Technology throughout the ages has always had an impact on society at large. Drill down further and one can witness the effects on how children are educated throughout the world. Yet presently, there seems to be confusion about how computer technology should be implemented in the classroom. Whereas the recent train of thought universally recommends introducing children to computers as early as possible, an alternate view has emerged in the heart of the tech economy simply stating “computers and schools don’t mix.”
In a recent NY Times article titled “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute”, the focus is on the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country who’s teaching philosophy advocates physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Computers have no place in these schools. In fact, computer use for their students is discouraged at home as well. Remarkably, the majority of students at the Silicon Valley based school are the sons and daughters of the titans of technology such as Apple, Google, and Ebay.
As a parent who’s admittedly enamored with the wonders of technology, I’ve struggled with the question of when to introduce computer technology to my children. The ability to operate these devices has become fairly simple. For example the intuitive interface of an Apple iPad can literally be described as child’s play. Yet there’s an obvious disconnect with the world around them when kids find themselves engaged in the operation of a tech gadget. Human interaction fades into the background.like a frightened turtle into its shell. Then getting a child to disengage with the device has the potential for all sorts of explosive fireworks.
Of course I’ve attempted to take a balanced approach with my own children yet the results have been mixed at best. Perhaps everything old is new again. The no frills back to basics approach taken by the Waldorf school does have an appeal. I didn’t own a computer until I was in my late teens and was able to quickly learn how to use one. Fast forward to the present and the point of entry has become exceedingly effortless. Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google are driven by the goal to design simple intuitive user interfaces for complex technology. So why not put off the introduction of computers to children while instead focusing on basic concepts and a tangible tactile sense of their world? A tantalizing question that will continue to puzzle parents in the foreseeable future.
What do you think? How have you approached the issue of technology with your kids? How soon is too soon?