I was struggling to write this week’s blog and where to start on educational TV as I don’t remember much about Sesame Street and other educational TV programs for children growing up. I do remember watching a few episodes but never habitually within my home. I remember some of the Sesame Street characters. I think maybe I don’t remember the shows or perhaps didn’t really watch the shows because I was still learning how to speak and understand the English language. When I was a young child learning English I was trying to conceptualize the meanings behind some of the words as English is quite complex and so many of the same words can mean so many different things.
I spent a lot of my childhood years out on the lake at my parents’ cabin on an island on Reindeer Lake. Winters were spent out on the trapline where my father would trap wild animals to sell the fur. I learned how to trap different ways for different wild animals. The summers were spent out on the lake for commercial fishing. This was how my parents made a living and this was how I spent my childhood. I remember spending a few Christmases at the cabin. There was no television and certainly no educational TV programming out there, but there was a radio and my mom had music on all the time. We did go into our community for some of the school season. When my parents finally got a television, watching TV was a leisure activity for my siblings and I. I don’t really remember watching much of Sesame Street growing up, although I would sit down to watch TV and sometimes it was on because it would be the only programming on the one channel we had. On Saturday mornings we always watched Star Trek with Captain James T. Kirk and his crew on the starship enterprise while on their galactic adventures. I’m not sure if I learned anything educational while watching Star Trek but it got my imagination going about how fascinating it was that people can go to outer space and that there were other life forms outside our galaxy. I never believed the show to be real but it was very exciting and entertaining that I would wake up and stay home on a Saturday morning instead of heading outside to play.
Image from: Screen Rant
Image from: YouTube
CBC’s Stu Jeffries | Good Rockin’ Tonite was another show we would always look forward to watching. We kept up to date with music videos by watching this show. This was way before YouTube. I was a little behind when it came to technology back then, it was not until my early pre-teen years when I started learning about and being exposed to more media.
Image from: Pinterest
The show followed the lives of a group of students attending the titular fictional school. Many episodes tackled difficult topics such as drug use, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, homophobia, racism, and divorce, and the series was acclaimed for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of the challenges of teenage life. The cast comprised mainly non-professional actors, which added to the show’s sense of realism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrassi_Junior_High
The show I remember watching was Degrassi Junior High. The main thing I remembered about that show was that they tackled real life situations from racism to drug use. To me this was educational TV at it’s finest. I learned how people coped with real life issues. If the Degrassi kids did it then it was the thing to do. It was actually a pretty big hit in my community growing up. All the kids back home wanted to be their favorite character.
It’s still funny to me sometimes when I think about The Zit Remedy aka The Zits from Degrassi; Joey, Wheels and Snake: With there off key single; Everybody Wants Something that took them a long time to finish. Now that’s what I call dedication.
Fast forward a few decades. I am now a parent. My wife started our 4th child on an educational program called ‘Your Baby Can Read’ that she got from her sister one year as a Christmas present for our BillieRose (BR). I thought it was a pretty good idea to try this out on our youngest child when she was only four months old. The one thing that I noticed about this program was the need of follow up from the parent. Daily my wife would put our girl in the high chair and put on the DVD for BR to watch. My wife would then read the books, play the games, and use the flash cards to evaluate BR’s progress. By the time BR was nine months old, she was clearly able to identify at least 250 words. BillieRose is now 8 years old and since doing the ‘Your Baby Can Read’ program she has been able to communicate very clearly, enjoys reading, and catches on to things easier.
Here is my wife doing an evaluation of our baby girl BillieRose when she was 17 months old. Click to watch BillieRose Reading Youtube Video
Image from: www.aptn.ca ‘
This is the story of Louis, an Aboriginal elder, whose mission in life is to help the people in his community in any way he can. Louis is getting older and it’s getting harder for him to help people on his own. So he decides to recruit Randy, a 10-year old boy, to help him with his work. Every day Louis gives Randy a task. But there is one problem: Louis mostly speaks Cree and Randy only speaks English. How can Randy help Louis if he can’t understand his instructions? In order for Randy to fully understand Louis’ instructions he first needs to learn what the Cree words mean. Description from www.aptn.ca/louissays
As a Cree Language educator now, I try to find different visual and audio resources on YouTube and/or DVDs. The one that I use quite often as a resource for the Cree Language is called ‘Louis Says’. I show the younger students this educational program because my students can relate to the characters and hear the Cree Language being used.
Doing this week’s blog was a good walk down memory lane for me. I had to look back into my past and realize that I did not watch much television as a child, as I did not have access to do so like so many kids today. With the little bit of television I did watch, I was limited to one channel and the programming that was offered on that station. This is a good reminder for me to begin my own investigating into what is available for educational programming.
Do you think TV programming should have a follow up evaluation workbook of some sort for the parent? Are children really learning something by watching these programs? How do we know our children./students are learning anything?