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The Arts and Play as Educational Media in the Digital Age


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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Children are the living messages

we send to a time we will not see.

Neil Postman1

We began this book by asking you to stop, look and notice how deeply absorbed people are in their digital devices. We will end it with the same request. Look around you. What do you see? This is the new normal. It is still somewhat visible to us because it is still somewhat new to us. Shortly it will become old hat and fade from view. Soon, we will experience the omnipresence of digital media and the behaviors they bring as the only environment possible. It will take on the guise of the “natural” and the status of the assumed.

Our students come to school very much connected and dependent upon digital media. No secret here. They spend more time with digital media than they do in any other activity including family, friends, study or sleep. The technophile, well-funded and well-heeled, wants us to ignore that which is right before our eyes. More technology, they argue, will solve the problems of more technology. The sales pitch is working a bit too well. We are now being pressured to transform our schools into technology centers and our children’s summers into prolonged periods of online activity. Even during June, July and August, months when we use to expect youngsters to be outside playing with friends and learning games, ←161 | 162→many children are corralled in their...

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