Thousands of students, from kindergarten to graduate school, are sitting down at computers to attend class right now, using the internet to connect to teachers, resources, assignments and other students. The idea of this network of people learning from a distance brought to mind an interesting photo I came across some time ago while browsing our collections. Every detail of this photo is fascinating, and the caption only adds to the curiosity. Without reading the caption, what do you think the young boy here is doing?
If there is one subject I would have thought very difficult to teach over the radio, it would be drawing! Yet somehow, young Harold Shaver is sketching based on information broadcast over a New York radio station in 1924. I love studying the image for the details – my best guess is this is a winter scene he’s creating – snow covers the house in the background, and perhaps the figure is a snowman? From Harold’s attention on the voice broadcast to his pencil poised to add new lines, he is the very image of a focused student. (I also enjoyed spotting the ubiquitous Kodak Brownie camera on the shelf just behind his easel, the camera that brought photography to so many households.)
The 1920s was a boom time for the radio and that decade saw a proliferation of educational uses for this somewhat new technology appearing in thousands of homes. Finding this one image made me curious what other examples I could find of young people learning over the radio in our collections.
The first image below shows a young man in deep thought, possibly connecting what he is hearing over the radio to the book in his hand. In the second photo, students listen to a broadcast about South America from their classroom. (The chalkboard poetically describes Chile as “The Wonderland of the Andes.”)
The following series of photos introduced me to the American School of the Air. Broadcast daily in classrooms during the 1930s and 1940s, this educational program brought a half hour of art appreciation, geography, dramatizations of literary works, vocational guidance, poetry, current events and much more to classrooms across the country. Distance learning in the age before the internet!
- Enjoy other images of people listening to the radio, for entertainment and for the news of the day, in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.
- See people in classes about radios – learning how to use, build and repair them for all kinds of purposes.
- Revisit a Picture This post about the subject of listening to music and other recordings: The Looks of Listening.
- Distance or visual learning is a reality for many parents and schools. Explore the many educational resources provided through the Library of Congress Teachers website.
- Interested in the history of music, broadcast and spoken word recordings? Read a research guide in Recorded Sound Research at the Library of Congress.