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Geeks Prefer Books and Chalk
November 7, 2011
Patience, and the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.
-Chinese Proverb
"Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise.  But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix."   This surprising assertion appeared in an October 22 New York Times article, "A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Compute."

The school, which enrolls children of parents from Google, Apple, Yahoo, ebay, and Hewlett-Packard, is "the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks.  Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction, and attention spans....  The school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud.  Not a computer to be found.  No screens at all.  They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home."

Here is the viewpoint of a typical parent, Alan Eagle, an executive at Google:

"I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school....  The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”  And asking, "What's the rush to learn technology in schools," Eagle observes, “It’s super easy.  It’s like learning to use toothpaste.  At Google and all these places, we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible.  There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older.”

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Comments (10)

Displaying All 10 Comments
Deborah · December 20, 2011
Teach Preschool
Noblesville, 24, United States

The fact that these folks are from "the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix." says a great deal in itself.

The reality is that these parents have ample access to technology at home as well as a high level of skills in technology. This means they can introduce technology easily at home and at their leisure. This is a representation of a small percentage of the population that has the resources and means for the latest and greatest in technology.

The majority of families out there to not have these advantages at home so I am not so sure these folks represent what is best regarding the use of technology in education.

Edna Ranck · November 09, 2011
Washington, DC, United States

Wow! This is a BIG EED and needs an article in Exchange to expand on its valuable content. Please recruit an article very soon and why to delay IT!

Kathy · November 08, 2011
United States

Can I use this in a newsletter? Do I need any permissions to use it?

srt · November 07, 2011
United States

So happy to see this article! Always disappointed when I see misplaced emphasis on technology in early childhood. Bodies and brains develop together as children grow- what we do with our bodies affects our brain development, and our brain development affects what we do with our bodies... Young children need REAL experiences, not "virtual" experiences. Children in families who can't afford computers are not losing out because of a lack of computer experience. They need rich educational environments that encourage socializing, exploring the world around them, and real-life opportunities for problem-solving. Teachers should be providing such experiences for children by giving them authentic opportunities to interact, problem-solve, and explore the world using their whole bodies, all five senses, (and each other!) rather than believing that virtual experiences will have the same benefit (they don't come close).

Natalye Delegal · November 07, 2011
Nat's Day Care
Philadelphia, PA, United States

I am in total agreement that young children do not need computers in daycare and schools. When a child is on the computer not only are they not interacting with the others, but the remaining children are just standing and looking at the screen using occasional input. It is difficult to tell parents that their child get great joy from doing a hands-on project that also teaches them letters and math. The other children can also help and it becomes a group project, which I feel initiates collaboration and problem solving.

Cindy · November 07, 2011
Good Shepherd Children's Center
Arcadia, CA, United States

I understand that an app or a computer should not be teaching the children any subject, there are still plenty of jobs for teachers!!! But there are some children that do not have the luxury of having computers in their homes or an ipad to play with. These children need to get some of these things at school, so they can type a book report or improve their small motor skills. There are still others that need a little extra learning, or learning in a fun way on top of what they are getting from their teacher. These children are not able to go home an do it at home, like the children of a Waldorf School in Silicon Valley. Just because something works for one democraphic, we can not all jump on the bandwagon! We need to think of what works for each area and use what ever tools possible to get thru to each and every child.

Sheri Jackson · November 07, 2011
Great Start
Mio, MI, United States

That may be fine in Silicon Valley but not here in Mio, MI where the percentage of students living below the poverty level is so high, our students need all the help they can get to become better educated. Vote for the Mio students to receive computers at www.powerabrightfuture.com

Cynthia Aldinger, LifeWays North America · November 07, 2011
LifeWays North America
United States

In a time when technology tools in the classroom receive an inordinate amount of press time, it seems refreshing to come across a rare article that actually offers another picture. It is no more irresponsible than the plethora of technology-promoting articles that inundate the educational scene every day. I encourage people to look at the funding behind most of the "technology" promotions in early childhood. Waldorf education does not have a position statement against technologyper se. It simply understands that the fundamental needs of the young child - self-directed deep play and sensory experience - are not served by technology. And the techno parents who were interviewed for that article are absolutely spot on when they say that children in the latter years of elementary school or high school easily learn how to work with the technology of the time. It was certainly true for my sons and many Waldorf graduates who work creatively with technology every day in their adult lives and professions. Little children do not "need" technology in order to learn. Many people are disenchanted with NAEYC right now for the very reason that they seem to be sidestepping their original clarion call for developmentally appropriate practice in favor of promoting ill-timed technology for infants, toddlers and preschoolers!

Cynthia Aldinger, LifeWays North America · November 07, 2011
LifeWays North America
United States

Interesting title you chose - "Geeks . . ." While I realize you likely chose it from the association with the term "computer geeks", it might be helpful for your readers to know that there are some very sauve and savvy Waldorf graduates in the world, including movie stars, corporate executives, scientists, conservationists, and, yes, developers of creative technology tools. As a former Waldorf kindergarten teacher, it warms my heart to see such positive press for an approach to education that honors, respects and furthers the development of whole and healthy individuals. Thank you sharing it with EXchange readers. Cynthia Aldinger, LifeWays North America

Karen Nemeth · November 07, 2011
Language Castle LLC
Newtown, PA, United States

I feel this article is an example of irresponsible reporting. There are thousands upon thousands of children of "geeks" in Silicon Valley - yet only 197 of them are enrolled in this Waldorf School. Waldorf is certainly one of several interesting models for private school education. But - to interview only one parent to support these grandiose generalizations about technology executives rejecting technology in their children's schools is appalling, don't you think? Having just returned from NAEYC's national conference where questions about the benefits and uses of technology were addressed in many forums. The one executive that was quoted in this article makes a statement about his belief that technology doesn't belong in schools because it's so easy to use that children can learn it any time. That statement shows complete ignorance about why educational technology proponents - of which there are many more than 197 - are devoting so much time, study and expertise to recommendations about using technology resources to enhance, expand and enliven education. Nobody is saying we want to spend thousands of dollars on technology in early childhood classrooms just so children can learn to move a mouse. The example from the full article - in which they proudly describe a Waldorf teacher's 'special' activity using food to teach fractions is, of course, a technique that is used in thousands of preschool classrooms all across the country - rich and poor, private and public - and many of them do also have computers or interactive whiteboards on hand - maybe even a CD player or a camera (let's not forget those are technology tools as well). Honestly. If there is a classroom somewhere where there is some technology and the children in that classroom are not lifting a crayon or molding with clay or dancing to music - then there's something wrong and it's not the fault of the technology.

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