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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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Chapter Five: The Oral Curriculum: A Prelude to Literacy and Learning

CHAPTER FIVE

Extract

The Oral Curriculum

A Prelude to Literacy and Learning

When you plug something into a wall,

someone is getting plugged into you.

Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner1

Every Sunday afternoon for as long as I (Robert Albrecht) can remember, Aunt Flo and Uncle Mike would come to visit. They lived just down the block, but other than my mother’s daily phone conversations with her sister, they lived in their world and we lived in ours. Sundays, however, were different. All the rhythms and routines of the week were interrupted by a new pattern. Usually my father would take my mother and Aunt Flo for a leisurely ride around town, while Uncle Mike stayed behind, read the Sunday paper, did the crossword puzzles, and puffed quietly on his cigar enjoying his day of rest.

The last stop on my father’s tour was the bakery where he would pick up a loaf of rye bread for the evening’s meal. Supper on Sunday was small—the big meal was taken earlier in the day—just some cold cuts, slices of cheese, pickles, bread and maybe a salad. The family who sat around me at the table exchanged gossip, commented on the news of the day, discussed celebrity scandals, chatted about upcoming weddings, joked about neighbors, reported sicknesses and lamented recent deaths.

Sooner or later, they always got around to telling stories about their childhood in Jersey City and New...

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