Possible Intro: While the world is abuzz over the introduction of the new I-Phone, commentator John Richard Schrock is less than impressed. When it comes to serious video watching for educational purposes, he suggests “size matters.”
Many Kansans have been to the Hutchinson Cosmosphere, or a similar IMAX theater found in science museums. With a screen that extends overhead, and side-to-side beyond your peripheral vision, there is no border to frame the picture and in a few seconds, your brain says “this is real!”
The theater issues serious warnings about getting airsick. The audience gasps and dodges as they speed around the racetrack, hurtle over cliffs, or lift off with the Space Shuttle. You will not forget the blazing oil fires of Kuwait because your brain has told you “you are there.”
Now switch to the normal community theater screen. Yes, “Halloween Part 56" can be pretty scary. But the screen edge is always visible, and you aren’t really “in” the picture like you are with an IMAX screen.
And then you rent “Halloween Part 56" again—to watch with some friends on TV—and where did the scariness go? We all know movies have more impact “on the big screen.” Watching a video at home IS cheaper. More convenient. But also more “ho hum.” More “forgettable.”
Does this really matter? In the entertainment realm, I am glad to let it play out as it will.
But in education, the stakes are more important. And “forgettable” is a problem.
Veteran teachers already know what I mean. Through the 1980s, we showed 16mm films. Despite the clicking and occasional jumping splices, it projected on a large full-color screen. Most students paid attention. Then administrators decided we had to ditch the films for videos on classroom TVs. I call them “postage-stamp videos” since the screen was about the size of a postage stamp held at the end of a students arm when viewed from mid-classroom. The captions and labels, designed for the larger screen, were too small to be read. And students, conditioned at home to watching TV while eating and socializing, brought those bad habits to the classroom.
Now we have the arrival of Dick Tracy’s wristwatch TV. The postage-stamp video has grown into its own. It is hyped as television–internet–computer—and now phone, all rolled into one. And some educational institutions have jumped on the bandwagon to offer podcast courses. But not the advertisers. You have had two years of being able to download Comedy Central and your favorite soap operas. Advertisers know what you and I also know; the tiny screen just isn’t that commanding.
I don’t mind if entertainment is forgettable.
But every student should get a big-screen memorable education.
Well, maybe those who study postage-stamp sized lessons...will get a postage-stamp sized degree?