Over the weekend, we heard the sad news of the passing of Alex Trebek. With a storied history on the television show Jeopardy, he has to be one of the best known media celebrities of our time. I can tell you that our television was always turned to it in the evenings. There was just something special about knowing the answers to the questions.
As I watched the tributes on television this morning, I saw something go flying by that seemed oddly familiar even so long ago. Alex had been the host of “Reach for the Top” at one point.
Hey, I had been a contestant on my secondary school team. I can’t claim that Alex was our game show host because I doubt that he ever was at CKNX in Wingham!
For over 30 years, he was the host of Jeopardy. That, in itself, is something incredible but he and the show lent something to education.
Over the years, I’ve used the premise in workshops. I’ve led workshops where we experimented with online Jeopardy quizzes and longer workshops where we created our own quizzes in Powerpoint or other presentation tools or as a way to develop something in Flash. Couple your product with a data projector and we all visioned ourselves as Alex.
He wasn’t the first host. Who can remember when Art Fleming was host. This goes back to the day when things were not electronic … someone was behind the game board and actually pulled up a card to reveal the answer.
In Trebek’s turn, everything turned electronic and the show maintained the same premise but was so much smoother. We talk about technology being seamless and Jeopardy certainly exhibited that. The teleprompter, multiple camera shots, the electronic game board, and even the screen where contestants would write their answers to the Final Jeopardy question. If only technology would be that smooth in classrooms!
I even blogged about it in a post here from 2009 doing a presentation for elementary school principals in London. We used JeopardyLabs at that time and, upon checking the link, it’s still available today. The landing page claims two million games online. In the spirit of the US election, there’s even a Trump Jeopardy puzzle.
I can’t help but think about legacy that teachers have on education. I think we all like to think that we changed at least a small part of the world through our efforts. Just imagine though doing something that is recognized world-wide. Alex was always polished, professional, and could mix a bit of humour into his conversation with contestants.
Today, there are so many tributes coming in paying homage to his work in Jeopardy. They are most definitely deserved and are a wonderful testimony to a career. One of the biggest challenges for the show going forward will be selecting someone to fill his gigantic shoes.
But the biggest act was coming open to the world about his challenges with cancer. He was brave and vowed to fight this and keep on working on his show.
We will miss Alex Trebek.
If you have a Trebek memory, please share it in the comments below.