Remember watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid? A discussion about cartoon favorites is probably a good way to date myself, for better or for worse. Your cartoon memories may be quite different from mine. Some of my most beloved cartoons growing up were Speed Buggy, Thundarr the Barbarian, Space Ghost, Scooby Doo, Felix the Cat, and The Superfriends. Who can ever forget the amazing Wonder Twins (Zan and Jayna) and their pet Space Monkey Gleek? Let’s also not forget another favorite of mine, Hong Kong Phooey. Ah, yes. Those were the simpler days.

Of all those cartoon titles, I think Scooby Doo is probably the only one my own children could identify. Saturday morning television cartoons at our house in 2008 are FAR less of a big deal than they were for me growing up in the 1970s. Instead of sitting glued to the television, our children are far more likely to be mesmerized on our living room couch interacting on websites of their choice.

The replacement for Saturday morning cartoons

Clayton M. Christensen and Michael B. Horn are the authors of the book “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.” They also wrote the recent EduTopia article “Disrupting Class: Student-Centric Education Is the Future – How radical innovation will change the way we teach and kids learn.” In both the book and the article, the authors highlight the disruptive role which the personalizing potential of technologies will have on our schools and on learning more generally in the years ahead.

Access to 1 to 1 technologies (including Internet-connected laptop computers) certainly does invite more personalized and differentiated entertainment as well as learning experiences. Why settle for passively watching the same non-interactive cartoon on television when you can dynamically explore and play in an online environment like Webkinz?

My own children are growing up in an information environment very different from the one I knew as a child, and scenes like the one pictured here on a Saturday morning provide vivid proof. It also reminds me of how important BALANCE is in our lives, and the need to have limitations and boundaries on our activities. Left to their own devices, our kids might choose to spend all day on the computer and never go outside and play. It doesn’t take a lot encouragement (generally) after declaring a “lids down” moratorium on computer use to get everyone to go outside and play. Situations like this are happening REGULARLY in our house, however, and I think it’s natural with the access we have to digital technologies. It is my contention that we all (regardless of age) need to regularly practice “digital discipline,” when we intentionally choose to disconnect from our technologies and instead “plug in” to our environment and to our face-to-face relationships with others. The learning potentials latent in our online, digital world can be fantastic and very positively engaging, but they can also be addictive. I need to be reminded to “un-plug” as much as my own children from time to time.

This line of thinking always reminds me of Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” as well. In addition to believing we all need to practice and refine our own skills of digital discipline, I also think many of us (including our family) need to ratchet the number of organized activities in which we are involved WAY down. We’re just too busy.

Thankfully, the past five days have been “fall break” for Oklahoma students and have provided a wonderful respite from the regular fall routine of school and homework for our kids. I just wish I got a “fall break” too! :-)

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On this day..

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  • http://hurricanemaine.blogspot.com Louise Maine

    Nice list of cartoons and ones I know well (though growing up we were not allowed to sit and watch them for long but could keep the TV on while dusting, etc.) Fond memories!

    Though my kids are older, we are going through the same experiences. With a small farm and four dogs, we impose laptops off frequently. Do I continually work even while family time watching a movie because I have too much to do or because I can’t sit still for a movie anymore?

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Good question, Louise. I think it is easy to get so used to working all the time and feeling the pressure of so much to do, that it becomes challenging at times to actually rest and put the brain in idle. I think our potential for 24/7 connectivity not only with laptops but also with iPhones and Blackberries has changed perceptions of how connected and how frequently we should be connected. This is not always a healthy or positive thing. Asking questions about how connected we are and how connected we need to be is a good thing.

  • http://blog.genyes.com sylvia martinez

    Lids down? Sure, why not! It will help get them ready for going back to school! ;-)

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