Has anyone watched Sesame Street lately? It’s been a while since I’ve watched it despite being one of the longest running and probably most loved children’s TV programs in the world. The success of Sesame Street is in its ability to make learning fun for young children.
Recently, I tuned into a segment at the end of Sesame Street called Abby’s Flying Fairy School. The School is a wonderful example of 21st century learning and teaching in action: collaboration, diversity, project-based learning, teacher as facilitator, peer mentoring, self-directed learning etc.
Abby’s students are an eclectic bunch but it offers rich learning for its young viewers and for educators. In the episode I saw, one of the students turned himself into a wooden puppet. Rather than solving the problem, the teacher, Mrs Sparklenose encourages the students to find their own creative solutions.
Mrs Sparklenose is an example of the teacher as facilitator – providing direction and encouragement to assist students to develop their skills, build knowledge and seek the answers.
In most episodes, students are active in their learning, working together to find solutions to non-trivial problems. To apply Richard Elmore’s sixth principle of the instructional core – they ‘do the work by doing the work’ not by getting an expert like the fairy godmother to help Cinderella to the ball but by finding out how to do it themselves.
The ‘Cinderella Challenge’ represents project-based learning – it attempts to build the knowledge and skills the fairies will need in their daily lives. The Challenge also encourages peer mentoring as Abby, the self-confident fairy offers shy Gonnigan encourage and support to over come his nerves and participate fully in the group activity. Each member of the group benefits from the contribution of ideas and experiences.
And of course, technology is integrated into the learning with the fairy’s own search engine called ‘Spot’. Spot fetches clues to the students’ queries but like Google you don’t always get an exact answer. What the students get are the clues to be able to process information using logic and reasoning.
We can all learn something about 21st century schooling from Abby’s Flying Fairy School – must-watch TV for educators.