Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Technology in the classroom - fond memories

The year was 1969 and Armstrong and Aldrin were soon to land on the moon using the computing power of the average modern cellphone. My primary school class were also making a giant leap by being allowed to follow the country's first TV-broadcast sex education series. Up till then there was little use of television in the classroom but this awkward subject seemed ideal for TV since it meant that teachers would be released from potentially embarrassing lessons to teach. Furthermore all pupils would get the same message.

As I remember, the series was very well done considering the taboos of the period and we got the message with a minimum of fuss. However, all parents had to give written consent to their children seeing the series and a small group were excluded, having to sit in another room and draw or read. Maybe some parents didn't like the idea of such a subject being taught by TV or maybe they thought we should remain sweet and innocent a few more years. Whatever the reason I think the medium was excellent for the purpose and stands in stark contrast to the more traditional method of sex education I encountered the following year.

I was in a new school then and only a few of the pupils had seen the revolutionary television series. So it was the job of the biology teacher to update us all on the facts of life. He was a decent teacher but on this subject he was rather shy. We first got a confusing lesson about all the vital organs with all the names in Latin and diagrams that reminded me mostly of marine invertebrates. Many didn't even realise we were getting sex education. The final and most memorable part of this process was when we watched a film about the mating habits of locusts. They touched each other with their antennae for a while before the male jumped up on the female and they stayed locked together and motionless for some time. I remember one lad asking the teacher if they enjoyed it and he said it was hard to tell. The lad replied promptly, " Look sir, I think that one is smiling!"

That was it. Goodness knows how the kids who hadn't seen the TV series managed to work out the intricacies of sexual intimacy. I'm not sure what the moral of this story is but it's a good example of how far we've advanced in tackling this sensitive subject and how the "good old days" of education were often less effective than we'd like to remember.

Photo: Cheryl Recca, Stockvault.com

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