Learning With Apples and Mrs. Beasley

Mrs. Beasley doll image at www.vintage-bliss.com

Mrs. Beasley talking toy image at http://www.vintage-bliss.com

Earlier today, I heard Microsoft chairman Bill Gates responding to the question of what it will take to reinvigorate the U.S. K-12 educational system.

Incorporating technology that engages students more in the learning process into American classrooms was a part of his answer, and I agree with that suggestion.

After hearing Gates speak today, my mind drifted back to my childhood.

I recalled my first Apple personal computer and how my twin sister and I often excitedly sat on the same chair seat while we together learned how to use a computer for the first time.

Prior to the computer, we had some engaging toys that stimulated our thinking — a favorite one being Mrs. Beasley.  Who’s Mrs. Beasley?

Before Cindy Brady’s character on the famous ‘70s TV show, “The Brady Bunch,” had her Kitty Carryall doll, there was another young girl on another famous show who carried another famous doll, and that doll was Mrs. Beasley.

The character of Buffy on the late ‘60s TV show, “Family Affair,” was Mrs. Beasley’s owner.  I first became aware of Mrs. Beasley in the early ‘70s, while watching reruns of Family Affair, and I can remember the excitement of becoming a Mattel Mrs. Beasley talking toy doll owner myself.

The Mrs. Beasley doll had a voice recorder inside its body that posed questions to its owner, when the owner activated the recorder with a pull string.  Much of the joy that came from playing with Mrs. Beasley derived from the voice recorder technology component of the doll.  Mrs. Beasley’s ability to “talk to” her owner was highly engaging.

But, what did I learn from countless hours spent “talking” with Mrs. Beasley?  I don’t have an exact answer, but I’m sure that my verbal, thinking and imaginative skills were stoked.

I’m pleased to say that I still have my Mrs. Beasley doll, though she is now mute, due to the fact that her voice recorder is no longer working.  Even so, I’ll never forget Mrs. Beasley’s question, “If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?”

If my Mrs. Beasley doll could ask me that question today, I would respond by telling her that one of my wishes would be for all of the world’s children to have the pleasure of access to engaging technologies while learning.

What about you?  What role do you think technology can play in engaging our youth in the learning process?  And what were some of your favorite, pre-computer, engaging technologies and toys? (If you’d like, listen to a working Mrs. Beasley doll pose all of her questions.)

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