I’m obviously a fan of technology in education. This entire blog and community of 200,000+ teachers and education administrators talks about it every single day. That’s why I was surprised and extremely interested to learn about the Waldorf School of the Peninusla in Los Altos, CA, aka Silicon Valley.
The Waldorf School of the Peninsula doesn’t use technology in the classroom. It’s not that it’s run by technophobes or that they can’t afford some education technology… it’s simply their teaching philosophy.
“[The Waldorf School of the Peninsula] is one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.” -New York Times
So how effective is the curriculum at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula? The Waldorf method is more than a century old and the school attracts the children of some of the heads of the biggest technology companies in the world. Many parents likely send their children to the small school for its hands-on approach.
“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.” -New York Times
Once the students hit the 8th grade, the school does allow the limited use of what the New York Times describes as “gadgets” which I infer to mean smartphones. However, calling education technology “gadgets” has a negative connotation and really understates their importance.
It’s tough to figure out if the Waldorf Method works better than schools that have embraced education technology. While the students of course learn and advance, they don’t actually offer standardized tests that would help compare their students to others.
“When asked for evidence of the schools’ effectiveness, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America points to research by an affiliated group showing that 94 percent of students graduating from Waldorf high schools in the United States between 1994 and 2004 attended college, with many heading to prestigious institutions like Oberlin, Berkeley and Vassar.
Of course, that figure may not be surprising, given that these are students from families that value education highly enough to seek out a selective private school, and usually have the means to pay for it. And it is difficult to separate the effects of the low-tech instructional methods from other factors. For example, parents of students at the Los Altos school say it attracts great teachers who go through extensive training in the Waldorf approach, creating a strong sense of mission that can be lacking in other schools.” -New York Times
So how do other schools feel about the Waldorf Method? According to Ann Flynn, director of education technology for the National School Boards Association, schools like this are “cheating our children.”
Do you think a school like this is cheating students? Is the Waldorf School living in the past or a school of the future? Weigh in down in the comments, by mentioning @Edudemic on Twitter, chatting on our Facebook page, or by sending me some snail mail if you’re not a fan of technology. Wait, how are you reading this article then?