Sesame Street. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. PBS. American as apple pie, no? Well….no: not always. Not in 1966 when the question was asked, “Can television be used to teach young children?” Soon, after rigorous research into the concept, Children’s Television Workshop was conceived and Sesame Street was hence born. Media, at the time, was not generally considered to be a tool for teaching. In fact, it was looked upon with suspicion. This idea was…..innovative. A glint.
Look how far we’ve come. As Sara DeWitt from PBS said during today’s SXSWedu keynote, public television has always extended far beyond the classroom to learners of all ages and continues to serve as an incubator for educational content and delivery. A year ago they launched their first app designed specifically for parents at this very conference. Now downloaded 1.2 million times, PBS Parents Play & Learn has received accolades from busy parents looking to integrate learning experiences into the day-to-day activities they experience with their children in the world. And Mr. Rogers, who lives on perpetuity through continued airing, tapped something early and enduring: that learning thrives in an environment characterized by social-emotional sensitivity and connection to our communities. Our neighborhoods. He’s even inspired a thematically similar, contemporary version of his show in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
What can we learn from PBS when it comes to our own thoughts related to innovations in learning? Perhaps the following:
- Notice a gap or opportunity.
- Ask good questions and do the research.
- Be bold in the face of doubters.
- Press on: Grow and continue to innovate (loop back to our first bullet!)….yet retain what works.
- Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. Innovate to continue to meet those gaps or opportunities.
- When it makes sense, do use technology. But connect it to enduring human needs: learning, love, and connection.
See that? PBS, you’re still teaching me. Thank you.