Monday, January 24, 2011

Steiner Schooling (cont...) and computers

I've had a couple of people ask in recent weeks about Steiner schooling and that computer's aren't used in the classroom. So I thought I'd pop my thoughts down on 'paper' on here and then it's there for reference if I need it again, and if it helps someone out along the way then great. To be clear, this is not a pointed 'having a go' at anyone who chooses differently. It's my thoughts on why we chose what we have, and how that 'fits' for us, and the current world we live in.

'They don't teach computers at all'
To some it seems this is akin to not letting children breathe air, others aren't so bothered by it. There's a few things to consider, I think.

  1. Ask the school you're considering, to explain more on why they don't use computers in the class room. Give them an opportunity to answer your question/s. It's a great starting place for a discussion on what exactly they offer, and what you're expecting, from your school.
  2. Consider that for any school - be it mainstream or not - there will be some things you love about the school and some things you wish were different. The question I ask myself is, can I counter those 'things-I-wish-were-different' at home easily at the same time as being able to receive (and give my children) all those other wonderful things the school offers? For us, at our Steiner school, the answer is yes. If I was to ask myself the same question of a mainstream school, I feel there wouldn't be enough of the positives as well as far too many negatives for me to counter at home. The balance is just not there, for what we're looking for in an education.
  3. Are they really missing out? What are the children receiving in place of 'computer time' at school, that their mainstream peers do not. For me, the answer is a lot.
  4. Perhaps another way to ask the question is, why the push to start children on computers younger and younger?
    There is no demonstrated advantage for a child starting to use computers at the age of five over a child who begins at age twelve or fourteen.

The writer of that thought makes a fair point. As an example, neither my brother, nor my Mum for that matter, nor I had computers at school growing up. My brother programs the things these days, and does I.T. stuff, my Mum is very computer literate and I am quite fine to nav my way around. Even my Nanna, who remembers the days when they went from the horse and buggy to an 'automobile', can navigate her way around her home computer. Children don't need a laptop/computers/scientific calculators in school to (a) learn (at all) and (b) to be computer savvy. The two generations before me, my generation and our children are clear enough evidence of that.
This is not to negate the obvious usefulness of computers. Our students are introduced at a later stage in their school life to this intricate and intriguing medium. As Steiner suggested in all areas of education, we encourage students to have a working understanding of computers so that technology becomes the useful servant rather than our unconscious master. It is our experience that students are not disadvantaged by this delay in exposure and find that acquisition of skills does not follow the tenet that the sooner the students are introduced to computing the better. At the same time we are aware that some students work at home with computers, and as parents you are absolutely empowered to make that decision for your child and we do not presume to pass judgement on the exercise of your parental power.
From the Cape Byron Steiner School website.

Why fill the formative years full of 'stuff' now, that's taking the place of other whole-learning experiences, when the computer stuff can be done just as well a little further down the track?.. not never... just not right now... and where that 'whole-learning' is most effective, now. It's not neccesarily something that can be 'traded off' with a positive result.

'Oh but what about the real world'... as I've alluded to before, the real world is vital and very present in Steiner education. It's just not all given at once, it's not given on the first day of Kindergarten and some things (that's another post), really don't need to come at all. It's not that computers don't have their place. They clearly do - just not in the primary years in their formal education, and certainly not in the early childhood. There's so much more waiting for them! So that's my thoughts. Your school may have more or other reasons to offer so go in, make a time and ask all the questions you need.

The bottom line is your child will spend nearly more awake time at school, than at home. It needs to be the right choice for them, and you.

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