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When Television Is More Than an “Idiot Box” — The Development Set — Medium
"Around the world, TV educates while it entertains. It can teach the internet a few things, too."



"When it comes to education and technology, it is not television but the internet that is hot and wired. The United Nation’s Broadband Commission, packed with luminaries from Mexico’s Carlos Slim to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, suggests that the internet can “enhance learning opportunities, transform the teaching and learning environment… and ultimately rethink and transform” education systems.

At first glance, the internet could be a very attractive tool to overcome a global learning crisis. At the turn of the 21st century, the World Bank reported that about seven percent of the world’s population was online. Last year, it had reached 41 percent.

But it turns out just giving kids access to the web doesn’t do much for educational outcomes. Across countries that take part in the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA), children who use computers more intensively do worse on tests. One Laptop Per Child, which distributes cheap computers in developing countries, has been beset by failure. In Peru, they had no impact on math and language test scores. Similar findings emerged in Nepal. Likewise, extending access to broadband in schools in Portugal led to lower grades — although the impact was reduced if YouTube was blocked.

There is a simple explanation. When you give kids a computer, they’re not suddenly more excited by math and social studies. Children are, for the most part, more interested in the medium’s entertainment capabilities."



"Under some circumstances, television can be at least as effective as traditional instruction. Mexico’s Telesecundaria programming broadcasts six hours of lessons a day to children in remote areas of the country where there is no secondary school.

For the most part, though, television has remained an adjunct in the classroom, rather than a replacement for teachers. But as a more holistic tool for learning outside the classroom, it has had a massive impact — particularly when it serves its primary function to entertain and not educate.

Recent research suggests there can be a considerable upside to hours “wasting time” in front of the television screen. Take Chitrahaar and Rangoli. Illiterate school kids who watched the shows were more than twice as likely to be functionally literate five years later than kids who didn’t watch the shows. The effect was particularly noticeable for girls. Given the reach of these two programs, it’s possible that millions of Indian kids became literate largely thanks to the simple and very cheap approach of same-language subtitling.

Perhaps the most well known form of educational entertainment, or “edutainment,” for children is Sesame Street, which is now broadcast in more than thirty countries around the world. In the US, children who grew up in areas where the television signal was stronger — and so had better access to Sesame Street — were much less likely to have to repeat a grade in school. In Mexico, viewers of Plaza Sesamo do better in literacy and mathematics tests. The results are the same in Turkey (Susam Sokagi), Portugal (Rua Sesamo), Russia (Ulitsa Sezam) and Bangladesh (Sisimpur), to name but a few.

elevision’s educational power extends beyond childhood, and beyond skills traditionally learned in a classroom. As cable access rolled out across India, for example, viewers of all ages started watching shows where comparatively strong women characters had financial and social independence. Women in villages with cable access reported more power over making decisions and less acceptance of wife beating. These villages also began to see declining birth rates and rapidly rising school enrollment for girls.

Similar effects have been observed around the world. In Brazil, as the Rede Globo channel extended across the country in the 1970s and 1980s, parents began to have fewer children, perhaps mimicking the characters on their favorite soaps. Recent research in Nigeria finds that areas where the TV signal is stronger see parents wanting fewer children and using contraceptives more, alongside lower rates of female genital cutting. In South Africa, World Bank researchers found that viewers of one locally produced soap opera, “Scandal”, which was specifically developed to incorporate plot lines dealing with financial responsibility, were almost twice as likely to borrow from formal sources of credit like banks rather than informal sources. They were also less likely to engage in gambling.

When soap opera characters are relatable and believable, audiences begin to associate with them. If a beloved character stands up for herself in front of her husband, or gets in over their head in debt, or gets pregnant by accident, viewers learn from that experience. And that knowledge translates into changed behavior: more control within the household, less informal debt, fewer children.

Heavy-handed public service messages on television, like condescending “the more you know” spots, may impart information but rarely engage viewers. The same may well be true of the internet. For most children in particular, it is primarily used as a source of fun and not education.

Pioneers around the world are already experimenting with internet-based edutainment for kids. Sites like ABC Mouse, among countless others, produce educational games for children. Pratham, an Indian NGO, has developed a program combining math questions with an arcade game. Children who used it for two hours a week saw their math test scores considerably improve. Given the internet’s interactive nature, perhaps the impact of well-designed web edutainment will end up being even greater than the broadcast variety.

Edutainment will never be able to replace teachers in a classroom. But well-designed programming — whether it arrives by broadcast or broadband — can have a dramatic impact at low cost."
charleskenny  television  tv  education  learning  howwelearn  2016  olpc  entertainment  mexico  turkey  russia  portugal  bangladesh  india  sesamestreet  literacy  math  mathematics 
january 2016 by robertogreco

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