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  • Prose and Purpose

    After 25 years on the job, a former provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.

A Draw
December 2, 2012 - 8:02pm

Both of my kids have been issued iIPads in school and I am convinced they are receiving a better, more sophisticated and dynamic education as a result of the use of technology.  At the same time, I worry about all the screen time that has now been incorporated into their lives. Whereas in the old days (Middle Ages) when I went to school we had TV and movies (yes, as I remind my kids, they were talkies), kids today still have TV, movies, plus on a much more personal and individual level, iIPads, computers, as well as smart phones. Books and magazines are still popular but screen time often seems to be an irresistible urge complicated now by the multiple uses (school, social, games, etc.) for both the computer as well as the iIPad.

It looked for most of the Thanksgiving weekend that screen time had totally dominated. The parade on TV, various movies, games, 007, and I was really beginning to despair. Had my kids become the captives of screens, mostly the small screens that seem now to be everywhere? And then we decided to go the Museum of Natural History.  The combination we attended consisted of the spider exhibit, the Flying Monsters IMAX show, and the foods of the world exhibit.  Each in itself was a wonderful learning experience as well as thoroughly enjoyable.  The spiders, especially those that were alive, gave wonderful insights into the life of a spider.  My first look at a live Black Widow, various other spiders, and a few tarantulas and scorpions certainly held all our attention.  The Flying Monsters IMAX show provided an in-depth look at the largest creatures ever to fly and it is amazing to see what seems to be an accurate depiction, based on the skeletons that have been discovered and studied, of the creatures that dominated the skies when the dinosaurs dominated the land.  An IMAX presentation is clearly screen time but the educational component is nevertheless clearly dominant. And the food exhibit covered everything from the growth of food, to the different types of food that are most prevalent, to the meals of the famous and not so famous.

The trip to the museum was very successful and quickly became one of the highlights of this holiday weekend for the kids (as well as for me).  More importantly, it demonstrated again that the education that matters most together with the entertainment that captivates best can often be found at a museum, especially one as spectacular at the Museum of Natural History.

To the extent that we can, we need to compete with screen time by stressing family time, play time, cultural time, and educational time.  How to do so successfully is the increasing challenge we all face. 



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