Editor’s Note: It’s amazing how “at home” two adults can feel sitting in Oscar the Grouch’s shadow as he lounges in his iconic garbage can. As Converge Editor in Chief Marina Leight and writer Mark Gura were waiting to enter the offices of Sesame Workshop, they saw no point in putting on their game faces while Oscar stared them down: Everyone around them was smiling as broadly as red-furred Elmo and the other "The Electric Company" cast members. Marina and Mark also smiled broadly as they sat down for an in-depth discussion with the show’s creative team leaders.
The opening sequence of “The Electric Company” always presents a literacy learning problem and concludes with one of the characters shouting, “Hey you guys!”
That iconic signal, kept from the original series of the 1970s, is a clarion call to begin each episode’s 30 minutes of fun and learning.
"The Electric Company," produced by the nonprofit Sesame Workshop, formerly Children’s Television Workshop, broadcast 780 episodes from October 1975 to April 1977 with such notable talents as Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby, Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks.
In January, the 2009 "The Electric Company" debuted as a mini-marathon, with each new episode featuring a story designed to teach four to five vocabulary words. In addition to the TV show, the new series also has a Web site where kids can watch videos, play games on demand and create a personal profile, introducing them to an age-appropriate version of social networking.
In many ways, the new series demonstrates how the digital environment can be effectively structured to provide rich educational experiences for today's tech-savvy generation.
Digital learning comes of age
"The Electric Company" is poised to impact literacy and attitudes about learning in truly 21st-century ways.
It’s as if the best approaches to reach kids — entertainment, solid pedagogy and a modern Web site to support learning — have coalesced in a perfect storm of instructional content presentation guaranteed to be welcomed by today’s early readers, defined as kids in first through second grade.
The show takes full advantage of a confluence of resources comprised of:
- an accomplished, well-informed education team that determines the most needed and relevant curriculum and pedagogy for today’s young learners;
- a staff of experienced TV writers and producers, well steeped in the methods and approaches of a sophisticated and competitive media marketplace; and
- a 21st-century dissemination scheme, embracing a synergistic continuum of media and formats.