Corbis In the heart of Silicon Valley is a nine-classroom school where employees of tech giants Google, Apple and Yahoo send their children. Instead teachers at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula prefer a more hands-on, experiential approach to learning that contrasts sharply with the rush to fill classrooms with the latest electronic devices.
The pedagogy emphasises the role of imagination in learning and takes a holistic approach that integrates the intellectual, practical and creative development of pupils. But the fact that parents working for pioneering technology companies are questioning the value of computers in education begs the question — is the futuristic dream of high-tech classrooms really in the best interests of the next generation? Wearable technology in the classroom: Other reports have raised concerns about the potentially negative impact of social media on young people, and the disruptive behaviour associated with use of mobile phones and tablets in the classroom is being examined in the UK.
Teachers encourage students to learn curriculum subjects by expressing themselves through artistic activities, such as painting and drawing rather, than consuming information downloaded onto a tablet. For example, a typical lesson for fourth grade students might include learning about Norse mythology by making their own pictures of the stories, acquiring problem-solving maths skills through knitting or practising a modern language by playing a game of catch.
Amico insists that this more creative approach to education brings lessons to life and is far more effective than showing students a series of images on a screen. It is usually field trips, getting your hands dirty in a lab or a beautiful story. Those are the things that stay with you 50 years later. The idea is to remove the distraction of electronic media and encourage stronger engagement between teacher and pupil during lessons.
Amico claims one of the reasons parents working in the digital industry are choosing a lo-tech, no-tech education for their children is that it teaches students the innovative thinking skills many employers desire. She adds that students weaned on technology often lack that ability to think outside the box and problem solve.
Students under the age of 12 at the school in Morden, London, are banned from using smartphones and computers, and watching TV of films at all times, including during holidays. They cannot watch films until they are 14; the internet is banned completely for everyone under 16 — at home and and at school; and computers are only to be used as part of the curriculum for overs.
It may sound draconian, but Thorne believes taking a more considered approach to the use of technology in class allows teachers to help students develop core skills such as executive decision making, creativity and concentration — all of which are far more important than the ability to swipe an iPad or fill in an Excel spreadsheet.
Restricting the use of technology is also a challenge for 21st century teachers, used to the easy accessibility of resources and information that the likes of interactive whiteboards and computers allow. Could computers ever replace teachers? Even then they have a limited role in learning. Again, children are encouraged to learn through play and artistic activities. That is the craft.
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