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The Arts and Play as Educational Media in the Digital Age

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Robert Albrecht and Carmine Tabone

The digital revolution we are now entering as educators is an unchartered sea pregnant with wondrous possibilities but laden with a minefield of unforeseen consequences. A pedagogy that overlooks or downplays the disruptive and often dangerous influence of digital media on childhood development is necessarily a very shortsighted one.

More than just highlighting our misgivings about digital media, however, this book has a purpose far more ambitious and infinitely more useful. Based upon 45 years of work with young people in Jersey City classrooms, day camps, housing projects, libraries, church basements and community centers, the authors propose a pedagogical strategy that uses hands-on experiences in the arts as a strategy to offset and counterbalance the dominance of digital media in the lives of children.

Rather than call for the elimination of digital media—clearly an impossibility even if it were desirable—the authors maintain that children need to be exposed to non-digital, non-electronic experiences that cultivate alternative ways of thinking, feeling, and being in the world. In sum, the book does not call for an end to the digital, but outlines ways in which the arts and creative forms of play help to establish a balance in the education and socialization of children as we enter more deeply into the Digital Age.

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Introduction: When Change Changed

 

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Introduction

When Change Changed

Change isn’t new; what is new is the degree of change …

Change changed.

Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner1

STOP! GO NO FURTHER!

If you are at home, look around the room where you are sitting. How far are you from your cellphone, your laptop, your desktop, your television? How long will it be before this moment is interrupted by one of these digital technologies? Can you make it through a week, or a day, or even the next minute, without using a digital device?

Oops … Someone is text messaging you now.

If you are not at home but in a public space, put the book down. Once again, look around. To your left, there is a couple walking by, staring intently at screens that they hold in their hands. To your right, someone is pushing a stroller and talking on a cellphone. Sitting on the bench next to yours, a small boy is playing a video game while his sister is listening to music through her ear pods. Mom is scrolling through posts on her Facebook page, the baby in the carriage is playing with a digital screen it grasps clumsily in its hands. Across the way, a young man is gesturing animatedly and appears to be talking to himself. Who is he yelling at?

Oops … Someone is calling you now.

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