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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 Six: Building a Bridge to Literacy: Drama in Education as a Pedagogical Method

CHAPTER SIX

Extract

Building a Bridge to Literacy

Drama in Education as a Pedagogical Method

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

Frederick Douglass

Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing

that happens to the human brain.

John Steinbeck1

If Neil Postman’s work could be summarized in just a few words, they might very well be “language, literacy, and the consequences of technological change.” There’s not a book, essay, lecture or interview in which these elements do not play prominently in his questioning of media environments. Postman’s worst nightmare was that speech was devolving into meaningless babble while schooling had lost its way in the wake of the electronic revolution. He tried to warn us in as many ways as he knew how that we were on a collision course with disaster. Yet, most of us remain indifferent to the possibility that technology isn’t always a friend. “In America, especially in American education …we love our technology ….” Postman (1992) stated in his keynote address before the New York State Speech Communication Association, “And as you know, when people are in love, they see no faults in their beloved, are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of their beloved, and, as a result, know nothing whatever about their beloved” (p. 17).

But it wasn’t just technological change that worried Postman, it was the speed at which it was being hurled...

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