Interesting news the today. Newsweek, the renowned news magazine, has announced it will cease printing a hard copy version of itself and focus all of it’s efforts on it’s online edition. A sign of the times reiterated by a recent poll showing social networking site Facebook has now taken the lead as the most important brand in the world over such giants as Google, Disney and Apple. Clearly, people are spending more and more time online and less and less in previously popular pastimes.
What does this mean for our culture?
At one time, the most popular form of entertainment was live theatre. At that time, the only alternatives were other “live” art forms such as music and dance. One hundred years ago, everyone went to the theatre. At least, everyone who could. Then came movies. Then came television. Today, the remaining world of theatre is composed of New York musical extravaganzas, alongside small “cottage industry” theatres that still present plays in much the same form that William Shakespeare would recognize, were he alive today. Such is the power of technology. I don’t lament this trend, but it is interesting to watch. How long before theatre transforms through technology into some form of hologram that pops up on your coffee table?
In education we are witnessing similar inroads. More and more classrooms are adopting interactive, computer based technologies such as smart boards into regular classroom instruction. Schools are integrating more and more communication into online formats. And more and more classes and degrees are available through online sources. Is this good or not? Events are moving so quickly it is difficult to tell, though I suspect for the main part it is all wonderful.
Still, there is something lost when a child receives all instruction through technology. Human interaction is important. It just is.
Many years ago, my late brother used to say “A phone call is better than a letter. But a face to face visit is better than a phone call.” I suspect he was right, and I suspect a human face is still better than a computer screen.
Live educational school shows provide the opportunity for talented and experienced performers to take students to places in their education that a computer screen simply cannot touch. I refuse to accept that a book can convey the humanity of Abraham Lincoln more effectively than 45 minutes in the presence of the man himself. One of our competitors offers a mobile planetarium, of sorts, that makes use of a very well produced movie projected on the inside of a dome. Interesting, and well produced I am certain, with many cool special effects. But it cannot compete with an actual planetarium presentation, such as Sky Dome, offering a live guide presenting the program and constantly adjusting and tailoring the show though interaction with the audience.
To paraphrase my brother, a computer class is good, but a skilled teacher is better. And a talented performer, acting as a skilled teacher, and presenting a live school assembly is the best of all!
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