Friday, April 25, 2008

With All Due Respect to Rudolf Steiner



There are many, many things that I find compelling about Rudolf Steiner's ideas on development and pedagogy--mostly because Steiner believed in allowing children to fully inhabit their childhoods. Ideally, Waldorf-educated children are allowed to unfold, not forced to leap from phase to phase of development as though they were being chased by wolves...

But where Steiner and I have always parted ways...is over the use of technology in youth. Although, since Steiner was born in 1861--well before Gates or Jobs or Case--I guess I mean "those who interpret Steiner today." The views of his apostles, as it were. These followers of Steiner's pedagogical philosophy, anthroposophy, emphasize personal experience over technology:
A central aim of Waldorf Education is to stimulate the healthy development of the child's own imagination. Waldorf teachers are concerned that electronic media hampers the development of the child's imagination. They are concerned about the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as well as the content of much of the programming.
And, while I absolutely get this idea--I regularly limit my children's use of screens-- anthroposophy as it is currently interpreted still flies in the face of an idea I strongly support: the concept of Universal Design for Learning, or UDL. UDL is a theory of learning that says that the teacher can foster necessary analytical skills in students with learning differences, when necessary, by circumnavigating the disability through the use of appropriate assistive technology:
  • The dyslexic child can use technology to circumnavigate literacy issues;
  • The fine-motor-impaired child can use technology to assist with, for instance, writing;
  • The visually-impaired child uses technology to assist with visual issues...
Etc., etc.

Because: there is a point where the learning style and differences of the atypical child must be acknowledged: political correctness (the "handicapable" mind-set) and dogma (adherence to a philosophy at the expense of an individual's development) can both become a barrier to learning instead of a support. A teacher's responsibility under these circumstances is to provide a developing mind with the tools it requires to fully flower...tools that may even require electricity...LED screens...

Too: sometimes technology can just be fun--in the best, most child-like sense--like these Pivot animations the boys have created and that Ben has uploaded to his Flickr page...



(Note to self: show the first-born the sound-editing software that comes with his laptop.)

1 comment:

Joker The Lurcher said...

this is really interesting. i have put all this stuff on the back burner while we moved but i hope to read more about it now things are settling down.