to include families in classroom activities and planning hold promise of bringing together two powerful systems for supporting children’s learning.
Children participate in many other institutions outside their homes that can foster learning. Some of these institutions have learning as part of their goals, including many after-school programs, organizations such as Boy and Girl Scouts and 4-H Clubs, museums, and religious groups. Others make learning more incidental, but learning takes place nevertheless (see McLaughlin, 1990, on youth clubs; Griffin and Cole, 1984, on the Fifth Dimension Program).
Connections to experts outside of school can also have a positive influence on in-school learning because they provide opportunities for students to interact with parents and other people who take an interest in what students are doing. It can be very motivating both to students and teachers to have opportunities to share their work with others. Opportunities to prepare for these events helps teachers raise standards because the consequences go beyond mere scores on a test (e.g., Brown and Campione, 1994, 1996; Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, in press b).
The idea of outside audiences who present challenges (complete with deadlines) has been incorporated into a number of instructional programs (e.g., Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1997; Wiske, 1997). Working to prepare for outsiders provides motivation that helps teachers maintain student interest. In addition, teachers and students develop a better sense of community as they prepare to face a common challenge. Students are also motivated to prepare for outside audiences who do not come to the classroom but will see their projects. Preparing exhibits for museums represents an excellent example (see Collins et al., 1991). New technologies that enhance the ability to connect classrooms to others in the school, to parents, business leaders, college students, content area experts, and others around the world are discussed in Chapter 9.
For better or for worse, most children spent a considerable amount of time watching television; it has played an increasingly prominent role in children’s development over the past 50 years. Children watch a great deal of television before entering school, and television viewing continues throughout life. In fact, many students spend more hours watching television than attending school. Parents want their children to learn from television; at the same time they are concerned about what they are learning from the programs they watch (Greenfield, 1984).