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Play time

Oh no! Liberty's Kids no longer "lives" on PBS.org and I was really looking forward to making my own newspaper. There is however a long list of other options in a drop down box. Alas, but how to pick which one? Mom!! Help!

Good news, Liberty's Kids still exists...with an ad panel down the right margin. Classmates and Cool Savings. Definitely valuable options for Liberty's Kids target audience. Caillou, like Liberty's Kids produced by The Cookie Jar Company), and Don't Buy It, a Corporation for Public Broadcasting production, lack ads presumably as they are hosted (and supported) by PBS. Huh, seems like a simple good argument for publicly/governmentally funded education(al productions).

This brief venture into online educational play zones for kid's illustrates another issue: how to decide? With 53 options on PBS alone, how to review, preview, approve of, and monitor all? The move from Liberty's Kids from PBS since the 2008 publication of our text indicates that there is a fluidity in ownership of these resources. Much like many things on the internet, URLs are not permanent (well unless they are PURLs of course), and the "wrapper" and display can shift the meaning and reliability.

How is a teacher to evaluate play related resources? Is such a process different from reviewing print or AV classroom materials? Which toys are appropriate? White and Walker (2008) chapter 15 (p. 143-4) implies that classroom toys will/are not subject to the commercialization or TV and holiday hype. (Incidentally, chapter 15 is really terribly written using too many vague generalizations and unsupported claims to be all that useful. For instance p. 145 "Personal computers became common in every home by the 1980s." In what geographic region? What sample and survey? Please.) When incorporating toys and kid culture into a classroom, it seems impossible to draw clear lines between the commercial and the purely educational (see the case of Liberty's Kids web relocation) and thus essential to raise the related issues with students.

Concerns over funding affect "adult" learning situations as well, so kid culture is not alone. Funding of museum exhibitions, film festivals, and concert series is rarely devoid of corporate or commercial interests. In music and arts, scholars have long drawn some parallels between royal or religious patrons and contemporary grant funders. Do younger viewers and "patrons" of arts or media have the same capacity to critically assess their cultural consumption? Such a question implies that adult viewers have and exercise this ability, though this is not an uncontentious assertion.

Chapter 8, pages 76-77, criticize the media literacy movement and asserts that media efficacy is instead a better method with kid culture in the educational setting. In library and information science, media literacy (typically couched within the umbrella of information literacy) emphasizes critical assessment without preconceived judgments on type of media (though to be honest certainly some practitioners have biases, but don't most of use?). What are the differences between media literacy and media efficacy? Really, any thoughts?

The point of our responses probably is not to entirely question our texts, but consider this my bad habit. Tooning in continues to assert the power of popular culture for social change, but this student is finding little evidence within the text to support these claims, whereas I see around my the hegemonic powers of popular culture. Rarely is radical social change presented or supported. In so many cases, main stream popular culture serves as a site for advertising and homogenization. Popular culture on the fringes seems to provide more diverse voices and challenges to conventional wisdom. Discussing these differences and the various issues brought about by thoughtful assessment of any culture is often radical and can bring about social change. Then again, real change also requires agency, quality information, and a sense of the common good - none of which are inherent in popular media.

Pardon me as this post seems to have devolved into sweeping generalizations and unsupported claims. My migraine is unrelenting. Here's hoping edits tomorrow will clean things up. In the meantime, two other thoughts:

Teaching history to young people with fictional accounts presents the challenge of communicating the difference between fiction and historical realities, but it also provides the exciting opportunity to introduce learners to the vital and sometimes shocking interpretive nature of communicating historical realities. All history is created (insert Eric Foner here), but that doesn't mean all history is fiction. Very important to pay attention to the differences. Information may not be knowledge, but knowledge requires information.

Fun and play are very important. Appealing and accessible are too. The satisfaction of hard work, mastering new skills by trial and error and real effort, and rising to the challenges of appreciating that which is new and different are all also valuable and enjoyable - aka FUN times too. They however are generally in the "acquired taste" category.... education should be also about experiencing and acquiring new tastes and exploring new avenues to fun in addition to those already known.


Good point about the homogenization driven by mainstream pop culture. But mainstream pop culture exists and is a de facto teacher to kids. And the trick is to make it more positive and useful. I'm not an educator, though, so I don't know how to do it! But I am glad people are out there thinking about it.