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Television As a Learning Tool?

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In this Ed Week article I look at educational television and the latest efforts to study its impact on children's literacy development.

Yesterday I came across this study, by the Children's Hospital of Boston and Harvard Medical School, that concludes "TV viewing before the age of 2 does not improve a child's language and visual motor skills."

Theo%20Reading.jpg

The longitudinal study of children from birth to age 3, published in the March issue of Pediatrics, didn't measure any detrimental affects of television viewing. But the researchers say there are other indications that children younger than 2 should not watch television, which is the stance of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well.

"Contrary to marketing claims and some parents' perception that television viewing is beneficial to children's brain development, no evidence of such benefit was found," Marie Evans Schmidt, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a statement.

As I write in my Ed Week piece, though, the preschool and kindergarten sets do learn from educational television. Programs like "Sesame Street," "Between the Lions," and "WordWorld," have been shown to boost some of the precursor skills necessary for learning to read. There are even some efforts under way to help parents, child caregivers, and teachers of young children to use educational programming more formally.

What do you see as the pros and cons of promoting educational television as a learning tool?

(Photo: Theo reads a book to his family on PBS KIDS® series Between the Lions.
Credit: © 2009 WGBH)


3 Comments

Television watching itself is primarily a passive experience, so it is not surprising to hear of these findings. However, many producers of children's television programming -- I am thinking particularly of PBS and many of the local affiliated public stations across the country -- produce some very compelling and interactive web content linked to their TV program's characters and story-lines. The interactivity created online is a whole other kettle of fish with regards to the impact it may have on young learners and it deserves more attention just as the producers of PBS web content deserve more attention.

I admit that my toddler watched lots of television when he was younger. One day when my son was 13 months old, we were in a drugstore called K&b drugs. My son pointed at the K and the B and recited each letter perfectly. I was shocked. When I got home, I showed him every alphabet and he recognized every one of them. I asked him how he knew this and he said Sesame Street. From that point on, I made sure his television viewing was educational programs. This child is now 13 years old, has been in gifted since 1st grade and has a very large vocabulary. He also loves to read, but he does struggle in math. I'm certain if there was a tv show that focused on math he would be doing well there as well.

I admit that my toddler watched lots of television when he was younger. One day when my son was 13 months old, we were in a drugstore called K&b drugs. My son pointed at the K and the B and recited each letter perfectly. I was shocked. When I got home, I showed him every alphabet and he recognized every one of them. I asked him how he knew this and he said Sesame Street. From that point on, I made sure his television viewing was educational programs. This child is now 13 years old, has been in gifted since 1st grade and has a very large vocabulary. He also loves to read, but he does struggle in math. I'm certain if there was a tv show that focused on math he would be doing well there as well.

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