An assembled class of public school children cleared its desks, put its books away and turned on the radio to hear a program of English folk songs. As the voice came over the air-waves to the classroom, the children joined in the choruses as they had been urged. A half hour ensued in which the children absorbed the folk lore of the English, sang the songs and played the games of British children. Then the shades were pulled down and a motion picture operator began projecting films depicting the life, industries and people of the British Isles. Between pictures, and before and after them, the teacher orally quizzed the children.
It is thus that Rita Hochheimer, assistant director of visual instruction of New York’s Department of Education, visualizes the classroom of the future. We were chatting as we wandered about her exhibit at the Women’s Exposition of Arts and Industries which opened Monday at the Hotel Astor and will continue for the duration of the week. And we had just witnessed the first exhibition of a new phase of visual instruction through a radio tie-up for classroom use. The demonstration was just as Miss Hochheimer had described her classroom of the future, except that in this instance the class had moved to the stage of the Exposition and the singer was in view of both audience and children. The entire program, however, was broadcast over Station WHN.
There is no doubt in Miss Hochheimer’s mind regarding the use of radio as the next step in the growth of visual education. Her friend, Dorothy Gordon, Town Hall recitalist, the singer in the present demonstration, already engaged in educational work over the air. As director of music for the Columbia Broadcasting System’s School of the Air, Miss Gordon regularly broadcasts an educational program. All that remains to be done is to effect a more complete synchronization of the broadcasts with school curricula. Initial steps have been taken and a syllabus prepared. Schools already utilize her program as part of their educational program.
A POWERFUL STIMULUS
Miss Hochheimer holds that visual education is a powerful stimulus to learning. She also believes it a force in the promotion of better understanding between the peoples of the world.
“We learn so little about other countries from books,” she said. “Children, even adults, don’t realize that a Russian, for instance, is not essentially a different person than we are. Pictures break down the barriers that ignorance builds up. As children see children of another country play, they begin to understand them. The foreign language, seemingly so incomprehensible, seems less so.”
It was as a language teacher at Washington Irving High School that Miss Hochheimer first appreciated the values of visual instruction in teaching. She found that her students picked up French and German much easier after they had assimilated a measure of the country’s philosophy, after they had heard a country’s music.
Miss Hochheimer found that German could be taught more easily if her classes attended the famous German operas and she was the first to arrange for her classes to do so. Since 1919, when she was appointed to her present position, she has been fostering various phases of visual instruction. The radio, she thinks, is the next step.
According to Miss Hochheimer, about 500 of New York’s 700 schools now include some phase of visual instruction in their curricula. All that holds further expansion back, she told us, was lack of physical facilities.
“Educational authorities,” she says, “have become quite convinced of the values of visual instruction. “How better,” she asked, “could the comparative size of the British Isles to the United States be shown than to superimpose a map of the Islands on a map of the United States.”
As a sample of what visual instruction means in the teaching of history and geography, Miss Hochheimer submitted a list of films used by various classes in the New York school system. All of these have been, or will be shown, during the demonstration at the Astor.