Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School

No Tech for High Tech Parents

There is a new book out in the US that you will find very interesting: Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse is Making Our Kids Dumber. The authors point out in huge detail the negative impact that overuse and misuse of technology has in education. The book is referenced at the end of the following article which appeared recently in The Times (UK) about the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, a Rudolf Steiner school in California which has a number of Silicon Valley executives as parents.

As a contribution to understanding our school’s approach to technology in education, I thought both a summary of the book, and the full article would be of interest to all parents:

Screen Schooled Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse is Making Our Kids Dumber: As two veteran teachers who have taught thousands of students, Joe Clement and Matt Miles have seen firsthand how damaging technology overuse and misuse has been to our students. Rather than becoming better problem solvers, kids look to Google to answer their questions for them. Rather than deepening students’ intellectual curiosity, educational technology is too often cumbersome and distracting, causing needless frustration and greatly extending homework time. Rather than becoming the great equalizer, electronic devices are widening the achievement gap. On a mission to educate and empower parents, Clement and Miles provide many real-world examples and cite multiple studies showing how technology use has created a wide range of cognitive and social deficits in our young people. They lift the veil on what’s really going on at school: teachers who are powerless to curb cell phone distractions; zoned-out kids who act helpless and are unfocused, unprepared, and antisocial; administrators who are too-easily swayed by the pro-tech “science” sponsored by corporate technology purveyors. They provide action steps parents can take to demand change and make a compelling case for simpler, smarter, more effective forms of teaching and learning.

Silicon Valley execs choose school that bans smartphones, tablets from classroom
Ben Hoyle, The Times

The Waldorf School of the Peninsula is small, exclusive and packed with the children of Silicon Valley executives who love the role that technology plays in the pupils’ education. That is, it plays no role.

Children at the $US25,000-a-year ($32,000) elementary school in Los Altos, California, are learning to explore the world through physical experiences and tasks that are designed to nurture their imagination, problem-solving ability and collaborative skills.

Pencils, paper, blackboards and craft materials abound while tablets, smartphones and other personal electronic devices are banned from the classrooms until they are teenagers studying at the middle and high-school campus nearby. Even then technology is used sparingly.

Alumni and present pupils include the children of Alan Eagle, a director of communications at Google, who helped to write the bestseller How Google Works, as well as those of a chief technology officer at eBay and senior executives at Apple and Yahoo.

Their outlook is in line with some of the most powerful figures in the industry. Last month Apple chief executive Tim Cook said he did not want his nephew, who is about 12, to use social media.

Last year Sean Parker, the billionaire and an early Facebook investor, admitted he and the other creators of the publishing site had deliberately made it as addictive as possible. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said.

Beverly Amico, leader of outreach and development at the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, said the emphasis on “experiential” learning meant 13-year-olds studying the Renaissance at a typical Waldorf school might, “in addition to learning stories about the history, reproduce a Renaissance masterpiece. Eighth-graders (14-year-olds) all do a Shakespeare play. Our high-school science pupils do blacksmithing with a 1500C forge to learn about chemistry and heat energy.”

There are 130 US schools in the association, which follows the century-old teachings of the philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Many of them are concentrated in the Bay Area technology hub around San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Ms Amico sees no contradiction. “It’s a very attractive option for people in the tech world for their children,” she said. “All employers, tech world or not, are looking for graduates who can think independently, take initiative, are capable of collaborating, have curiosity and creativity.”

The approach contrasts starkly with the new classroom orthodoxy in most American schools where children are now spending more and more time staring at screens in lessons.

“It seems like the US is the last place in the world to catch on that this is something that might be bad for kids,” said Joe Clement, a high school teacher in Virginia and co-author of the recent book Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse is Making Our Kids Dumber.