The Educational Benefits of Magic Theatre
by Dr. Joseph Adler, 1994

Traditional education has focused on content with the view that there exist immutable objective facts and the purpose of teaching is to pump this alleged knowledge into the empty heads of students. Modern thinking in both educational psychology and epistemology focuses more on processes such as logical thought, communication and above all learning to learn. This shift of focus stems from two premises:

  • Knowledge changes
  • It is not always possible to accurately predict what information will be useful in the future.

Underlying all learned knowledge is storytelling. Storytelling in its multifarious manifestations such as: chalk talks, fables, lectures, songs, plays, movies, novels, theories, presentations etc. - is how humanity passes on its body of knowledge and its culture-by all peoples, through all time.

The one common thread that links people who have reached the pinnacle of human achievement is that they were all great communicators - some in words, others in images, others still in mathematics or music, each one mastering the art of a particular expressive medium and applying it to immortalize ideas and inspire others.

Magic Theatre takes the tradition of storytelling and propels it into the computer age. Its blending of both content and process, listening and telling, distinguishes it as a unique educational program. Magic Theatre's primary educational objective is to help develop communication skills, which are critical for success in all walks of life.Modern multi media computing technology lets one take a very broad view of communication, and in effect levels the playing field. While the need to express may be universal, the mastering of the necessary skills will be different for different children.

Some children can draw, others narrate, still others sing, or write. With Magic Theatre they can pick their preferred medium and still tell their story. Or they can team up with others who compliment their own abilities. As children use Magic Theatre, they enhance their ability in the key elements of communication such as:

  • composition
  • extemporization
  • planning
  • staging
  • speech
  • artistic judgment

Magic Theatre's design is based on a number of principles.

1) A child needs to be stimulated and learns by example. For this reason, every time the program is run a short startup movie is randomly selected and played. Each movie has been carefully designed to show a different aspect of the product.

2) Children learn through play. The interactive nature of Magic Theatre's user interface, with its sounds and visual effects, renders the act of creation as much fun and as important as the creation itself.

3) What one creates reflects how one created it. Magic Theatre was designed with ease of use in mind. Every feature was tested again and again for over six months on children as young as three. Ease of use was considered of such paramount importance that some features were intentionally removed or hidden. Rather then constraining children's imagination by forcing them to navigate the arcane and bewildering intricacies of computing technology, Magic Theatre frees them. Literally, in minutes they are able to create their own movies with just the mouse and microphone. No reading, no keyboard, no computer house keeping, and if you don't know what a button does, you click on it and it will tell you.

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