If you have heard about Waldorf education, then there is a good chance you know that Waldorf Students are highly encouraged to have 0 media (television, movies, etc) in their lives before middle school. I have a little about that experience in a separate post here. What you may not know, is that this rule is also extended to all technology.
Some may think that a form of education developed in 1919 is outdated with this technology method, that there was no way Steiner could have known what that would mean in todays culture where technology is a part of nearly every aspect of our lives.
Well, that is true in some sense, there is no way anyone could have known how deeply technology would be weaved into everything we do. Though some Waldorf inspired schools may allow for an update on this technology aspect, the majority do not. I stand by Steiner and the Waldorf curriculum in postponing interaction with technology until the teenage years- and even then limiting it and using it only as a one tool (out of many) for research/education.
There is a time and place for everything. Is it important to learn how to use and work with technology? Absolutely. Is it important for my 8 year old to learn and work with technology? No.
Childhood and Education is about exploring. Exploring how the world works, how our bodies work, how our minds work, how nature works. How technology works? sure, in due time. Here is why it’s different.
I am sure you have seen a toddler with their parents iPhone. How quickly they learn to swipe the screen, enter passcodes, and click the apps they want. Technology can be learned very quickly when one wants to learn it. What takes longer, and is more important to learn early on, is the creative process and problem solving. To be able to look at and see things differently. Technology allows for instant gratification, everything you need to know is a few clicks away. With technology, one does not need to be able to think for his or herself nor does on need to be able to think creatively to solve a problem- they can just look it up.
What about basic skills such as typing? Again, this can be learned fairly quickly later on. What’s more important is hand work, hand eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills, hand writing ( both cursive and print- cursive is already being eliminated from schools, will typing soon take the place of print?) Working on and implementing these activities and skills will only make learning typing and similar aspects of technology easier later on, while also sharpening the mind and body.
What about technical engineering? In this ever growing field, don’t you think an early start on technical engineering is beneficial for interested students? While I think the interest of children should always be followed and encouraged, I also feel there are ways to encourage this outside of actually using technology when children are young. Engineering skills first start with those wonderful wooden blocks and similar toys kids play with. I’ts not about just making a building, nor is technical engineering just about making a computer. They are not interested in a step by step guide, they are interested in making and doing something themselves. Figuring things out on their own and having pride in their work. It’s about connecting the dots in their minds to make a picture. Most people are able to follow instructions if they want to get something done. However, most people wouldn’t be able to get that done without the instructions- unless of course they are use to creative thinking, problem solving, seeing a big picture from tiny disconnected dots, and many past experiences to draw upon.
So simplify, use open ended toys, practice creativity, explore nature and how it works. Don’t just buy the toy you child wants, challenge them to come up with an alternative they can make. Write stories, tell stories, read stories. Build, draw, play. Play is the important work of childhood- but remember, childhood doesn’t stop at age 5, nor does it stop at age 15.