The Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Los Altos, California
Look around and one is sure to find a student tethered to some technical device. School-aged children seemed to always be “connectied” through technology in almost any given situation. Realizing this, many schools and districts in America are marrying lessons and curriculum with technology. As this is becoming a common tool and approach for learning, one school is taking a decidedly different avenue regarding technology and tradition, and how these being used in student learning. To explore more on this story, School Spotlight takes us to the Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Los Altos, California. (Click on clip below to see the story.)
In traditional school-style, a child will graduate from one class up to the next grade with each passing year. However, at the Waldorf School, one teacher stays with the same students from kindergarten to eighth grade. According to the article, “It’s the Waldorf Way.”
All Waldorf teachers would agree that this style of teaching allows the teacher intimate knowledge of each child’s learning habits, strengths and weaknesses, therefore allowing better focus on those areas students need more help in. They also say that this style of learning helps them establish strong bonds with their students, alleviating the need for tests or grades. The article records one teacher as stating, “I know their strengths, I know their weaknesses. I know what will be hard for them and where they will shine. I’m their teacher with a capital ‘t.’” Perhaps this student-teacher bond is one reason that students, and school alike, are thriving with a nearly perfect graduation rate.
One other such reason might also be the approach to technology used by the Waldorf School and its staff. Here, computers are used not at all in elementary grades, and sparingly by high school students. They are not anti-technology, but they do believe that it can interfere with student engagement. These teachers believe this enables good teachers to use their skills of good teaching to educate. Students of Waldorf echo that sentiment and become easily annoyed with their peers who cannot get “unplugged” to have a 30 minute one-on-one conversation, and instead are visiting social sites and using texts to converse.
A valid point made by one Waldorf senior student is that today’s gadgets are designed for ease of operation by anyone who attempts to use it, therefore they can figure out technology when the moment calls for it. According to the article, a former graduate of Waldorf, now a freshman in college, states “A Waldorf education gives you a foundation to say, ‘OK, I can put my phone in my bag. I can have a half-an-hour conversation with a person. I don’t need to be totally connected all the time.’ And that’s more valuable for making personal connections that will last longer than the next text you’re going to get.”
She also shares her preference for taking notes in her classes by hand, and entering them into the computer afterward. It is a helpful tool in studying instead of an easy distraction in class (as she sees is the case with most students using computers to “take notes.” She says many of the screens display social sites, not notes.).
Parents of students enrolled in at Waldorf appreciate the affinity and core values their children develop for education. They see the foundation being formed and know that is what will stay will them. Computers are a tool to add to this success.
Of course, this is not to say this formula of breaking tradition and avoiding technology is the solution for all, but it has yielded fantastic results for the Waldorf School. Again, there is not going to be a one-size-fits-all answer for schools of a nation this vast and diverse. There might be schools who are extremely technology-driven, yielding fantastic results because of it. We are all different in how we learn, and we want to know some of those differences that are working for your school and communities. Use the box below to tell us what is working to make a difference in your educational system.