The Experience Tube: Serving a Larger Purpose
At first glance, the Experience Tube seems like a bit of a novelty. Launched onto the scene from within the walls of the creative explosion we’ve come to know as Meow Wolf, the Experience Tube hit the scene and quickly hit viral status. Even catching the attention of the Today Show and fittingly, the praise of Pee Wee Herman. If you’ve ever squeezed your dome into one of these tubes you’ve likely experienced equal parts fun, wonder, and humor. It is also not without a dash of awkwardness as you stare down the barrel directly into the gaze of another human. It is this combination of fun, wonder, humor, and yes, awkwardness that is just what the doctor (or in this case a speech-language pathologist) is ordering in our modern age. Hear me out…
Modern technology has done wonders to connect us as a species in general. When something major happens on planet Earth, news of it can crawl across the planet and into our collective conscience in a matter of moments. But for all the shattering effects it is having on our collective communication, it is bringing just as shattering results to our interpersonal communications. And not always for the good.
I’ve spent the last two decades as a specialist in communication. As a speech-language pathologist (SLP), it is my job to understand the foundations of communication and identify the many nuanced areas of where it can break down. Make no mistake about it, the swiftly changing family dynamics due to the influx in screens in the homes is having a DIRECT and negative impact on the development of young children. There is something in the air that is different from even five years ago. The incidence of childhood anxiety and behavior problems are increasing, while the ability to process information and emotions is decreasing.
If I’ve learned one thing about teaching over the last couple decades, it’s that establishing a connection with students is far and away the most important thing to successful teaching. To truly connect with children, one must ignite a sense of trust. This is done most effectively by engaging in humorous and imaginative activities that ultimately break down barriers while also creating a sense of wonder. What more does one need than a sense of wonder when they set out to learn?
When I first started out as an educator, I found myself approaching things in an atypical way. “Common knowledge” tells us to have kids sit down and get to work while focusing like a laser beam on the material at hand. But my gut told me otherwise. I would spend at least half the session (often more) being silly with my students, making them laugh and use their imagination. After a while I began to ask myself, “Are my students learning through osmosis?” Despite not approaching things in a traditional way, my students were making quick and profound progress on a weekly basis. Today I don’t question the magic. I’ve seen enough. Children learn in astoundingly different ways when the teacher makes the first order of business connecting with them on their level.
Enter the Experience Tube. As I began to bring this into my practice, I began to realize that this simple tube-shaped piece of fabric encapsulates almost every aspect of what is needed to dive in and connect. Together we get to enter zany new worlds and put our heads together (quite literally) to imagine all sorts of scenarios. Depending on the design of the tube, we can imagine things like, “we’re in a tornado” or “we’ve landed in Zebra Land!” A moment of magic always arises the first time a child steps into the Experience Tube and sees a face smiling and laughing on the other end. Wonder ignited. Connection sparked.
As a speech-language pathologist, the Experience Tube also gives me the unique opportunity to model sounds that children often do not hear or see properly. With people having less and less face-to-face discussions, difficulties with phonological awareness are on the rise and directly affecting speech and reading abilities.
The Expereince Tube is a shining example of the effectiveness of simplicity. It quite simply and quite literally connects people, and in doing so serves a larger purpose… You see, the human brain is biologically dependent on language in order to thrive. The less language a developing mind hears in its formative years, the less equipped it will be to navigate through the entirety of life. More importantly, studies are showing that it’s not just language by itself (i.e. via screens), it must be delivered by a PERSON and IN person. There is no way around it, our brains are hardwired to need human connection and communication. While the Experience Tube may seem a bit silly on the surface, there is a reason it went viral. Silliness, connection, imagination…these are all things we are slowly losing and collectively craving. If you haven’t tried it for yourself, step into the vortex and connect. It’s doctors orders!