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On Parenting
Posted at 12:02 PM ET, 10/24/2011

Waldorf School vs. electronic classroom: The new parental debate

As if there weren’t enough for us parents to argue over, now we have been presented with a new debate: Are we fans of techno-teaching or Luddite-learning?
(Mark Gail - The Washington Post)

The divide has been a long-time coming, as most classrooms in this country have haltingly accepted technology. We parents have gone along with the changes either willingly, reluctantly or somewhere in between.

First, there were computer terminals, then interactive whiteboards, then some educators began embracing social media to teach traditional subjects. With each new step, some of us have felt vaguely uncomfortable but not sure we were ready to protest.

Now, here come two recent news items that have defined the two camps clearly:

The New York Times this weekend published a story on the popularity of the Waldorf School philosophy, which encourages delaying exposure to technology. The story has drawn hundreds of comments and is one of the paper’s most e-mailed today. Parents seem to be connecting to the idea that we’ve allowed too many electronics in today’s classrooms.

“I’m thrilled,” said Lezlie Lawson, the enrollment director of the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda.

I caught her just as she finished reading the story this morning. Lawson hopes the interest might lead more parents in the region to check out her school. (The private school has been under-enrolled in the wake of the economic downturn.) The pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade program does not allow students to use computers in the classroom until high school, and even then only in a computer lab. The teachers all employ traditional approaches, even by using the now counter-culture, old-school blackboard.

The philosophy is that younger children learn best through “authentic experiences.” When the children get older and are exposed to computers and other electronic communication, Lawson said she’s personally witnessed that they “pick it up quickly and end up loving it.”

“It’s hard to believe we’re considered cutting edge,” she laughed.

This comes on the heels of last week’s controversial American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmation of a policy that discourages the use of electronic media for the youngest children.

That new statement has inspired a backlash (which I wrote about earlier today) from parents who think the pediatricians are overlooking that technology has become part of the fabric of our lives.

One reader of this morning’s post commented: “It is simply not logical in this day and age to advise no screen time. Every room in my house except the kitchen and bathrooms and my youngest child’s room, have a television, laptop or computer.”

It’s an extension of the argument that more technology — not less — is needed in our classrooms if our children are going to succeed individually and together. So far, that’s been the argument that’s winning.

How do you want your child to learn? With or without screens? With blackboards or white boards?

By  |  12:02 PM ET, 10/24/2011

Tags:  Technology, screen time

 
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