This is an essay I wrote during my last semester at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.
It pretty much sums up why Cinizar exists.
In the early part of the 20th century, television pioneers such as David Sarnoff (founder of RCA and NBC), Frank Stanton (president of CBS from 1946 to 1971), Edward R Murrow (radio and television journalist), and Walter Cronkite (journalist and television anchorman) were big believers in the power of television to educate the general public. According to Ponce de Leon’s book, That’s The Way It Is, Stanton even “predicted that television [would] increase the public’s appreciation for ‘high culture’, and when supplemented by universal schooling, enable Americans to attain the ‘highest general cultural level of any people in the history of the world’”.
However, from its earliest days, in its quest to remain free from governmental control, television became dependent on commercialism, and while there is a good amount of quality programing out there, this dependence resulted in television never reaching its full potential to elevate American culture.
Advances in motion picture and technology in general have now lead to a culture that those early pioneers could never have imagined. There is virtually a “television set” in the palm of everyone’s hand or on their desk, and close to all the knowledge in the world is available through those devices. No longer are only the heads of the television networks and movie studios deciding what is worth filming and distributing. Advances in video cameras and distribution platforms have made the previously insurmountable barriers of entry to mass communication (except for the wealthiest of investors) virtually nonexistent.
Because of the accessibility of these new technologies (for the creators as well as the consumers of media), we may very well have been granted a second chance at that educational revolution.
It is no secret that many people believe the state of American education is in crisis; teacher shortages, teacher low wages, falling test scores, rises in drop out rates, extravagant college tuition costs, low numbers of college degrees in various areas, and a falling international ranking despite our national resources are just a few of the examples. All of these factors and more combine to a learning environment that is tragically failing many of our students, and thus society as a whole.
Yet the country is more media literate than ever before, and our young people seem to possess an innate ability to adapt to digital technologies and engage with these new mediums in a way yet not fully explored. But how does one sort through the unfathomable amount of information available on the Internet in order to find the credible, valuable, educational information that could be utilized to elevate oneself to a higher level of education? How do we combat the decreased attention spans and the addiction to entertainment that is now a reality of American culture?
We need to meet the younger generation where they are at, and provide high quality multimedia educational materials that strive to speak a language that they can easily understand and be excited to engage with. Imagine what they could attain if they were provided with an enticing (dare I say, entertaining?) presentation of important knowledge and skill sets, communicated through platforms they interconnect with daily.
This is not to say we should simplify everything to the point of dumbing it down, but simply that we should be communicating on these platforms that are a new language of the future in order to build the fundamental foundation of learning on all different types of subjects, as well as help students of all ages understand the importance and application of the knowledge they are gaining.
It has been said that motion picture is the closest to thought of all the art forms, and I believe this is why it resonates so powerfully with so many people. People in my generation and younger were raised in a world where motion picture was every where. Learning from motion picture resources remains one of the best ways for me to learn and retain information. Many people in this day and age would say the same. As such, I believe that the well researched and important knowledge of the present (and the future) should be presented in this way as an option for those seeking to educate themselves in various fields of study.
Multimedia educational materials could become highly valuable to our teachers and our students (who are used to “learning” in this manner, whether they are aware of it or not). We cannot continue to fail our students because we continue to rely on older, out of date communication methods that are not as effective as new communication methods, nor are they self sustaining. Nothing will ever replace the human element of a fantastic educator, but we must take advantage of this opportunity to support our teachers and provide every resource possible to our students. Not doing so could be comparable to not seeing the value and application of the printing press.
I have believed in the concept of motion picture as a highly powerful and effective educational tool for as long as I can remember, but was recently strongly reminded of the very real need for it in today’s world. While taking a torturous online Statistics class (that provided zero educational resources besides a convoluted text book), I typed in a desperate Google search for “probability in statistics”. It was then that I discovered Yay Math. Yay Math is essentially a one man band teacher who films his (very understandable) math lessons and posts them online. This video experience felt as real as being in the (very fun) classroom, and the teacher was funny and entertaining, and spoke in every day language. For the first time, I didn’t feel a sick feeling in my stomach while doing statistics. I was actually enjoying myself, and I actually (finally) understood the material! The teaching style was so intelligent and non pretentious, and because of my true understanding of the material, I felt confident and inspired to persevere.
I continued to rely on Yay Math’s video classroom lessons throughout the semester, and very soon discovered what is the best example of utilizing multimedia resources to educate in an engaging way that I have yet come across: Yay Math’s StatsCenter. These videos are hilarious, modern, simplified, and above all, intelligently present essential educational information in a succinct, attainable manner.
StatsCenter was wildly encouraging to me on a personal level because not only was it an enormous reason why I was successful in my statistics class, but it was proof of what I have always been believed regarding well produced video instructional resources being a highly effective form of communication. We must take advantage of this now accessible opportunity for educators and use the motion picture art form to provide learning tools that could indeed elevate the education level for all.
Entrepreneurial educators such as Robert Adhoot of Yay Math need our support and encouragement. Remember the highly effective, sometimes even life changing educators that you have encountered? Imagine if you could share those lessons/experiences with your children and the students of all ages all over the world. Imagine that you could continue on in your education with high quality, succinct, dare I even say fun, educational resources on any topic you wanted. Worldwide communication is possible, high quality video cameras are affordable, and distribution platforms are available to all. We can make this happen.