Literacy has been made an urgent issue in the last decade. As parents and teachers, we worry, often deeply. Back in the 1900s, we didn’t worry so desperately. Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, and T.V.’s “Sesame Street” were ever present to reassure us that ways were there for children to learn to read. Maybe these extrinsic tools for children to learn to read and copy writing laid the foundations for the worry — if these tools did not do the trick, perhaps there was something wrong with the child.
Waldorf schools, which began in the esoteric mind of the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, have forged a unique blend of progressive and traditional teaching methods that seem to achieve impressive results — intellectual, social, even moral.
Some schools tours eagerly show parents the smartboards, learning labs and provided iPads as evidence of a cutting-edge learning environment. Many are following the lead of The U.S. Department of Education which advocates technology use in the classroom in order to “support thinking, stimulate motivation, promote equity and prepare students for the future.” The money spent on these efforts is, in itself, impressive, but is all this glowing interaction indicative of a more enriched learning environment?
“Most countries that invested heavily in education related IT equipment did not witness an appreciable improvement in student achievement over the past 10 years.” More at Philadelphia Waldorf blog.
One of the more unexpected local class pets—bees—is at the Waldorf School, which has recently built an apiary on its campus. According to the Waldorf’s gardening teacher, Dana Pauly, the bees are an indispensable teaching tool. While only certain students will directly handle the bees (barring any allergies), the insects’ presence alone on campus helps facilitate learning. “One of the things that a Waldorf education seeks to engender is a sense of wonder,” says Pauly.
“For them to understand where their food is coming from and what’s involved in it is essential.”—SP
When rock band Trees on Fire went on hiatus a few years ago, not only did the local scene lose a source of rhythmic, groove-driven innovation, but a passionate voice in the fight for protecting the environment was disbanded. The group is reuniting to head up a new family-friendly music festival that includes the Greg Howard/John D’earth/Darrell Rose Trio, Quiet Fire, Lua, Willie DE, JJ von Briesen, Bobby St. Ours and more in a benefit for the Charlottesville Waldorf School.
...technology overuse could be rewiring kids’ developing brains in ways that could explain the growing number of kids diagnosed with anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. Brain imaging techniques also show that video gaming stimulates the same pleasure pathways as drugs and alcohol. Video or Internet game addiction, which is gaining recognition by mental health professionals, can be devastating.
Two heavyweight investors say Apple should do more to combat iPhone addiction among young people.
California State Teachers' Retirement System and Jana Partners -- two major funds that own about $2 billion in Apple (AAPL) stock between them -- are pressuring the tech giant to take a stronger stance on the mental health effects of excessive smartphone use by children and teenagers.
Public elementary schools are federally mandated to teach reading almost from Day 1. But private schools in New York, many of which sent out their admissions decisions on Friday, set their own curriculums, and even some of the most prestigious choose not to teach reading until first grade or later.
Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.
Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.
We can do a much better job of college admissions if we start thinking about student abilities differently than we have for the past century. We should assess and value analytical, creative and practical skills and wisdom, not just the ability to memorize or do well on tests. And we should admit people on the basis of their potential for leadership and active citizenship - people who will make a positive, meaningful and enduring difference to the world.