Waldorf Schools Show Learning With Less Technology May Be Better for Students

school computerIf you've ever worried that your child's school isn't as technologically advanced as other fancy schools you've heard about around the country, you may be doing so unnecessarily. In fact, your school's lack of smart boards and personal computers for every student just may be in line with one of the most elite education approaches there is.

An article in The New York Times Sunday highlighted the Waldorf School in Silicon Valley. There in the land of Google, Apple, and other technology giants, many of the leaders of those companies send their children to this school that uses no technology at all -- there's not a single computer used. Instead the children learn by doing -- math through knitting, fractions by cutting up cake and quesadillas. And just when your school finally raised enough money for new laptop carts ...

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It's not a new philosophy, rather one that the association of Waldorf schools -- there are 160 across the country -- has maintained since it began in 1919 with a focus on learning through experiences. The one in Silicon Valley is just particularly ironic as the very people driving the technology in our lives don't want their children to use it.

Paul Thomas, a former teacher and an associate professor of education at Furman University, told the paper that “a spare approach to technology in the classroom will always benefit learning.”

Teaching is a human experience. Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.

Even the late Steve Jobs, technological visionary that he was, wasn't a strong proponent of children using technology to learn, according to an article on The Huffington Post titled, "If We Don't Let Our Children Play, Who Will Be the Next Steve Jobs?" Author Darell Hammond quoted Jobs:

The elements of discovery are all around you. You don't need a computer. Here -- why does that fall? You know why? Nobody in the entire world knows why that falls. We can describe it pretty accurately but no one knows why. I don't need a computer to get a kid interested in that, to spend a week playing with gravity and trying to understand that and come up with reasons why.

To a degree I agree, and I think there's a real danger in letting our children rely too much on technology and not get out and learn in the dirt of the real world. But I've also seen my children and others learn amazing things from simple apps and computer games, and any way that engages and encourages children to love learning is a good thing in my book. I think there would also be part of me that would worry my children were being left behind in a world that is so technologically-driven.

That being said, I would have considered sending my children to a Waldorf school if there was one in my area -- not because of their no-technology policy per se, but because it's an amazing learning environment with dedicated teachers who are truly committed to what they do. And that right there is the most important thing in a child's education whether there are computers at every desk or only papers and pencils used. We can debate education philosophies all day, but what it truly takes to give our kids a stellar education and instill a love of learning in them is great teachers -- at home and in school. That's all.

What do you think of schools that don't use any technology?


Image via popofatticus/Flickr

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