Thoughts on Education and Technology, or: Bring Back the Repeats!!!

Thoughts on Education and Technology, or: Bring Back the Repeats!!!

Thoughts on Education and Technology, or: Bring Back the Repeats!!!

A question that I sometimes ask at workshops for teachers and school principals is: “Tell me about a positive learning experience that you had as children.” When I try to answer this question myself, the memories that come up are in black and white: I remember those days when I would stay home from school because I was sick. I would lie down on the couch with the prickly upholstery, holding a cup of hot, sweet tea, and intently watch the programs on the Educational Television channel. Of all of them, the ones I liked best were the ones for learning English. I know that this experience is not unique to me: many of my peers share it, and all us would love it if they would let us start singing the song, whose words we all know by heart: Here we are in the center of town…

And, of course: Neighbors, we are neighbors …

This universal experience fascinates me: What was there in those programs, that kept our attention so well? What did we learn through this technology? And how did it succeed in absorbing us and teaching us a vocabulary, syntactic structures, tenses and conjugation of verbs, better – in my opinion – than any book or teacher?

I learned how to used verbs with -ing from, of course, Suzy Surprise: the mechanical doll who is combing her hair, reading a book, closing her eyes, opening them, and smiling at us:

I learned the names of the vegetables from Mr. Kashtan’s shop, with such wonderful vocal harmony…

The whole of my “post office” vocabulary, I learned from the singing post office on television:

post office, package, stamps and letters.

But most of all I liked Miss Kaplan, Mr. Golan’s mixed-up secretary, who taught me English through her funny, naive, errors:

And, of course, Miss Ding Dong – who was actually the same actress wearing a different wig – with her friends from the Wild West: Sheriff Goodman and Burton Badman, who taught me, in a very systematic way, how to conjugate pairs of verbs.

So, what’s the secret? Is it the characters whom we got to know from one episode to the next? The human situations and stories? The humor and self-directed irony of the actors, with their unpretentious acting style? Or was it perhaps the clever tunes and dialogues that drummed into us the same messages, over and over, without us feeling bored for even a moment? Messages that we imbibed thirstily, broadcast to us from the warm, wide television receiver. Messages that were absorbed and encoded in our subconscious, where they are stored to this very day, ready to be taken out just when we need them, just like Sheriff Goodman’s bottle of milk.

And all that beauty on one, small channel, with the old-fashion technology of those days, with its poor sound quality and without any color, apart from the redness of our throats.



Photo Credit: Susan E Adams via Compfight cc