So there’s lots congealing in this post, which, btw, is one reason I’m sure is going to exhibit some of the thin thinking that I described earlier. For one, we’re seriously looking at options for our kids’ education, one of them being a nearby Waldorf School. Two, I’m reading Sir Ken Robinson’s excellent new book “The Element“, and third, I had lunch with my former partner in crime at my old school Rob Mancabelli who usually pushes my thinking on all things technology and world related. There’s actually a fourth component to this and that is the continual struggle I’ve watched over the years for some teachers trying to dip a toe in these Web waters. In short, all of it’s got me thinking about how Web 2.0 technologies cater to a certain group of abilities or intelligences more than others, and it’s got me wondering about the consequences.
Rob started it as he talked about the difficulty of trying to apply Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to these tools. We started talking about kids who might be primarily bodily or logical or naturalistic learners and where they fit into all of this. And it got me started thinking (once again) how blogging caters to those who can write and who feel confident in they way they express myself. I know for a fact that one very well known educational consultant who speaks about these shifts doesn’t have much of a 2.0 footprint because he/she simply abhors writing, and I’m sure there are millions of folks for whom blogging or wiki-ing or all these other tools will be a struggle. If you believe Gardner, and I know there are skeptics, you’ll do fine here if you are highly verbal and interpersonal; I know the verbal part is why I love this so much. If not, it’s a much harder road.
The Waldorf School that we are looking at seems to look at kids as individuals and treats the curriculum as a journey not a deliverable. Sure, the rhetoric gets a bit crunchy at times, even for me, but I can’t deny that it has a strong appeal for me, especially in the context of the conversations I’ve been having the last seven years. But here’s is the irony: the school uses very little technology. That undoubtedly will play into any decision we make, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. My kids have lots of access at home, and I know they’ll love having me mentor them if it comes to that. (Really. I mean it.)
And I love this little twist from Sir Ken’s book: It’s not “how intelligent are you?” as much as it’s “how are you intelligent?” He talks about “The Element” as being at the intersection of “unique personal aptitude combined with a deep passion and commitment” (46). It’s a wonderful place to be, I can tell you. And I want it desperately for my kids and for other people’s kids too, because I believe with Sir Ken that if we don’t help our kids find that space as they grow into their adult lives, especially today with the complex problems that face us, we are all going to be worse off.
So I’m wondering through all of this what role social technologies have for those who may not have the aptitudes to tap into their potential. And what do we do about that? Whether we think this new learning landscape online is a good thing or not, the reality is that it’s not going away, and that having the skills to make the most of the opportunities here are only going to become more and more important. But how do we make that happen for those who don’t find the entry point as easy as most of you reading this have found it?
Lots of questions, I know. Not a lot of clear answers. This truly is one of those testing posts.
None of this is anything new by the way; others have been pounding me over the head with it for years. And I have listened, but not as deeply as I could have. But what’s different now is this long, hard look I’m taking at my own kids, trying to help them find their passions or introduce them to classrooms or pedagogies where that might happen. Where they can actually do the problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration that are not new ideas but have been neglected for so long by this ridiculous regime of testing that we’ve had that I think we feel the need to repackage them under the guise of “21st Century Skills.”
If any of this makes sense, would love as always to hear your take…
Barry Dahl says
Yah! What he said! Seriously, my situation with my kids sounds just like yours. I agree that Web 2.0 tools are not for everybody, just like 100-year-old books aren’t for everybody and sappy movies aren’t for everybody. In fact, those of us in the middle of using those web tools consistently overestimate what an impact they are having on the rest of the world. I’ve got The Element on order. Looking forward to it. Thanks for the post. BD
Will Richardson says
I do think there is potential value in these tools for everyone around the connections and learning that can take place in online global communities. And I have a tendency to think that we underestimate their eventual impact, actually, though much of it is still not clear in these nascent stages. The question is how do we enable every child to take advantage of the connections to not just information but people?
Kelly Hines says
You bring up a great point here, and it’s one that needs careful consideration. Daily use of web 2.0 tools may not be a necessary component of a quality education. Proficiency in their use is also something that is interest based and personally driven, which is why many educators have been reluctant in incorporating them into their classrooms while many others are using them daily. While I find Gardner’s research to be instrumental in planning instructional units in my classroom, I am careful not to allow students to think that their learning strengths are not the only ways for them to learn. Students are expected to have exposure to each of the learning styles, with a heavier focus in the areas where they are most comfortable.
I look at web 2.0 tools the same way. They are not the only way to teach. They shouldn’t be. I have developed my teaching practice to be a calculated balance between elements of best practices using traditional teaching methods, hands on opportunities, technological tools and ways to address learning styles. At the same time, I believe that students who are not given the opportunity to learn using the web 2.0 tools are missing out on an important approach to learning in the 21st century and beyond. If teachers are not integrating some use of web 2.0 tools and technology, are students missing out on developing a skill set that will be as important as reading or writing or math? Will they be less marketable as adults without the exposure to these tools in their formative years? I don’t want my boys to grow up in front of a computer 24 hours a day, but I do want them to be keenly aware of the resources and possibilities that exist because of them. Like your children, mine have this chance at home. But what about the rest our children?
Will Richardson says
Thanks, Kelly. I agree with this: “At the same time, I believe that students who are not given the opportunity to learn using the web 2.0 tools are missing out on an important approach to learning in the 21st century…” That I think is the crux of the next phase of this.
Kelly Hines says
There has to be that balance. We expect teachers to understand and apply learning theory from all eras in history. We expect them to address all of the learning styles and differentiate learning in a way that meets the needs of individual learners. As learning theory is evolving to reflect available resources and advances, why does practice lag so far behind?
It all comes down to your last sentence. (Well, before you ask whether it makes any sense.)
Where they can actually do the problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration that are not new ideas but have been neglected for so long by this ridiculous regime of testing that weâ€™ve had that I think we feel the need to repackage them under the guise of â€œ21st Century Skills.â€
If we don’t change our approach to teaching to be more inclusive of different learning styles, individual needs, and intelligences, it doesn’t matter which fancy new tool we use.
I believe Web 2.0 tools are for everyone. The new challenge is to figure out how we can use them and develop new tools for those who don’t benefit from our current crop of Web 2.0 gadgetry.
Tom Kennedy says
I have, for as long as I have been a parent, 24+ years, maintained that being a parent has made me a more thoughtful and in the end, a better teacher. It attuned me to learning style differences that Gardner gave voice to. (Are there really individuals who doubt the theory of the 7-8 multiple intelligences?)
Like Kelly I think Web 2.0 tools are simply one element in a teacher’s toolkit. But, I feel that way about technology generally, even as a K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist.
I can’t say with certainty what will or won’t be part of the next iteration of the Web and social networking, or whether or not it is “essential” or necessarily “for everyone.” I have been encouraging the use of Web 2.0 tools in support of literacy, specifically reading, reflection, writing, since I have from the start seen the web primarily as a communications medium. (Not limited to text, obviously.)
My friend’s children attended Waldorf schools for the majority of their elementary experience. The emphasis on the “whole child,” arts and creativity seems to have agreed with them. Both kids, now in their 20’s are creative, bright, yes, technology-savvy adults. I don’t believe that its necessary to put kids in front of computers at an early age, or as many technophiles “the sooner the better.”
The Waldorf philosophy believes that you introduce things to children when they are emotionally, physiologically, and intellectually ready. At least that’s what I can glean from my discussions with my friends. There is a growing body of evidence linking physiological changes in brain structures indicating that a child is ready to learn to read. Ready. Ready. Ready.
I realize that this is blasphemy, but I think some things are simply more important than technology and that bright, curious, passionate kids can learn anything they want, whenever they are ready, even how to use Web 2.0 or whatever social networking tools are available then and there.
Virginia Robinson says
Thank you for your thoughts on technology and the Waldorf School. I have been a teacher and media specialist for 21 years and currently have a 3 year old who attends preschool at the Cincinnati Waldorf School. I want very for my child to be educated with the whole child approach that is offered by the Waldorf school but struggled in that decision because of the lack of technology that is used by the school. I, too, feel that I can help my child fill in the technology blanks, if needed, but it is helpful to hearing from others that students are still becoming technology savy, after attending the Waldorf School, when they are ready.
Kathy McAnelly says
Thank you, Tom. I could not agree more wholeheartedly with your last paragraph. Readiness is the key. I worry that we are “rushing” our children far too much. Recent research confirms the need for “real play,” but we tend to ignore this advice. I also fear that reliance on technology cultivates impatience, breeding an expectation that all things must be achieved instantaneously. Collective lack of patience has led our society to its current difficulties. Our hopes for the future require that we amend this vision.
Josh Bubar says
I agree that students who are stronger linguisitcally will take to the blogging aspect of Web 2.0 like ducks. However, there is plenty of room for students with other strengths. In particular, in the class wikis I have been a part of, the visual students have been vital to polishing the product as it came into being. I also have students who are more musically inclined contribute in that arena to our wiki (which I pose to the students as a class created textbook about the topic/theme/motif at hand) and have been motivated to work at their linguistic skills in order to best present the information that is part of their “Element.” Similarly, logically strong students have made sure that the organization of the wikis stays strong and the asynchronus nature of the work makes the intrapersonally strong kids more capable of making contributions because they are able to process everything they want and need to before responding. In fact, the wiki can be tough for some intrapersonally strong kids because they want to turn it into a blog; while that works to an extent, I also want them to create and link to content and have had to redirect them that way from time to time.
In addition, the podcasting piece of Web 2.0 tools ups the ante for the musically & rythmically inclined kids because it gives them a platform to present their best work to the world.
While their clearly is less of an outlet here for kinesthetically inclined kids, I think for the most part the otherr inteligences get their due, and in fact can be more easily celebrated and recognized using 2.0 tools. Fear not!
Stef Hite says
I don’t know much about the Waldorf School, but the use of technology isn’t really what it’s about. As a long-time Seymour Papert disciple, I go back to his assertion that the use of computers is really be about pushing the education agenda of putting students in control of the learning (not about using computers, per se).
Yes, computers help push the agenda (but sometimes they don’t). Ultimately, it’s really about how much students are engaged, how much input they have into how they’re learning.
If the presence of web 2.0 technologies pushes this agenda for a teacher, classroom, school – then great! But if that type of learning environment is already present – then great!
If all the technology disappeared, would we go back to a teacher dispensing knowledge at the front of the room? Or will we have reformed the educational process enough that learning will continue to be collaborative and individualized, no matter what the available tools might be? That’s the school I’d like my kid to go to every day …
Floyd Geasland says
I think you are using ‘your’ intelligence style to define your Web 2.0 tools and their use. Blogs don’t have to just be writing. Several students I know record visual blogs using web cameras (which would provide an outlet for body-kinesthetic learner. Another teacher I know creates photographs and artwork and saves the image to a blog sometimes with a written section sometimes not but each entry means something to her. A high school student I had in class creates music with a music program (such as Acid Music, although I know that is not his program of choice. He got started with it and moved to a ‘better’ program.)and records their ‘post’ in musical format, sometimes with words, sometimes just an original tune that provokes an emotion for them. There is a man on the West Coast of the US (San Francisco I think) that creates artwork on sidewalks and walls that look 3-D (They are truly stunning and look very real) and saves his images in a blog.
The tools are out there and someone that is familiar with computers AND normally prefers a different modality would naturally create Blogs, Wikis, and other Web 2.0 connections. If you are a teacher and are interested in sharing the Web 2.0 with students of other modalities and giving them opportunities of expression, communication, and collaboration with others, then you need to wear the “hat” of their modality when looking for tools that they could use. This is not that easy because you have to leave your comfort and control zone, especially the control zone because you probably don’t know how to use ‘their’ type of web tool.
This hit home for me as my husband and I have been debating the future schooling of our children a lot lately. I taught in public schools for 5 years and then switched to working on online professional development after my son was born because it allowed for a little more flexibility. My husband currently teaches technology at a public high school and we both want to support public education.
However, knowing what we do about how things work and how much time is wasted in a public school classroom, we are not feeling great about our son starting kindergarten at the public school next year. Where I currently live in GA, there is a huge resistance to Web 2.0 in the classroom- blogging is currently not allowed in schools and all portable electronics are basically banned. Home schooling is not a great option for us since we need some additional income and my son is already an introverted homebody so I think he needs the socialization. I had not heard of the Waldorf school and there is one in Atlanta so thanks for opening up my eyes to that. I am curious to hear how other parent/educators handle the challenge of being part of a learning environment that you know is not preparing your children for the future. If we do send them to the public school- how do we help without becoming a nuisance? I know this wasn’t the whole point of your post but this is where it took my train of thought and just want to hear more about what you decide for your kids and what others in similar situations have done or will do?
The truth is that your kids, my kids…they’re learning and they’re going to be educated. Education is hard to avoid in households where parents talk about it and value it.
The truest words here are from commenter Kelly H. “But what about the rest our children?”
Breanna Hite says
I think the most important aspect of Web 2.0 in education is the vistas it opens for curiosity. I’m only 23 myself, and not an educator, but since I started using the internet in 4th grade, I’ve been able to dive into whatever topics sparked my imagination and desire to learn.
I think the best thing to do would be to just encourage each student to identify something they’re interested in or curious about, then point them to Google, Wikipedia, and Delicious to start researching it. Then whenever they find something that makes them say “hey, that’s cool” to write it in a blog. As other commenters have noted, there are non-verbal aspects of Web 2.0. I do think that’s a necessary set of skills to have, and a necessary mode of operation to learn, and that students whose parents aren’t as educationally supportive or technologically capable need to have that experience.
Tim Hart says
I agree with your thoughts. My son is 2 and my daughter is yet to be born, but I still think about what school to send them to. Schools tend to say they are student centered, but so many times that just isn’t the case. I am so afraid that school will kill my children’s natural learning tendencies and creativity. Something that will be arguably more important in the growing global information economy, just read any Dan Pink. I haven’t read The Element yet but I just added it to my list, thanks for that. I should also add that anyone interested in Ken Robinson should check out his TED conference talk at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
Thanks for the post Will.
J. D. Wilson, Jr. says
I think technology is a tool and is only as effective as the individual wielding it. I think it is an important tool and an often neglected one, but it is not the only tool in the educational arsenal. I would rather be taught by a computer illiterate who knows her or his subject and is deeply passionate about it as well; someone who can stimulate both my intellect and my emotions than by someone who is excited about the machine but rather indifferent to what the machine is used to teach. I think using the mind to work through problems, poems, arguments is exhilarating. My seniors are just finishing Gulliver’s Travels and at the end of the book we have been immersed in a race of creatures who worship (very imperfectly if one reads closely) reason. This culture has subjugated creatures that live wholly from their emotions (I have often wondered why Yahoo.com chose that name). But on his way home Gulliver meets Don Pedro Mendoza, the captain of the ship that picks him up, who has managed pretty effectively to balance passion and reason. I think it is a good lesson.
Personally I think we emphasize the wrong things. I remember in college reading these zen stories where zen masters would be asked by students what is enlightenment. Because the question was so fundamentally the wrong question these masters beat the students with sticks (not a practice I would endorse by the way). It seems to me that the question that often drives my students is “What’s my grade.” I think this too is the wrong question. In fact I think for those students grades become a kind of stick with which they beat themselves, even if the grade is a good grade.
Education ought to be about developing the mind. It is possible that by focusing on grades that the mind is developed but how much of the knowledge that produced that excellent grade will stick once the grade is given. I am dyslexic and it was not until my junior year of high school that I got anything resembling a good grade, but I always enjoyed the learning. Perhaps this experience has led me to view the education process differently but I am much more excited about what I have learned than I am about the grade I got for learning it.
I think going to school would be a more enjoyable experience for my students if they were more excited about what they are learning. But we are all different and all motivated by different things. The technology is just a tool and it is never the tool that excites but what we learn to do with the tool. Just as a math person is unlikely to arouse passion in students for the poetry of John Milton or William Wordsworth (or an English teacher for an elegantly constructed quadratic equation for that matter), a teacher who has little use or interest in technology is unlikely to inspire students in the use of this tool. But that does not mean that teacher does not have something her or his students will find inspiring.
Andrew C says
Perhaps the most powerful yet most overlooked advantage of a computer in developing writing skills is as a glorified typewriter. It waits as a blank page which can be written upon, corrected neatly, proofread, edited, added to and rearranged with a minimum of effort, and without rewriting. It allows an approach to teaching writing that is impossible with a pencil and paper, and may have its greatest impact in the earlier years of school.
It is important not to be distracted by technology, and get carried away with multimedia, interconnectivity and internet access. The keyboard and screen can be used to empower children to master the written word, and produce written output at a level necessary to cater for their learning needs. It can be used to teach sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling, the mundane but essential building blocks of written literacy, without being dependent on good handwriting skills which may be slower to develop.
Production of written output is essential to the learning process in school. A child who cannot write cannot learn effectively, so one of the first tasks of school is to teach the child to write. Writing is a complicated process requiring the simultaneous execution of several difficult activities. There is the content, there is the sentence construction, there is remembering to go across the page from left to right, and remembering what shape the letter â€œeâ€ is. There is the physical movement of pencil on paper. The coordination and complexity involved in handwriting has been compared to that involved in driving a car.
Up until now, all these skills had to be taught simultaneously, and were deeply dependant on how quickly the handwriting skill developed.
It is no wonder that some children are slow to develop adequate handwriting skills, which retards the whole of their school career. Teachers are aware of students whose written output does not match their intelligence, comprehension or verbal language skills.
This can be because their handwriting skill is not adequate for their learning needs.
A keyboard and screen allows the middle order writing skills to be taught in isolation to handwriting. Handwriting must still be taught, but it is no longer the limiting factor. Handwriting skills may develop with maturity and practice, so that when a student is required to produce handwriting for an exam, not only do they have handwriting skills, they also have something worth writing.
Middle order writing skills include such things as sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Sentence construction can be broken down into discreet steps, and leverages from a childâ€™s verbal language skills. When they start school, children already use extensive language skills. They do not know the technical terms for the parts of a sentence, but they certainly know how to use them. The â€œDavidson Methodâ€ of sentence construction uses the advantages of a keyboard and screen (any computer with a text editor) and scaffolds a childâ€™s existing verbal skills into the written form.
Davidson Method for Sentence writing
1. Choose an action word, a verb.
A verb is an â€“ing word
2 Ask who or what thing is doing the action. (noun,object)
3. Ask who or what thing is the action being done to. (noun, subject)
dog chasing cat
4. Describe the things (adjective, phrase).
black hairy ferocious dog from next door chasing mangy yellow cat
5. Ask when or where or how the action is happening (adverb, phrase).
yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park
6. Check that the tense of the verb matches sentence. Does it sound right?
Modify verb (auxiliary verb, compound verb)
yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park
7. Add words to make it sound right.
yesterday afternoon the black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy yellow cat across the park
8. Add commas and full stops. (Punctuation)
yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.
9. Add a capital letter to the first word.
Yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.
This method allows a sentence to be built logically rather than sequentially, the screen holds the parts in place rather than trying to juggle all the pieces in memory while attempting to write neatly.
It is easier to choose a letter from a keyboard than try to remember the shape of a letter.
Correction is neat and does not require the whole page to be rewritten.
Spelling can be checked as a separate step.
The sentence can be copied by hand to paper when complete to practice handwriting, and it is relevant to the child because it is their sentence with their ideas. There is no need to print the sentence.
There is no dumbing down of the ideas in the sentence to match writing or spelling skill.
Proofreading and editing are being taught as an integral part of writing.
It should be emphasised that this does not replace handwriting. Handwriting must still be taught in the normal way. It does make handwriting more effective by allowing some ideas to be taught and practiced in isolation, thereby increasing focus and effectiveness.
It should also be emphasised that we still need a competent and dedicated teacher to lead the child, to encourage, to nurture. The keyboard and screen is just a different writing tool, with features that a good teacher can use when required.
Computers can be used to increase learning outcomes in KLAs â€“here-now-today in ordinary classrooms, and bring relief to children who are struggling or giving up because they cannot write fast enough or neatly enough to produce the written output required to cater for their learning needs. Avoid the temptation to reinvent the school system and philosophy of education in order to justify spending money on ICT. Instead look at the problems that are in our classrooms and see if technology can help a competent and dedicated teacher find a way forward.
Tricia Buck says
“I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place.”
These words of Howard Gardner featured on the site http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm really caught my eye as relevant to your concerns. Regardless of what tools are used, all children must have the chance to change the world. I believe that the chance to do so resides at that intersection that Robinson articulates. The interests of the child should provide the map, and the tools (old or new school) the means to get there, not the other way around.
Of the intelligences Gardner identifies, it is the kinesthetic intelligence that most clearly is negelcted by web 2.0. I see this as a positive, technology cannot do away with the beauty of a body in motion. What I find interesting about your school decision though, is that your goal of fostering the finding of passion can be met regardless of which school your children attend because it is a journey of self awareness; the intrapersonal intelligence of Gardner’s theory is where that passion lives…”the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations.”
I have yet to read “The Element” though it is in the top spot of the “to read immediately” stack. From the write-ups of the book I gather that the amazing Paulo Coehlo is one of the passionate individuals discussed. Coehlo’s “The Alchemist” holds a sure spot in my top five novels of all time. The young shepherd boy, Santiago, travels the world only to find (spoiler alert) that his treasure was at home all along. The thing is, he needed to travel the world to know that. Web 2.0 helps the children travel the world, but ultimately their treasure will be found within and when they find it they will change the world.
As one who lives at the magical intersection and has the good fortune to share my life with others in and out of the classroom, I want the same thing for my three kids, your kids and children across the globe. it is my humble opinion that self awareness is the key and I suspect your children have already been given much of what will be needed to direct them on that path.
Good luck and thanks for making me think. Tricia Buck
Judy O'Connell says
So it’s about asking the right questions, and letting the learning take place with the best possible tools – right?
The questions we pose and the content we would inspire our students to engage with should be packaged in Web 2.0 gift wrapping – exciting each student to open the next pedagogical surprise we give them. Whether its blogging or using any other ‘tool’ in the social media suite, I believe that the teaching that we do needs to encompass up-to-date media frameworks; be marked by collaboration and participation; promote good behaviours in personal identity and digital citizenship online; and be absorbed with pedagogical change and innovation inspired by Web 2.0. Phew! And for me? I believe that the the school libraries (media centres) that we are responsible for must have flexibility and personalization at the core of their services, bringing literacy opportunities and information access pathways to every student and teacher throughout the school and online, wherever learning takes place in whatever new spaces and places these are available. No question – if we let ‘how are you intelligent’ drive what we do, we should be able to make our kids learning worthwhile – at least I certainly hope so.
Viplav Baxi says
Will, I am going through a selection process myself for my 3 year old who starts formal school this year. Similar to your Waldorf story, I asked the interviewer, a senior primary school teacher, about how they are using technology. To my utter surprise, she said she had a thing against it – “all those rays going into the little bodies”. Now this is a reputed school and great teachers, but they simply do not have an understanding of what is happening around them.
While I have been trying to get my company to blog, it has not really worked out either too effectively as yet. I dont know whether it is aptitude to be able to tap into social media and technologies, but I have seen various shades of indifference and inertia.
Apart from these, there are physical access constraints to technology for a vast majority of people all over the world. Are we creating a new digital divide, this time not possible, because of sheer scope and diversity, to bridge for those who get left behind?
This new medium is creating new literacies and skills for our children. Those without access will be at a huge disadvantage in a networked world. I was struggling with that thought even as I read, this morning, the MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning, November 2008, which amplifies in graphic details, the power of this new medium and its viral possibilities.
“In short, all of itâ€™s got me thinking about how Web 2.0 technologies cater to a certain group of abilities or intelligences more than others” = The big problem with placing too much hope in the read/write web (notice the name?) as a solution to our education problems.
As far as options for your kids, I know I’ve mentioned unschooling somewhere here before, but I think it’s worth repeating when I you mention you’re “trying to help them find their passions or introduce them to classrooms or pedagogies where that might happen.” Have you looked into the support groups in your area? There’s an unschooling mom that used to teach high school not too far from where you are (she’s moved though if I recall correctly) who wrote a great post about here decision to unschool. Anyway, she might be able to point you to some local resources if you have any interest.
As Cassyt noted above, no matter what you choose for your children, they’ll find their passions by following the example you’re setting. And it has very little to do with technology. Nonetheless, the web does make the search that much more efficient and serves up even more possibilities.
Rob Paterson says
My nieces and nephew go to a Waldorf School – it is a wonderful system.
Now they don’t even encourage text books as they get the kids to make their own.
For me the key is that Waldorf takes your child along the journey of how and what humans learned – so they start with Myth – go onto the Greeks etc – there is a trajectory
Plus human relationships are central to what they do
Hence the web is a no no – But at home they are all into it
I can’t say enough good things – it’s all about becoming an engaged human being – that is their aim – it works too
Ed Webb says
We looked at Waldorf for our cognitively-very-advanced but socially-challenging son, and it had much to recommend it. Except that at that age (he was five) they wouldn’t allow him to read books. Not that they wouldn’t teach him to read, they wouldn’t ALLOW him to. Since he taught himself to read by the age of two, books were (and are) a significant source of comfort to him. A schoolday without being able to retreat into a book when he really needed it would be too much. So their resistance to that particular learning technology was the deal-breaker for us. He did OK in Montessori for a bit, and is now in a progressive school with no core teaching doctrine beyond loving the kids and letting them learn. Mostly it works.
My teaching experience is in post-secondary education, by which point many students have been drilled in the test-taking system, which makes the core of my job helping them to unlearn all that soul-crushing stuff and recover the joy of learning that is available in early childhood and then trained out of far too many students. I love text. My students don’t necessarily love it, but they can work with it. They can cope with the read/write web, even if they don’t immediately fall in love with it. The key is to help them have fun with it, and with anything else we throw at them. They’ll find what works, given time and encouragement, whether it’s books or movies or graphic novels or the blogosphere. Learning is fun. Absence of fun is absence of learning.
Rick Biche says
I wrote almost exactly a year ago about my own decisions on Waldorf Education. The way I had the technology issue boiled down for me was that the school did not want the technology (nor anything else) to interfere with the experience. This resonates with me today as my students and I struggle with a software glitch on our handheld data collectors. They go on to say that by the end of 8th grade students go on to build their own computer. While at one time (pre-social web) this would represent a solid fundamental understanding of computer systems. Now, however, I feel that the social/connection possibilities offered by web 2.0 can actually enhance the goals of Waldorf for developing personal connections. As such I just reached out to our local Waldorf school offering to host their eldest class in our social science fair wiki.
The absolutely transformational nature of what web 2.0 type technologies has caused us to rethink our interactions with others. Perhaps that will spread.
Terry Elliott says
All I can say is that I went through the same agonizing without a nearby alternative or the Internet. Which isn’t to say poor, poor pitiful me. What I mean is that learning is way more idiosyncratic than we want to imagine it is. I have always argued both for and against the “putting the food down where the goats can get to it” theory of education. I teach developmental writing courses in which this theory only partly applies. Some kids need way more scaffolding than others. My advice for what its worth is to create as rich a place for your kids as is reasonable then get the hell out of the way. They’ll let you know when they need you.
Tricia Seuffert says
Blogging is just one tool that has developed and obviously, strong readers and writers will enjoy expressing themselves through this option. But I think that other types of learners can also apply themselves through Web 2.0 tools. Visual learners can use flickr to create collages. Audio learners can use and create podcasts. What’s interesting is that we again approaching this from the adult or educator perspective. If we ask our students how they learn with technology, they would easily fill in the blanks.
I work with students who are about to make the move from one learning community to another; watching them gather themselves for that leap is at once humbling and inspiring.
In my experience, the students who fare best are those who have multiple adults in their lives who care about them, respect them, challenge them, and reflect back to them a vision of who they are and might become. Creativity matters. Flexibility matters. Real concern and careful listening are huge.
And the tone set by the leadership of a school really makes a difference, I think.
If you’re looking at independent schools, you might want to also consider Quaker (or Friends) Schools, ala the Obamas. (Friends Council on Education)
I was part of a presentation yesterday in which openly gay and lesbian folks were sharing some of our personal histories, and one of the listeners reflected on how much less of that soul-wrenching utter isolation the younger people in the group had experienced. That kind of shift, for me, has been one of the major potential gifts of Web 2.0 connectivity… access to and understanding of these skills potentially puts us all in a better position to find our “tribes,” however we define that.
Thank you, as always, for your willingness to think out loud with us here.
Meredith Broderick says
First let me say I am really saddened that you like so many parents feel compelled to take your children out of the Public school system, saddened yes, but I do understand. We are just not doing it for families that want more for their children. Oh perhaps there are bright spots, great inspirational teachers, who see their students as individual learners, and understand some of the shifts, who approach teaching like the art that it is, but they are far and few between, I had 3 great teachers in my personal public school career. Considering how many teachers I “went through” that is not a good Ratio about 3/120. Also I believe the testing craze has driven most of the great teachers underground or just keeps them so busy that they no strength to think creatively about their curriculum or their students.
I am really opposed to private schools, because they do what we don’t need more of in this country give advantages to the people who need the advantages the least ( very American just watch how they distribute the rest of the 700 billion dollar bailout money, the people who will be “bailed out” are the ones who need it the least) But they are your kids and you want what is best for them and many public schools are not offering a good education on a lot of fronts. ( I also wish Barack Obama had chosen to send his kids to public school, if everyone else’s kids in Washington has to suffer with Michelle Rhee so should his, it only seems fair.)
As to your concern, perhaps Web 2.0. is not for “everybody” well perhaps it better be. I don’t think we can turn back the clock. And more to the point maybe it has to be in all institutions that propose to teach the “whole” child in the “real world”. Because as you have pointed out this is now the real world, just look at how our new president utilized the shifts in terms of fund raising to the beat the unbeatable Hillary.
I would not be so sure this private school if they are lets call it “less enlightened” when it come to Web 2.0 or just plain old technology in general is a good thing, or even an acceptable one for your kids or anyone elses.
Being one of those teachers who is dipping her toe in 2.0, I find myself always thinking about how these tools can enable my kids to share their unique perspectives and talents. So, for one of them that might be an audio recording accompanied by a scanned picture (Voicethread or podcast?), for another that might be a close-up video of a project they have done as they talk about it, for another it might include blogging. The bottom line is I’m trying to figure out ways to let all children, regardless of their innate strengths and weaknesses, find the power in sharing their ideas with others, creating their own content, and providing/accepting feedback. I think that is the true power of 2.0 technologies, especially for students in more isolated rural areas who tend to think the whole world exists “right here”.
Kay McNulty says
Bingo â€“ the use of web 2.0 tools isnâ€™t for everyone. As a professional development coordinator and team leader in the NJPLP cohort, I am struggling with this very issue. Web 2.0 tools enhance the learning process by powerfully connecting students and teachers, but youâ€™re so right Will, it canâ€™t be forced. However, meeting kids even half way in their learning does not need to involve any technology, but should to be a process where kids are allowed to think and collaborate. From where I sit, teachers and students gaps are widening. The impact might be a triple layer of learning divide â€“ digital well-connected global and local learning environments, dynamic learning spaces with mildly technophobic teachers, and the traditional test prep do page 56 then write an essay conforming to this template and topic classroom. One of your readers mentioned that the key is for students to be excited about learning; the conundrum here is that many wonâ€™t get the chance.
Nancy H-E says
Thanks for sharing, questioning, and thinking out loud. Thanks, too, for making thoughtful recommendations for books (Friedman, Pink, Shirky, and now Sir Ken Robinson) and blogs to read. A book that may be related to your post is Multiple Intelligences and Instructional Technology by Walter McKenzie (2005).
I also considered Waldorf and other progressive independent schools for my son.
IMO, the biggest problems with Waldorf and their ilk has nothing to do with technology. It’s that philosophy of “waiting for the child to be ready.” Waiting sounds great, until you put some kids in a room with varying levels of educational advantage at home. Guess who is “ready” sooner, and who is “ready” later? And notice how the educators have no responsibility for the progress and success of the students?
Also, as a side effect of this philosophy, you will find some progressive private schools to be filled with families who are trying to avoid a special ed. placement for their child, or who use a radically permissive parenting philosophy. Again, depending on the area, schools sometimes need to cater to these families because they need the enrollment.
As to whether Web 2.0 is for everyone…
I definitely think literacy is for everyone, so a discomfort with reading or writing would be a disadvantage, not just a different “style.” However, I have noticed, in working with teachers, that building a PLN requires that you spend casual, open-ended time online, and that you enjoy doing so. Not everyone likes to surf, and I think that’s OK. That has implications for how we promote these technologies, and whether they are equally useful to everyone.
I’m glad to see you picked up a copy of The Element by Sir Ken. We (Oklahoma A+ Schools) are referenced in chapter 11 page 245. As I read over many of the comments and blog responses to your post, I am compelled to come back to my thoughts that schools don’t need to be reformed…but TRANSFORMED. Web 2.0 tools are a means in which we help make change…but I’m wondering when education as a whole will stop looking at ways to do what we are already doing “differently” and start “doing school different”. I’m thrilled to be a part of a network that truly believes in nurturing the creativity of each individual child. Schools that join our network adopt into practice a set of eight essentials. This framework covers eight important areas for whole school transformation, it encompasses the areas of Art, Curriculum, Experiential Learning, Multiple Intelligences, Enriched Assessment, Collaboration, Infrastructure and Climate. A+ Essentials Our research results continue to show that schools using this framework have positive results in many areas such as higher achievement, better attendance, fewer discipline problems, happier educators, engaged students, more parent and community involvement and creative focused instruction. I want to continue to see more schools come onboard the OK A+ network so we can provide the education to all children that we would want for our own.