Computers, tablets, smartphones, social media, smart boards have been all the rage in education the past few years. Some schools are adopting these practices seemingly because everyone else is doing it.
But one school, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Silicon Valley, is refusing to join the trend, according to an article in the New York Times. The school just uses the traditional pens and paper without computes. In fact, the school does not allow any screens at all, and it even frowns upon students using them at home.
The Silicon Valley school is one of about 160 Waldorf schools in the country that have all adopted a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. The schools believe that computers hinder creativity, movement, human interaction and attention spans.
The school’s philosophy is nearly 100 years old, but it intensifies the current debate about the role of technology in the classroom.
“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school Times. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”
Eagle, however, works at Google and uses an iPad, smartphone and other gadgets, but sees no need for his kids to be introduced to them at a young age. Many of the Waldorf students’ parents actually work at huge tech companies like eBay, Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
Other schools have spent their time and money stocking up on as much technologically-advanced gadgets, thinking they would improve students’ learning and interest. But, Waldorf equipped with its chalkboards, wooden desks and No. 2 pencils thinks differently. It says all those gadgets just distract students.
The schools’ equipment may be antiquated and mundane; however, its teaching methods are fairly uncommon. The school teaches problem-solving, patterning and math skills by knitting wooden needles around balls of yarn. And it teaches multiplication by having students turn their bodies into lightning bolts. The teacher asks students what four times five is, and collectively, they all shout “20” and zap their fingers at the number on a blackboard. It’s an activity a room full of iPad-focused students could not do.
Younger students learned language skills by repeating verses after their teacher, as they play catch with bean bags. It’s an activity that synchronizes body and brain.
The school believes that technology just limits students’ learning and creativity. However, schools that implement technology argue that it interests students and makes them more enthusiastic about learning. They also argue it introduces students to the technology they will probably be using in their future careers.