“Every one of us—no matter how much money we have—needs to know that there’s something about us worth giving.”– Fred Rogers.
Regardless of whether Mister Rogers’ puppets, trains, and soothing voice touched your childhood personally, he was inarguably a very “good neighbor” to millions of preschool children during his nearly 40 years of public broadcasting from 1963 to 2001. A pioneer in the new educational medium of television for children at its inception nearly 60 years ago, his gentle educational program was aimed at 2 to 5 year-olds, and not only touched the lives of millions children, but made a lasting impression on Edtech as a industry, and still guides the direction it is taking to this day.
Video: May 1, 1969: Fred Rogers testifies before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications
Rogers spent his professional life confronting traditional education’s challenges and limitations, imagining new ways of thinking about old problems and steadily adhering to his own core educational beliefs. By creating Mister Rogers, he created an example of what he wanted to see more of in the world, and preserved his ideals in his television show time capsule, to continue to inspire the future of education.
Here are three long-lasting influences on edtech from the legacy of Mister Rogers:
1. Using New Technology to Improve Education
Television was a relatively new medium in the 60’s, and there was no Barney, Blue’s Clues, or Dora the Explorer when Mister Rogers came on the scene. Many parents were worried about exposing their children to the emerging new technology, and definitely did not view it as an educational tool.
As a Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers was aware of and shared many parents’ concerns for the type of influence TV would have on young children. He explained in an interview with CNN in 2001 that he got into television precisely because he hated television in its original form. He saw the potential for digital media and new technologies to offer real value to early education and wanted to create a positive and uplifting alternative for young viewers.
Although much progress has been made on the educational television front, parents continue to face evolving challenges with each new technology. Mobile apps and tablets have incredible educational potentials but continues to be a controversial topic, with many parents divided on how much access they should grant their children and at what ages.
Mister Rogers is a powerful example of how new technologies, when used in conjunction with quality content, can actually improve educational techniques. In an attempt to continue his legacy, Rogers death in 2003 was marked by the establishment of the Fred Rogers foundation, in his hometown of Latrobe PA, which launched with the goal of supporting the ability of educators to effectively use digital media in their professions. With Rogers’ philosophy at heart, the foundation guides educators through adopting new technologies and techniques to enable them to fully take advantage of educational tools.