2019/ International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education
10 pointers for Steiner Waldorf schools
Statement Concerning Healthy Childhood
Screens & digital devices - Navigating the waves of technology for a healthy childhood
Digital technologies are a part of modern life and need an appropriate place in education – in both teaching and learning. Children develop their capacities to experience the world in successive, developmental stages - tactile, emotional, social, and cognitive. Accordingly, answers to the questions, “When?“ and “How?“ to learn about and use digital forms of media are crucial in the unfolding of a healthy childhood. Neither the naive use of digital technologies, nor a defensive rejection of them can lead to skilful and appropriate applications. What is needed is a holistic approach that leads the way from concrete, primary experiences of the world (sensory, motoric, and rhythmic activity), through a familiarity with a range of diverse media (picture-books, printed text, handwriting, film, theatre) to an understanding of digital technologies and their applications as tools for learning.
Waldorf Education recognizes that these tools are intended to enhance particular human skills, but understands that, at first, it takes time to develop these human skills, including social skills. The more advanced a skill, the more one can take advantage of a device designed to enhance that skill. To the degree one is fluent in mathematical operations, for instance, a calculating device can be of immense help. However, where the calculator is introduced before the requisite mathematical skill is developed, the calculator may, as a result, serve to replace a skill rather than support it.
In the case of digital devices - computers, tablets, smart phones, and the like - the skills they are intended to support are the cognitive functions of conscious human experience. In effect, they simulate these functions. That means that human capacities are (can be) enhanced and benefit from using these devices. But the principle still applies: first develop the skill, and only then use the tool to enhance that skill.
In this light, the fundamental question regarding the use of digital technology in education must be: How do we develop the full palette of human experience so that digital technology can enhance, rather than supplant, it? In an attempt to contribute to the discourse around this question the International Forum for Waldorf Education (Hague Circle) has drafted the following 10 principles:
Towards a “Healthy Childhood in an Age of Digital Technology”:
1. Children learn best from direct contact with people.
2. Children learn differently at different stages of their development.
3. Children need to move if they are to learn. The younger the child, the greater the need to be active and practically engaged.
4. The development of gross motor skills precedes and enhances the development of fine motor skills. It also enhances them.
5. Children should complete, in large measure, the physical development of their perceptual or sense organs before these are applied to digital devices.
6. Unscripted, child-initiated play is the most productive work of childhood, enabling children to develop their imaginations by exploring and experiencing the world around them.
7. As young learners begin to gain access to digital, screen-based technologies, it is vital that adults ensure children and young people are safe in the online world and that children learn to use these technologies with care and responsibility. Human powers of objective perception, discernment and thinking - which constitute the basis for freedom and responsibility - need time and space to mature.
8. Children need first to develop life skills as the basis for acquiring digital, screen-based skills.
9. Education must be guided by pedagogical values, rather than by economic or political interests.
10. Learning is more about developing human capacities than about accumulating and retaining information.