember two alien-looking creatures who could only move their wide, wobbly mouths and long limbs and produce odd noises: One of them had long arms that couldn’t move, while the other had short moving arms. The aliens wished to eat apples from a tree, and they succeeded, after a couple of minutes, by working together. “Let’s call this cooperation,” one of them says. “No,” the other replies, “let’s call it Shirley.”
Long before my parents enrolled me in pre-school, I was already pretty much on my way to mastering my literacy and numeracy skills. Much to the bewilderment of my parents, I was taken in by the head mistress herself even without having gone through the normal admission procedures. My parents were preparing to resign themselves to the fact that my childish churlish outbursts would be grounds for my inadmission to the Colegio de San Agustin. They were checking out this new school and had left me in the library when the school’s head mistress took a keen interest on me. She got some books and asked me to read portions of them aloud. I must have done so with aplomb because before my parents knew it, the school mistress was already talking them into enrolling me in her school. And it was all because of Sesame Street, I say.
Looking back, I don’t recall learning how to read in school. My knowledge of phonics was largely because of Sesame Street. Thanks to Sesame Street, I was one of the few kids who thought reading was cool. I think my language proficiency was also shaped by Sesame Street.
The phenomenon rested on a simple formula:using entertainment –and in this case, a diverse cast of humans and different molds of colourful, fuzzy muppets–while harnessing the power of human narrative. All those things came together and made for an effective, efficient and enjoyable learning experience. Long after I’d graduated from Sesame Street, I found myself still using the same techniques in phonemic reading each time I encountered an unfamiliar word.
This module reminded me of the importance of media and how teachers of practically any discipline can tap into it in order to enhance learning, reinforce concepts and spark discussions. I am also reminded of that time in college when I took up a foreign language as a prerequisite in the program I was enrolled in. At that time I felt like a toddler babbling and struggling to understand my professor as she spoke to our class what I could only have surmised was a flawless Italian. She helped us through with the use of songs music videos with lyrics, films and audio clips. I remember looking forward to each session as the class had me hooked and had kept my interest. It was also a lot better and more enjoyable than the refresher Italian course I took up at a language centre on a whim a few years after that. The latter being composed mainly of lectures and discussions and keeping a daily journal of sorts felt like a chore, and a waste of 10k. Even though the class size was smaller in the latter, I didn’t retain as much from that class as I did the former.
These days as I create training decks, I find myself gravitating more towards the use of media. But unlike before where I saw it more as a babysitting tool and a lazy girl’s ticket to a time off, I am more discriminating and strategic in the use of media. I try to be more discerning in recognising content that will enhance learning. I try to make sure that it is not a distraction. I try to make better use of the class time by not showing the a whole movie. I only pick portions that I can utilise in and relate to the lesson.
Over the course of this term, I know I would be learning a lot more about utilising different media sources in instruction and I am looking forward to incorporating them in the future training decks I shall be creating.
“We see in the past only what is important for the present, important for the instant for which we remember our past.”