Technology in Schools?

BioscopeSnippets 203.  How much technology should be used in schools?  Is it ok for children to be using ipads, or accessing the internet, while at school?  That’s a modern debate, but the worries behind it might not be so modern as you would think.  The following article is from the 11th February 1909 issue of The Bioscope, and concerns the use of early film projectors in schools:

The possible utilisation of the bioscope as an aid in the education of children is a topic upon which in the very near future, educationalists will be called to express an opinion. The matter, as readers of The Bioscope know, has been under consideration by the Education Committee of the London County Council, and in other parts of the country the local authorities are having the question brought under their notice.

It is hardly necessary to point out to those interested in the bioscope trade that the adoption of the moving picture, even in a small percentage only of the Council schools throughout the country, would mean a very large increase of business and a wide extension of the field.

In order to gather the opinions of representative educationalists and leaders of the trade, The Bioscope laid before a number of gentlemen the following points in regard to the use of the bioscope in schools:

(a) The utility of bioscope pictures in education generally.
(b) The special utility of bioscope pictures in the education of the young.
(c) The utility of bioscope pictures in special branches of higher education.

From the numerous interesting letters we have received on the subject, we publish the following extracts: Mr. A. J. Mundella, the Secretary of the National Education Association, writes:

“I am obliged to say that I much doubt the value of bioscope pictures in education. A good teacher studies the different capacity of his class, and in addressing them regulates his pace and the fullness with which he treats his subject, so as to carry with him the intelligence of all without strain. And this is possible when using pictures, diagrams or even lantern slides. But the mechanical regular movement of a bioscope offers no such opportunity. To the mental strain on the backward part of a class, there is also to be added the cerebral excitement and perhaps even irritation of this process; and the strain and damage to the eyesight. The last is already a terrible evil in our schools in connection with much simpler apparatus.”

The editor of the magazine held strong opinions about all this.  The following is an extract from his editorial column:

The prospect of the introduction of the bioscope into the world of education is one which has for some time past been growing steadily brighter. Far-sighted men in the trade have realised that large and promising as is the field of entertainment there is another equally wide field for the moving picture, and one that can have usefulness as well as amusement for its aim. In the instruction of children it has long been recognised that the use of pictures was a great advantage; it enabled the teacher to place before the minds of the class something that they could absorb, not by the ears but by the eyes. Sight is a far greater factor in the education of the child than hearing. Pictures can convey to the child many ideas that if put in words would be very imperfectly grasped.

It may be argued, as Mr. A. J. Mundella argues, that the strain on the sight of children is already great enough and that to add the strain of the moving picture to the others would be to imperil still further the eyesight of the younger generation. It is, of course, only too true that our eyesight is deteriorating; it is equally true that continuous watching of the moving picture on the screen does tire the nerves of the eye. But it is not suggested that bioscope lectures in schools for the young should be continuous or even frequent. The bioscope would be an ally, taking its place in the ranks with all the other means of teaching, not ousting them from their present position and usefulness…

We think, indeed, that Mr. Mundella overestimates the seriousness of this aspect of the case, but it cannot be denied that there are many people who are of his opinion in regard to the effect of instruction by bioscope on backward children. It has been found, however, in soma cases that pictorial instruction was the only kind of teaching which had any effect on the brains of defective pupils, and there is a great deal to be said on both sides of the question. And we do not think Mr. Mundella, with all his experience of schools in England, can believe that there is anything like individual tuition at the present time. The backward child has to take his chance, and if, as we believe would be the case, his chance is improved by showing him the actual things that he is studying on the screen instead of only writing about them on the blackboard, it is surely time that the bioscope was given a trial in the schools.

In the days when we went to school there were no bioscopes to show pictures of the Nile, of the Ganges and of the Amazon. For us a mountain, whether in Tibet or Peru, was only a mountain: it had no special qualities. A town was always a town and inhabitants always inhabitants. There was nothing in our minds to differentiate the Pekinese from the Parisian, the man of Baghdad from the man of Birmingham. Children of to-day can be better instructed in geography than that. We would, indeed, say that the coming of the bioscope is nearly as important and epoch marking an event as the coming of the printed lesson books.

Personally I’m very glad that “moving pictures” found their way into schools, as teachers putting on films for us offered a welcome chance to relax and do something other than school work!  The educational value of such things is, of course, debatable!

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in 20th Century, Britain, Education, History, Magazines, Newspapers, Snippets and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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