Should technology play a central role in today’s classroom environment? Most would answer an emphatic “yes” to this question without giving it a second thought. To most of us, the ubiquitous use of technology in all its forms-phones, tablets, computers, etc. is assumed. But there is a growing trend, especially among alternative schools, actively rejecting the notion that technology must play a role in 21st century learning. These schools have witnessed the negative ramifications that the overreliance on technology has had on children’s creativity and problem solving skills and are taking steps to curb these effects.
One such school is The Waldorf School of the Peninsula in California where, ironically enough, many Silicon Valley employees’ children attend. The school offers a hands-on, experiential approach to learning and students learn through creative expression which, according to Beverly Amico of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, makes lessons more relevant and meaningful than simply reading information on a screen. Studies have shown that students who use screens minimally to not at all are able to focus on tasks for prolonged periods of time, as opposed to their counterparts who have more regular screen time. Schools with a no technology mandate have also found that there is an increased connection between teachers and pupils, as well as a strengthened sense of community among students.
In answer to the concern about the negative impacts technology free classrooms could have on a student’s future employability Sarah Thorne, head of the London Acorn school, shares that “School is a learning journey and you want to make it as complex, rich and interesting as possible. The problem with instant information is that the ease with which you can get from A to B and find the answers doesn’t reflect real life.” Thorne proposes that students who grow up relying on technology for learning and entertainment often lack the ability to think outside the box and problem solve. On the flip side, those who don’t have technology at their fingertips are freer to develop the innovative thinking skills that will serve them well in any path they choose to follow later in life.
When questioned by those who support computer skill acquisition at a young age this school of thought purports that these abilities can easily be learned later in life. They feel it is imperative that the foundations of interpersonal development, innovative thinking, and creativity be laid early on to ensure our youth enter adulthood equipped with the skills they need to become the leaders of tomorrow.