YARN - From the (shorter) Oxford English Dictionary:

Spun fibre of cotton, silk, wool, or flax.... fibre prepared for use in weaving, knitting...a fisherman's net...any of the strands of which a rope is composed...a (usually long or rambling) story or tale, especially an implausible, fanciful, or incredible one.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Low-tech High-tech - Waldorf and computers - 1

One afternoon I came into the school yard to collect my daughter and above the din I heard one of the older boys bellowing; I turned to see him racing across the yard, chasing someone and calling out "he's got my laptop!"

It was the mention of a computer that made this one comment stand out above all of the excited chatter and play. I though "How very un-Waldorf". A few seconds later I saw him running back across the yard with his "laptop" under his arm - and I realized it was two pieces of wood! I could only think - "How very Waldorf!"

A few months later my daughter set up a workspace in our backyard. She has made other places of work, stores for selling stones she has cracked, or play food made from sand and things found in the garden, she has made art galleries and theatres. This time it was an office, complete with a computer - another wooden computer!

Computers are not part of the classroom at our school.  The classrooms contain blackboards, wooden desks and the children learn to draw and print and then to write - cursive writing.

Is this a quaint anachronism? Are we a bunch of Luddites?
Won't our children lag behind?  What will happen if they don't learn to use a mouse before they enter the grade school? Are the wooden computers an expression of need or a sign of profound deprivation?

I see technology changing so rapidly that it makes no sense to learn anything other than for immediate application. The interface with all things technical is becoming more seamless and intuitive all the time, it is not something that needs to be practiced. People don't need extra lessons in video games, or wasting time on the internet, that is the easy stuff. We should not kid ourselves that anything we could teach children now about computers will be applicable in 5 years.  We need to help them to maintain their sense of wonder and imagination, to foster their creativity and to acquire the cognitive skills and sense of historical context and give them access to the great stories of humanity so that they are prepared for a future that we cannot even imagine. It's about thinking, the technology is just a tool.

It turns out that some of the folks who are actually creating these technologies, the earliest of early adopters of technology, the geekiest of the geeky, the disciples of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the dwellers of Silicon Valley agree! And they send their kids to Waldorf Schools!

The New York Times, in a series called Grading the Digital School, looks at the results of the push for technology in the classroom. The third article in the series, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Compute, focuses on Waldorf education.

Maybe they have wooden laptops there too.

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