Half Empty, Since 1998

“I wanted to make a TV show with the ability for authentic open-ended interaction. That meant making the challenges subject to several interpretations.” — Elana Langer

TV Learning For Children

Elana Langer, Marty Spellerberg. September 7th, 2005

Given the dominance of television and video games, educators are expected to entertain classes and hold their attention. The model of the corporation working to enable future learning opportunities continues reforms started a century ago by Dewey. Education, in the most basic sense, is the process by which we learn to be open, adjusting, and self-guided. The object of desire is not pleasure, but self-expression.

Since its inception, educational television has been dependent on the government for assistance, forced competition. Education is structured like any other product needing exposure on television. The material produced competes within the economic structure of for-profit media.

In order to ensure both the commercial success and educational value of a program, strict educational evaluations must be performed. For instance, the success of an episode of Blue’s Clues is determined by the number of times the child looks away during a single viewing, and also the ability for 80% of viewers to repeat lessons.

Elana Langer’s Multimedia Warehouse acts as an alternative to the traditional classroom but is still based on a community of physical participation.

Langer conducted case studies in a designated area of Toronto’s Children’s Museum between 1999-2001 using a minidisk mixing board and recorder, a Dr. Groove beat box and rhythmic instruments.

Her work explores the process by which the mind begins processes of categorization, reducing the complexity of the environment. Objects are identified, offering direction for activity and events. Her standards were developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, her patterns and shapes from a child’s actual environments.

Visitors arrived in spurts and were younger than expected, some aged between 2-4. Their reactions ranged from eating the equipment, singing Twinkle Twinkle to older kids, and finding sounds around the museum.

It was desire that motivated their effort, rather than be considered in opposition to it.

An open-ended narrative allows the viewer to interpret audio/visual data as repetition of patterns found on location, and as cues to identity and achievement. In Good Lookin’ shapes were identified in everyday objects. In What’s Cookin’ images were reused and the viewer counts or sequences stickers in her workbook. Using editing to show patterns and repetition, cooking and trips to the post office became backdrops to the knowledge of reality. Through reflection and action, viewers discovered themselves as perpetual re-creators.

The video image resembles that which otherwise goes unnoticed. From the jewelry choices on each hand, to the way each visitor handled fruit, there was limitless potential for self-evaluation.

Distinctions between addition and multiplication were shown using digital effects.

Interaction builds knowledge through listening and response. Before ascending to the next level, the viewer demonstrated freely the understanding of the principle, illustrating each concept in a highly sophisticated theory.

Unlike direct or ambient light, which is able to cast shadows and texture surfaces, the constant repetitive signal of radiant light supports the effort to normalize within society.

(This piece included in Half Empty #3.)