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Assignment: Education - No Screens in Class

By Lisa Klein, lklein@wkbt.com
Published On: Nov 08 2011 05:32:35 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 08 2011 05:32:57 PM CST

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Learning 6th grade math in Mr. Rabbitt's class involves compasses, straight edges and a black board. There are no TV's in the corners of the room. An analog clock hangs on the wall and there is no computer on the teacher's desk.

"Education is meant to be human to human," said Jon Rabbitt, a grades teacher at Three Rivers Waldorf School.

Three Rivers Waldorf School in La Crosse is one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that believes children learn the best through relationships, not by using high tech gadgets.

"We believe that children who learn through play and interactions with people and things are capable learners who can pick up technology, which is so easy to do in the modern world," said Martha Buche, Three Rivers Waldorf School enrollment coordinator. "But they've already learned to be learners and engage in the world, and be interested in many things. And, therefore, they're not going to have technology as a crutch. They'll recognize it as a tool just like a good pair of scissors."

Waldorf education prides itself on providing a balanced education for the whole child... meaning physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

"From my perspective, as a teacher, it's really not enough for them to learn the subject," said Rabbitt. "What we're really reaching for in this education with the children is to develop the capacity to learn."

And while some styles of education find value in using today's technology to engage the students in learning, the Waldorf philosophy is about providing a low-tech environment.

"The ability to do math on a keyboard requires very little movement," said Rabbitt. "Whereas, this... they really engage their limbs. They engage each other. They engaged me. And then just through the art of creating what we were speaking about. And being able to watch what was being done. And being able to recreate that themselves, adds an element that is very difficult to get from a screen."

"We introduce students to information with a story curriculum," said Buche. "So, information comes to life when a human being tells you a story and engages you directly. It is much more engaging then something that you can look away from and it doesn't even know."

So this "no screens in the classroom" policy means students do a lot of hands-on, creative thinking.

"The 7th and 8th grade classes are studying physics. So, they are making fulcrums and balances, and actually exploring the concepts of physics through physical means, rather than having a virtual experience of physics," said Buche.

And according to Buche, once students know how to learn and communicate understanding how to work the latest technology will be a breeze.

"Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn't have computers when they were children, and yet they were capable of doing really amazing things in the technology world," said Buche.

So, even if the next Bill Gates is sitting in this classroom, these students will remain unplugged.   

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