Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Book Report on Peter Rabbitt

In 1985 Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang made it to TV with a wonderful animated tale called You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. At age 25, I probably didn't even watch the show which, like all the Peanuts TV shows, was a musical created for young children.

Charles Schultz was an innovative cartoonist who brought the average everyday world of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy, to life for all to see and enjoy.

Lessons learned were a continuing theme of the comic strip and the animated TV shows. The Peanuts gang taught us about friendship, trust, bravery, good sportsmanship, community, fairness, teamwork and many more important ideas.

In the late 1990's I was fortunate enough to come across a copy of You're A Good Man Charlie Brown which I was excited to show to my young children. 

Midway through the show I was stunned to see this segment, or "song," which is essentially a mini-docudrama that explored our educational system and the different learning styles students bring with them to school.

Amazingly, it also predicted the classroom of the future.

In this segment Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown are each working on an assignment to write a book report on Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

One of the first things you see in the segment are the different learning styles each character brings to the task. Lucy pays little attention to the information she writes and is busy counting the words to ensure she meets the minimum requirements of the assignment.

Linus reads volumes of other texts and delves deep in his report to explore the history, psychology, and comparative literature of Peter Rabbit while paying absolutely no attention to how much time and effort he puts into the assignment.

Charlie Brown daydreams and worries that he didn't get enough sleep so he might not do a good job. He procrastinates, looks outside and feels like he really should be playing with his friends. He makes a sandwich and finally begins long after the two others are finished.

The brilliance of the depiction of these different learning styles is amazing enough for educators to see. But when you begin to see how Schultz portrays Linus using a personal computer to compose his paper then you realize that he really understood learning and our educational system long before many educators were asking questions about concepts like differentiated instruction and classroom technology.

And, while Linus is still doing his research in books, the way he uses the computer to simply edit his text is incredible.

This new tool allows him to erase and "do over" his writing to get just the right words for his thesis.

No need for pencils, papers, or erasers.

But wait, that's not all, because before you know it Linus is actually creating his own animation. Creatively typing away at the computer like the virtuoso pianist he is, Linus begins to make the words of his paper come alive in short animated clips that help him make his point.

This cartoon within a cartoon leaps out of the screen to the viewer who quickly understands that this kid is brilliant not only because he knows his information but also because he knows how to present it back in this amazing animated production.

I have used this short video many times in teacher professional development programs. My goal is primarily to engage teachers with the idea of using media and technology with their students and to encourage teachers to learn the tools themselves.

Using technology and media production in Project Based Learning has certainly come a long way since You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. I believe there is still a long way to go for this kind of learning to be ubiquitous in schools.

I haven't truly explored the different learning styles in this blog having mostly focused on the technology integration. That's my expertise and, to me, the excitement and engagement in learning demonstrated in this segment is the key point. 

While Linus may be pre-disposed to go further than his classmates with his education, we do not know how his experience may help teachers engage other students to expand their interest and improve their learning.

What do you think?

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