With the rise of online coursework because of COVID-19, many assume screen education was invented only recently.
Long before the Internet, there were (drumroll, please) classroom movies. Projectors with reels of film shone images onto tipsy screens.
We students sometimes questioned the claim they were educational. Sex ed films we viewed were created in 1920, before sex was invented.
I did enjoy science films. What wasn’t to love about tap-dancing chromosomes?
Movies also promoted catching up on sleep. Sometimes the most exciting part involved counting backward with screen numbers at the beginning and hearing the film’s flap-flap-flap at the end. Or if our instructor wanted to fill the final five minutes of class, he’d bid the AV boy to hit “reverse.” Then, we could watch chromosomes tap dance backward.
During that era, I learned two facts about AV assistants: a) they had to be boys and b) some teachers should have allowed them to also run overheads. Adult attempts often blurred images beyond recognition. Half the time they were upside-down. This new technological advancement really messed with my already math-challenged mind. How did mutant polynomials improve on blackboards and chalk?
Later, as an adjunct professor, I fought with plastic overheads stuck together like Glad® Wrap. At course’s end, my students excelled in one area: I’d taught them to write upside-down.
Screen education during the dark ages. Yay.
Given the current pandemic, we can be thankful modern screen education encompasses all subjects and ages. But even before COVID-19, it was touted as more flexible, more productive, and less expensive than traditional methods.
Screen education provides other unique advantages, e.g., an online student can spend her entire life wearing jammies. When he grows tired of a teacher or subject, he can, with one click, banish the annoyance — until a parent checks his online report card.
My teachers could only fantasize about making me disappear. On difficult days in 2020, those teaching online must be sorely tempted to dispense with an entire class: “Oops. Hit the wrong button.”
However, computers will never take the place of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, who read stories every day. Or Mr. Carpenter, my band teacher, who encouraged me in music and writing.
They weren’t saints. We students weren’t, either. We pressed each other’s buttons, but we couldn’t click each other off. We dealt with real human beings. Every. Day.
And learned to get along.
During this pandemic, screen learning, originally touted as superior, has generated many tough days for teachers and students alike. Most can’t wait until (drumroll, please) they can resume face-to-face education. Rediscover the joys of the human touch …
More than ever before.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How would you grade screen learning?